Friday, November 30

The Reformed Renewal - Some Additions

Over at the Cowboyology blog there are some interesting observations made about the reformed resurgence among Baptists today. We have written about this extensively here but I will go ahead and post what they wrote there as to the contributing factors regarding this resurgence:

1. The Neo-Evangelical Stream

Leading Example: John Piper
Characteristics: Calvinistic convictions arrived at from within the broad mainstream Neo-evangelical ethos.

2. The Dispensational Stream

Leading Example: John Macarthur
Characteristics: Calvinistic conclusions arrived at out of the generally '3-4 point Calvinist' circles of 'Dallas' dispensationalism.

3. The Fundamentalist Stream

Leading Example: Spiritual heirs of TT Shields
Characteristics: Distinguished from other Fundamentalists by Calvinism and at times non- Premillenial eschatology. Yet still Fundamental in ethos and association (cf. Paisley in N. Ireland, Bob Jones University, etc.)

4. The Reformed Baptist Stream

Leading Example: Al Martin, Tom Ascol
Characteristics: Often connected with Presbyterians, possessing the same view of the Law's implication for Christian living, particularly in the form of Sabbatarianism, and 10 commandments as normative for Christians.

5.The New Covenant Reformed Baptist Stream

Leading Example: John Reisinger
Characteristics: Derived from the Reformed Baptist stream, but broke away from those circles over disagreement about Sabbatarianism and the relation of the Law to the
Christian. Tended to emphasize a more Christocentric view of the Law (i.e. Law is fulfilled in Christ entirely, therefore the idea of Sunday as equivalent to a Jewish Sabbath is incorrect). Can draw from Progressive Dispensational circles as well as other eschatological perspectives.

I would add another group to this list: Young Fundamentalists

Leading Examples: Most young fundamentalist bloggers

Characteristics:
Very disillusioned with the shallow methodology that they grew up with that was incredibly obsessed with producing professions yet failing to produce conversions. Yet, at the same time not wanting to go the route of the Church Growth (seeker-sensitive) movement that has adopted the philosophy of going to the world and asking the world what they want from church.

You will also find in young fundamentalists a real fear of where the Church Growth movement is going - the emergent persuasion, shallow non-expository preaching, weak doctrine, and pop-psychology type counseling that emphasizes self-esteem and self worth.

Most would be four point Calvinists but a growing number are becoming five point Calvinists (like us on this particular blog). For the most part, they have remained dispensational in their eschatology but usually do not take the Scofield/Chafer route of dichotomizing the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven but would still see a distinction between the Church and Israel. Most are very detached from the revivalism that they grew up with and have abandoned many of the man made legalistic standards that characterized fundamentalism for decades. Most are willing to fellowship outside of their own circles...though mostly on a personal basis and still not on an ecclesiastical basis.

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Guest Blogger: Will Hatfield Ordination Prep, Part 2

You know the purpose of this exercise.

You know the rules of engagement.

You know Will wants your feedback.

So here we go.

Will Hatfield on Man & Sin.
_________________________________________________

Man & Sin

Story. God created human beings like Himself and commissioned them to produce a race of people to rule over the earth. He told them not to eat of a particular tree in the garden He had made for them. They were led astray by a rebellious angel of God named Satan, however. They disobeyed God’s rule and suffered the consequences. Who is man?

The study of man is a complex thing because we have personal experience of ourselves to show us that we are complex and hard to understand. The God who made man, however, has revealed much about who man is, what he was made for, and why he is the way he is. As we study the Word of God we can come to good answers for the questions man has of himself.

The Creation of Man

In Genesis 1-2 the Bible declares that man was created by God from the dust of the earth that He had created. This excludes the possibility that man has evolved from lower organisms such as the ape. Included with the creation of Adam is the creation of Eve from the side of Adam.

The Image of God

First man is shown to be created in the image or likeness of God. The God who rules the universe created man to rule over the world he had made.
Genesis 1:26-27 says, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” What does this mean? Of course, we can say that man’s likeness to God is not in the physical realm for God is spirit (John 4:24), and man is made up of matter. There are two primary aspects to the function of the image of God from Genesis 1.

Relational.
Human beings called “man” by God (Gen. 5:2) were created male and female. Just as God has fellowship in the Trinity, man has fellowship with others of mankind. The Bible also teaches that men and women have different roles within the family for the ruling of the earth. Men are to be the head of the home (1 Cor. 11:3), loving their wives with self sacrifice and provision, and wives are to support their husbands with respect and submission (Eph. 5:22-33). This is similar to the relationship between God the Father and Son and similar to how Christ and the church relate to one another. It is exciting and fulfilling to realize that in our relationships on earth we can experience some of what God experiences because we are made like Him.

Ruling.
Just as God cares for His universe, man is responsible for caring for this world. We were to put the earth under “subjection” not for the purpose of exploiting it but for guiding things to fulfill their purpose as created by God. What an amazing thing that we were given glory even as God has glory to rule over creation (Ps. 8)! This should help us better understand and appreciate God’s rule and His love for us.

What does the phrase “image of God” mean then? Inherently it relates to the innate capacities of man which enable him to relate and rule. This primarily means his personhood involving his intellect, emotions, and will in the choices he makes himself. Man is a moral person with the ability to choose right over wrong. Intellectually he can know good, emotionally he can approve good, and he can act on what is good as well. Bancroft has put it, “Will is the soul’s power to choose between motives and to direct its subsequent activity according to the motive thus chosen.” (Thiessen, 163) Man’s will operates according to his nature just as God’s will operates according to His. We will see how man’s nature has been twisted by his fall later on.


