Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Preaching Through Suffering: Al Mohler's Message

This morning was the Convocation Chapel Service at Southern Seminary. President Al Mohler spoke to new and returning students about the responsibility of preaching. The message was stirring and challenging, as well as comforting for those of us who are in or are pursuing ministry in the local church. I am including my notes from the sermon for those interested.

Jan. 31, 2006 Albert Mohler
Colossians 1: 25-29

We must continually take stock of the Evangelical Church. Many churches today confess the importance of Biblical preaching, yet they don't do it. But preaching is the first mark of the Biblical church and where it is lacking there is no church. Everyone, whether they are a preacher or not, has the responsibility to understand the centrality of preaching, and that is the task we are a called to in some manner.

In 1941 H.H. Farmer recongized the diminishing place of preaching in the church. His book The Servant of the Word, though neo-orthodox, is a stirring criticism of the church, both then and perhaps today. Farmer does not go far enough in his assesment of the importance of preaching, but he is onto something when he writes this work. There is need for a revival in preaching among our day just as there was in the 1940s.

Someone older than Farmer, however, expressed even better the importance of the preached word. The Apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:25-29, teaches us not only why we should preach, but how. To be sure preaching was as controversial, as counter-cultural, in Paul's day as it was in Farmer's, and indeed is in our own day. But Paul says that the preacher has the responsibility to preach the word in season and out.

-We are to Preach even in Suffering:
In v. 24 Paul articulates that he will go through anything, any suffering of any kind, in order just to preach the word. In fact he goes even further than that when he says that he even rejoices in suffering in order that through it he might preach the word.

The truth of this passage is lost in the modern church. Christ triumphs in our weakness, not in our numbers, our dollars, and our votes. Today people are quick to talk about their church's numbers, and their influence in the convention- but rarely is a church distinguished by its preaching. Rarely is a church distinguished by the character, power, and content of its pulpit. Every pastor wants to see the numbers, to see the instant results of his ministry. But preaching is like farming: we plant the seed and we wait with patience to see the fruit. This is not the kind of instant gratification that we often look for. If you want instant results you will do something other than preach, but if you want to build God's church preaching is the non-substitutional mark of the church. Martin Luther said, "I preached the word and I slept, and while I slept the word did its work." We have to suffer for a while, waiting on the results is hard. But through the midst of it we preach!

Not only does Biblical preaching test our patience, but it brings conflict. As churches come to understand the significance of preaching they may at first feel their very lives assulted in preaching. From within and without the church often preaching brings conflict. As the world attacks the church we must continue preaching the Word. And in a time of persecution from the world there is not time for pulpit frivality. Some of us are fare too at home in the world and thus have a comfortability about speaking as the world. And if you are at peace in the world you have abdicated your calling! Beware- if there is no conflict in your ministry there is probably no content in your preaching.

-Paul doesn't just tell us to preach in suffering, he tells us how we can.
When we realize these four principles about preaching we can persevere through suffering.

(1) The Calling of the Preacher (v. 25)- Paul says he was made a minister. He did not sign up for it, he was called. So this is not a man's optional occupation, he is called by God to preach the word.

(2) The Benefit of the Church (v.25)- Paul says he preaches for the Benefit of the church. The preacher does not preach for his own sake, but for the sake of the congregation. We can't do this task on our own, we don't even deserve to do it- But God has called us and empowers us and it is His work. This morning, gathered in this room are those who have no right to preach. But we take up our calling with humility and confidence in God.

(3) The Content of the Message (v. 26)- The content of every sermon is the mystery of God. It is a mystery revealed. There is something mysterious about Christian preaching- in its communication and its content. It is not what the world expects to hear, and it is not man's idea. There is a glory in this meassage, not our own, for we proclaim Christ. There are three steps to preaching (v. 28)- 1. Proclaim (set forth the word, explain the text), 2. Warning (call for a response from the listener), 3. and Teach (apply the word to the life).

(4) The Purpose of the Message (v. 29)- Paul reports that he is struggling because there is a purpose in preaching. When the purpose of the preacher is to further the message of Christ, then he may struggle and yet persevere.

DGM National Confrence 2006

Justin Taylor has listed the plans for this years Desiring God National Confrence. It looks to be a good one (as if DGM has hosted bad ones). This years theme is the Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. Guest speakers are: David Wells, D.A. Carson, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Voddie Baucham, and, of course, John Piper. I imagine this will be an important confrence for those invovled in Christian ministry in any capacity, and as usual it is opened to all Christians. I've been to two DGM National Confrences and I can say they are worth the money and the time to fly to Minneapolis. You will be blessed, educated, and encouraged for ministry and the Christian life via these speakers and this gathering of believers. Let me encourage you all to check it out and considering going and even taking a group. Postmodernism is not only a serious philosophy that Christians need to know about and respond to, but it is creeping into the church and altering important doctrines and so we need to know how to identify it and fight it on our own turf. These men can help prepare Christians for just such a task.

Check out the schedule and more info: http://theologica.blogspot.com/2006/01/dg-national-conference-2006.html


School and Work

I am pleased to announce that today is my first day of classes at Southern Seminary. The most exciting class for me this quater is most likely going to be Personal Spiritual Disciplines, taught by Donald S. Whitney. Like I did with my course The Doctrine of God, I will be posting some materials and lessons from this course periodically, and I am recording the class on audio as well if anyone is interested in receiving a copy.

Also I received a call from UPS yesterday and will be starting work with them on Tuesday Feb. 7th. Please pray that this job works out well for me and my schedule. It is a great job with astounding benefits for our family, but, of course, the work is hard and the hours late. Thanks to everyone who has been lifting Krista and I up to the Lord, we are seeing more and more of His faithfulness shown in our lives.

Monday, January 30, 2006

When Marriage Isn't God's Will

I had lunch with Mark Coppenger last Friday during orientation at Southern Seminary and can say that he is a wise, wise man. I encourage singles and those engaged to read this article by him.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

More on George Barna's Big Problem

Justin Taylor's weblog is great for pastors to check regularly. It's good for all Christians, but for pastors in particular, especially those who since leaving seminary have been detached somewhat from the important theological issues being raised in and around Evangelicalism at large, it is a resource. His blog is a means to get quick concise information about the theological landscape, and as well, usually, links to more in depth material on the subjects at hand.

