December 26, 2006

Biblical Success Manual

We all want to be successful—it's built deep into our inner workings. Everyone wants to succeed. But sin has corrupted our view of success and our ability to achieve it. Scripture deals with both aspects of this corruption. Personally, I have recently focused mainly on bringing my own view of success into line with biblical representations of success. But as I read the bible this morning, I came across an interesting treatment of what we should do to achieve success. It comes from the life of King Hezekiah as found in 2 Chronicles 31:

2 Chron. 31:20-21
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.

December 06, 2006

Particular Redemption - Wednesday

Why election isn't the big deal

Although most antiCalvinists are hung up on the whole election issue, election really isn't the foundation stone that nonCalvinists make it out to be. Election itself saved no one; it only marked out particular sinners for salvation. Those chosen by the Father and given to the Son had to be redeemed if they were to be saved. In order to make their redemption sure, Jesus Christ came into the world, taking on a human nature so that He might identify himself with his people and act as their legal subsitute. Action on behalf of his people, Christ kept God's law and worked out a perfect righteousness that is credited to them the moment they are brought to faith in him. Because of what Christ did on the cross, they are reckoned righteous before God. They are freed from all guilt and condemnation as the result of what Christ suffered for them. Through his substitutionary sacrifice, he endured the penalty of their sins and thus removed their guilt forever. So when his people are joined to him by faith, they are credited with perfect righteousness and are freed from all guilt and condemnation. They are saved, not because of what they themselves have done or will do, but solely because of Christ's redeeming work.

So then, the verses that speak of this say that Jesus came to save his people. It is clear that the intention is not that Christ in his death is making a potential atonement for people—one that will be applied when they "accept him as their personal Lord and Savior," but one that has been purchased and accomplished. When Jesus on the cross said, "It is finished," it was finished. The salvation has been bought, the penalty had been paid, and the sins of those for whom he was making atonement had been atoned for.

Particular Redemption from the text of scripture:

Luke 19:10
For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."

2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
italics added for emphasis

December 05, 2006

Tuesday - Unconditional Election

Chosen before time

The Bible declares that God, before the foundation of the world, chose certain individuals from among the fallen members of the human race to be the objects of His undeserved favor. These (and only these) He chose to save. God could have chosen to save all men—He had the authority and power to do so, or He could have chosen to save none of us—He was not obliged to show mercy to any of us. But He did neither of those things. He chose to save some and to exclude others from this salvation. His eternal choice of particular sinners for salvation was not based on any foreseen act or response on the part of those selected, but was based solely on His own good pleasure (it made Him happy to do it) and sovereign will. So then, election was not determined by, or conditioned upon, anything that we might have done, but resulted intirely from God's self-determined purpose.

Those who were not chosen for salvation were passed by and left to their own devices and evil ways.

Unconditional Election from the text of Scripture

Deuteronomy 10:14–15
Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
italics added for emphasis

December 04, 2006

I Can't Do It Monday

Total Inability

As the result of Adam's sin, we are all born in sin and by nature are spiritually dead. So if we are to become children of God and enter His kingdom, we must first be born again by the Spirit of God.

It's not as if we (or our original forefather) weren't warned:

Genesis 2:16–17
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
italics added for emphasis

Actions speak louder than words

1 John 3:4-10
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Ouch! We must continually check ourselves and make sure that we are following God's precepts and commands. It is so easy to begin to simply coast along. God is merciful and does not always spank us the instant we do something wrong, but we must not allow that mercy to become for us a reason to sin. God hates sin and sin will be punished.

But this passage also tells us that Christians can perceive whether or not someone else is a Christian somewhat accurately. "By this it is evident who are the children of God." Our actions are so very important.

In the context of this passage of scripture, we demonstrate our bond with Christ by our deeds of love toward the brethren. This is something we all must commit ourselves to daily.

May God grant all of us the love shown in deeds to each other.

December 01, 2006

Preservation of the Saints - Friday

Christians are kept in the faith by the power of God. This makes believers eternally secure in him. Nothing can separate them from the eternal and unchangeable love of God. Those who believe in Christ have been predestined to eternal glory and are therefore assured of heaven.

Not "once saved, always saved"

The typical evangelical church of today proclaims a doctrine that seems similar to this. It is called "eternal security," but it is not based upon the believer's perseverance in the faith nor upon God's preserving work in the life of that believer. It is closer to the concept of "been there, done that."