Another aspect of our morality is the conscience. Man’s conscience has been given to him by God to help him to decide rightly in his choice of right or wrong. Man has the ability to decide against his conscience and even to twist his conscience into an evil one. The two primary parts to this conscience are the standard and the voice. When one comes up against a situation and a decision must be made, the conscience usually speaks up as to whether it is good or bad. The conscience is operating according to a standard, however. This standard can be changed or manipulated based on the desires of a person and his environment.


Wayne Grudem probably says it best: “The more we know about God and man the more similarities we will recognize, and the more fully we will understand what Scripture means when it says that man is in the image of God. The expression refers to every way in which man is like God.”[1]


The Unity of the Race
.
All men have come from Adam and are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; 9:6,19). This means he has basic dignity and worth. The Bible applies this in our speech – we should not curse one another; in our government – we should not murder one another; in our destiny – we will both die and yet live eternally somewhere. Our responsibility as co-rulers of the earth is to love one another.

Purpose of Man


If we are created in the image of God so that we relate to one another and rule over the earth, what then is the purpose of man in relationship to our sovereign God? We are to glorify God by enjoying him forever as we obey Him (Is. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4:11; Ps. 16; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4). We are not just to love one another and make this earth habitable, but we are to do so in such a way that we enjoy doing so as a way to direct the glory and praise to God for all He is doing in and through us (Eph. 4:1-5). The purpose of man becomes more refined as we look at man’s rebellion.


Rebellion


Even though man was placed in a perfect environment by a good God who loved him, he rebelled against this sovereign God and the end result was death. He broke the command of God under the influence of Satan. No wonder rebellion is called “like the sin of witchcraft” (1 Sam. 15:23).


Satan
.
This evil angel is the one seen to be the first person to rebel against God in the universe. Angels in general are described as ministering spirits created by God to do what He wants in the universe. They have power and are persons, but they are not a race like man, although they can influence man under God’s direction. Satan led some of God’s angels in rebellion against Him. He was a most exalted angel who knew much about God (Isaiah 14:13; I Tim.3:6; Job 1:9). He has turned into one from whom evil comes continually. He is called the adversary, the accuser, the Father of lies, Devil, dragon, serpent, Beelzebub, and Lucifer. He controls this evil-dominated world even while still under God’s sovereign control (Job 1). He is called the god of this world and the prince of the power of the air. He rules by appealing to our selfish desires through deceit and ultimately destroys rather than brings good to us.

The Effect on Mankind
.
Because of man’s rebellion, man fell from God’s gifts. Mankind no longer enjoys God or seeks to glorify Him. He is no longer a part of God’s family but is considered a child of the devil (Eph. 2) and is under the dominance of Satan. The image of God became distorted though not totally lost. Man is a sinner. Sin is anything contrary to the character of God or anything that falls short of glorifying Him as God in thought or deed. Man continually rebels against God’s rule in his life, not necessarily with individual acts but as a way of life. Thabiti Anyabwile remarks, “Autonomy, or self-rule, becomes the highest value as people become more and more enamored with individualism and carried away by personal preferences.” Sin originated on this earth by Adam’s sin and this sin caused death to come on man (Romans 5:12-19). Man’s fall had an immediate and a long term effect.

Immediate effects of man’s fall.
Adam and Eve were separated from God. Their intellect became darkened, no longer searching out what is true and good. Their will was deadened, no longer choosing to go the right way. They did not have the power in themselves to sustain these things. They started to physically die when they fell. They face eternal death. It also caused their environment to be cursed. Man was thrust out of the garden. Man was no longer able to rule the earth as God had intended, instead he ruled by exploitation and death. Ruling became the back-breaking work of seeking to subdue a wild kingdom, a kingdom out of control just as man was out of God’s control. Women have pain in childbirth and seek to overthrow the authority of men in the home. Human beings are, however, offered the hope of redemption through God’s deliverance (Gen. 3:15) as we will see in the next chapter.

Long term effects of man’s fall.
The race of man now has no hope but to be sinful. Adam can only pass his deadened capacities to the next generation. This generation has no hope but to be sinful as well. Rebellion from God’s rule also cut us off from the only source of life and good and therefore permanently destroyed us. It is only by God’s mercy that we are not destroyed immediately. Man has a rebellious, sinful nature and also commits actual sin. Sin and therefore death now reign universally on the earth. Satan must have really rejoiced on this day. How is this sin nature passed on?

Adam is said to have passed death on all men for all sinned in Adam (Romans 5:12). We are all part of the human race started in Adam. We receive the totality of our human nature from our parents, and they received it from theirs all the way back to Adam & Eve.


Man is now totally depraved. This means that he has a corrupted mind, will, and emotions with no hope of return within his own powers. He is totally destitute of that love for God which the law requires. He is enemies with God (Romans 8:7). This does not mean, however, that he is incapable of doing good to his fellow men nor does he always do every form of evil available to him. Depravity has produced a total inability in man to change his character or preference away from himself toward God. This inability consists not in the loss of any faculty of the soul, nor in the loss of free agency—for the sinner still determines his own acts—but in want of spiritual discernment, and therefore of proper desires. He is enslaved to his sinful ways and is totally self-centered.


Justice of God


One might ask why God must judge sin (Ezek. 18:20). Yet it seems reasonable to see from God’s rule of love and from man’s rebellion from it that he must judge sin to be a righteous and good ruler of those who trust in Him. As an infinite God every sin against Him deserves God’s wrath; for what other response is both just and perfect? God’s wrath will not, in the end, seek to restore mankind but will work to destroy those who remain against God in an eternal hell. “Although God’s punishment of sin does serve as a deterrent against further sinning and as a warning to those who observe it, this is not the primary reason why God punishes sin. The primary reason is that God’s righteousness demands it so that he might be glorified in the universe that he has created. He is the Lord who practices “steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord” (Jer. 9:24).”[2]


What hope do we have in the fate we have chosen? We have great hope yet because of God’s continued love for us as we will see next.