In his most recent post Taylor directs his readers again to the new book of George Barna. Barna has for sometime been a "church-growth" guru. His newest book Revolution, however, speaks about the church as merely an option for Christians. Taylor has previously listed some reveiws of it, as have I. I'd encourage you to check out the comments of these other brothers that Taylor lists, they'll help you be thoughtful in your consideration of this book.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Theology and Life

Today was new student orientation here at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. There seemed to me to be two major points that I picked up from the whole day. (1) Theology is not separate from spirituality, (2) and Theology is not separate from marriage.

Over lunch today Russell Moore gave a warning to students about detaching our studies from our spiritual lives. He reminded us all that we are learning things here that are truths that should affect our hearts as much as our heads. He warned us about elitism and pride, and pointed us to the message of scripture that the pastor is a gift from God for the church. We are to be used, spent, and exhausted in the service of others- not in the demonstration of our "fine abilities". Theology that does not affect the heart, then, is not truly theology.

This evening, after dinner, Russell Moore spoke again to the married seminary famalies. His talk was on the "Ministry, Marriage, and the Mystery of Christ." In this message Moore explained that marriage is designed, by God, to reflect the love that Christ has for His church and our failures in marriage are often a failure to understand Christ's relationship with the church. He gave to both husbands and wives wise words and exhortations. Theology is not detached from marriage.

So what I am seeing from the very outset of my time at Southern is that this is not an "ivory tower" of academia! The things taught in the classroom are to play out in our lives and nothing is to be done merely for the sake of doing it, or for the sake of building up arrogance in ministers. God's word and the study of the things of God should promote humility and service, and nothing less. Theology is to be applied, then, to life.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

New Books for 06

The Spurgeon School Library has posted a list of the some new books from late 2005 and now 2006. I haven't read any of them, but there they are; check them out if you're interested.

They include new books by : Mark Dever, John MacArthur, J. Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, and John Piper.

Thinking Through Reformed Theology, Part 3

There are several important factors to realize in any investigation of Reformed Theology. In order to best help you think through the Doctrines of Grace, as they are sometimes called, and to counter the horribly poor research and characterizations that some give to the Reformed community, I have listed these five points for you to keep in mind as you do your homework.

1) Reformed Theology is Evangelical- The term “Evangelical” has been applied across the board to Orthodox Christians of various theological systems. Today Evangelicals are composed of both those who are Arminian, and those who are Calvinistic. The term is, to quote John Frame, an “umbrella-term, covering both Reformed and non-Reformed Christians who [hold] high views of Scripture and adhere to the ‘fundamentals of the faith.’” It is important to realize that Reformed and non-Reformed Christians are united on many of the most important Biblical doctrines: God, man, Jesus Christ, Salvation by grace through faith, Scripture, prayer, and the need to spread the gospel message (this last point will need to be addressed in more detail, and will be in a moment). Throughout Christian history many of the most influential and beloved Christian heroes of all time were Reformed in their theology: Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, C.H. Spurgeon, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, W.A. Criswell, Martin Luther, John Calvin, St. Augustine, Isaac Watts, William Cowper, John Newton, John Bunyan, John Piper, John MacArthur, James Montgomery Boice, D. James Kennedy, Joni Erickson Tada, R.C. Sproul, and many more. So Reformed Theology is still orthodox; that’s very important to remember.

2) Reformed Theology is Evangelistic- This has often been denied by opponents of Reformed Theology. Many assert that since Calvinists believe in predestination that they do not believe in evangelism, this is wholly un-true. What they believe, instead, is that God does have an elect whom He has foreordained for salvation, but He does not foreordain the ends without foreordaining the means. The means by which God brings all His elect to salvation is through the hearing of the gospel, the repentance of sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So the need for evangelism is huge! None of God’s elect will be lost, all will hear the gospel and believe- because God does not elect in vain- but it is for this reason that so many Calvinists have been passionate about missions. If all of God’s elect will receive Christ, then missions and evangelism can never fail! So many of Christianity’s greatest missionaries and evangelists were Reformed in their theology: David Brainerd, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, John G. Paton, Adoniram Judson, Luther Rice, George Whitefield, C.H. Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, William Carey, Andrew Bonar, George Muller, Ichabod Spencer, Richard Baxter, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and many others. It is important to realize that no matter what the characterizations of Calvinism say, they are wholly evangelistic and passionate for missions.

3) Reformed Faith is Spread Across Denominations- When I first found myself inclined towards this theological system I thought that meant I had to become Presbyterian, since everyone whom I was reading at the time was Presbyterian. But the truth is that Reformed Theology reaches into various denominations across the spectrum of Orthodox Protestantism. George Whitefield was a Calvinistic Methodist; Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Charismatics too have their Calvinist figures. Within the Baptist tradition alone there is a long line of Reformed theologians and preachers. Many of the earliest English Baptists were Calvinists: John Spilsbury, Benjamin Keach, William Kiffin, John Bunyan, etc. The first British and American Missionaries were Baptists and Calvinists: Carey and the Judsons. The Founders of the SBC were Reformed- William Johnson and Richard Fuller (as well as were many of its other Presidents). The Founders of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary were Calvinists, so was its first faculty: James P. Boyce, John Broadus, P.H. Mell, and Basil Manly Jr. There is no one denomination that holds the rights to Reformed theology. Of course many more within Presbyterianism have been Reformed than have been within Methodism, but nonetheless there is no attribute of the system that is tied to one particular denomination.

4) Reformed Theology is Predestinarian- This is probably the leading difference between Reformed theology and other forms of evangelicalism. Every group must wrestle with the words “elect” and “predestined,” for they are found in Scripture (Ephesians 1:3-5, Romans 9, Romans 8:29-30, etc.). The ways that Arminians handle these texts is different from how Calvinists do, and so a thorough investigation of Reformed theology will need to look at Scripture and see how both sides have handled the various texts- A good book to help on this is Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views- Dave Hunt and James White. Simply put, the way the Reformed tradition has handled predestination is as follows: God, in His grace and love, has appointed a select group of men and women out of the whole human race to be saved, not an account of anything that they have done, but wholly out of the mere pleasure of His will. Not based on any foreseen faith or action, but based on grace. In this light men are not elected because they have believed in Jesus (the Arminian interpretation) but they believe in Jesus because they are elect (John 6:44).