The typical view of eternal security says that if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you will go to heaven. No matter what you do for the rest of your life. Preachers will even stress the point by saying such things as, "you don't even have to come to church—going to church doesn't save you." And while that is certainly true, it is misleading and entirely misses the point of the "Perseverance and Preservation of the Saints."

According to the Westminster Confession of the Faith (one of the great creeds of Christendom):

They, whom God hath accepted in His beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nore finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

One of the great Reformed theologians of recent days referred to this doctrine in this way:

This doctrine does not stand alone but is a necessary part of the Calvinistic system of theology. The doctrines of Election and Efficacious Grace logically imply the certain salvation of those who receive these blessings. If God has chosen men absolutely and unconditionally to eternal life, and if His Spirit effectively applies to them the benefits of redemption, the inescapable conclusion is that these persons shall be saved.

—Lorraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 182.

God gives his people eternal life the moment they believe

Believers are kept by God's power through faith and nothing can separate them from His love. They have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, who was given as the guarantee of their salvation, and they are thus assured of eternal inheritance.

Perseverance of the Saints from the text of Scripture:

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you sahll not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
Isaiah 43:1–3

November 30, 2006

"Eisegesis Gets Nasty" or "Arminians Gone Wild"

Perhaps I wasn't watching closely enough, but I don't remember any time in my life when the Calvinism/Arminianism debate has burned so hotly with such nasty, unChristlike rhetoric. It shocked me some years ago when a man desiring to become a preacher told me that he had never heard Calvinism presented and defended in a way that was God-honoring. My understanding of Calvinism is that it is a systematic theology that seeks to give all the glory to God (soli Deo gloria!), so I had trouble getting my mind around his objection.

Now, quite a few years later, I see a tremendous effort underway, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention, to discredit and destroy men who preach Calvinistic doctrine from the pulpits of their churches. Yes, I intentionally said that the effort is an attempt to destroy the men who preach this doctrine—not an effort to overcome the doctrine itself through valid debate.

The action on the part of these vocal Arminians (most of whom will not own up to the title) that causes me to say that they are attacking the men (ad hominem) rather than the doctrine is that they are intentionally misrepresenting the claims of Calvinism to make it appear to be a wholly vile theological system that makes God into a monster. If these men are not intentionally lying about Reformed theology and what it proclaims, then they are terribly incompetant and our concerns should rest more fully on our seminaries than on them. Many Reformed brethren have chosen to give these men the benefit of the doubt and say that they just simply don't understand what Calvinism stands for and therefore cannot explain it properly to their people. But several exchanges over the past few years have led me to believe that this is an intentional campaign to spread lies about the beliefs of Calvinists with the intention of removing the very possibility of valid consideration of these doctrines from the minds of their hearers. These men have seen that they cannot defend their Arminian position from scripture, which opens the people in their congregation up to the possibility of accepting Calvinist teachings since Calvinists tend to present their beliefs with a solid biblical exegetical hermeneutic. Bible believers are persuaded by the clear text of scripture, so to keep their people from considering the clear text of scripture these Arminian church leaders are making a monstrous caricature of Calvinism to scare their people away from the text of Scripture.

This activity has been demonstrated over the past five or so years by the somewhat famous anti-Calvinism rants and publications by such notables as Dave Hunt (What Love Is This?) and Norman Geisler (Chosen But Free). Just this year another example came from the horrific saga of the "Calvinism and Baptists" debate that was to take place on the campus of Liberty University and the Thomas Road Baptist Church. President Ergun Caner of Liberty Theological Seminary has shown himself to be virulently anti-Calvinist, even proclaiming that Calvinists are more dangerous than radical Muslims. Doctor Caner agreed to debate James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries about this topic after Dr. White called him on the carpet for making such terrible statements. When a debate was finally arranged, Dr. Caner's side continually reneged on its commitments and continually misrepresented the negotiations with the intent of making James White the fallguy for the debacle. The entire e-mail exchange leading up to the debate and its eventual cancelation is available in PDF format for those who want to know the truth.

Why am I bringing this up at this time?

The most recent example of horrific (and I believe intentional) misrepresentation of Calvinistic doctrine was recently posted at The Christian Index by Interim Pastor Nelson Price of Marietta, Georgia. What follows is an example Mr. Price has used from the pulpit of his church and is presented in this Christian Index article:

A mass of people are gathered at a bus stop marked “Planet Earth.” Along comes the Celestial Bus marked “Destination Heaven.” It pulls up and stops. The driver, who is God, opens the door, and says, “All destined for heaven get on board.” A number do. A missionary couple who with zeal have served Christ all their lives start on and God says, “Step aside. You haven’t been chosen to ride this bus.” A couple of infants start on and God tells them to step aside. Persons who from youth have loved and ministered in Christ’s name are told to step aside. As the bus is about to depart and the door is closing God says to those not on board, “Catch the next bus.” “No,” they plead, “here comes the next bus and it is driven by Satan and marked ‘Destination Hell.’”