[1]Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine (443). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

[2]Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine (509). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

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Wednesday, November 28

Introducing Mary Grace Fields

For those wondering where I've been the past few days, these pictures should provide the answer!

INTRODUCING MARY GRACE FIELDS


Mary Grace entered our world--by His grace--yesterday (November 27) at 10:59 AM. She weighed in at 5 lbs. 15 oz. and was 19" long. Both mom and baby are doing well.

Labor and delivery went extremely well. Thanks to all for your prayers on our behalf.
Psalm 127:3, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward."
We are indescribably grateful to God for His gracious gift to us. It is our hope and prayer that He will draw her unto Himself in saving faith, and that she will dedicate her life to His glory.

Please pray with us to this end!

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Tuesday, November 27

The Coffee Version of the 23rd Psalm

A little Tuesday humor here that I thought our coffee drinking readers might enjoy:

The 23rd Cup Caffeine is my habit; I shall not doze.
It maketh me to wake in green pastures;
It leadeth me beyond the sleeping masses.
It restoreth my buzz.
It leadeth me in the paths of consciousness for its name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of addiction,
I'll fear no Equal for thou art with me;
Thy cream and thy flavorings they comfort me.
Thou preparest a carafe before me in the presence of Juan Valdez.
Thou anointest my days with vigor; my mug runneth over.
Surely flavor and aroma shall follow me all the days of my life
and I will dwell in the House of Maxwell forever....



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Monday, November 26

Book Review of Ed Welch's Book on Depression

This time of year brings about the inevitable struggle that many Christians will have with depression. Most of the time (notice I said not ALL of the time) I believe that depression is the result of three common denominators:

1. An unhealthy comparison to other people's things, possessions, circumstances, looks, personality, income or position.

2. Unrealistic expectations from a person's spouse, children, friends, church, a church's leadership, or other believers.

3. Or an ultimate disappointment with God Himself with the idea that He somehow should have given us more than we received. In other words, we deserved better from God based on what we have done for Him and based on our own personal performance for Him.

Ed Welch has been one of my favorite authors for the past few years. His stellar book "When People are Big and God is Small" is a MUST read for everyone....especially those in church leadership. I cannot emphasize that enough. He has also authored several articles in the Journal of Biblical Counseling that have been incredibly helpful and Bible-centered. He is intellectually stimulating, doctrinally sound, biblically faithful, and Christ-centered in his approach to counseling. His contributions to the Church will be richly rewarded one day in eternity.

So with much anticipation I finally took the time to read his book on the volatile subject of depression. I did know going into this that there were other biblical counselors who had some honest yet respectable disagreements with Welch on this subject. So I wanted to objectively and honestly read this for myself.

Strengths:

And this book has many! Welch begins by tackling the issue head on about saying that if we say that depression is only organic and not a spiritual matter then we automatically conclude that there simply is no biblical hope:

"If depressed persons assume that their problem is fundamentally medical, asking them to look at their relationships or their basic beliefs about God will seem as useful as prescribing physical exercise for baldness. Exercise is always helpful, but it won't grow hair." (pg. 31)

Welch also does a splendid job of diagnosing the effects of depression and characterizing what some of the symptoms of depression are. He makes a strong and biblical conclusion that faith has some deep valleys and that suffering is as much a part of the Divine plan for the believer's life as the mountain peaks that produce joy.

His focus on the gospel was something that I also appreciated. The hope that is provided to the counselee through the gospel is essential. After all, a depressed person needs hope more than anything! Welch also points out in what I believe to be a pivotal chapter (12) on the influence of culture and the issue of depression. I believe that this is vital to our understanding and transparency in counseling. We live in a culture that is absolutely saturated with the attitude of greed and self-centeredness. With all of the literature in so called Christian circles on self-esteem it was good to see solidly biblical support for a life that God calls to that is empty of self and focused on His glory and others...not our own self worth and self comforts.

Weaknesses:

And there were a few (in my opinion). As a biblical counselor I was left feeling a bit uncomfortable how Welch left the door open a bit too inconclusive labels that are yet to find any type of human data. For instance on pg. 109 Welch makes this statement on dealing with the reasons for depression:

"Physical appearance, chronic disease, and chemical imbalances are a short list of significant physical contributions to depression." (pg. 109)

Without any type of human data to this date to back up this claim about chemical imbalances I found this conclusive statement to be a bit troubling.

Welch makes another reference to the possibility of chemical imbalances on pg. 39 with this statement:

"Our bodies are another obvious cause of suffering. Since sin entered the world, our bodies gradually weaken and waste away. Diseases, deterioration from old age, post-pardum struggles, and possible chemical imbalances are just a few of the physical causes relevant to depression." (pg. 39)

Again, with the lack of support from any type of human data, I am uncomfortable to referencing that conclusion. But in fairness to Welch, he does ask a very piercing question on page 32 regarding the issue of chemical imbalances:

"What else, other than chemical imbalances, might be contributing to your experience of depression?" (pg. 32)

Welch does spend a considerable amount of time in chapter 21 dealing with the issue of medical treatments. Take for instance what he said here on pg. 213 regarding the consumption of anti-depressants:

"If you are depressed and not taking medication, you could try medication immediately. But, if possible, delay that decision. Once you start medication, you tend to stay locked in to it." (pg. 213)
GOOD WORDS OF WISDOM THERE!!!