5) Reformed Theology is Humbling- John Newton, a Calvinist, once wrote, “I have never despaired of God’s saving any man since He saved me.” This is the attitude that Reformed Theology should generate (the fact that it sometimes does not generate this attitude is not a discredit to the system, but an evidence of man’s sinfulness). When once man realizes how Sovereign and powerful God is, that man is doomed to sin and hell without God’s intervening and awakening His heart to new life in Christ, he is truly humbled. A realization that you can do nothing to save yourself, that it is all of God’s grace, that you have done nothing to deserve salvation or to earn it, is the most humbling of all things. Those who have throughout history loved Reformed Theology have been pressed to see a big view of God and a properly low view of themselves. Puritanism and old Calvinism were not distributors of low self-esteem; they understood that by painting the Biblical view of man as one deep in the depths of sin, dead in his transgressions, was to make the beauty of grace all that more amazing before a man’s eyes.

With these five points in mind I hope you will pursue a serious study of this subject, for it will be well worth your efforts. As I continue through this series feel free to post comments, corrections, questions, and even POLITE disagreements :) .

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thinking Through Reformed Theology Part 2

Riddlebarger's list (see below) has compelled me to post a list of my own. For those who are still wrestling with or just simply interested in further investigation of Reformed Theology there are some good resources at your disposal. Some of the items on this list below are available free on the web, others are available at decent prices through various book retailers. Check them out I encourage you.

Reading for those Investigating Reformed Theology:
  • Chosen By God- R.C. Sproul

  • Amazing Grace- Timothy George

  • Ashamed of the Gospel- John MacArthur
  • Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God- J.I. Packer

  • Articles on Reformed Theology:

  • What is Reformed Theology?
  • Thinking Through Reformed Theology

    Kim Riddlebarger has posted a list of recommended reading for those new to Reformed theology. I don't agree with all the selections on his list but you should still check it out if you're wrestling with this theological system. Particularly I'd recommend the last five books on his list. To his list I'd add Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer and Amazing Grace: God's Initiative-Our Response by Timothy George.


    Placement Tests

    I am going to take some placement tests this morning, hoping to test out of some first year classes (Elementary Greek and Systematic Theology I). We'll see. I wanted to post here to say thanks to those fellas (David and Mike) who helped me prepare for this and know how to do it.

    Thanks guys and God bless.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    Blue Like Jazz: Cool, Christian, Un-helpful

    9 Marks Ministries has released a reveiw of the very popular Donald Miller book Blue Like Jazz. This is a book that many teenagers and college students will be drawn to. Yet, as the reveiw at 9 Marks points out, it is a book that makes Christianity not only ambiguios in its message, but completely unhepful to man's real problems. I'd recommend reading this review and passing it on to others.

    Shocking News from Canada

    News coming from Canada has often tended to shock me. On December 29th I documented the decision of the Canadian Supreme Court to legalize group sex with children.
  • Get Your Kids out of Canada
  • This was a sad and terrible story. The recent news out of Canada has again shocked me but it is an altogether different kind of shock.

    On Monday Canada elected their first Conservative leadership in 13 years. Due to the scandals and numerous broken promises of the liberal party in Canada, voters gave their support to Conservative candidate Stephen Harper, despite some concern over his views. This is such an exciting development and we will all being watching with anticipation to see how Harper plans to bring positive and moral reforms to Canada. To be certain being conservative or in support of U.S. republicanism is not to be equated with God-honoring, though some suppose such is the case. What is God-honoring, however, is a political desire and plan to turn back the moral demise of a culture, and the humility, tact, and resolve to implement that plan. Christians, let's pray that Mr. Harper will be such a man with such a plan.

    Monday, January 23, 2006

    Ghiberti Comes to America

    Lorenzo Ghiberti is an important historical figure in the world of art. His work in the early 1400s, both in sculpture and in writing would profoundly influence the artists of the later High Renaissance. Observers can see his influence carried over in the work of one of his most outstanding students, Donatello (who's Marble Statue of David reveals a debt to his teacher).

    Ghiberti's most well known work is the enormous set of bronze doors on the baptistery in Florence, which Michaelangelo called the "doors to paradise". Among his other works, however, were three bronze statues of saints, Matthew, Stephen, and John the Baptist. The St. Matthew Statue has now been brought to the United States, which makes the first appearance of a Ghiberti work in the U.S. It has been so well received that it is making a longer stay than the National Gallery of Art, in Washington D.C. , had originally planned. I wish that I could go see this piece but I, alas, I cannot. Nonetheless I recommend that should any of you have the chance to see this remarkable peice of bronze casting and historic artwork that you take that oppurtunity. It will be well worth your time and money. Check out the link to NGA under "Top Articles".

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    The End of Abortion and the Savior of Sinners

    Today is the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and since this landmark ruling in our nation 40 million children have been aborted. This is a horrifying thought, and my heart grieves so heavily for the murdering of such innocent and beautiful gifts from God. At the Worship service that Krista and I attended this morning here in Louisville the pastor spoke on this very subject from the text of scripture. In light of the continuing abortions in America he listed seven reasons why we are to see the un-born child as a human being. The list he quoted from Pastor John Piper, who has articulated often the truth that abortion is a sin. The list is as follows:

    1) A child is concieved by two humans.
    2) God forms all children in the womb of their mother.
    3) The Bible refers to the un-born in personal terms, not impersonal. Even to the degree that the Greek word that refers to the un-born John the Baptist is the same word applied to the born baby Jesus.
    4) The un-born look like us when they are being aborted.
    5) They will grow up if they are left alone.
    6) Being tiny does not make them less human.
    7) It is becoming more frequent today that pre-mature children are surviving outside of the womb if properly cared for.

    There are certainly many other reasons why we are to regard the un-born as humans, but these are just a few to help us all think. The preacher, whom we are coming to enjoy more and more, concluded his message this morning by challenging all of us to action. He proposed five ways to get invovled.

    1) Come to Christ- If you are not a beleiver and you have had an abortion know that there is still hope for you. Come to Christ in repentance and faith and be saved from the punishment that is due all of us for our sins, including the sin of abortion.

    2) Learn- Know the facts about abortion. Find out what really goes on and become educated that you may speak the truth and avoid the deceptive lies of the culture.

    3) Adopt- Rescue children! Show parents that there is another way, that even if they do not want their child that you will love him or her enough to take that child into your family. The Lord has inclined mine and Krista's hearts toward adoption, this sermon has only further confirmed that for us.