“Sorry,” says God. “I didn’t choose to save you. Your love and commitment to Jesus doesn’t matter.”

Such intentional misrepresentation is inexcusable. We must pray that God will convict the hearts of these men before they cause any more damage to the members of their flock who have been placed in their care.

More blog-chatter about Norman Price's example:

Angelz cartoon answer to the whole thing. Check out Angelz' blog "Torched by an Angel—it's a good one.

Effectual Grace - Thursday

The Holy Spirit Saves

Scripture shows that each member of the Trinity is involved in the work of salvation. The dispensing of efficacious grace (grace that has an effect) is the work of the Spirit. This is sometimes known as "the Holy Spirit's call" and the famous TULIP version is "Irresistible Grace."

Effectual Grace from the text of Scripture

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Romans 8:14

For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
1 Corinthians 2:10–13

November 29, 2006

Particular Redemption - Wednesday

Jesus actually saves

The Scriptures describe the end intended and accomplished by Christ's work as the full salvation of his people (actual reconciliation, justification, and sanctification):

Definite Atonement/Particular Redemption from the text of Scripture

She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.
—Matthew 1:21
italics added for emphasis

November 28, 2006

Their foolish minds were darkened

This article took me by surprise. I realize that people promote the theory of evolution with passion, but I truly did not realize that they actually view their theory as more worthy of consideration than other theories. I guess I gullibly thought that proponents of scientific thought would be open to all theories and would honestly consider each one based on its adherence to the scientific process and observable facts. How wrong I was.

Read it for yourself.

Unconditional Election - Tuesday

A Chosen People

There are general statements in Scripture that God has an elect people, and that He predestined them to salvation, and thus to eternal life.

Election from the text of Scripture

Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day."
—Deuteronomy 10:14-15
italics added for emphasis

November 14, 2006


What Would Jesus Do? or What Does Scripture Say?

I've been bothered by the trite WWJD saying ever since it became popular. In order to know what Jesus would do, we must know Jesus. And the only way to know Jesus is by reading scripture.

But knowing what Jesus would do does not necessarily tell us what we should do. We are not the Creator God. We are not sovereign. We are not the High Priest.

So then, what do we do to determine our course of action. A currently more recognizable way of asking this question is, "How do we find out God's will for our lives?"

Again, the answer is found in scripture. And John MacArthur has put together a list of scripturally-based questions we should ask ourselves to determine if we should do anything. This list may be found on MacArthur's blog, but it is so good that I'm not just linking to it—I'm republishing it here. But please check out (and bookmark) his blog. It's worth a daily read and you will benefit greatly from his insight

Glorifying God in Gray Areas

If the issue you are wondering about is not specifically addressed in the Bible, then it’s helpful to ask these questions from 1 Corinthians to help you in deciding what to do. Asking these questions (and others like them) will help you make a wise decision based on sound biblical principles.

  • Will it benefit me spiritually? First Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
  • Will it put me in bondage? First Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” Any questionable practice that can be habit‑forming is not wise to pursue.
  • Will it defile God’s temple? First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” We should not do anything with our bodies that would dishonor the Lord.
  • Will it cause others to stumble? First Corinthians 8:8‑9 says, “Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” One should refrain from using his freedom in an area which might cause others to sin. For “by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore,” Paul said, “if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.”
  • Will it help the cause of evangelism? First Corinthians 10:32-33 says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.” We must think of the effect any practice might have on our testimony to the lost.
  • Will it violate my conscience? First Corinthians 10:25‑29 contains three references to abstaining from a certain practice “for conscience’ sake.” And Romans 14:23 says, “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” If we are not sure whether an action is pleasing to God, we should not do it. That way our conscience will remain clear and our relationship to God will not be hindered.
  • Will it bring glory to God? First Corinthians 10:31 summarizes all these principles by saying, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

October 31, 2006

Happy Reformation Day

October 31—Reformation Day!
Nailing the 95 Theses, from the movie "Luther"

It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book. O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor— yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf! O how their effort puts our indolence to shame.
— Martin Luther

October 30, 2006

Advice to those who would serve

O sinful soul that I am...

