Thursday, August 14

A Reader Poll on Israel, Prophecy, and Dispensationalism

It's been a sparse summer around here. Writing juices have dried up, and both time and ideas are hard to come by.

So I turn to you--the reader--for a bit of blog fodder.

There seems to be a resurgent interest and infatuation with Israel among Dispensational Premillennialists. Perhaps it's the inevitable result of John MacArthur's straight-forward and (somewhat) controversial "Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a (Dispensational) Premillennialist" talk at a recent Shepherds' Conference. In this talk, MacArthur tauted the fulfillment of a literal territorial land promise to the Jews as the pinnacle proof of God's faithfulness. In other words, God cannot be faithful if He doesn't give the Jews a rather large parcel of turf in the Middle East. And God will do so in the Millennial Kingdom--not to be confused with the New Heavens and New Earth.

All of which brings me to the point of this post. While Dispensationalists are quick to acknowledge that God has set the Jewish nation aside during this dispensation (choosing rather to work in and through the Church--comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles), they seem to intimate that the present-day State of Israel is somehow key to God fulfilling His covenantal land promises in the Millennial Kingdom. In anticipation of the coming Kingdom, the State of Israel is to be protected, guarded, and lauded (including the GARBC's "birthday congratulations" to the present-day State of Israel).

So here is the poll question (not that poll results determine truth, but just for a little prophetic fun): Which statement or statements describe the present-day State of Israel's involvement in biblical prophecy?

a) The present-day State of Israel is a precursor to the return of Christ. Things have fallen into place in the Middle East, precipitating Christ's return.

b)
As with any other present-day earthly nation, the present-day State of Israel has nothing to do with biblical prophecy. God's faithfulness is not bound to or dependent upon the present-day State of Israel.


c) Present-day Israel and its people should be lauded and loved because they remain God's covenant people. There are special blessings promised to people and nations that express kindness to the State of Israel.

d) 'Judeo-centric Eschatology' (a term employed by Barry Horner in his book, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged) is key to a correct understanding of biblical prophecy. Any eschatological view that does not include an appreciation for the present-day State of Israel and a future land kingdom for the Jews is anti-Semitic.
Now it's your turn. Let's have a little fun today!

P. S. -- For those attempting to pigeonhole my eschatological views, please understand that every worthwhile journalist (not that I am one!) attempts to veil his own views when asking others for theirs.

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Wednesday, August 13

Tom Ascol, Southern Baptists and Inflated Membership Numbers

From Christianity Today:

With its 16.2 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. But on any given Sunday, most Southern Baptists are missing in action. According to statistics released by the SBC in April, the average worship attendance in the convention is 6.15 million—10 million shy of the membership total. That is a problem, says Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida. Ascol believes that Southern Baptist churches have sinned by maintaining inaccurate membership rolls, and by tolerating inactive members.
Ascol was one of the most vocal supporters of a resolution favoring regenerate church membership that was approved at the convention's annual meeting in June. Regenerate church members have accepted Christ, been baptized, and are active in a local congregation. Proponents said that too many church members failed to meet that description. Ascol also successfully pushed for an amendment that calls on congregations "to repent of any failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members." He said the resolution is the first step toward restoring church discipline. It's the next step—actually deciding who will be removed from membership—that will test the SBC's resolve to discipline."
The article continues ...
"Newly elected SBC president Johnny Hunt agreed that Southern Baptists have to do a better job of reaching out to members who have fallen away. But he cautioned against full-scale purging of the membership rolls. for one thing, he said, few church members are in worship every single Sunday. First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia, where Hunt is pastor, averages 6,800 in Sunday attendance. But over the course of a month, he added, about 10,000 of the church's 16,500 members will attend at least one service."
Continue reading HERE.

Perhaps Hebrews 13:17 applies here?

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Thursday, August 7

Free Audiobook: Augustine's 'Confessions'

This just in from Christianaudio.com:

Greetings!

The end of summer is fast approaching. Ah... nothing like getting back to school! Well, if you are in school that is. But even if you are not, the final days of summer are perfect for reading. And the coming of fall brings to mind cool cozy nights sitting in front of a warm fire reading (or listening to) a good book. We have just the ticket.

Thank you for looking over this month's Free Audiobook of the Month and Author Special!
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Saint Augustine's Confessions


Saint Augustine's contributions to Christian theology are second to no other post-apostolic author in the whole sweep of church history. Yet along side his doctrinal treatises, Augustine tells a story of his life devoted to Christ as his only satisfaction. The Confessions is at once the autobiographical account of Augustine's life of Christian faith and at the same time a compelling theology of Christian spirituality for everyone. Among the most important classics in Western literature, it continues to engage modern readers through Augustine's timeless illustrations and beautiful prose. Augustine's Confessions is a book to relish the first time through and then profoundly enjoy over a lifetime of revisiting.

Browse to our Free Download Page to receive this offer.

Select the Download format and add it to your cart. Then use the coupon code AUG2008 during checkout to receive your free download.

NOTE: If you are using an iPod, make sure you select the M4B format

Our Price: $0.00
List Price: $26.98

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Wednesday, August 6

The Validity of Short-Term Missions Trips - Yea or Nay?

About three weeks ago the Lord in His grace allowed me to take the first missions trip of my life to Mexico City. I'm still pondering and rejoicing over the impact that this trip had on me personally in a number of ways. I'll share a couple here:

1. Seeing the Body of Christ in another part of the world - though Mexico is far from being on the "other side of the world" it is still far from being the U.S. in a myriad of ways. It was refreshing to see the excitement and zeal of fellow believers in a distant land.

2. Actually being hands on with missionaries that we support - let's be honest here, when most in our churches think of missionaries (notice I said "most"), they usually envision a family pulling up in a car that is about to break down and then presenting a long slide show of poor and run down neighborhoods in a third world country. What we often fail to realize is that in many areas of the world the Body of Christ is vibrant, zealous and growing in maturity. On top of that, the Church is flourishing in many areas of the world where persecution and resistance is strong towards the Gospel.


Some personal reflections and challenges the Lord laid on my heart from my time in Mexico:

  1. The need to abandon my own attachment to the American mindset of materialism and comfort. The mission field can expose the idols of one's heart like very few things can.
  2. My own personal need to evangelize more - both in my community and to those the Lord brings into my life. The main question we need to ask ourselves about evangelism is "Why?". Why are we not doing it? More than likely it is simply due to the fact that we are not taking Romans 1:16 at face value. At least that's the case for me.
  3. Being exposed to different cultures expands your mindset and widens your boundaries in areas that we usually do not like to move out of here in the States.
  4. Missionaries are some of the most content and happy people in the world. Usually because they have made the break with the one idol or stronghold that was keeping them from having a passion for God and His glory in all things. My time with our missionaries and those they work with was a blessing to my own heart and life.
  5. The cost of the trip financially cannot outweigh the impact that it will have on your life personally. Don't let dollars and cents stand in the way of doing something that will impact you and possibly change you dramatically.
  6. I need to stop using so much slang in my Spanish. I'm thankful for the fact that years ago I had the opportunity to learn another language. But this trip exposed some inherent weaknesses in my Spanish - namely my use of slang and weaknesses with my reading. Thankfully, all of that can be worked on and improved in time.
Most will probably attest to the fact that they have done some sort of short term missions before. With the impact that this trip had on me I would love to make this a part of my yearly ministry. This would benefit my church, myself and our missionaries tremendously for the glory of God!

Me and Sam Hornbrook - our missionary that we support in Mexico city.

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