    4) Speak- Shed light on the dark places that you might expose sin for sin, tell the word about the punishment for sin and yet also the hope of forgiveness in Christ. Be a beacon of both hope and a flash of warning to the world.

    5) Pray- The only way that abortion will end is by means of God's will. Pray that He will raise up servant armies to be a means of ending abortion. And whatever politics, and protests may do to help end abortion, in the end only conversions will see it fully destroyed. Only when doctors, nurses, and parents come to know Christ and see the sinfulness of abortion will there be an end to this horror. Pray to such an end.

    This pastor had one final word for us which I found to be encouraging for me, even though I have never had or encouraged an abortion. He said, "Abortion is murder, but Jesus is a savior of murderers." There is no room for self-righteousness! Paul tells us that we who are Christians were all just like those who are not yet converted- we were all sinners and enemies of God! And with our sin we murdered Jesus Christ- thus we are all murderers in this sense! But Praise be to God who sent Jesus to save such murderers as us. Let such truth fuel us to love and honesty in the fight for the right to life!

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Controversy over "End of the Spear"

    I have hesitated to comment on the issue of Chad Allen's portrayal of Nate and Steve Saint in the upcoming film "End of the Spear", largely due to the fact that I don't know what to make of it. When I heard the news last week I was deeply saddened and disappointed with Every Tribe Entertainment. There are many things that should be considered as some prepare to see and have seen this film. I point you to the Justin Taylor's blog "Between Two Worlds" and Al Mohler's commentary. Both deal very well with the subject and ask good questions.

    I intend to see the film and to review it. I beleive that if it is possible to separate the message from the messanger in this film then we may be able to still find value in the film. The blatant disregard of Ever Tribe Entertainment in casting Allen (a homosexual activist) is, nonetheless, annoying. Their foolishness alone may be worth not supporting the film. Tom Ascol's blog (www.founders.org) reviews the movie and finds it rather poorly done. In all honesty there seems to be many reasons to not see this film! Yet the story itself draws me. Anyone familiar with the story of Nate Saint and his four missionary friends will find it hard to stay away from this film. I hope that all the negative critics are wrong, I hope that this film is terrific, I hope that it leads to many discussions about the truth of the gospel's impact on the lives of the Waodini tribe, and that from this production a relationship between Chad Allen and the Christians on this film project will result in evangelism. I guess all I can say is pray about it and make a personal decision for you and your family, and I'll let you know what I think in a day or two.

    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    The End of the Spear

    This new movie from Every Tribe Entertainment opens in select theatres today! I have heard nothing but great reviews of the film and I encourage everyone to go out and see it. If you aren't familiar with this film allow me to briefly summarize it.

    In 1956 five missionaries were killed in Ecuador. Their deaths made headlines and their stories have lived on. Those men were Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian. "End of the Spear" is the movie based on their tragic murders and the mercy that their families showed the natives. It is a story not only about giving your all for God's Kingdom, but it is a story about the power of mercy.

    Both Cal Thomas and Gene Edward Veith have written wonderful reviews of the film, which I've listed under Top Articles. This is a film about Christian missionaries and its success or failure in the theatre will say alot right now as more and more "Christian" or Christian themed films are being made and drawing a crowd. Your support for this film in needed, so go out and see this film, and let it spark in you a desire to read the numerous books out on their story.




    Through Gates of Splendor- Elisabeth Elliot
    Jungle Pilot- Russell T. Hitt and Steve Saint
    Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot- Elisabeth Elliot
    The Journals of Jim Elliot- Jim Elliot
    The Savage My Kinsman- Elisabeth Elliot
    End of the Spear- Steve Saint

    Related Links:

    (Sermons of Jim Elliot) http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/docs/elliotsermons.html

    (Blog about Roger Youderian) http://rogeryouderian.blogspot.com/

    Update on the Dunhams

    I had a job interview today with UPS. I anticipate that I will have a job working for them by the end of January /beginning of February. Krista has been working for two weeks now doing child care for a local Louisville family. We are so thankful for this job and the possible job that I may have. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us as we have gotten settled here in Louisville. It has meant a great deal to us to know that so many were lifting us up to the Lord and it has been a blessing to us to feel your love and to see the Lord answer your prayers for us.

    The Spring Semester begins on the 30th and I have placement tests on the 25th. We are still looking for a local church. We've been to two churches and have liked them both, but we have plans to meet with the elders at one congregation and ask some questions before making a decision on membership. This issue still needs prayer, so we invite you to join with us in praying for the right church. We love you all and thank you again.

    Worship Leaders, Music, and Theology

    You may remember that old game from Sesame Street. Three pictures are put up on the screen and then the little song asks, "which of these does not belong?" Perhaps that's how many feel when they see a title such as mine. Worship Leaders and music go together. But worship leaders, music, and theology?

    Bob Kaufflin on Jan. 10th, 11th, and 12th wrote about "Musicians and Reading Good Books" on his blog Worship Matters. These are blogs well worth reading. As a former worship leader I can say that it was truly not until I took the time to study who God is, which is what theology does, that I felt more prepared to lead my church in worship. Far too many worship leaders sing and think about a sort of generic God in their worship. But by studying theology and reading diligently through the Word we come to see that the God of the Bible is a specific God. Far too many Christian songs could be sung by Jews, Muslims, or deists- the Christian, however, should be enough aware of who the God of the Bible is to sing directly about Him!

    Read Kaufflin's blog, and musicians...study theology! There's some good recommendations over at the Spurgeon School on where to begin, I encourage you to check those out. Theology is not for academics and theologians. Theology is the study of God and thus every Christian has a theology, the question now is whether or not it is good theology!

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    What's in a Word?

    The words people choose to use represent a lot about them. The Nazi regime knew exactly what it was doing when it used certain words to spin a particularly dehumanized view of Jews. The liberal media knows what it is doing when it refers to an un-born child as nothing more than a fetus. And likewise, Sen. Hillary Clinton knew what she was doing when she referred to Republican control in the House of Representatives as a plantation.

    While speaking at Canaan Baptist Church on Monday, on behalf of her friend Al Sharpton who “pastors” there, Clinton said: For the last five years, we’ve had no power. At all. And that makes a big difference, because when you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation. And you know what I’m talkin’ about. It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary point of view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard. The Senate’s not that bad. But it’s been difficult. It’s been difficult.”