When I read the Bible, I quite often stumble across phrases that I have read so many times before, but that never quite impacted me the way they do this time. I ran across just such a passage this morning.

2 Timothy 2:23–26
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

This passage is just chock-full of gems. Be patient with me and I'll explain the things that jumped out at me from these verses.

We must be kind

The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone

In an era of talk radio, our culture thrives on controversy. We love to hear a good "smack-down" on the news, on television interview shows, or on call-in talk radio shows. Our culture adores the verbal fist-to-cuff nature of such spectacles.

The Christian community has become infected with this disease and we now often hear of Christian leaders speaking in provocative terms. A few visits to some of the more prominent blogs and Christian interactive news services will bear out this fact. We have become a nation of belligerents and the Church has followed right along with it. I was proud of my pastor recently when he declined an opportunity to be on a popular Christian radio program to discuss a contentious situation between Ergun Caner, the Dean of Liberty Theological Seminary, and James White, the head of the apologetics ministry Alpha & Omega. In his letter declining the interview, Pastor Mike O'Brien quoted Dr. Paige Patterson as saying:

"The splitting of the two did them no favors and pushed them in opposite directions that were very unfortunate. . . If we allow Satan to have his way, we'll divide up over it, as we certainly should not."
Would that we all could have the calm spirit of reconciliation that my pastor shows.

We can't do it—but God can

And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance

The next thing that smacked me in the face from this passage is the reason the Apostle Paul gives that the servant of God should be a peacemaker: "God may perhaps grant them repentance." I see in this phrase the total sovereignty of God being taught to those of us who would rather argue people into the kingdom. It is not up to us to bring people into the kingdom; it is up to God. We cannot convince anyone of the truths of scripture if they do not have the benefit of the Holy Spirit enlightening their minds.

God wills and does His good pleasure

and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

As if to reinforce the important concept here, Paul strengthens his argument by pointing out that it's not simply that God must grant them repentance but that God actually captures them to do his will. The total sovereignty of God. We must swear off all violence and manipulation and preach the Gospel message with gentleness. And we must let God do the violence and manipulation to the will of man. God will manipulate the wicked and sinful hearts of His elect to change those hearts of stone into hearts of flesh that willingly seek to honor God.

What a wonderful and glorious God we serve!

Who are our opponents?

Another thing that jumped out at me from this passage is the fact that Paul assumes that the ones we consider to be our "opponents" are nonbelievers. The members of the household of faith are not to be considered opponents. We may have disagreements with them from time to time, but they are not our enemies. So if we treat nonbelievers with gentleness in the desire that God may grant them repentance, how much more gentle and patient should we be with those who are our brothers in Christ?

October 25, 2006

What is the goal of missions?

Seeker Sensitive or Fire & Brimstone?

My sister and I have had a minor disagreement about how we should present the gospel to the lost. She is fully immersed in the "seeker sensitive" movement. She talks about meeting the "felt needs" of the people. She recommends books that discuss how to evangelize without using words such as "sin" or "repentance." I have argued for the straight presentation of the biblical gospel in the same manner that the apostles proclaimed Christ—shining a spotlight on sin and calling the sinners to repentance.

But our motivations are the same—we both want to see people won for Christ. The question is: What is God's motivation for evangelistic/missionary outreach?

John 4:23
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

God is seeking people "to worship him." This is his goal and should be ours as well. It should not be to "reach people at their felt needs," because their "felt needs" are not their true need—the need for the washing of Christ's blood to restore them to fellowship with God. But it should also not be to grow the church, to fulfill my obligation as a Christian, or to mark another notch on my evangelistic belt, which quite often are my personal motivations for evangelistic outreach. After all, it should not be about meeting my needs anymore than it should be about reaching the lost at their felt needs.

In Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper writes:

If the pursuit of God's glory is not ordered above the pursuit of man's good in the affections of the heart and the priorities of the church, man will not be served and God will not be honored.

Ouch! ... He's right. And his statement stings both my sister and me. Missions is not about man (not about the felt needs of the nonbeliever or about my own percieved needs); missions is about gathering people to worship the Sovereign Lord of the universe.

October 10, 2006

Calvinists and Baptists Debate - Cancelled by Liberty

The debate we have all been so excited about has finally died a whimpering death. The Caners reneged on their negotiated agreements with James White/Tom Ascol and, along with Brett O'Donnell, have unilaterally decided on changes to the format—including that the Caner side of the debate be given both the opening and closing statements of the debate. This, of course, is totally unacceptable to anyone in any debate, and therefore was rejected by James White and Tom Ascol.