In summary, there is much more that I could review about this book but overall we see here the heart of a counselor who truly wants to give the counselee hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, there are some disagreements that I have with Welch in this book, especially regarding the subject of chemical imbalances that have yet to this day have any proof of ANY human data. But this book will be a help to you. Welch, as he usually does, provides an insight to human problems with sin with biblical integrity and hope.

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Saturday, November 24

What Really Happened Between KU-MU in 1960 (and why KU owns the series)

A great story and must-read for all Jayhawks and Tigers fans. Joe Posnanski (one of the greatest sportswriters in America) reports:

Biggest Missouri-Kansas game ever? Bah! Humbug! We’re always doing this in sports, always jumping the gun, always declaring some 18-year-old kid the greatest player ever, always hyping our games before they’re even played. It’s not just the championship of the NFL — no, it’s the Super Bowl (with Roman numerals to boot). It’s not just a set of games to determine this year’s best baseball team — no, it’s the World Series. Is tonight’s Missouri-Kansas game big? Sure it is. Kansas is ranked No. 2 in America, Missouri is ranked No. 3. That’s big. They have one loss between them. That’s big. The winner will go to the Big 12 championship game next week and have a shot then to play in the national championship game a month later. Big. Sure.

But let me ask you this: Will people still be arguing about this game in the year 2054?


•••


Yes, that’s right, for 47 years now, Missouri and Kansas have played football twice every season. The first game has been on the field, and, admittedly, that has not always been especially entertaining. Missouri ran up the score a few times. Kansas pulled off a few heart-stomping victories. Most of it flew by unnoticed, except to the people raised on Kansas and Missouri hostility.

But there has been another game going on for all those years, a game that even now is unsettled. Ask a Missouri expert what the overall record is between Kansas and Missouri, as I did, and she will tell you plainly that it is 53-53-9. Exactly even. Tonight’s winner, in addition to all those other good things, will also take the series lead.


Ah, but ask a Kansas expert the same thing, and she will tell you that Kansas leads the rivalry 54-52-9. And that means that no matter who wins the game tonight, Kansas will maintain the overall series lead.

The one game in question, as you probably know, happened in 1960. On that November day, in front of what was to that point the largest crowd ever to watch a football game in Columbia, the Jayhawks pounded the Tigers 23-7. Or they didn’t. They handed Missouri its first loss of the year. Or they didn’t. They won the Big Eight Conference championship. Or they didn’t. They destroyed what, until this season, was the most glorious and remarkable season in the 100-plus years they have been playing football at the University of Missouri.

Or they didn’t.


It all depends whom you ask. And the funny part is that the game is just as likely to start an argument today as it was in 1960, depending on the age and memories of the Kansas and Missouri people around you.

In the Kansas media guide, they put an easy-to-miss asterisk below the game. In the Missouri game notes, which the sports information staff puts out before every game, they have instead put a more straightforward parenthetical comment at the end.

1960: Kansas 23, Missouri 7 (they cheated).
Continue reading HERE.

AND ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!!

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Wednesday, November 21

Lifelong Family Traditions: When Do You Put Up the Christmas Tree?

Growing up, we waited until December 10th, 11th, or 12th.

Now it's Thanksgiving weekend.

Christmas was a major event in my boyhood home although, living in Missouri, we rarely saw a white one. It's now a major event in our home. We will put on the Christmas music (heavy on Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Johnny Mathis), light the candles, fire up the (electric) wood stove, and lose ourselves in pure Christmas spirit! Until one of the children steps on one of those glass decorations--and we spend the next 45 minutes pulling glass shards out of their foot!

These are great times--times our children will remember for the rest of their lives. How do I know they will? Because I do!

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for making the Christmas tree decorating an annual family highlight. I can still smell the (real) wood stove burning and hear Bing crooning his famous "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" in the background. My mind often returns to Christmases past--Christmases that will live forever in my memory.

Lest anyone should question the spiritual validity of this sentimental post, this is for you: Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions need not distract from the true "reason for the season." If we will saturate our turkey carving and Christmas tree decorating in Christian love, grace, and instruction, God will be glorified (1 Corinthians 10:31).

And our children will remember!

So, when do you put up the tree? What traditions surround the event? And how do you make it a memorable event for your children?

Afterword: If you are interested in a great book on Christian traditions, pick up Noel Piper's Treasuring God in our Traditions. It's available for free in PDF.

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A Calvinist Explains Free Will

From Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds:

I recently received a copy of Robert Peterson's new book, Election and Free Will: God's Gracious choice and Our Responsibility . It is the first book P&R's new series, Explorations in Biblical Theology, edited by Peterson, who is professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary.

The book looks excellent--a combination of exegetically grounded and pastorally sensitive theology.

I thought it might be helpful to provide an outline of Peterson's chapter on "free will." John Piper always used to say that the first task of a good theologian is to make distinctions, and Peterson makes a number of helpful ones in this chapter:

Free Will and the Bible's Story

1. Human beings as created had true freedom and freedom of choice.
2. Human being as fallen lost true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
3. Human beings as redeemed have regained a measure of true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
4. Human beings as glorified will be perfected in true freedom and will retain freedom of choice.

True freedom = "the ability to love and serve God unhindered by sin" (p. 131)
Freedom of choice or spontaneity = "the ability of human beings to do as they wish" (p. 126)

Free Will and Reasons Why People Are Saved and Condemned
1. Reasons why people are saved
a. People are saved because they trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
b. People are saved because the Holy Spirit opens their hearts to the Gospel.
c. People are saved because Christ died and rose to save them.
d. People are saved because the Father chose them for salvation before creation.

2. Reasons why people are condemned
a. People are condemned because of their actual sin.
b. People are condemned because of Adam's original sin.
c. People are condemned because God passed over them (reprobation).