    The question for us to consider is not so much where Clinton gets the idea that the House is being run like a plantation, but rather why she used that particular comparison. Of all the comparisons one could make why did she compare the House to a plantation, that’s the question to ask. It should be noted that Clinton’s words came while she was speaking Harlem, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. These bear significance to the word. You see it was a perfectly chosen word for the occasion and the audience, as all words should be, but that does not guarantee that it was the truth. For a while it has appeared that Mrs. Clinton, like her husband, may be shifting to the center, this recent outburst, however, suggests rather that it has all been a ploy to get votes.
    Truth be told it is undoubtedly true and terrifying that racism still exists in America. But by labeling a governmental office as racist, which is exactly what Clinton was doing in her speech, you give no aid to ending that problem. And furthermore, if Mrs. Clinton believes that racism is nothing more than merely banning “a contrary point of view” it is she who is in need of the wake up call. The use of a word says a lot about the person that uses it, and I believe this usage says a lot about Mrs. Clinton’s honesty and intelligence.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    Al Mohler Appearing on CNN

    Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is scheduled to appear on the Larry King Show tonight (Jan. 17). The topic is the new movie "Brokeback Mountain," a film about two ranch hands who hide their homsexual relationship from their families. Joining Mohler will be several Gay Rights activists and other Conservative religious speakers. Be sure to watch it tonight 9-10pm ET on CNN.


    Also check out www.albertmohler.com for more commentary, and radio programs on this controversial film.

    An Outstanding Book

    I just finished reading John Frame's The Doctrine of God, this is the second volume in his Theology of Lordship series. This is an oustanding book. It has certainly be formative in my theological thought already and I know in years to come it will be a wonderful resource and a continuing guide to helping me think through our great and glorious God. In both a humble and thorough manner the author relates the Biblical, historical, and modern issues surrounding the development of a theology of God. It is for both the expert theologian and the average local pastor! I highly recommend it.

    I hope to write a review of it in the upcoming days. As of now I have a rather difficult paper on the trinity to deal with, but check out the Spurgeon School Library for some of my past reviews and look for this one coming soon.

    Sin and the Cinema

    The results are in and the Awards have been handed out at last night's Golden Globe Awards. The Globe awards are one of the most popular of televised awards shows, and yet I was sickened by this years display of low moral values. It was on this one subject that many of the films seemed to converge.

    The only recently released morally depraved film "Brokeback Mountain" walked away with a stunning four Golden Globes. The story about two ranch hands who hide a secret homosexual love relationship from their families was a favorite at the awards. Among its victories were best screen play and best director for Ang Lee.

    Other winners seemed to follow the sexuality trend including awards for "TransAmerica," a movie about a sex-change, and the ever popular "Desperate Housewives," abc's lust see tv comedy.

    Between the twin towers of "free-sex" and high political outrage the whole awards show made me not only annoyed, but completely appalled! It seems to me that going to the movies anymore for a conservative Christian is getting harder. The recent statistics from the movie industry are showing that people don't go to the movies nearly as much anymore, and that in part has to be because Christians are fed up with the sin seen at the cinema (at least I hope). Thankfully some are now realizing they can get our money by promoting good family and moral values. The success of Lord of the Rings, The Passion of the Christ, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe are compelling more and more movie exec.s to turn towards religious themes. The End of the Spear, a film about missionary Nate Saint, comes out this Friday as another indicator of this attention Christians are now getting. Nonetheless I think it is fare to say this trend won't last. Christians may be "hott" now, but sooner or later it will be more of the same old cinema sins put before our eyes. If such is the case it begs the questions: how will Christians respond?

    As "Brokeback Mountain" is finding more and more of an audience, even in the Midwest, the conservative heartland, one has to wonder if Christians care as much as they insist that they do. I hope and pray that we will all respond to the low morality of Hollywood with both serious Biblical conviction and with deep compassion for the lost. But let us never respond to these films the way the culture does- with indifference and tolerance. Such would be an even bigger cinema sin!

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    Farewell Brother Pack

    The average ministry of most Pastors these days is about 3 years. It is hard to find pastors who have been at their present ministry for much longer than that. This is largely due to conflict, burn-out, or simply impatience. In light of those depressing statistics, however, it is encouraging to find some pastors who have held out for well over three years. Such a man is Pastor Gary Pack, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Waverly, Ohio. In recent news Gary has announced, however, that he will be retiring.

    As a former parishioner at this church I can say that Gary's leaving will indeed be sad for the congregation. This is a man whose heart for the Lord and love for his church is huge (I'd dare to say even bigger than his appetite). In a day and age where the pastor is seen as a CEO or a salesman it is encouraging to know that the old model of pastoral care for the congregation still exists. I have been amazingly blessed by the ministry of this man, by his preaching, by his love, by his encouragement, and by the opportunities that he has provided for me to learn and grow. I am sorry to see him go, though I know that he is ready. Gary has held a long ministry at FBC and a fruitful one as well. I appreciate the example of this godly man and pray that the Lord will give the next pastor at FBC the same heart concern for the local church and the congregation that Gary Pack has had.

    Thank you Gary, and may God bless you and make His face to shine upon you.

    If you know Gary Pack leave a comment expressing your appreciation for him.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    The Vastness of God

    In my first class at the Seminary level I decided to jump into a course titled "The Doctrine of God", taught by Dr. Stephen J. Wellum. It has proved to be an oustanding course on just who is the Christian God.

    The course has taught me a number of things, re-affirmed a number of Theological truths which I already held, and in an amazingly fresh way has reminded me of the glorious greatness of our God! How vast, how big, how incomprehensible is our God. He is a great and glorious, majestic, and supremely sovereign Lord. Yet these truths in no way undermine the equally important truth that this God, the Christian God of the Bible, is a personal God. He is great, but He is intament with me. He is incomprehensible in His fullness, but I may know and treasure true things about Him through His self-revelation. In Christianity, and in no other religion, we have what John Frame labels the Covenant Lord. The fact that God is Lord reminds us that He is supreme and Sovereign, He is transcendent. The fact that God is the Covenant Lord reminds us that He enters into personal relationships with His creation. He is both infinite and intiment. He is transcendent, and He is immanent.