Of course, Ergun Caner is now lying about what has taken place and is claiming that James White has backed out of the debate. In his typical ungracious style, Dr. Caner has announced his misrepresentation of the facts with an ad hominem attack.

More information regarding this debacle may be found on the web site from my church announcing the fact that our planned engagement with James White will have to be postponed due to Liberty's inexcusable behavior. Read it here.

September 26, 2006

Discrimination a virtue?

In Psalm 15 King David listed the things that should characterize the people of God. Most of these things are quite obvious to us even in our post-modern, all-beliefs-are-equal day.

Things from Ps. 15 that even our culture sees as virtuous:

  • Walking blameless
  • doing what is right
  • speaking the truth in our hearts
  • not slandering others
  • doing no evil to our neighbors
  • not taking up a reproach against a friend
  • swearing to our own hurt and not changing
  • not taking bribes against the innocent

Things from Ps. 15 that our culture is not sure about:

  • not lending money at interest

Things our culture is strongly opposed to:

  • honoring those who fear the Lord

And the one that really caught my attention (that our culture is strongly opposed to):

  • despising vile people

Our culture in its commitment to multiculturalism drills into our young people that everyone is to be treated equally. All beliefs are equally valid. All faiths are equally to be respected. All lifestyles are equal and none of them should be placed under limitations.

God does not see things this way. But the one thing that really stood out for me in reading Psalm 15 this afternoon is bolded below. Read it for yourself, and realize that God calls us to desipise evil and the people who commit evil.

Psalm 15

1O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;
3who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

September 21, 2006

Phil Johnson on the World's Most Annoying Commercial

It had to hit the blogosphere sometime. Although they were having a slow day on the blog, Phil Johnson's crew at Pyromaniacs finally provided some well-needed critiques of my wife's most hated commercial. For my part, I'd be willing to dump television all together if commercials began to mirror this technique. I have no animosity against the makers of Head On, but I truly hope this product fails. If for no other reason, only because their commercial annoys me at a deeper level than I ever thought possible.

And ya gotta love their graphics:

September 20, 2006

Should all religions be treated with respect?

Reformed Baptist apologist James White responded today to the Pope's insistence that he respects the religion of Islam. James points out that to treat all religions as equal is to actively reject the claims of Christianity. This is unacceptable.

I would not join the Pope in saying "I respect Islam." That is a far cry from saying I do not respect certain Muslims, and, equally far from saying I cannot or will not treat a Muslim with respect. Sadly, people muddle these categories. Modern shallow thinkers assume that if you wish to show respect for a Muslim you must respect Islam. That is untrue. A Muslim is made in the image of God, and though he follows a false religion, he is still due respect due to the fact that he bears the image of God.

Read the entire post at

Global warming - or Bible prophecy?

Colorado State University
hurricane forecaster William Gray

Scientists and other doomsayers have been telling us that our use of fossil fuel is causing the earth to get warmer. They call us to give up our American way of life and get back to nature by walking, riding bicycles, and just staying home when we don't have to go out and drive. Many conservative talking heads and some religious leaders have disputed the global warming concept. So is there global warming or not?

Professor Bill Gray of Colorado State University says that global warming exists but that it is not caused by us. This is an interesting middle ground between the two opposing sides.

As Christians, we know that this was all predicted nearly 2,000 years ago by the Apostle John.

Revelation 16:8–9
8The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

I don't know if global warming is the preparation for this great heat that will be part of the Great Tribulation, but it certainly may be. And I think Professor Gray has it right. We are not as important as we like to think. God is still in control of the temperature. And man should tremble in fear of Almighty God instead of congratulating himself on how much damage he has done to the planet.

September 19, 2006

To be or not to be (an Evangelist)

What is an evangelist?

I grew up in a pastor's home. I don't know if my concept of the role of "Evangelist" was developed by my father's teaching or if I picked it up through osmosis along the way, but I have always thought that a titled role of "Evangelist" was an inappropriate thing. I always thought We are all supposed to be evangelists" and If a man feels called to be an Evangelist, he probably is truly being called to be a pastor. But I'm not so sure that my conception was correct.

What does the Bible say?

Our concepts must always derive from scripture—not from philosophy, sophistry, or emotion. And this morning, through the reading of God's Word, He showed me that my concept of the role of Evangelist was incorrect.

2 Corinthians 8:18
With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel.

Apparently the role of Evangelist was just fine with the apostle Paul. This man he speaks of is traveling as an Evangelist because he is known for his preaching of the gospel.