Free Will and Its Relation to God's Sovereignty
1. The Bible affirms both divine sovereignty and genuine human responsibility.
a. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty.
b. The Bible affirms genuine human responsibility.
c. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty and human responsibility together.

2. Parameters for sovereignty and responsibility.
a. Fatalism must be rejected as an error.
b. Absolute power to the contrary must be rejected as an error.

3. To emphasize either sovereignty or responsibility at the expense of the other is to fall into the error of rationalism.
a. Hyper-Calvinism is an error.
b. Arminianism is an error.

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Tuesday, November 20

Brett Favre Contributing to Stained Glass Idolatry in Church

Is this idolatry or what folks??? I certainly hope that this sort of thing is not found in any Baptist church!!! Who could honestly approve of such a thing?

Hopefully this will produce a few laughs. For us Bears fans, his play has been no laughing matter. He has been absolutely remarkable this season.








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Thanksgiving Practicality

Most of us are looking forward to the next few days. Some time off, time with family, football, good food, rest, sleep, and time to reflect on the goodness and faithfulness of God in our lives. Thanksgiving this year for me personally is going to be of special value. This has been by far one of the most draining and excruciating years that I have spent in ministry. It has by no means been a year of tremendous suffering or trials but it has had its fair share of unique things that I had never gone through in the ministry. Tonight, our church will have a special praise and testimonial service where we will give public testimony of God's grace at work in our lives. These are special services that I look forward to with the dear people that I pastor.

Thanksgiving, along with other holidays present to us unique opportunities for rest and having extra time that we would not normally have during the normal course of life. I do realize that many do not get Thanksgiving off - people such as police officers, firemen, nurses, doctors, our military, (sometimes) pastors, and of course - MOTHERS! But for most, this weekend will represent a prolonged period of rest (much needed in many cases) and time with loved ones.

But I want to encourage all of us this morning as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday to keep some things in mind and to help keep us sharp spiritually:

Be careful what you do with your extra time - Having more time usually presents a greater opportunity to do wrong. Most young people do wrong simply because they are bored. Be sure not to use your extra time for frivolous activities such as watching more television or falling into the temptation of spending too much time on the internet. Use your extra time wisely for things that will actually help you spiritually.

Be faithful to your time in the Word and prayer - Holidays for some are times when their spiritual disciplines are seriously neglected. You will have extra time, so use that time to draw closer to the Lord and His Word. Time away from the normal busyness of our schedules should naturally translate into more time for things that really matter and that we often would not normally have as much time to invest in....namely our time with God alone in His Word. It is essential that we realize that our time is precious and that we must use it wisely to actually grow in grace. Perhaps you can set a goal to memorize three or four new verses over the holiday!?!

Take some time to do some extra reading - This is along the lines of us naturally having more time...so why not spend some of that time reading a challenging and convicting book? Most Christians today complain of not having enough time to read good books. This may present an opportunity for you to do that. Let your mind he sharpened over the holiday!

Invest in your family! - All of us struggle with family time. There are no exceptions to that. Take some time to play together outside, play some board games, or just simply sit around and talk. But be sure to talk and listen with loved ones. Make it a goal to sit and talk with each of your family members (immediate and not immediate) during the holiday. I realize for some who come from large families this may be difficult but at least give it a shot!

Set on a limit on how much television you will watch - I know that the chords of legalism are ringing in some of your ears but anyone who is growing in their progressive sanctification knows that the television presents numerous stumbling blocks that we need to avoid. Yes, watch football. But there is nothing wrong with missing one of the games (I believe that there will be three on this Thanksgiving). I'll go ahead and tell you who is going to win - the Packers will beat the Lions (YUCK!), the Cowboys will beat the Jets (another YUCK!) and the Colts will beat the Falcons. Yes, we are going to watch television and on Wednesday evening we will be watching a movie together that we traditionally always watch on Thanksgiving. But we need to keep in mind the need for self-control and self-discipline as well.

Read Scripture together as a family before your Thanksgiving meal - Nothing would be more appropriate than to fix our minds on the God who is the Giver of all good things (Jas. 1:17) and to get us thinking God-ward and God-centered before we dive into a meal that is the equivalent of what some people eat in a month in certain parts of the world.

More than anything, let's make Thanksgiving a Christ-centered day lived out for His glory alone (I Cor. 10:31)! But we must also be on our guard. The enemy is not going to take these days off and would love nothing more than for us to become lazy and apathetic spiritually in order to develop some sort of stronghold in our hearts.

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Monday, November 19

Get Your Free Thanksgiving Audiobook: Choose From Piper or Calvin

In honor of Thanksgiving, the good people over at Christianaudio.com are giving you a bonus audiobook for FREE! They are offering you the choice of one of ten available. Here are the details:

Each year around Thanksgiving ChristianAudio likes to do something to say "Thank You!" to all our wonderful customers. This year we got a little carried away, and we invited many of the other content providers at ChristianAudio.com to join us. They did. And now our Thanksgiving offer is better than ever.

Below you will find a selection of 10 Audiobooks. From November 17th to November 24th you will be able to download any one of these audiobooks for free. Here is how it works.

Browse the selection below. When you find the audiobook you want for free, add the Download Format to your cart, and then use the Coupon Code: THANKS2007 during checkout. Then download your free audiobook and enjoy!

Please take a bit of time to browse the websites of the publishers participating in this offer. All of the publishers represented have excellent print books, audiobooks, and other resources that you are sure to appreciate.
We here at The World From Our Window recommend either of the following audiobooks:

Crossway - Visit Crossway Books on the web and browse their full catalog

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John Piper's biography of William Wilberforce takes readers beyond Wilberforce's battle against slavery and explores the beliefs and motivations of this influential evangelical politician.


