Saturday, September 29

The Callousness of Sin

In 2 Samuel 11 we read of David's adultery with Bathsheba. While taking an evening stroll on his palace roof he sees Bathsheba bathing. David spends some time lusting after her and then decides to act on his fantasies. I believe it is at this point that he asks who she is. He is told, "Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" This suggests that the reason for his inquiry is obvious--he wants her for himself sexually and others know it. The one who answers seems to be saying, "What are you thinking!? This is someone's wife. And not just anyone's wife, this is the wife of one of your mighty men, Uriah. This man is your friend!"

But it doesn't matter. At this point David's mind is made up. He is past the point of no return and there is no stopping him now. He has been blinded by his sinful desire.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, (James 1:14-15a)
"So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her." It appears that she came willingly. Maybe she was flattered or maybe she was lonely, the text doesn't say. Whatever her motivation she was blinded by sin and made the choice to commit adultery. While Uriah was risking his life on the battlefield, his king, his commander, his friend was committing adultery with his wife. I wonder at anytime during this sinful act if they thought of Uriah? Probably not. Sin destroys the love and concern that you have for others.

A month or so later Bathsheba sends word--she is pregnant. David acts immediately and sends for Uriah. When Uriah returns to Jerusalem, King David tells him (in so many words) to go home and enjoy his wife sexually. But Uriah will not. He cannot bear the thought of his comrades on the battlefield risking their lives while he enjoys the pleasures of home. In fact, he never even goes to see Bathsheba at all! David's cunning plan to cover up his sin is foiled.

Isn't the contrast amazing!? Uriah's integrity portrayed so vividly in light of David's wickedness.

But nothing can stop David now. He doesn't miss a beat. He immediately sends a message to Joab, the field commander of the army, to have Uriah killed in battle--and he sends the death sentence by Uriah's very own hand! The cold, calculating callousness of David's heart! He is trapped by sin and can think of only one way out--a way that only compounds his sin! He is blinded to any other solution (confession and asking for forgiveness).

It is at this point the waves of sin's effects reach to Joab who, seemingly without hesitation or question, sends Uriah to his death. Now three people bear the burden of guilt.
and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:15b, emphasis added)
When Joab gets word to David that his orders have been carried out, David replies with this message:
"Thus shall you say to Joab, 'Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.' And encourage him."
Unbelievable! A man "after God's own heart" being so flippant and casual about murder! "Don't worry about it, Joab. No big deal. Soldiers die in battle. Don't let this little thing discourage you. Buck up and keep doing Jehovah's work." There is no mourning. There is seemingly no regret. Nothing to slow David down as he continues to pile sin upon sin by marrying Bathsheba a week or so after Uriah's murder.

Does this story make you weep? Is your heart broken as you see a man of God in this downward spiral of sin? Does your heart ache for him? Do you feel any compassion at all?

I do.

I do because I know what it is like to be enticed, dragged away, and snared by my own sinful desires. I know what it is like to completely forget about anyone but myself as I pile up sin upon sin. I understand what it is like pull other people into the vortex of my sins consequences. And like David I know the wrenching pain, the agony, the utter emptiness of regret as sin is exposed and consequences outside of my control follow.

May we not read the Bible wrapped up in smug, self-righteousness thinking "that could never happen to me."
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
May we see ourselves in the men and women of old and realize that if David can make those sinful choices, who are we to think that we never could. May we be humbled and our self-confidence shattered by this sordid tale. May we cast ourselves daily on God's mercy, grace, strength and faithfulness. Daily remembering His promise.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Lord, please help me to take that way of escape that you have provided!

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A Top Ten List: Reasons to Read Mark Dever's The Gospel and Personal Evangelism

In keeping with our current Top Ten theme, here is my brief review of Mark Dever's must-read (especially for pastors), The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, and ten reasons every believer should read it:

#10: It's not long. While some may consider this a negative rather than a positive, you could easily read this book in a 90 minute setting (and some of you voracious readers could read it in an hour or less). But don't be fooled, these brief 128 pages are not filled with shallow, theological cotton candy but are full of rich theological truths that impact our willingness and ability to share the gospel.

#9: It's comprehensive. Because of its length, some may discount this book as offering little more than a brief evangelistic fly-over. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is more practical theology packed into this book's 128 pages than there is in Henry C. Thiessen's semi-Arminian Lectures in Systematic Theology (454 pages).

Dever adequately addresses many topics and subjects most personal evangelism books do not, including the following: God's sovereignty; election; easy-believism; decisional regeneration; the gospel; depravity; culture; hell; the church; holy living; unbelievers' responses; and the believer's motives for evangelizing (and many others). Here is a bit of proof of this book's comprehensive approach to biblical, God-centered evangelism:

"Repentance and this kind of belief, or faith, or reliance, are really two sides of the same coin. It's not like you can go for the basic model (belief) and add repentance at a later point when you want to get really holy. No! Repent is what you do if you really start thinking this way and believing Jesus with your life. Any purported belief without change is nothing but a base counterfeit ... To say you trust without living as though you do is not trust in any biblical sense. And you can see the truth of that from Abraham--the great example of faith--all the way through to Jesus Christ himself." (page 42)
#8: It fails to offer a canned, one-size-fits-all approach to evangelism. And that's a good thing--a breath of fresh evangelistic air.
"God has established who and how we should evangelize. God himself is at the heart of the evangel--the good news we are spreading. And we should evangelize, ultimately, because of God. All we are doing in this book is connecting some of those dots in our thinking, and, I pray, in our speaking, as well." (page 17)
#7: It accurately defines the Gospel. Many books on personal evangelism present little more than an insipid man-centered gospel. Not this one:
"Christ isn't just our friend. To call him supremely that is to damn him with faint praise. He is our friend, but he is so much more! By his death on the cross Christ has become the lamb that was slain for us, our redeemer, the one who has made peace between us and God, who has taken our guilt on himself, who has conquered our most deadly enemies and has assuaged the personal, just wrath of God." (page 39)
Dever later defines the gospel in a simple, succinct statement:
"[T]he good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ's sacrifice and that God's wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God." (page 43)
#6: It offers practical suggestions for implementing personal evangelism. This isn't just a theology of evangelism, it's an intensely practical book. Dever offers many practical helps to those looking to increase their evangelistic fervor:
"Defensiveness is natural to the fallen human heart, so we want to d our best to help people hear the good news. We want to live and talk in such a way that we provoke people to reflect on themselves, on their own desires and actions. We can do this by asking good questions--questions about the origin of life or about how they understand bad things in this world...... Ask good questions and listen to their answers. Explore them. You may be helping them to enunciate and articulate their own thinking for the first time ever." (pages 65-66)
#5: It deals with the evangelist. Frankly, most of us don't evangelize because there is a spiritual problem with the evangelist. Dever graciously but firmly reminds readers (often referring to his own spiritual struggles) that the message cannot be divorced from the messenger, and that evangelism begins within the evangelist:
"We are called to love others. We share the gospel because we love people. And we don't share the gospel because we don't love people. Instead, we wrongly fear them. We don't want to cause awkwardness. We want their respect, and after all, we figure, if we try to share the gospel with them, we'll look foolish! And so we are quiet. We protect our pride at the cost of their souls. In the name of not wanting to look weird, we are content to be complicit in their being lost. As one friend said, 'I don't want to be the stereotypical Christian on a plane.'" (page 27)
#4: It contains timely and helpful quotes from the past. Here is a quote from John Cheeseman's The Grace of God in the Gospel, 1972, on the subject of a believer's motives for evangelizing (pages 100-101):
"Love for God is the only sufficient motive for evangelism. Self-love will give way to self-centeredness; love for the lost will fail with those whom we cannot love, and when difficulties seem unsurmountable [sic], only a deep love for God will keep us following his way, declaring his Gospel, when human resources fail. Only our love for God--and, more important, his love for us--will keep us from the dangers which beset us. When the desire for popularity with men, or for success in human terms, tempts us to water down the Gospel, to make it palatable, then only if we love God will we stand fast by his truth and his ways."
#3: It's immersed in Scripture. While this may seem to be a given for a book on personal evangelism, a quick perusal of many contemporary evangelical writings will prove otherwise. When I read a book, I circle every Scripture reference. That's why you won't want to read my copy--it's full of circular pencil scribblings!