But I also notice that Paul does not mention him by name. I think this is important. In today's Western Evangelicalism, we have many "heroes." But an evangelist should not seek to make a name for himself in his proclamation of the gospel. The whole point of proclaiming the gospel is to make Christ known—not ourselves.

What's the point?

Egotistical natureBad

September 18, 2006

Parents kidnap their own daughter to force an abortion

The amazing thing that I see in this story is that the writer is very concerned that the parents "kidnapped" their adult daughter against her will but seemingly unconcerned that those parents were trying to force her to murder their grandchild. A "woman's right to choose" trumps all other rights—including the unborn baby's Constitutionally guaranteed rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

September 15, 2006

Face of Jesus appears in beer foam?

Image of Jesus appears in beer foam

Can you see the face of Jesus
in the beer glass?

This story is a little silly, but there are people who really believe that images of Christ or Mary on a wall, a piece of toast, or in a shadow are messages from God. So the advertising campaign that produced the image to the left is probably not a real good idea. In fact, the news article mentions the fact that there is a "worldwide trend for finding holy images in everyday objects from the face of Jesus in a frying pan, to Christ on a fish finger, the Virgin Mary on a toasted cheese sandwich and even Mother Teresa in a cinnamon bun."

The article mentions some objections to the add campaign, although they are not the exact objections most Christians would probably have. But the story does bring up a topic we should consider when preparing our evangelistic efforts.

Finding images of Christ or the saints in everyday objects in my opinion is no more than an advanced form of Where's Waldo? but we should probably all be prepared to present the gospel to those who think they've been given a message in the froth on their beer glass. These people desperately need to know the truth of Jesus Christ and what he has done for sinners. Strange shapes in beer foam aren't going to save their souls.

The Forum - What a great group

Last night I visited the The Forum, OFRBC College Ministry's bible study. The guys are doing a study of A.W. Pink's book The Attributes of God and the little bit of discussion I heard after I walked in was fantastic. This is group of young men who are very committed to Jesus Christ and to their relationship with him and with each other. I'm proud to know these guys and I'm proud that they are part of our church.

Check out their first blog post of the year at The CrashForum. Make a comment. Join in the fun.

September 13, 2006

Is Christianity as dangerous as radical Islam?

Looniness abound on the airwaves of the US media. Rosie O'Donnell displayed some of it on the September 12th episode of her talkshow The View. You have to see it to believe it.

Our post-Christian culture is becoming more and more antagonistic to our faith and way of life. Outright persecution is on the rapidly approaching horizon.

Watch a segment of The View showing Rosie's comments.

September 11, 2006

Have you forgotten?

World Trade Center Towers under attack

The people of the United States are remembering the events of 9/11 today. I remember the horror of September 11, 2001, very well. I remember the fear we felt, even in the Christian community. Many people began to ask questions about God and his work in the world.

In the course of my regular daily devotions, today's scripture reading included the following:

The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.
—John 16:2-3

Jesus was not speaking of Islamic terrorists in this passage, but it seems oddly fitting in today's world. And I believe this passage gives us the appropriate response that we should take against these terrorists who seek to take our lives. As Christians, our response must be to bring the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who minds are clouded with hatred of Christianity and the West. Jesus said that these people will put Christians to death "because they have not known the Father, nor me." So introducing them to the Father and to Jesus seems to be the best defense against their hatred of us and their desire to kill us.

At the end of the same chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus concluded with these words:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
—John 16:33

We don't need to fear the Islamic terrorists. We know that there will be tribulations in this world, but Jesus has overcome the world ... and he has offered salvation to all.


June 13, 2006

The miraculous garden

Isaiah 45:8
Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
let the earth cause them both to sprout;
I the Lord have created it.

I found this metaphor to be absolutely wonderful! That is no surprise since God is the one who spoke it.

God, the engine that powers nature and plant growth, is also the engine that powers salvation and righteousness. He uses the metaphor of plant growth to help us understand that salvation and righteousness come from him—not from our own efforts. God the Holy Spirit plants the seed, God rains down righteousness and salvation from the heavens, and God causes the earth to open allowing righteousness and salvation to sprout.

My pastor preached this past Sunday (June 11, 2006) on the topic of justification. His text was Romans 8:31. Read the sermon notes for an outstanding concise explanation of justification. What a wonderful and gracious God we serve!

June 08, 2006

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

We Americans have been taught the phrase, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" so much that many Christians have trouble determining whether or not it is a quote from scripture. It is not. But I believe it is scriptural.