OR ...

Westminster John Knox - Visit WJK's great resource website The Thoughtful Christian for excellent resources and discussions

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In this concise introduction to Calvin's life and thought, Elwood offers an insightful and accessible overview of Calvin's key teachings within his historical context.


Be sure to follow the directions you will find HERE ... and enjoy your Thanksgiving gift from Christianaudio.com!

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Saturday, November 17

Holy Hip Hop: Interview

This is the interview that Mathew Sims referenced in THIS POST. Since it took me a while to find it, I thought I would help you out.

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What Does an Atheist Do....

When they go to sit down with their family on Thanksgiving Day and say - "Let's give thanks"...to whom shall they give thanks? To themselves? For what? Do they alone claim to be all powerful, all knowing, totally sovereign, completely pure, relentlessly generous, kind and forgiving? Really?

Honestly, what does an atheist teach their own children about life and death, suffering, evil, right and wrong, marriage, trials, money, faithfulness, the source of life and what is good and just? If an atheist claims that they alone are the "captain of their own soul" (William Ernest Henley) then they should prove it! If they can truly take the place of God then they should at the very least muster up the proof that they can do what we as Christians claim that only God can do alone.

If they control the weather...then prove it! Jesus did (Mark 4:35-41)!

If they believe that they have the power of life and death....then prove it! Jesus did (John 11:17-44).

If they believe they can prove how the heavens and the earth came into being...then prove it! God told us clearly how this all happened (Gen. 1; Colossians 1:16-17).

If an atheist can have the audacity to say that they alone are the ultimate judge of morality and that they are inherently good and boast in their self-righteous arrogance that they do "not need God" to be told how to live then I would invite them to take a look at the life of Jesus Christ. Go ahead and put His life under the most intense scrutiny and in the end you will find nothing but purity, holiness, righteousness and all that is good.

If an atheist is so knowledgeable and wise as to reject the true and living God of this universe then please tell us when and how you will die! Jesus did, but took it a bit further, He actually predicted that He would rise from the dead! And that He did!!! (Matthew 16:21-23)

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Woolly Mammoth Tusks Discovered Near Our Hometown

Twenty miles southwest of our home, Woolly Mammoth tusks have been unearthed. KMOV-TV tells the story:

There was a big discovery at a small college in the Metro East.

A maintenance worker at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois made a historical find. The discovery were bones of a six ton Woolly Mammoth dating back over 17,000 years.

The bones were buried six feet underground near several dorms, and discovered by accident while a crew was digging for a manhole seven years ago. The last several years, geologists and paleontologists and students have been digging up pieces of the giant animal.

The giant tusks are just the latest discovery, which span six feet long and are still connected to the skull. The tusks are carefully packed in dirt and plaster, which is a way to keep them preserved until they can be properly excavated. Professors say it is a unique way to look back into the ice age in Illinois.

The giant discovery of tusks were recently moved into a garage in the science department.

The tusks have been nicknamed “Benny,” which is the name of the maintenance worker that made the discovery.

The school tells News 4 they are planning to excavate the tusks in the spring, and could be on display as early as next fall.

Watch the news report HERE (you must create a free account to watch).

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Friday, November 16

The Loss of Community: The Problem of Impermanence

Can you imagine spending your entire life in the same town, attending the same church, having the same job, maybe even living in the same house? Can you even fathom living your entire life among the same people? People who know your flaws and your strengths; your past both good and bad. What would it be like to live among people with whom there were few secrets? People who knew you at work, at home and in the community. Living a life with no separate identities, no separate worlds, no fractured existence. That is how life was for many people up until the 20th century. You rarely ventured too far from home, there was no need to. You might even be buried in the same town you were born in. You lived most of your life among people who had known you for a long time, if not their entire lives. We can't imagine this kind of life because we don't understand what community is. David Wells says it so well.

Our experience of "community," unlike theirs, is usually not connected to a particular place. It is made artificially, through voluntary association. And because the associations are voluntary, they are also fragile and often impermanent. [No Place For Truth, 41]
Because we live in a mobile society where the search for the "better life" drives us to move every six years, we don't have any roots. No one knows us past last week. We lose contact with the few close friends from our last stop not because contact is impossible (email, cell phones, personal web pages), but because it seems pointless. How can I stay in contact with all of my friends from all of my stops? I am overwhelmed just thinking about it.

Not only does our materialism lead to impermanence, but our lack of marital commitment leads to impermanence. We have become a throw away society and it is seen not only in our purchases, but in our relationships. Now even our spouses or our partners don't know us. We look forward to a "fresh start." Running away from our problems and our past causes us to go where nobody knows our name. We don't see this as a problem, in fact we rather like it that way. We can be anybody we want to be. We enjoy our anonymity. "We are nomads, perpetual immigrants, condemned to move from place to place in our own country until finally, if the sinews don't crack, we are allowed to pass into the forgetfulness of retirement." [No Place For Truth, 46] But it's not a nomadic existence of tribes or groups moving together. It is a nomadic existence of individualism.

It is in this culture of impermanence that the Church has the responsibility of building true community. Community is talked about a lot in Christian circles. Yet as we talk about building community we fail to deal with one of the substantial cultural realities that will deny us the very thing we say we want. The cultural reality of impermanence makes true community impossible and unless we are willing to deal with impermanence I believe we are only fooling ourselves with any discussion of community.