    The loss of the transcendence of God in our culture (and by transcendence I mean that God is holy and righteous and morally above us; not spatially) has created so many problems. 1) It has led to a loss of the creator/creation distinction which is crucial to the Biblical concept of God and has, in turn, led to a panentheistic view of the world. 2) It has led to a God who is nothing more than a divine psychologist. He only exists to make us feel better and can in fact do nothing to actually solve our real problem, sin. 3) In a related manner the loss of God's transendence in the culture has led as well to a low view of man's sin problem. Without a holy God man has no real moral standard and in turn no real moral judge. So the culture has turned to psychologize every problem instead of understanding it as an issue of moral rebellion against the Holy Lord.

    But these problems I have just described are not simply in the culture, they are in the church too. Open Theism, a more recent trend within evangelicalism, has begun to erode away the doctrine of God's transcendence, and are teaching, now, many heretical things to maintain their finite view of God. The church has played down the significance of sin and have turned to the world with a great divine therapist in Jesus. We have, in many ways, offered to help the drug addict, the depressed, the heart-broken, but not the sinner. Indeed we should help the drug addict and the depressed and heart-broken, but we must begin where the Bible begins- we are all sinners. If we do not start there, then helping them overcome addiction and low self-esteem will mean nothing for their future.

    This wonderful class has indeed opened me up to much that I needed to be reminded of, but primarily I have seen the need for the church to return to a true and a big vision of who God is! He is the Covenant Lord!

    I was Wrong

    I simply needed to retract my earlier sentiments regarding comments that I had read in John Frame's book The Doctrine of God. Previously on this page I had posted comments on miracels in which I quoted from Frame's book, and even went so far as to say that I believed he was contradicting himself. In further study, however, I believe I may have initially misunderstood Frame and this my fault. So in not wanting to mis-represent my brother I thought it best to post a retraction of my comments on the entry titled "My Search for Good Arguments."

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    A Covenant of Peace

    I know it will sound rather foolish for me to say that we live in a restless and tiresome world. Your first inclination will be to roll your eyes and respond with a sardonic "duh". My stating this truth, however, is not meant to be taken as a sort of news flash, some highligh of a new discovery about our existence in a fallen world. Rather I am stating it as a fresh reminder. Even with this truth as a common knowledge we can begin to live our lives in such routine that we forget just how True it really is. Life is restless and tiresome. But what may be a news flash to some of us is that God is a giver of peace.

    Ezekiel 34 gives us this assurance in a most tender and wonderful way. There we read:
    "For thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will stregnthen teh weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy, I will feed them in justice."

    In this context the Lord, through His prophet Ezekiel, has declared that the shepherds of Israel- that is her leaders and government officials- are destroying and corrupting His flock to the point where He is forced to intervene. The leaders were getting fat by exploiting the sheep and the results had even led to their being "scattered," that is exiled. But the Lord, the great and mighty Shepherd, will seek out His lost sheep and will bring them back. He will give them their land, He will feed them on rich pastures, they will lie down in sweet meadows and rest!

    The verses continue painting a picture of the Lord as a tender shepherd of His own flock. In verse 23 He declares, "I will set up over them on shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them : he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken." The reference to David here is symbolic. It does not refer to the actual King David, who by this time was long dead, it does refers to some one in the Davidic line, however. That one is known to be Jesus. Jesus is the one who in John 10 says, "I am the good shepherd . The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep," and "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep." And furthermore He says of himself, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." This is the true great and good shepherd.

    So when God says in Ezekeil 34:25 "I will make with them a covenant of peace..." we know thatHe is speaking and pointing to a time when Christ shall reign over His church on earth. Christ ushers in this time of security and rest for His flock because of His death and resurrection. And here we, the true sheep of Christ, will find genuine rest. Rest for our souls, rest for our hearts, and rest from this tiresome world. Christ is the good shepherd and all who find their rest in Him are looking forward to this covenant of peace! Rest is not found anywhere else.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Pray for Brother John

    God has used some key individuals in the last several decades to fuel a reformation within evangelicalism at large, among those men is John Piper, author and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. On Januaray 6th an announcement was posted from Desiring God Ministries, of whom Piper is founder and president, stating that Pastor Piper has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

    This is indeed sad news, yet from reading Piper's personal address on the subject one would not think that it was so. Piper writes, "This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet. " What a testimony. Piper sounds very much here like the old Scottish Presbyterian preacher and missionary Robert Murray M'Cheyne. He sounds much like the man Job, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him."

    God has indeed been merciful and gracious to John Piper and He has been merciful to us all in allowing such a godly man to speak, encourage, and teach many of us. In this time be praying for John Piper. Pray for full recovery, for His devotion to the Lord, for his family's encouragement, for his church's faithfulness, and for the grace and glory of God to be manifested through this. You can find out more by checking online at www.desiringgod.org or by reading the public letter sent out by Piper under my top articles page.

    In a like manner continue praying for Don Whitney as he is at home recovering from his surgery from last month. These two men have been great teachers in the church and each with their distinct cases of cancer need our prayers at this time. And our God is able to heal both men and to use their ilnesses to His glory. What a sovereign Lord we have.

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Popular Pantheism

    Whenever I think of the Walt Disney's Movie The Lion King the words to one of the songs from that film pops into my head- "The Circle of Life." Its words are most clearly explained in one particular scene. As the young lion cub and his royal father stroll along the African hillside the King says to Simba, "Everything you see exists in a delicate balance. As the king you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures. From the crawling ant to the leaping antelope." The young Simba then asks, "But dad, don't we eat the antelope?" "Yes Simba," his father says, "but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected; the great circle of life."

    It amazed me that I had never seen it before, but in this one scene the beginning of a panthesistic worldview is suddenly presented. Of course its Disney, so its not a full blown religious philosophy, but nonetheless in this popular animated film we have a representation of the ever growing popularity for pantheism and its close cousin panentheism.

    By the words pantheism and panentheism I mean that God and the world have such a deep connection that in the first religion God is the world, and in the second God is in the world. In both these religions there is not necessarily a personal God, but rather an impersonal force that is governing the world, a force that is- as the Lion King tells us- in us all. We are all connected. The religion is important to undersand in so much as it affects and comes out in our culture. It amazed me as I sat through my class today and began to hear my professor list of just some of the popular presentations of pantheism and panentheism in the culture. Such films as Star Wars, The Lion King, Grimlins. It comes through in the writings of figures like Depak Chopra and Joseph Campbell. And as well in the ever popular talk show host Oprah.