#2: It encourages the evangelist to embrace the sovereignty of God in salvation. Dever passionately presents the sovereignty of God as an evangelistic motivator (rather than a detractor), even dedicating an entire chapter to the fallacy of evangelistic salesmanship:
"Sometimes the charge is leveled, 'If you're a believer in election, you won't evangelize'..... My concern is the opposite: if you don't believe that the gospel is the good news of God's action--the Father electing, the Son dying, the Spirit drawing--that conversion is only our response to God's giving us the grace-gifts of repentance and faith, and that evangelism is our simple, faithful, prayerful telling of this good news, then you will actually damage the evangelistic mission of the church by making false converts. If you think that the gospel is all about what we can do, that the practice of it is optional, and that conversion is simply something that anyone can choose at any time, then I'm concerned that you'll think of evangelism as nothing more than a sales job where the prospect is to be won over to sign on the dotted line by praying a prayer, followed by an assurance that he is the proud owner of salvation." (page 110)
#1: It encourages evangelism within the context of the local church. If the Great Commission has been given to the church, why are so many books and programs attempting to fulfill that commission outside the local church context? Para-church organizations and programs may have their place in contemporary missions and evangelism, but they will not, indeed cannot, replace the God-ordained priority of the local church. Dever masterfully presents a God-centered, local church oriented evangelistic paradigm:
"...[T]he outworking of faith through the community of a local church seems to be Jesus' most basic evangelism plan. And it involves all of us ... we know from elsewhere in the New Testament that it was also God's plan to make known his character to other people..... One of the main reasons that the local church is to be a community of love is so that others will know the God of love. God made people in his image to know him. The life of the local congregation makes the audible gospel visible...... Martyn Lloyd-Jones taught, 'Evangelism is pre-eminently dependent upon the quality of the Christian life which is known and enjoyed in the church.'" (pages 50-51)
As further proof of this point, the book's final words (in the appendix) are reserved for pastors:
"It is our task as pastors to lead all believers in accepting, embracing, and using the opportunities that God richly gives them. In all of this, we should work not so much merely to implement programs as to create a culture in our church. We want our congregations to be marked by a culture of evangelism. In order to do that, we are going to have to watch how many nights we encourage our members to be doing some program at church. We must give our members time to develop friendships with non-Christians." (page 118)
If you want a quick but comprehensive look at biblical, God-centered personal evangelism; and if you want to be challenged as an evangelist, I heartily recommend this book to you without any reservations or qualifications. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is perhaps the most helpful book I have ever read on the subject of personal evangelism. Do whatever is necessary (within obvious boundaries, of course) to get your hands on this book. Your unsaved neighbor may very well be glad you did!

_____________________________________________

Title: The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
Author: Mark Dever (forward by C. J. Mahaney)
Publisher: Crossway
ISBN-13: 978-1-58134-846-0
ISBN-10: 1-58134-846-0
Pages: 128
Available from: amazon.com -- $9.99; crossway.com -- $9.99; barnesandnoble.com -- $9.99; Christianbook.com -- $7.99.

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Friday, September 28

Mark Dever on the Danger of Counting Converts

On pages 91-92 of his recently-released book, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Mark Dever (Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D. C.) cautions against the all-too-common (and eternally dangerous) pastoral practice of pronouncing people "saved" because they have made a decision, prayed a prayer, raised a hand, or completed a commitment card:

Throughout it all, the new Christian should continue to be taught what it means to follow Jesus. From sitting under the preaching of the Word, to being baptized and taking the Lord's Supper, to praying and studying the Word, to repenting and believing, evangelism should find its fulfillment in discipleship. The good news is not merely about the commuting of an eternal sentence but about the commencing of an eternal relationship. Truly trusting Christ will always show itself by following him.

However, some "yeses" are false ones. Sometimes people say that they have become a Christian when they haven't. Some of these will no doubt be revealed to us only in the next world. Sometimes this becomes obvious after years of apparent discipleship. Other times it happens more quickly, after only a few weeks, months, or years of Christian profession. Their zeal seems to lag. Their church attendance becomes spotty. They would continue to say they are Christians, but following Christ is of little practical concern to them. Little of their energy goes into it, little of their attention.

And then one day the flickering flame just seems to go out. It is extinguished by the cares of this world, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life. Jesus told a parable about the plants that sprang up quickly but then quickly died (Mark 4:5-7). It's exactly because of such supposedly sincere but actually false conversions that Christians have often been exhorted to be patient in their offering of assurance and in their counting of converts. George Whitefield said, "There are so many stony ground hearers, who receive the Word with joy, that I have determined to suspend my judgment till I know the tree by its fruits. I cannot believe they are converts until I see fruit brought back; it will never do a sincere soul any harm."

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Some Reasons (Err...Excuses) for My Lack of Posting

Really, I do not have any substantial excuses as to my infrequency of contributing to this blog. However, I do feel that there are some considerable factors to look at as to why I do not contribute to this blog like I should...or as Kenneth would like me to! So here we go:

I'm not a very good cutter and paster - Honestly, I feel guilty when I post weak and unsubstantiated posts that simply cut and paste what someone else has written or said (even though I do it consistently). If I am not contributing something substantial my mindset usually tends to be persuaded to not post at all.

My reading - I am not seminary trained. I am not very smart, intelligent or sharp. I am not a seasoned pastor. I do not have stored away in my mind a wealth of theological treasures. So I MUST read and I MUST read a lot!!! This forces me to keep my nose glued to books many days of the week. I have come to the conclusion that if I am not reading then I am NOT growing and hence the people I pastor will not grow as well.

My workout schedule - Yes, you read that correctly. Many of you have followed my journey since last September when I embarked to lose my 110 lbs of excessive fat that was hindering my health and my testimony. Since last year I have lost 100 lbs...which is great and has benefited my health tremendously. However, this takes a toll on the schedule as well. I am usually in the gym 2 hours a day 5-6 days a week. This will inevitably have drawbacks to my schedule but the drawbacks of being obese and overweight are far greater. As silly as this may sound, this does effect my blogging!