How long do you plan to live where you are living right now? If you don't plan to live there any longer than six years why would you go to the trouble of building deep, transparent, personal relationships? You don't plan to put down any roots so why get too close to anyone? It will just make leaving more difficult. What do you think when a visitor at your church tells you that they only plan on being in the community another eighteen months? Pastor, how motivated are you to pour your life into a member or even a leader in your church when they will be leaving in a few years? Layperson, how motivated are you to sacrifice for a particular local church, or for the people in that church, when you are planning to leave in a few years? How motivated are you to follow a pastor through significant changes in your local church when he will probably be leaving in a few years?

How can we expect to see anything close to real, biblical community when the average American moves every five years? How can we begin to truly disciple, mentor, and train people when you only have three years to accomplish it? Pastor, how are you going to make any significant impact in your local church when you are only there five years? If we don't deal with impermanence we will never find lasting solutions to community or discipleship.

I am a pastor and look at this situation from the pastoral, biblical perspective. Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum wrote THIS POST yesterday looking at this very issue more from the economic perspective. I encourage you to read his post and many other posts that he has written on this topic. We need more than pastors addressing this issue from Scripture. We need economists and anthropologists to weigh in to help us find Bible-based solutions that are outside the box of our cultural conditioning.

Do you agree that this is a problem? Should we give up and continue refining our goals and expectations to fit the situation or should we seek to combat the problem looking for lasting solutions?

An attempt at some solutions coming soon.

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Back to Limited Atonement - The Conversation Continues

Just trying to be consistent here and to keep our minds on one of the central doctrines of Christianity - the atonement. Would a universal atonement person be comfortable with what two of the most influential voices of the doctrines of grace have said regarding the intent of the atonement? I'll begin with Spurgeon:

The Arminians say, 'Christ died for all men.' Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, 'No, certainly not.' We ask them the next question: Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer 'No.' They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, 'No; Christ has died that any man may be saved if ?' and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ's death; we say, 'No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.' We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ's death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.
Charles Spurgeon

Now, let's go to the other one - John Calvin's commentary on the favorite verse of universal redemption proponents (incidentally, Calvinists love this verse too and firmly believe that it defends our position as well!):

Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith. Here, too, is displayed a wonderful effect of faith; for by it we receive Christ such as he is given to us by the Father -- that is, as having freed us from the condemnation of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has atoned for our sins, that nothing may prevent God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since, therefore, faith embraces Christ, with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, we need not wonder if by it we obtain likewise the life of Christ.
John Calvin Commentary on John 3:16

No, this is not a doctrine of primary importance (limited atonement). But we will continue to emphasize the fact that ALL of us limit the atonement - either in its intent or in its application. Also, let me reiterate the fact that I am NOT saying that the atonement does not have universal benefits...it does. But it has specific benefits as well both intended and applied to the elect!

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In Al Mohler's Own Words: "How God Turned Southern Seminary Around"

Al Mohler tells the story and gives God the glory for the theological turn-around at the SBC's flagship seminary.

I will cut my commentary short--if you will listen to THIS brief clip of Mohler telling the story.

To God be the Glory for what He continues to do at Southern!

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Thursday, November 15

Thanks for Your Prayers & A World From Our Window Announcement

To Our Readers:

Last week I requested prayer for our unborn baby girl. Good news! The doctor believes our unborn baby girl has turned, and is no longer transverse. This is a great relief to both Joanna and me. Thanks so much for your prayers! We still covet your prayers concerning the upcoming delivery--the umbilical cord appears to be around her neck. While this is not uncommon, and although this doesn't necessarily present a problem, we've had a traumatic experience with the cord and the neck in the past.

As I told our youngest daughter, Hannah, as we left the doctor's office: "Yes, God does answer prayer!" Thank you for praying!

Last week I also informed you that our church's Senior Pastor had resigned and will be moving to the God-forsaken land of Ohio! I requested prayer for God's leading in our church as they were to vote on whether to call me to fill the vacated position. Last evening they did so with a 98% vote. I would love to spend the next hour-or-so telling you all about our church, and how excited I am to be its Pastor-elect. I will endeavor to curb my enthusiasm, and ask all to give glory to the God Who has chosen to shower my family and me with the grace of a loving and growing church family. I love Delhi Baptist Church, and by God's grace, I hope to invest the remainder of my years in ministry to God's people here. Soli Deo Gloria!

I'm not sure what that means for the blog, but I do know that my schedule will be filling quickly due to the fact of being without an Associate Pastor for several months. I will be praying about blogging--it's effectiveness and worthiness--and will decide before year's end whether I will be able to continue as proprietor of The World From Our Window.

I do believe this site has been a profitable endeavor, and it has led to the sharpening of my spirit and intellect. I believe I am a better Christian, husband, father, and pastor because of the encouragement and sharpening I have received here.

May the Lord bless you; and please pray for the future of The World From Our Window and of Delhi Baptist Church.

Grace and Peace,

Ken

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Guest Blogger: Will Hatfield Ordination Prep

Friend, fellow-pastor, and frequent blog-reader, Will Hatfield is busy preparing for his upcoming ordination. Because our readers are so theologically astute, Will desires some World From Our Window reaction to and interaction with his doctrinal statement.

Now ... there's a few things you should know about Will before reading his doctrinal statement. First, Will is a pastor in Ames, Iowa--the home of the maroon and yellow Iowa State Cyclones. Second, Will is a graduate of Faith Baptist Bible College and its Theological Seminary (in Ankeny, Iowa). Third, Will is a brainiac--and that's not a term intended to demean him, but to encourage him. His intellect far surpasses any of the regular bloggers here!

So because Will is a Cyclone (ughh!); and because he has been trained at one of the finest theological institutions in the country; and because of his surpassing intellectual prowess, don't pull any punches with him! He wants some interaction; so let's not disappoint him!