    All of this led me to think more carefully about the things that I have let infiltrate my mind just as the culture at large. I am not on a campaign against the Lion King or any such nonsense, but I have begun to see more clearly how our culture picks up religious conceptions rather by osmosis. By simply being immersed in the culture, having watched Star Wars or Oprah, many people may begin to spout ideas quite inline with pantheism without even knowing it. Infact many do when they speak out in favor of religious tolerance. These popular expressions of false religions today can inadvertantly lead many, both within and without of Evangelicalism, to confess, unbeknownst to them, either pantheism or a general religious pluralism. It is with this in mind that Christians need to think and observer, hear, and read more actively.

    Evangelical Christians need to be active viewers of movies and television. That is we need to be aware, concious, of these expressions within and from the popular culture and learn how to argue against them. We live in a day and age where the ignorance of apologetics for most people in the church simply will not cut it. Thus I believe that many churches in doing apologetics with their young people and older people as well are preparing them to talk to the world rationally and from a thoroughly Christian perspective. Not only that but pastors and teachers are also, by teaching apologetics, keeping their flock from being decieved by "empty philosophy" as the apostle Paul says.

    So whether you watch the Lion King, or love Star Wars (as I do), or whether your simply a regular viewer of Oprah, you too can and should be concerned about the religions and philosophies being expressed in them- and from that you can deny the Circle of Life, and teach yourself and others about the Godly Life!

    Saturday, January 07, 2006

    Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit?

    Yesterday I wrote a little bit on my uncertainties about cessationism- the doctrine stating that Spiritual gifts of a miraculous kind have ceased (i.e. speaking in tongues, healing, etc.). I take the position of open but highly cautious. So in a sense I lean towards cessationism though without having any concrete, definitive, affirmations that this doctrine is true. In another sense I am open to miraculous works of the Spirit today, though I am cautious about excepting all professions of His work as credible. This has led me to think a little about that group with which I am most familiar, the cessationist camp, and to ask some hard questions of those individuals. Top on my list of questions is, "Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit?"

    I wish I could take credit for asking such a question, but, alas, I cannot. For the question is really the title of a book by Daniel B. Wallace, a cessationist who is wondering the same things I am: why are cessationists so terrified to speak about the subjective spiritual experience. I know of course that partly the answer has to do with the number of professions of such subjective spiritual experiences that are both ridiculous and contrary to Scripture. My tendency to be cautious towards the acceptance of miracles today is in part due to this problem. There are far to many Benny Hinns in the world for all professions of miraculous power to be taken seriously. Not to mention the numerous absurd statements about spiritual working that come from certain charismatic and pentecostal leaders. Nonetheless there is a tendency, especially in Baptist circles, to refuse to talk about the subjective spiritual experiences that the Bible clearly speaks of. It is a fear or suspicion of anything emotional.

    The results of this un-biblical fear, however, have been devestating to the experiential nature of our relationship with God. An over emphasis on the rantionalistic can, and will, lead to a depersonalization of God. Wayne Grudem (while I know that Grudem is a continuationist and that quoting him to speak about cessationists may be in bad taste, his words are applicable) has said, "I don't know that that is representative of all of cessationism but there is a segment of the cessationist community that is so suspicious of any emotional component, any subjective component in all of our relationship with God and with others that it tends to quench a vital aspect of the personal relationship with God in the lives of ordinary believers. And that can tend to a dry orthodoxy in the next generation that abandons that faith and the church spiritually becomes dry and static, and I'm concerned about that" (from an interview on www.challies.com ).

    This is good for us to all consider, whether we are cessationist, continuationists, or completely clueless. The Puritans had a good balance when it comes to this issue. They were most definately a group of sincere intellectual investigation. Men and women were never permitted to be members of a church simply by a quick profession of spiritual experience. They were often put through a questioning and then there lives were observed for a time to examine if their professed faith met up with their lived life. Yet they were certain of the Spirit's personal involvement in their lives. They were deeply Spiritual and emotional people. Their language reflects a deep emotion that is missing from most Christian's prayers and confessions of God today.

    Whether you beleive that miraculous Spiritual gifts still exist today or not, it is of the utmost importance that while you guard your family and church from the silliness of some professions, that you do not make God out to be less than the personal, loving, and completely involved friend of the Christian that the Bible has identified Him to be. In other words: No Christian should fear the Holy Spirit.

    Friday, January 06, 2006

    My Search for Good Arguments

    I hesitate to say it, perhaps if I whisper it no one will hear. "I am not a dogmatic cessationist." By the word "cessationist" I am refering to that group within the Christian faith who believe that Spiritual gifts of a miraculous nature have ceased. I take to a more open but cautious, and rather heavily cautious, view on the Spiritual gifts. It's not a position highly favored among Southern Baptists. Recently I heard, though I hope it is not true, that the IMB stated in a document that those holding to the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues are forbidden to do missions work witht he agency. Nonetheless I still have trouble finding concrete and definitive evidence from the Scriptures that Spiritual gifts have ceased. As I have begun to study the issue, however, I am finding very little help on the subject.

    The Modern Charismatic and Pentecostal movements seem to be laiden with greater problems. Most, though thankfully not all, have become so obsessed with the spiritual gifts that they have lost sight of the Scriptural texts explaining how they are to be used. Some within this movement have even gone so far as to say that if you have not expereinced the spiritual gifts then you may not be saved- which is a complete man made doctrine, which finds now precidence in Scripture.

    My most recent reading on the subject came rather un-expectedly. In John Frame's book The Doctrine of God, an absolutely astounding work, he touches on the subject of miracles. To make a case for semicessationism, the position Frame himself holds to, the author asks how one might make a distinction between miracles and providences. It was something I had never thought of.

    He states: "I don not believe, however, that Scripture warrants a sharp distinction between providence and miralce. Indeed, in Scripture the language of mircacle is used for providential events, and providential events have much the same significance as miracles" (Frame, 261). He then proceeds to quote several passages in support of this proposition. Each verse does clearly seem to say that providence is among God's wondrous works in a similair way that we would say miracles are. And yet if this is true it becomes harder for cessationists to state that miracles have ceased, for then providence also would have ceased. This portion of his discussion revovles around defintions, then. How one defines miracles determines whether or not you are able to make a clear distinction between it and providence.