Sermon prep - With Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday night and a Wednesday night devotional I am in constant "sermon preparation mode". This is by far the most rewarding dynamic of being a pastor - PREACHING! But it is also by far the most taxing and exhausting. I've already made the commitment that when the time comes here to hire an assistant that he is more than likely going to preach the Sunday evening service.

The surprising surge of the Chicago Cubs - Usually, at this time of year I can completely forget about sports and baseball. But with the Cubs inevitable choke job on the horizon I have been forced as a brain-washed die hard to be absorbed in the possibility that a Cubs' post-season offers. Like most fans, we know that their chances realistically are NOT very good. But there is always that small ray of hope that the miraculous will happen.

I'm lazy - Blogging takes time, research and diligence if it is done correctly and thoroughly. No excuse here....many times I'm simply too lazy to take the time to peck away at my keyboard and produce anything substantial. I will attempt to carry my weight more in the future!

So there you have it friends. I'm currently working on a follow up of my own post to Ken's "Top Ten" lists which I hope to have posted sometime this weekend (don't hold me to it though). The excuses are weak...I am aware of that. But I just thought that I would attempt to get some public vindication for my lack of blogging faithfulness.

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Thursday, September 27

Mark Dever in His New Book: "I Am a Fundamentalist."

I had planned on doing something new and unique today--I intended to live-blog my way through Mark Dever's recently-released book, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. Having just received the book from Amazon.com yesterday, I was enthusiastically anticipating this unique endeavor. But the Lord and my ISP had other plans for me! Finally, I am back on line (but only intermittently).

Although I do hope to highlight each chapter in the book for our readers, here is a quote from page 66 that I found quite intriguing. I'm quite sure my fundy friends will find it equally intriguing. Dever is discussing the How of evangelism, and is arguing that Christians should live distinctly Christian lives (this is what Christ means by referring to Christians as "salty"):

"...[T]ry to live in a distinctly Christian "salty" way around them [unbelievers]--in your words and actions. Make them thirsty. Make your whole life before them provocative. I sometimes introduce myself to people as being a fundamentalist, because I'm hoping there will be an intriguing disconnect between their assumptions of what a fundamentalist is and what kind of person I seem to be."
Now there's some blog-fodder for all you Sharper Iron readers!

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Wednesday, September 26

A Top Ten List: The Most Theologically Inept Hymns

Since most readers seemed to enjoy yesterday's post on my spelling pet-peeves, allow me to add another to the list: theologically inept hymns (and gospel songs). Never have I seen believers become so adamantly passionate as when someone criticizes their (or their mother's) favorite theologically inept hymn! So while I am not intending to offend anyone, I believe the church should be singing truth rather than fiction; facts rather than feelings; and doctrine rather than morals.

Here we go -- my top ten most theologically inept hymns (and gospel songs):

#10: Jesus Believes in You. Never have I found such bold heresy as the modern-day anthropocentric catchphrase "Jesus believes in YOU." Now I find a nearly seventy-year-old song that may have inspired the movement. It is taken from the Favorite Songs and Hymns hymnal, and its copyright is owned by Stamps-Baxter Music, 1938. Many of you have never sung this hymn, so because of its unfamiliarity, here are a few of its words:

Jesus believes in you, Do you believe in Him?
Will you do your very best as He expects
you to?
Jesus knows your efforts, but He knows your strength as well.

Jesus believes in you, Do you believe in Him?

Will you justify His faith, Say, will you then prove true?

Trusting in His wisdom, Will you help where there's a place?

Jesus believes in you, Do you believe in Him?


Are you shedding forth the light as He bids you to do?

Winning men to praise Him, As your righteousness they see!


Do you believe in Jesus As He believes in you?
Jesus believes in you, Jesus believes in you,

Jesus believes in you, Do you believe in Him?
#9: Help Somebody Today. Wanna sing pure and unadulterated moralism in church? If so, this is your song (Copyright, 1932; Rodeheaver):
Look around you, find someone in need, Help somebody today!
Tho' it be little--a neighborly deed--Help somebody today!

Many are waiting a kind, loving word, Help somebody today!
Thou hast a message, O let it be heard, Help somebody today!

Many have burdens too heavy to bear, Help somebody today!
Grief is the portion of some ev'ry where, Help somebody today!

Some are discouraged and weary in heart, Help somebody today!
Some one the journey to heaven should start, Help somebody today!
Only two problems with the song: first, it never tells you how to help somebody today. Second, it never gives even a courtesy mention of Jesus, God, Father, Spirit, or Son. A practicing Jew could sing the song--and so could the Mormon and Muslim.

#8: There'’s A New Name Written Down in Glory (And it'’s Mine).– Is there any other gospel song so theologically aberrant? I know some will argue that "new" refers not to chronological newness, but to qualitative newness. That's all find and dandy, but Joe Schmo Christian in the pew has never been told the difference. So if your worship leader, song leader, or praise band isn't into explaining the true meaning of this hymn each time you sing it, you should rip it from your hymnals and replace it with Revelation 13:8 and Ephesians 1:4.

#7: In The Garden
. This is an old-time favorite whose meaning has finally been explained to me. One of our own college students informed me that this hymn reflects the experience of Mary in the garden following Jesus' resurrection. While this information puts a new spin on the song's meaning, its inherent mysticism (and love song-like sensuality) guarantees In the Garden a spot in the top ten theologically inept hymns. By the way, C. Austin Miles composed both this hymn and A New Name in Glory.

#6: There Shall Be Showers of Blessing
. "“There shall be showers of blessing, this is the promise of love..." If the promise of God's love is dependent upon me feeling blessed, I'’m in a heap of trouble. Romans 5:8 describes the demonstration of God's love; it has everything to do with the cross, and nothing to do with showers.

#5: Count Your Many Blessings
. Any gospel song that parallels Bing Crosby's "“Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,"” (which he sings to Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas) should be forever stricken from our hymnals. Needless to say, the counsel for discouraged Christians in this song is overly simplistic and theologically lacking: "When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost ... Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by." Okay, so there'’s no need for Scripture in dealing with discouragement (see David's Psalms, 42 and 43), just count your blessings (instead of sheep) like Bing!

#4: Heaven is Nearer Since Mother is There.
Is there anything wrong with hymns that speak of heaven and fail to mention Jesus? Many hymns tend to joyfully anticipate heaven's happiness and blessings, almost giving the idea that heaven is the believer's ultimate satisfaction. Nothing could be more theologically shallow and trite. Heaven is heaven ONLY BECAUSE JESUS IS THERE. It's just too bad many of the hymn writers missed the Christ-centered nature of our eternal home (see Revelation 4:8-11; 5:8-14).The only reason this blasphemous song did not make it all the way to the top of the list is because I've never sung it. Still its message teeters on people-worship.

Dark are the windows, no flickering glow Lights up the old home that we used to know; But in the darkness a sweet face so fair Smiles down from heaven for mother is there.

Oft when shadows of eventide fall, I seem to hear her voice tenderly call;

In words familiar, "let's come now to pray'r," I kneel in reverence and mother is there.