Jesus is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." So that covers the "life" part. Scripture also tells us to "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has set [us] free."

But what about the pursuit of happiness? Are we supposed to follow the seemingly hedonistic pursuit of our own happiness?

John Piper of Desiring God Ministries thinks so. His book, Desiring God, is a true eye-opener. His argument includes the assertion that God has given us a natural desire to be happy and that a desire for God is the only thing that can fulfill that yearning.

But does scripture speak to this? John Piper handles this much better than anyone I've ever read. Although Jonathan Edwards is quite eloquent on this topic as well. And that's saying something since Edwards was a Puritan and the Puritans are seen as the ultimate killjoys when it comes to pleasurable things.

But I read a verse this morning that speaks directly to our desire for our own happiness. And I wanted to share it with those who read my blog. Here's God's plan for our pursuit of happiness:

Deut. 12:28
Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.

June 02, 2006

Is your doctrine cool?

There has been a recent surge of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention. Many of us who hold to Reformed theology have been greatly encouraged by this movement toward biblical truth and away from traditional Arminianism. Unfortunately, I fear that many of those who have turned toward the theology known as Calvinism have done so not because they are convinced by scripture but because "Calvin is cool." Holding to a theological system because it is "cool" is a very dangerous thing, even if that theology is true.

In the "Calvin is cool" post mentioned above, the author said:

I know there are many non-Calvinists who are God-centered, but I think you have to notice that Calvinism is God-centered by definition, and it simply makes a marvelous difference. Look at the music of Steve Green, the sermons of Al Martin or the books of Douglas Wilson, John Piper, Jerry Bridges or R.C. Sproul. Whether in evangelism, worship, or the Christian life, Calvinists have a suspicion of humanism that is healthy and helpful in retaining the God-centered nature of the Christian faith.

Now, I would agree with everything said in that quote; in fact, I would agree with pretty much everything in the original quote, except for one of the final sentences of that post:

Even with all this, trust me, it's cool to be a Calvinist.

The danger evident in that basis for your theology is that when it ceases to seem "cool" or when something else comes along that's "cooler" you drop your theological system and run after the new coolness.

The author of the quote above began attacking the very people he thought were "cool" just a year or so after he posted that comment on his blog.

Another well-known internet Calvinist was Rob Schlappfer of the highly popular reformed bookstore "The Discerning Reader" and now-defunct companion website, The Discerning Reader had the best collection of Calvinistic books available anywhere and held a strong stand against such aberrations in the Christian world as openness theology and postmodern thought exemplified by the emergent church.

But as Rob began to rub elbows with those who proclaimed the "openness of God" and those who held to postmodern hermeneutics, he was drawn in by their arguments and actually turned rabidly anti-Calvinistic, dropping most of his reformed book line and writing public and private attacks on various Calvinists. His attacks became more virulent and venomous as they accumulated and eventually it proved to be the downfall of a very successful internet enterprise.

Why did these once Calvinistic apologists turn against the theology they had once held as biblical? Because they weren't deriving their theology from scripture. They were part of the crowd of young people that like something in the system of Calvinism. Perhaps it was the ruggedness of it. Perhaps it was the literal interpretation of scripture that seemed to allow them to flaunt their acceptance of alcoholic beverages. Perhaps it was the adrenaline of debate against Arminians who can at times make Ann Coulter seem well-mannered and sweet.

Whatever the draw, it was not scripture. So when postmodernism seemed more cool, they ran after that. When other Calvinists held them to a standard of Christian living, they threw in the towel and ran after open theism. When holding fast the faithful word became a burden, they joined forces with the heretics rather than suffer the pangs of Christian fidelity.

We must derive all our theology from scripture. It is the only way to stand true.

2 Timothy 3:16, 17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

June 01, 2006

Woman struck by lightning while praying

“I've seen the light!” might be what she said. This report is amazing.

Whose fault is it?

“Once that church started follwing Calvinism, its evangelistic zeal dried up.” “Calvinism is a virus and it kills the evangelistic spirit of every church it infects!”

These are common comments made by those who do not understand the biblical doctrines of grace and by those who have tradition-inspired animosity toward those doctrines.

My church has been the target of some of those comments. The second quote listed above was stated by a virulent anti-Calvinist professor at a leading Baptist university.

The Founders Blog recently featured a post addressing this situation. Here's a taste of what was said:

While granting the fact that there are, no doubt, exceptions, in the great majority of cases that I know about where Calvinistic pastors have encountered turmoil in their efforts to preach and teach God's Word, it was not because of Calvinism. It was because of biblical Christianity. Calvinism tends to be the tail on which the donkey of controversy is pinned, but the real culprit is the erosion of real biblical Christianity that has occurred over the last generation or more in many of our churches.