    I was beginning to agree with Frame, perhaps it was too hard to make a distinction between the two, though I still had my doubts and those were finally confirmed when I read Frame's footnote. In a section titled "Have Miracles Ceased?" Frame deals with the uncommon nature of miracles. He states, "Although the Bible seems full of miracles , these events were not common during the Biblical period." Following this sentence the author feels the need to make a clarification, one that is certainly important. For if you can't make a distinction between miracle and providence then to say that miracles are not common is to say providence is not. So the author adds a footnote which reads as follows: "I am here, of course, referring to miracles in the commonsense way, as spectacular acts of God..." (Frame, 263). In this one footnote Frame has undone his entire argument for no distinction between providence and miracle. So what I had previously found convincing, I now find rather humorous.

    I know that there must be good material out there on the Spiritual gifts, yet somehow I keep stumbling into the rather weak ones. If you've got suggestions I am open to receiving them. Those are my thoughts for the day- Where do you stand on the issue of Spiritual gifts?

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    A Dancing Baptist?

    That's right! Here's a terrific and attractive blog from a pastor I know. B.J. Maxwell is the pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Copres Cove, Tx. I've often heard from my pastor, Steve Burchett, that B.J. is a terrific writer but had only his word to go on. Now I can recommend to you all that you read his blog for yourself, as I have, and you will most likely come to that same conclusion. B.J. is indeed a good writer and thankfully he is writing in order to glorify God and encourage other believers. This particular blog entry caught my attention because, as a Southern Baptist, I do not dance. Yet I found this entry to be so compelling and it led me to meditate on the joys of being in the Savior's presence. What a day that will be and I am prone to beleive that on that day no Southern Baptist will be able to refrain from dancing.

    Check out the blog: http://barryjmaxwell.blogspot.com/2006/01/what-i-learned-about-dancing-i-learned.html

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Hating Jesus Yesterday and Today

    From the earliest days of Jesus' teachings to the present day there has been a great disdain in the culture for the message of Christianity. The New Testament records several scenarios where angry mobs threatened and tried to kill Jesus before it was His time. In the present culture it is not hard to see growing bitterness toward Christianity from among the culture.

    The persecution of Christianity around the world, and the attempts at suppresion in America are evidence of modernity's hatred of Jesus. Most recently in the news four teenagers from SAYREVILLE, N.J. attempted to burn 27 stolen nativity figures of baby Jesus. While some of the teens confessed that it was merely out of boredome the fact that it was an image of Jesus and not Santa must indicate something. One young man simply stated, "We just wanted to see their heads burning."

    While it may be generally true that the culture likes the idea of an infant, harmless baby Jesus, a good moral teacher, and a wonderfully nice guy they do not, in any sense, like the concept of a crucified Savior and a risen Lord. For one thing it means that we are all horrible wretched sinners who need to be saved and secondly it means that we are to be submissive to this great King and are accountable to Him for our lives.

    This hatred for Jesus is, of course, no suprise to Christians. We know that the world hates Jesus, that even we ourselves, before God's grace entered our lives, hated Him too. The cross clearly displays this hatred of the Son of God and the message of Christianity. Yet if the burning of statues of baby Jesus represents the total depravity in the human heart, the crucifixion also represents the amazing plan of God to rectify that problem. As the apostle Peter testified, "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it" (Acts 2:23-24). It was God's foreordained plan to "crush" His son, as the prophet Isaiah spoke, in order that He might be both just in punishing sin and yet merciful in sparing sinners.

    The world has always hated Jesus, yet God, in His mercy and grace, still today offers Jesus as a payment for the sins of all men and women who repent and beleive upon Him alone for their salvation. That's the good news in a world of sin!

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Theologians Review "Revolution"

    Before you buy into George Barna's "revolutionary" theology see what some top notch theologians are saying about his latest book. Justin Taylor's weblog contians some wonderful excerpts and links to reviews of Barna's book "Revolution" and all find it not so revolutionary and not so Biblical!

    Check it out: http://theologica.blogspot.com/2005/12/barnas-so-called-revolution.html

    Monday, January 02, 2006

    Disaster in 2005 and 2006

    Marvin Olasky, jouranlist for World Magazine, has written a terrific article on suffering and tragedy in the year 2005. His words, while not highly insightful or innovative, are a fresh reminder of old truths, I encourage you to check it out under "Top Articles".

    Krista and I sat through our first tornado tonight. Here in Louisville they're somewhat common, we are told, (in the spring anyway, not usually winter!). It's a scary thing when you don't know what will happen, and even more so when you consider all the tragedies that have befallen people in the last year. Many have died, others have been put out of homes, still others have lost dearly loved family and friends. Why tragedy occurs is a mystery to us, we know and truly believe that God is the Sovereign of the universe who has greater purposes even in tragedies than we can conceive, yet they are still tragedies!

    I don't know what 2006 holds, or if it will be anything like 2005. It is sometimes scary and sometimes exciting, but the one thing that I do know is that my God holds the world in His hands. And He who brings the winds from the four corners of the world, and sends fire, sleet, and floods is also He who calms the raging sea and shelters His loved ones. God is sovereign and whatever comes in 2006 will be to His glory, and with that knowledge I can persevere with hope!

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    A Simple Defense

    Thomas Grantham was an English Baptist in the mid to late 1600s. His role in baptist history is importans in that he was a faithful tower in the midst of severe persecution. In my recent studies, however, I have come across a work by Grantham titled Christianismus Primitivus. This work is a simple and straightforward defense of the Christian religion. While I am sure it has many faults, and in today's world it has need of many further developed thoughts, this piece provides some compelling and attractive arguments for Christianity.

    His arguments in the first portion may be summarized as follows: History shows Jesus to have a been a real person who was actually put to death. People immidealtey after Jesus' death worshiped Him for His teachings and miracles, which could not have been from one who was evil. The reports of the resurrection are confirmed by sufficient witnesses from before, during, and after Jesus life, and by Christ Himself who appeared to thousands. This resurrection confirms Christ's teachings and His identity and thus establish Christianity as credible.

    Not bad, eh? While this is a great argument there is one point on which I would disagree theologically with Grantham. He, being a General Baptist, would not agree that the Holy Spirit must first awaken dead sinners to life in Christ before the will believe the gospel message. And while this may surely be convincing, the Bible does indeed teach that no sinner will accept Christ unless the Father first draws them. Let this not undermine apologetics and defending the faith, but let it be a reminder that we are to pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit to awakend dead sinners.

    While Grantham (and the Bible too) teaches us to defend the faith, the Bible reminds us, also, to pray for sinners to come to that faith! Let the Christian be about doing both!