O how I miss her sweet voice and her smile, Yet I shall see her again after while;

With our dear Savior I know she will wait with a glad welcome just inside the gate.


Heaven is nearer since mother is there, Heaven is dearer since mother is there;

Earth ties are broken and heaven is more fair, Heaven is nearer since mother is there.

#3: For Those Tears I Died. Although this song is relatively new (1969), its message is overtly unbiblical--Jesus dying for tears and sorrows and busted-up tomorrows. There is nothing here about the true meaning of Jesus' death for sinners--nothing about taking our place, dying our death, or bearing the penalty of our sin. Feel-goodisms and sentimentalism abound in contemporary ecclesiastical hymnody, and this hymn is no exception.

#2: I Gave My Life For Thee. John Piper has written much about how this kind of "I've done so much for you, what have you done for me" ideology destroys the biblical concept of grace. If we live for Jesus because He has done so much for us, we come dangerously close to embracing a deadly debtors' ethic. Grace is grace not only because it is undeserved--it's grace because it cannot be repaid. Even attempting repayment turns grace into merit and the gift into a wage. This hymn comes dangerously close to purporting that deadly debtors' ethic.

Romans 11:6, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
And #1: He Lives. This will most likely draw the ire of some, but think about these words: "You ask me how I know He lives? (I know He lives because) He lives within my heart.”" Wrong. How about, "I know He lives because the Bible tells me so?" We get it right in our kids' Sunday School class when we sing "“Jesus Loves Me,"” but we can'’t get it right when we sing this hymn in church?

So why is this much-loved hymn #1? Because it is sung so often (especially during the Easter season), and because it strikes at the heart of our faith: the sufficiency of Scripture. When experience (and subjective experience at that) reigns, Scripture does not.

How much of what we sing is overtly trite and theologically bankrupt? Yet we sing these songs because we always have, not for their historical or theological value. God help us to aim for accuracy in our spelling--and in our singing!

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Upcoming Plans for The World From Our Window

It's been nearly two years that we've been at this blog thing, and (believe it or not) we are running out of things to talk about. Several of you really seemed to enjoy yesterday's Top Ten list of misspelled words, and a few have encouraged me to draft a post on the Top Ten grammatical mistakes among bloggers. I would enjoy doing so, but I am grossly under-qualified!

So here's your opportunity to share your two cents: what topics/discussions would you enjoy discussing in the near future?

Also, feel free to invite my two missing blogmates to join our discussion!

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Tuesday, September 25

Phil Johnson Predicts the Inevitable and Imminent Death of the Emergent Church

He does so HERE, and concludes his thought-provoking post with these words:

"However you look at it, this has been a seriously hard week for the Emerging/Emergent conversation. I'm thinking of trying to trademark the name 'Post-Emergent,' because I think it's going to be really, really useful very soon now."

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A Top Ten List: The Most Often Misspelled Words in Evangelical Blogdom

Very few things irritate me as much as reading someone's apparent laziness when it comes to spelling and punctuation. I know what you are thinking--it has something to do with practicing what I preach. Nevertheless, it seems I must constantly battle frustration when surfing blogdom (and especially the comments) because of the otracious atrocius atroshus atrocious spelling.

In an attempt to curb my frustration, and in an attempt to bring some pointed levity (read: humor with a purpose) to the blog, here is my own top ten list of the most often misspelled words in blogdom:

#10: There or Their rather than They're. Helpful Hint: They're is a contraction. The apostrophe replaces the "a" in "they are." So if our readers are having a wonderful time reading our blog, it's not that there going to comment, and it's not that their going to comment; it's that THEY'RE going to comment!

#9: Than rather than Then. Or is it Then rather than Than? OK ... it's Then rather than Than. If you are using "if" in the sentence, "then" is the way to go. If you are comparing or contrasting, it's than. If you will remember the difference between than and then, then you are well on your way to becoming an asset to spelling in blogdom.

#8: It's rather than Its. Again, notice the presence of the apostrophe. It's makes one word of "it is." Its shows possession. It's always best to proofread your comment before posting it on a blog where everyone can see its misspelled words!

#7: Beleive rather than Believe. This is very common, especially among God-bloggers. Just remember the moniker you learned in elementary school: "I before E except after C and in words that sound like A." Actually, I never learned the whole "I before E" thing at my elementary school in west-central Missouri. It's just that I believe "beleive" looks totally wrong (and it is underlined in RED because I have chosen to use the world's best web browser).

#6: Worshipped rather than Worshiped. Again, this is a very common and obvious error among evangelical bloggers. Please note: there is only one "P" in worshiped. That should be especially significant to Baptists, who guard against adding anything unnecessary to their worship!

#5: Seperate rather than Separate. Not surprisingly, I've seen this word most often misspelled on fundamentalist blogs and forums! It's too bad they cannot separate themselves from poor spelling as well as they do from ladies in pants and New Age Bible versions! There is no fancy-shmancy moniker to help you remember this one, you'll just have to learn it the hard way--by practice.

#4: Millenium rather than Millennium. Again, this word is presents a major problem for Christian bloggers, especially those of us who espouse a pre-millennial eschatology. Amillennialists don't seem to have a problem spelling what they believe because their word doesn't refer to anything real anyway (just a joke, guys)! Seriously though: if you are going to believe in it, learn to spell it!

#3: Judgement rather than Judgment. OK, I know recent changes in widely-distributed dictionaries have made the unsightly judgement a correct spelling, but it still looks wrong--terribly wrong. So please learn to spell it the way the Apostle Paul did in Philippians 1:9 (KJV, of course!):

And this I pray that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment (emphasis added).
If it was important enough for the Apostle Paul to spell correctly, let your love abound more and more in knowledge, and learn how to spell judgment!

#2: Committment rather than Commitment. I don't understand this one at all. Most of the people who leave the second N out of millennium put the second T into commitment. Why? I don't know.

And #1: Definately rather than Definitely. Rarely does an entire day pass without this one leaping off the computer screen at me. Please look carefully: it's D-E-F-I-N-I-T-E-L-Y. That's definitely the only correct way to spell definitely. If you are so sure about whatever it is you are saying, please be sure of its spelling!

A few suggestions to help with spelling:

1) Get Firefox! This browser automatically spell-checks everything you type on the web--even comments.

2) Bookmark dictionary.com and put it near the top of your favorites.

3) Re-read what you have written before clicking the POST COMMENT button. Editing is a major part of life. When you look at the mirror in the morning, you are editing. When you ask your wife if your tie goes with that shirt, you are editing. So ... please edit before posting!

A serious thought for discussion: If we as Christians are concerned about maintaining credibility with unbelievers, shouldn't it be reflected in the accuracy of our spelling? Do we care enough about accuracy and the truth to get it right?

In all seriousness, friends: If the message is credible, it deserves a credible presentation.