Our postmodern culture has adopted the practice of thinking emotionally and we've learned to argue and debate in an emotional manner, rather than thinking our position through and, as Christians always should, applying the filter of scripture to our stands and our beliefs. The question should not be “Did this church's doctrinal stand pragmatically help church growth?” or “Do I want to serve a God who displays his sovereignty over the minute details of my life—including salvation?” but “Does this doctrine square with the Word of God?”

If the Bible declares a truth that our fallen human understanding cannot completely comprehend, we still must hold to that truth. The fact that we have trouble squaring the sovereignty of God with the responsibility of man should not cause us to reject the truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation (the author and finisher of our faith) or to ignore the scriptural mandate to carry the gospel to all people groups (including our own local communities).

Soli Deo gloria!———To God alone be the glory!

May 30, 2006

They'll know we are Christians by our love

It is uncommon in today's world to find examples of people loving one another. This is no surprise and really should not be expected among nonbelievers. But it is often lacking among Christians. In fact, quite often it looks as though nonbelievers treat each other with greater respect and deference than Christians treat other Christian brothers.

This should not be! Not only should brotherly love be expected among those in the faith community—it is commanded.

1 John 4:7, 11-12, 20-21
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Christian love is evident and even obvious among a group of Christians my wife and I met in Lynchburg, Virginia. Allow me to tell you just one example that occurred this past weekend—Memorial Day weekend:

A medical issue has compelled us to travel to Lynchburg, Virginia, every weekend for the past four months. This will continue indefinitely. We have to be In Lynchburg at 2:00 on Sunday afternoons, which makes it difficult to attend church at home since Lynchburg is a 3.5 hour drive from our house and our home church is 45 minutes away from our home in the opposite direction.

We immediatley saw the need to join up with a church that we could attend there in Lynchburg so we wouldn't have to miss gathering with other believers every Sunday. I researched Lynchburg area churches, looking specifically for solid biblical doctrine and expositional preaching. I came up with a list of three churches in the area that we wanted to visit to see where God would direct us for corporate worship.

God led us the first week to Old Forest Road Baptist Church. The preaching was great. The singing was energetic and passionate. The location was convenient to the hospital. But the thing that really stood out right from the first person we met was the almost visceral spirit of Christian love that eminates from the people of this church. We were warmly welcomed. Over the next few weeks as they got to know us and our situation, they quickly showed ongoing concern for our wellbeing. They prayed for us. They invited us out to dinner. Many of them even opened their homes to us for an overnight stay should we need to get some rest the night before or after our weekly visit to Lynchburg.

This past weekend the church had a Memorial Day picnic (actually the day before Memorial Day, since the picnic was after the evening service on Sunday). I lost my keys during the picnic. There were five or six families cleaning up the picnic area behind the church when we began searching the grounds for the keys. When they found out what we were doing, every single one of them began to help look for the keys. They fanned out across the large picnic and parking lot area and began walking back and forth and searching (even though it was beginning to get dark). Not one of those people left to go home for the next 45 minutes or so. By the time we found the keys, it was completely dark and only one person had a flashlight. But they had all continued searching even in the darkness. They were checking the grassy areas with their hands and feet to see if they could feel or hear the keys, since it would be difficult in those conditions to see them.

After the keys were found, they all gathered around to wish us a good, safe trip home. One couple offered repeatedly for us to stay for the night at their home so we could get on the road refreshed in the morning. We declined the invitation, wanting to avoid the Memorial Day traffic that we expected the next day. So after a few minutes of well-wishing, we all headed out—them to their homes in the Lynchburg area, and us to our home in the Washington, D.C., area—almost 200 miles away.

We had a wonderful trip home, talking almost the entire time about how wonderful these people are. I have never seen such natural display of love ... and they do it continually with everyone. Not just to us, and not just every now and then.

So impressed have we been with these people and God's work among them, we are now seeking God's guidance toward moving us to the Lynchburg area permanently. We can't imagine how painful it would be to have to separate from this group of believers in Jesus Christ. Believers who show their faith in action ... by loving one another.

If you live in the Lynchburg area, or if you live quite a distance away, you need to visit this phenomenal church. It's worth the commute—even if, like us, you live 3.5 hours away.

Praise God for the affect his Holy Spirit has on those who obey and worship him!