Without any further ado ... here's Will on Theology Proper--The Doctrine of God The Father:
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The Doctrine of God

God is the supreme being of the universe. As we learn about Him, we will understand ourselves better because He made us and patterned us after Himself. His universe conforms to Him, and as we look at God we will be delighted at the beauty of who He is and what He has made. Most importantly, we must understand that God is in charge of His universe. He has not forgotten about it, walked away from it, or delegated authority of it. To understand how God rules, we first need some background into who He is.

The Story. In the beginning, the Bible addresses the most basic issue of existence by declaring that the something or someone who has always existed is God. The Bible continues by declaring that God created the universe and our earth and atmosphere, as well as all of its living organisms. God then declares that this creation is good. Why is it good? Let’s look first at who God is.

Who is God? He is the Creator

Creation. In Genesis 1-2 God reveals how He created the world – he formed and filled the earth. There are many views on how to interpret this. A literal understanding of the passage is essential. God created the world in six literal days (Ex. 20:11). If there ever was a universe before the creation of this one, it is not discussed in the Bible.

Preservation. God maintains His created universe. It is dependent on Him. He does not continually recreate it but keeps the natural laws working through His power (Col. 1:16-17).

The Nature of God

Much is revealed to us from God’s Word about the nature of God. It is of course not exhaustive, but the essentials as to His being and attributes are there. The essence of God includes:

Spirit. God is spirit (John 4:24). He is not material nor dependent on it. This also means he is invisible. He has no bodily limitations (Acts 7:48-49).

Personal. God has personality. He has intellect, emotions, and will. He has self-consciousness and self-determination.

Life. He is the only living God. He has imparted life to us. This explains the origin of life as well why we may not be able to define exactly what life is. He is the Self-Existent One which also shows His infinity (Ex. 3:14).

Infinite. This means he has no bounds or limits. He is above all things and in all purposes. This shows both His transcendence and immanence. There are several things that flow from this characteristic of God.

Absoluteness. He is not dependent on anything outside of Himself. (Is. 40)

Supremacy. There is no one greater or higher in authority than He. (Is. 40)

Immutability. He does not change in His essence or attributes or actions. (Mal. 3:6)

Unity. He is one; there is no other God. (Deut. 6:4)

Perfection. He is complete in His attributes and is not lacking in anything. (Is. 40:14)

Eternity. He is above time. (Ps. 90:2)

Immensity. He is above space. (1 Kings 8:27; Jer. 23:24)

Freedom. God does not conform to anything except Himself. (Is. 40:13-14)

These characteristics of God show us how he rules over his universe. He is omnipresent in that He is everywhere present in the fullness of His being (Ps.139:7-12). He is not stretched out over all space like dust but is able to be present everywhere at the same time. This also does not mean that everything is God for God is above His universe. He is omniscient in that He knows all things (Matt. 11:21). If He is everywhere present, He should know all things, and, since He is in control of His universe, He does know all things. He is also omnipotent, or He has all power (Gen. 17:1). At the same time He has His power under control. He does not continually create, nor does He use all of His power at any time.

How do we know what He is like?

We must first of all establish our base for knowledge of God. This must be the Bible as His revelation to us. We cannot know much about God on our own, but His Word reveals all we need to know (2 Tim. 3:16). A look at God gives us a better understanding of Who He is and who we are. [more: See Bibliology]

How is He in charge? A Revealing of His Rule

As we read through the Bible, we see that God reveals Himself to people. Slowly but surely, from Genesis to Revelation, we find out about a God who is just but merciful. We also find out that God is, in fact, three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Each of these persons possess the nature of God. I like a definition of what we call the Trinity from B.B. Warfield:

There is one only & true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal persons, the same in essence & nature but distinct in necessary existence. –B.B. Warfield [italics -updated language]

How is God’s rule revealed in the Trinity? A look at God the Father

In Ps. 2 the Father declares that He will set His King (also called His Son in this passage) over the nations. Jesus, in coming to this earth, claimed to be God’s Son. Notice Christ’s response to the Father’s rule in Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.’” Here, where Christ is trying to minister to people who are rejecting Him, he rejoices in God’s rule over that rejection. Jesus as God’s Son did His Father’s will. In fact, God shows us that Jesus will always do His Father’s will even into eternity in 1 Cor. 15:28, “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

Even though there are 3 persons in the Trinity, one person, the Father, is ultimately in charge and does not give up that authority even when everything has been put under His authority. Why is this important? In a day when authority is questioned, maligned, and misused and when people demand authority for themselves, we must see that authority’s nature is not just temporary to ensure proper behavior or personal comfort. (We will look more at who the Son and Holy Spirit are and what they do later on).

Why is God the Father the absolute authority?

1) The ultimate authority receives the ultimate glory. God is concerned that He receives the glory due His name. He is God and there is no other. (Is.42:8; 48:11)

2) God is the absolute authority because He is using His authority to love us. In His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, He knows best how to love us and He is seeking to ensure our care by His rule. John Owen put it this way: “I come now to declare what it is wherein peculiarly and eminently the saints have communion with the Father; and this is LOVE – free, undeserved, and eternal love.” [1] Even Jesus, God’s Son, relates to God this way in John 15:10 where Jesus says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” The revealing of God’s attributes such as His holiness, righteousness, goodness, and truthfulness show us the kind of authority He is using over His universe. In combining the two ideas, John Piper puts it like this: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Authority then is not something necessary because of evil but is essential in relating to one another in love. Jesus, God’s Son, related this way to His Father. Notice John 14:31, “but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” This is how we need to relate to the God who is creator and sovereign of this universe. In love He rules over us and in love we submit to Him. No wonder the greatest commandment is to love our God will all our heart, soul, mind, and strength! Into eternity God will rule and show His love for us.



[1] Owen, John. Of Communion with God, p. 19

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