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Francis Schaeffer on the Passive and Active Obedience of Christ

While reading on the subject that spearheaded the Reformation I enjoyed Schaeffer's succinct wording of Christ's finished work for our justification:

"This is based upon Jesus' passive work, His passive obedience in taking the punishment for our sins. But it is based also upon His active obedience in perfectly keeping the law for us. Christ's mediatorial work for us began at His baptism, when His public ministry started. From that time on, what He did, He did not only for Himself but for us. When we accept Him as Savior, His active obedience means that we have positive righteousness with God. We are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our guilt is gone on the basis of His finished work on the cross, His passive obedience. But we are also clothed with His perfect righteousness, based on His active obedience."
Francis A. Schaeffer, "The Finished Work of Christ," Crossway, 19.

A good explanation and another reason why we should continue to read and study the great minds of Christendom from the past. There is much to be learned from them.

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Monday, September 24

The Jena Six: What You Haven't Heard But Need to Know

Let me be up-front with our readers: the fracturing of the body of Christ along color and ethnic lines pains and troubles me greatly. I am fully aware that many Christians (and therefore, churches) continue to harbor prejudicial attitudes toward those who may be of a different color or socio-economic status. Friends, according to James 2:1-10, partiality and prejudice is nothing less than blasphemy.

Yet we must be careful that our call for social and "racial" justice is an informed call. It seems that many across our land who are calling for justice for the Jena Six, are unaware of the terrible events that precipitated these tense moments in a small Louisiana town.

Jason Whitlock, a sports-writer for the Kansas City Star, has shared some valuable background information regarding the Jena situation--facts that are often overlooked or ignored by the national media. It seems there is much more to the story than what is being reported, and as Christians, our passion for social justice must always be guided by a passion for the truth.

Oh, and there's one more thing you should be aware of before reading Jason's article: he himself is black.

Thursday, thousands of us, proud African-Americans, expressed our devotion to and desire to see justice for the “Jena Six,” the half-dozen black students who knocked unconscious, kicked and stomped a white classmate.

Jesse Jackson compared Thursday’s rallies in Jena to the protests and marches that used to take place in cities like Selma, Ala., in the 1960s. Al Sharpton claimed Thursday’s peaceful demonstrations were to highlight racial inequities in the criminal justice system.

Jesse and Al, as they’re prone to do, served a kernel of truth stacked on a mountain of lies.

There are undeniable racial and economic inequities in our criminal justice system, and from afar the “Jena Six” rallies certainly looked and felt like the righteous protests of the 1960s.

But the reality is Thursday’s protests are just another sign that we remain deeply locked in denial about the path we need to travel today for true American liberation, equality and power in the new millennium.

The fact that we waited to love Mychal Bell until after he’d thrown away a Division I football scholarship and nine months of his life is just as heinous as the grossly excessive attempted-murder charges that originally landed him in jail.

Reed Walters, the Jena district attorney, is being accused of racism because he didn’t show Bell compassion when the teenager was brought before the court for the third time on assault charges in a two-year span.

Where was our compassion long before Bell got into this kind of trouble?

That’s the question that needed to be asked in Jena and across the country on Thursday. But it wasn’t asked because everyone has been lied to about what really transpired in the small southern town.

There was no “schoolyard fight” as a result of nooses being hung on a whites-only tree.

Justin Barker, the white victim, was cold-cocked from behind, knocked unconscious and stomped by six black athletes. Barker, luckily, sustained no life-threatening injuries and was released from the hospital three hours after the attack.

A black U.S. attorney, Don Washington, investigated the “Jena Six” case and concluded that the attack on Barker had absolutely nothing to do with the noose-hanging incident three months before. The nooses and two off-campus incidents were tied to Barker’s assault by people wanting to gain sympathy for the “Jena Six” in reaction to Walters’ extreme charges of attempted murder.

Much has been written about Bell’s trial, the six-person all-white jury that convicted him of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and the clueless public defender who called no witnesses and offered no defense. It is rarely mentioned that no black people responded to the jury summonses and that Bell’s public defender was black.

Continue reading HERE.

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Friday, September 21

Hal Lindsey Predicts the Imminent Destruction of Damascus

Seems our pal, Hal, is at his eschatological prognosticating again! From WorldNetDaily:

Damascus is the oldest continually inhabited city on earth. Although conquered many times, its status as an economic and cultural center of antiquity preserved it intact to this day.

But Isaiah predicted Damascus would one day face utter destruction: "Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and it will become a fallen ruin," he writes in Isaiah 17:1.

The prophet also predicts Damascus' destruction will come at a time when "the glory of Jacob" had begun to fade (verse 4), at a time when Israel is in great peril of being "shaken like an olive tree," leaving only a few "on the topmost bough."

Isaiah prophesies that, when Damascus' destruction comes, there will be "an uproar of many peoples" and "the rumbling of nations" but that they will flee at God's rebuke.

It seems clear from recent events that Syria is preparing chemical and biological weapons, and possibly some form of nuclear weapon for use in some future war against Israel. Syria and Iran have been outfitting Hezbollah with the latest in offensive weaponry since the war of June 2006.

Israel is unlikely to sit back and wait for a first-use chemical or gas attack from Damascus. Neither is it likely to wait until Ahmadinejad can use Syria to flank them in the event of conflict with Iran. So the number of Israeli raids against Syrian targets is likely to escalate until either Israel has destroyed the threat or Syria responds militarily. If Syria attacks with weapons of mass destruction, it can expect a massive, in-kind Israeli response.

Bible prophecy doesn't make allowances for a full-scale unconventional war of annihilation of Israel by Iran, however. Ezekiel predicts Iran's participation of the Gog-Magog invasion as part of a Russian-led alliance, not a regional alliance with Syria. Both Iran and Israel are listed as participants in that future conflict.
Continue reading HERE.

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A Study in Reformed Evangelism: Why Christians Don't Witness

I am not an evangelist by nature, and it has nothing to do with my Calvinistic theological bent. It has to do with God's gifting--which is why I am being challenged as I teach an adult elective course on the subject in our Sunday School hour. A part of our first session was spent discussing common reasons Christians are tentative about sharing the Gospel with unbelievers. The following is not an exhaustive list, but it does highlight many tendencies when it comes to non-evangelism.

Reason 1: Many Christians do not testify of God's saving grace because they feel unqualified to do so. Evangelism is often trumpeted from Baptist pulpits across our land, but very little time and effort is given to equipping (Ephesians 4:11-16) the saints for the work of evangelistic ministry. It may do us well to remember that Paul had undergone three years of intense training in Arabia (by the Lord, Galatians 1:17-18) prior to his missionary journeys and Mars Hill endeavor.

Reason 2: Many Christians do not feel equipped to answer the unbeliever's tough questions. Questions like: "If God is a God of love, then why do bad things happen to good people." And, "Why do Christians not admit that there are contradictions in the Bible, when they are obviously there?" And they get more difficult: "How can a loving God order people to be killed?" And, "If Christianity is real, why is the church filled with hypocrites?" Pastors may not consider these questions difficult to answer, but our people do. And it's because they haven't been taught!

Reason 3: Many Christians cannot define the Gospel, let alone explain it. If you don't believe me, ask your small group or Sunday School class to define the Gospel in 25 words or less. More than likely you will be shocked at the results. Here is a great definition of the Gospel to teach your people (by Loraine Boettner):

The Gospel is the good news about the great salvation purchased by Jesus Christ, by which He reconciled sinful men to a holy God.
The aberrant "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" easy-believism has inundated a number of evangelical churches. Frankly, while the church considers this message so attractive, I am convinced unbelievers find the "wonderful plan for your life" message confusing and even nauseating.

Reason 4: Many professing Christians do not possess an adequate understanding of conversion. Now, that does not necessarily mean those Christians aren't true believers, it just means they are uneducated and ill-equipped. Here's what I mean:
"Our ears have grown accustomed to hearing men told to 'accept Jesus as your personal Savior,' a form of words which is not found in Scripture. It has become an empty phrase. These may be precious words to the Christian--'personal Savior'. But they are wholly inadequate to instruct a sinner in the way to eternal life. They wholly ignore the essential element of the Gospel, namely repentance. And that necessary ingredient of Gospel preaching is swiftly fading from evangelical pulpits, though the New Testament is filled with it.

When Jesus began His public ministry, His message was, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand: Repent ye, and believe the Gospel' (Mark 1:15). As He met the woman at the well, His Gospel insisted that she turn from adultery. Encountering Zacchaeus, Jesus turned him from thievery to philanthropy. Now the demand to the [Rich Young] Ruler is, 'Turn from your lust for riches. Repent!'" (William Chantry, Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic, 48-49)
Many of our people are likely unfamiliar with the true nature of conversion because, in the words of William Chantry, American Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism) "wholly ignores the essential element of the Gospel, namely repentance." And if our people don't get it, they can't give it!

Reason 5: Many believers underestimate the power and authority of Christ. Most believers understand that evangelism is waged in the enemy's territory--a fact that intimidates and immobilizes many (an antidote is found in Romans 1:16-17). If only we as pastors and church leaders would instill within our people the understanding that when Christ ascended, He empowered the church with these words:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV)
Reason 6: Many believers do not possess a deep, soul-penetrating passion for God that inspires them to share Christ. The greatest evangelists are those who possess a passion for His glory! The great Missional Psalm, Psalm 67 links evangelism (or missions) with a passion for God's glory being revealed in the nations:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

As pastors and church leaders, we must preach and teach the glory of God in such a way as to instill within our people a deep and lasting desire for God's glory to be revealed among the nations--and across the street.

Reason 7: Many Christians misconstrue the unbeliever's rejection of the Gospel as a rejection of them personally. While being rejected is not a pleasant experience, we must teach our people that when unbelievers reject the Gospel, they are ultimately rejecting Christ. It's His Gospel. It's His work. It's His death and resurrection. He is the Living Stone the builders rejected (1 Peter 2:4, 7). He is the Stone of Stumbling and the Rock of Offense (1 Peter 2:8).

Christ did not come to win a popularity contest, He came to "seek and save the lost." He came to "give His life a ransom for many." It's Christ's work from beginning to end, and as the messengers of this life-giving message, we are nothing more than ... "one blind beggar telling another blind beggar where to find bread" (author unknown).

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Thursday, September 20

You Tube Thursday - The Cubs in October?

I would imagine that Fox and Major League Baseball are hoping so. That would guarantee an instant spike in ratings and an intense focus on the baseball world. It is looking good right now with the Cubbies having an incredibly favorable schedule over the next week.



GO CUBS!!!

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Wednesday, September 19

How to Preach on Giving - Mark Driscoll

Say what you want about Mark Driscoll - his language (which at times I also disagree with), his drinking (a discussion reserved for another day), or his cultural relevance...but I challenge you to listen to this sermon that he preached a few years back on giving and tell me that he doesn't hit the nail right on the head.

I would also challenge our fellow pastors on here and ask them if they would have the grit in their craw to preach a sermon on giving like this. Again, this is not a blanket endorsement of all things Mark Driscoll. However, I can sincerely say that much can be learned and a heart can be sincerely challenged and convicted from his gospel-centered preaching.

You can listen to the sermon HERE.

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Belichick and Nixon: Are They Related?

Apparently Gregg Easterbrook thinks so:

The situation with the National Football League is a lot worse than people realize, and the only one who seems to grasp this fully is commissioner Roger Goodell. You don't issue emergency orders backed by threats on Sunday morning of a game day, as Goodell just did regarding the New England Patriots' files of cheating information, unless the situation is a lot worse than people realize.

Why is the situation worse than people think? Because the NFL is on the precipice of blowing its status as the country's favorite sport. The whole NFL enterprise is in jeopardy from that single word: cheating. It's the most distasteful word in sports. And now the Patriots have brought the word into the NFL.

Think the NFL can't decline? Fifteen years ago, the National Basketball Association was going up, up, up by every measure and was widely considered the gold-plated can't-miss "sport of the next century." Since then, NBA popularity and ratings have plummeted while NBA-based teams have floundered in international competition. At the moment of its maximum success, the NBA became overconfident and arrogant in ways that need not be recounted here. Key point: There was no law of nature that said the NBA had to stay popular, and it did not.

Today the NFL is king of the hill in sports status, ratings, merchandising and association with the American psyche. There is no law of nature that says the NFL has to stay popular. Overconfidence and arrogance could be the downfall of the NFL, too – and we might be on that precipice. People will always watch and play football, of course. But nothing guarantees that the NFL's version of football must remain the super-successful money machine that it is today. There could be autumn Sunday afternoons in the near future in which the overwhelming majority of Americans couldn't care less what NFL games are being shown. Fifteen years ago, sports-marketing types would have said "impossible!" to the notion that only 11 percent of American households would watch the NBA Finals, which is what happened this June. Plummeting popularity for NFL broadcasts seems "impossible!" right now, but might happen fast enough to make your head swim.
Continue reading HERE.

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Ordination Madness, Part 12: Eschatology--The Doctrine of Last Things

In prefacing my final post in preparation for my ordination, I again thank all who have been willing to participate in this exercise. Your comments, suggestions, and questions have sharpened me spiritually and intellectually. Thank you for your ministry in my life and in the life of my church family.

Now it's time to head back to the future.

I must admit that my eschatology has been greatly influenced by my dispensational upbringing and training. Therefore, I find it rather difficult (even in the face of some seemingly unanswerable questions) to consider other views (such as historic premillennialism and amillennialism) apart from a dispensational presupposition and bias.

I rarely teach and preach on the specific timing of the eschatological events, nor do I emphasize the literal interpretation of the obvious symbolism throughout much of Revelation. While I certainly believe all truth is important (in this case, the literal, bodily return of Christ; the judgment of the believer and non-believer; and the resurrection of the body), I want to guard against over-emphasizing and sensationalizing eschatological symbolism.

With that in mind, I offer my pretribulational views of the future for examination--with one disclaimer: I vehemently disavow any and all ties between my theological system and the fictional Left Behind novels!

ESCHATOLOGY: THE DOCTRINE OF LAST THINGS

In Relation to Death

“Death is a temporary cessation of bodily life and a separation of the soul from the body” (Grudem, 816). Upon death, the believer’s soul passes immediately into the presence of Christ (Luke 23:43; Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8) without loss of immaterial consciousness (Revelation 6:9-11). The separation of body and soul (Philippians 1:21-24) will continue until Christ’s return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) at which time they will be reunited to be glorified forever with the Lord (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:35-44, 50-54).

Upon death, the souls of the unredeemed are kept under punishment until they are resurrected (Luke 16:19-26; Revelation 20:13-15) to be united with their resurrection body (John 5:28-29). They will then appear before God on His great white throne, and will be cast into hell, the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41-46), separated from God forever (Daniel 12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

In Relation to Christ’s Return

The hope of the believer is that Jesus Christ will return personally and bodily for His own. Scripture affirms that Christ will do so prior to the seven-year tribulation period (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Titus 2:13) to catch away His church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). During this time, believers will be judged (2 Corinthians 5:10) in regards to their service. Immediately following the church’s removal from earth, God will pour out His judgments upon the unbelieving world (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 9:27; 12:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12; Revelation 16). These judgments are climaxed by the return of Christ in glory to the earth (Matthew 24:27-31; 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12). At this time, the Old Testament and tribulation saints will be resurrected and the living will be judged (Daniel 12:2-3; Revelation 20:4-6). This seven-year period is the fulfillment of the seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 24:15-31; 25:31-46).

Following the tribulation period, Christ will return to earth in glory, overthrow the Antichrist and False Prophet (Revelation 19:7-11), bind Satan (Revelation 20:1-7), occupy David’s Throne (Matthew 25:31; Acts 1:10-11; 2:29-30), and establish His messianic kingdom for 1,000 years on the earth (Revelation 20:1-7). At this time, the resurrected saints will reign with Him over the nations of the earth (Daniel 7:17-27; Revelation 19:11-16). This kingdom will be the final fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel (Isaiah 65:17-25; Ezekiel 37:21-28; Zechariah 8:1-17) to restore them to the land where they will be awakened to repentance (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 11:25-29). Because Christ is visibly ruling and reigning on earth, this time will be characterized by peace, harmony, justice, and life (Isaiah 11).

Satan will be released a final time (Revelation 20:7), at which time he will deceive the nations. He then will be devoured with fire from heaven (Revelation 20:9), and cast into the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). Also at this time, the unconverted will be physically resurrected and judged. They, too, will suffer eternal and conscious punishment (Revelation 20:11-15) in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41).

In Relation to Eternity

Following the closing of the millennium, the redeemed will enter the eternal state of glory in the new heaven and new earth (Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 21:1-22:5) and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2). God will dwell with His people, and they will enjoy unbroken fellowship with God and one another. Having fulfilled His redemptive mission, Christ will deliver up the kingdom to His Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) who will forever reign as the “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

____________________________________


Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of the ordination candidate, offering up their questions, comments, and suggestions!

Thanks again to all who participated in the process; I hope to share some good news with you following the October 12 examination!

P. S. -- For those who are wondering, I have read (and will continue to read) varying views on this subject (i.e., Grudem, Hoekema, Ladd, and Storms).

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Book Review: Debating Calvinism

Debating Calvinism {five points, two views} - Dave Hunt & James White

The intent and format of this book is best described in the Preface.

Reader, you will find in our debate that the issues surrounding the vital teachings of the Bible concerning our own salvation--what theologians call the doctrines of soteriology--are still very dear to Christians of today. The passion of our debaters is undeniable. Their positions are entrenched and heavily fortified.

The format of this debate is largely standard, though most debates are done in live, public forums. Each author contributes seven chapters offered to substantiate his opening position statement. Following each chapter, a response, defense, and final remarks are given in turn. The constraints here are quantities of words, not minutes. As a reader, consider yourself at an advantage to glean and consider and reconsider the arguments at your leisure.
I must admit from the outset that I came to this book with some firm presuppositions and a bias toward Calvinism. I was already a self-confessed Calvinist, and a pretty convinced one at that. I believe it is impossible to be completely impartial and that every reader will open this book with a bias toward one side or the other. Because of that bias it is difficult to impartially determine which author presents the strongest and most biblically consistent case. I have found in listening to debates that whichever side you are on is the side that you generally believe "won." And even if one side admitted defeat it wouldn't cause them to change their position. The loss would be blamed on the inability of the presenter, not the weakness of the position defended. With that being said, I am not going to declare a "winner", but I will try to point out what I believe are the strengths and weaknesses of this book.

In this book Calvinism is affirmed by James White and denied by Dave Hunt. They cover the following topics:
Calvinism Affirmed
  • God's Eternal Decree
  • Man's Inability
  • Unconditional Election
  • Jesus Teaches the Doctrines of Grace (John 6)
  • The Golden Chain of Redemption (Romans 8:28-30)
  • Particular Redemption: True Atonement, True Substitution
  • Irresistible Grace: God Saves Without Fail
Calvinism Denied
  • Calvin and Augustine: Two Jonahs Who Sink The Ship
  • The Central Issue: God's Love and Character
  • Regeneration Before Faith and Salvation?
  • Turning the Bible Into a Charade
  • God's Sovereignty and Man's Will
  • Salvation Offered to All
  • Biblical Assurance of Salvation
If you take the time to read this book you will find what I believe to be a pretty typical presentation of Calvinism and a pretty typical evangelical refutation of what Calvinism espouses. What you will not find is a positive presentation of Arminianism or any other theological system because Dave Hunt claims to be neither a Calvinist or an Arminian, so he is only seeking to refute Calvinism and is not seeking to present Arminianism. Although the arguments Hunt makes will be familiar to many and therefore typical to evangelicalism, I believe they demonstrate a tremendous lack of familiarity of what Calvinism teaches. James White writes,
"I see no evidence that Mr. Hunt has grown at all in his understanding of the system he feels is so dangerous and dishonoring to God. I and many others who have sought to expand his understanding so that he is at least disagreeing with real Calvinism, have met with abject failure. This has come out in this attempted debate. No matter how often a straw man is put down, it comes right back up again in another chapter on a different topic." [pg. 418]
That is why this book isn't as helpful and enlightening as it could have been. The straw man of Calvinism is constantly attacked while the real man of Calvinism is left alone, unchallenged and therefore in one sense undefended. I am not the only one who sees it this way, even most non-Calvinists would agree that Hunt has a very poor understanding of Calvinism and therefore is unable to get to the heart of the real issues. [Most Amazon.com reviewers of this book agreed as well.]

Because this is a written debate it is helpful to be able to read and reread each argument made. It is possible to compare notes going back and forth between the chapters to see if the questions have been answered or avoided. I also believe that debate is helpful in the sense that many positions seem plausible until they are questioned and forced to defend themselves. In this book Calvinism is questioned and the reader can determine whether it passes the test or not.

I found this book to be a helpful and interesting read. If you are looking for a very understandable and readable presentation of Calvinism and the typical evangelical arguments against it, you will enjoy this book.

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Tuesday, September 18

Ordination Madness, Part 11: Ecclesiology--The Doctrine of the Church

I am a Church-man! I love Christ's Church! I am investing my life in Christ's Church--the Church that will succeed! Christ said, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!" (Matthew 16:18)

While ultra-dispensationalism tends to poo-poo the effectiveness of the church and its witness (painting a fatalistic, doomsday picture of the future), the Church cannot fail because Christ is the Victor!

Now for my doctrinal views regarding the Church ...

ECCLESIOLOGY: THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH

What the Church Is

All who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation are immediately placed by the Holy Spirit into one united spiritual body, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13), the Bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-32; Revelation 19:7-8), of which Christ is the Head (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18).

The Church is a unique spiritual organism instituted by Christ (Matthew 16:18) and is made up of all true believers in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:11-3:6). In its true spiritual reality as the fellowship of all true believers, the Church is invisible. On the other hand, there is a real sense in which the Church is visible—including all who profess faith in Christ and give evidence of such faith in their lives.

The Church is local (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:1) and universal (Acts 9:31; Ephesians 5:25; 1 Corinthians 12:28) in nature. The local Church is a group of believers who have covenanted together to form a visible expression of the invisible universal Church (1 Corinthians 11:18-20; Hebrews 10:25).

When the Church Began

The formation of the Church, the Body of Christ, began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21, 38-47) and will be completed at Christ’s coming for His own at His return (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The New Testament Church is distinguished from Old Testament Israel (1 Corinthians 10:32; Ephesians 3:1-6; 5:32). While we must be careful to maintain this distinction in our hermeneutic, we must likewise guard against overemphasizing the discontinuity between God’s chosen people—thereby de-emphasizing the unity now enjoyed by all believers as the spiritual descendents of Abraham (Romans 4:11, 16, 18; Galatians 3:13-14, 16-17, 26-29; Ephesians 3:1-6).

The Authority and Administration of the Church

Jesus Christ is the single and supreme authority in the Church (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18). As such, church leadership, gifts, order, discipline, and worship are all appointed through His sovereignty as found in the Scriptures.

There are two offices in the Church—pastors (also referred to as elders and bishops) and deacons, both of whom must meet biblical qualifications (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-5). Pastors or elders are to lead the church by teaching and exemplifying (Hebrews 13:7, 17) Christ-like servant leadership (Matthew 11:29; John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:1-8). Pastors lead or rule as servants of Christ (1 Timothy 5:17-22) and possess His authority in directing the church. On the other hand, the congregation is to consider the pastor’s teaching and lifestyle, and to place themselves in submission to his God-ordained authority (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Church discipline is the means through which Christ purifies and cleanses His Church (Ephesians 5:26-27). The goal of Church discipline is the restoration of the erring member (Matthew 18:15). It is to be cautiously and carefully administered with compassion and love (Ephesians 4:15; Galatians 6:1). The local church is to be the final authority in matters of membership and church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8).

The local Church is an autonomous entity, free from any external authority or control (Titus 1:5). Yet it is scriptural for Churches to cooperate with other Churches of like faith and practice while maintaining doctrinal and ecclesiastical purity (Jude 3).

The Ordinances of the Church

Two ordinances have been instituted by Christ and committed to the local Church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:38-42). Baptism is to be administered only to those who have evidenced repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. The believer is to be baptized by immersion (Acts 8:36-39), and is an outward expression of the believer’s union with Christ’s death to sin and resurrection to new life (Romans 6:1-11).

The Lord’s Supper is the remembrance and proclamation of His death until He comes and should be preceded by solemn self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:28-32). While the elements of Communion are only representative symbols of the body and blood of Christ, participation at the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:21) is nevertheless an actual communion (fellowship) with the risen Christ, who indwells every believer, and so is present, fellowshipping with His people (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

Both ordinances serve as beautiful and solemn dramatizations of the Gospel (Romans 6:3-6; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), and are to be treated with utmost respect and honor.

The Purpose of the Church

The Church’s purpose is to glorify God (Ephesians 3:21) by:

Building itself up in the faith (Ephesians 4:13-16)

Teaching and receiving the Word (1 Tim. 4:13-16; 2 Tim. 2:2; 3:16-17)

Fellowshipping with one another (Acts 2:47; 1 John 1:3)

Keeping the ordinances (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38-42)

Advancing the Gospel to the entire world (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:42)

This purpose and these objectives should be reflected in the local Church’s entire ministry including its worship, service, missions, and programming.

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Feel free to chime in with questions, concerns, or suggestions. Your comments and suggestions have been a help to me in preparation for October 12!

I will be away from my computer for most of the day, but I will address your comments or concerns before I head to bed tonight! Have a great day!

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Carl Trueman on Led Zeppelin and Secular Music

Right off of the bat, I want to let our readers know that many of you will NOT agree with Trueman's assessment of the secular music culture and as to whether or not a Christian should listen to this type of music. One thing that all of us should recognize though is the wisdom and discernment that Trueman gives here in this post. Personally, I found this to be consistent, graceful and thought provoking in dealing with the issue of Christians and secular culture. Trueman also points out some glaring inconsistencies among Christians to publicly land bast the so called "evils" of rock music and the "rock" culture while engaging in numerous secular activities that are guilty of many of the same things.

While I'm not trying to change anyone's mind or persuasion regarding music, I do not apologize for wanting to make us all think biblically and rationally about this issue while not becoming fixated on tradition and legalistic nonsense.

You can read the article here.


HT: Reformation 21 Blog

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Monday, September 17

Psychiatric Medication and Progressive Sanctification

Very few if any pastors or church leaders (at least in this country) can effectively help God's people grow without being familiar with the plethora of psychiatric drugs and labeled "sicknesses" that are thrown out in the medical community. A good way to see these problems through the lenses of Scripture is to familiarize ourselves with these labels and the drugs so often associated with these labels.

Dr. Ed Welch from the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation addresses the issue of psychiatric drugs in his book that I've been going through recently - "Blame it on the Brain?". Take a look at what he says about psychiatric drugs and what they mean to the follower of Jesus Christ:

  • There are some psychiatric problems where medication has been shown to be effective with some people, but medication is not effective with everyone.
  • Many people will have adverse side effects from psychiatric medications. Some of these, such as dry mouth or weight gain, will be annoying, but the perceived benefits of the medicine will outweigh its disadvantages. Other side effects can be much more serious and the medication must be discontinued.
  • There are potential long-term side effects associated with the antipsychotic drugs. With other psychiatric medications, some researchers have suggested that they may be ineffective or even harmful when used for a number of years. This research is difficult to interpret, so it is impossible to be definitive about the long-term effects of drugs such as the antidepressants. But it is wise to avoid medication, especially long-term medication, if possible.
  • Too frequently, people are taking more than one medication for psychiatric problems, and there are always increased risks when taking multiple medications. In some cases, one medication is used to treat the side effects of another medication, which is used to treat the side effects of another medication, and so on.
  • Although prescriptions of psychiatric drugs are at an all-time high, there is a growing consensus that we are being over-medicated. Since medication can be helpful and harmful, psychiatrists are busy getting people on medication and off of it.
  • Finally, there is the question, What exactly does medication help? Medication cannot change the heart; it cannot remove our tendency toward sin, it cannot revive our faith, and it cannot make us more obedient to Christ. It can, however, alleviate some of the physical symptoms associated with some psychiatric problems.
Ed Welch, Blame it on the Brain? (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing 1998) pp. 108-109

I found this to be incredibly helpful wisdom and insight from a very wise man!

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