Monday, April 28, 2008

Modesty: Humility Expressed in Dress

C.J. Mahaney has two very insightful posts on modesty taken from the forthcoming book: Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway Books, September 2008). This is must reading for every woman young and old: Part 1, Part 2.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sex and the Soul: Inside Higher Education

There is an interesting article about the findings of Donna Freitas in her book Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses (Oxford University Press):

The article begins like this: "On matters sexual and soulful, colleges can be divided into two categories, the “spiritual” and the “evangelical” — the former the domain of hookup culture, the latter of purity culture, according to Donna Freitas, an assistant professor of religion at Boston University..."

Read the whole article here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ways You Might be Deceived Into Thinking You Know God When You Don't

Tullian Tchividjian takes these out of his book Do I Know God?:

Expelled: The Movie

From the website:

In a controversial new satirical documentary, author, former presidential speechwriter, economist, lawyer and actor Ben Stein travels the world, looking to some of the best scientific minds of our generation for the answer to the biggest question facing all Americans today:

Are we still free to disagree about the meaning of life?

Or has the whole issue already been decided

while most of us weren’t looking?

It looks really interesting. R.C. Sproul interviews Ben Stein here.
New Book By Tim Keller: The Prodigal God

Tullian Tchividjian has the scoop here.
The Emergent Church: Reinventing Liberalism

Dr. Liam Goligher, pastor of Duke Street Church in London, England and author of The Jesus Gospel: Recovering the Lost Message, recently gave a very helpful, well researched, and thoughtful analysis of the Emergent Church at Toronto Baptist Seminary. This is a must for every Western Christian to listen to. Even if you do not consider yourself Emergent, you may be more influenced by it than you realize.
Why Rob Bell Makes This Pastor Mad

[Below is a very helpful review of Velvet Elvis by Pat Abendroth, the Senior Pastor of Omaha Bible Church that I got from Erik Raymond's website].

Time magazine recently called Rob Bell “The Hipper-Than-Thou-Pastor” (Thursday, Dec. 06, 2007). This, along with the fact that his influence seems to only be growing, led me to read his book Velvet Elvis. Since it has been done, there seems to be little need for a comprehensive book review. But as I read Velvet Elvis I became personally motivated to do my part and duty as a pastor and expose some of the dangerous content lurking behind Bell’s hip veneer.

Based upon what I read in Bell’s book, he is both funny and hip. I say this because he made me laugh and because he does cool things like play in a punk band and surf (even the infamous Trestles!).

Continuing on with the positives, Bell seems sincere and appropriately calls for Christians to love those in need (not just fellow Christians) as is called for in the second greatest commandment. This is a great point and something that needs to be said and re-said before being said once more.

Anger Management
So with a hip rock dude writing a book addressing the need for Christians to act more like Jesus, why the anger on my part? Here are some of the reasons:

Rob Bell makes me mad because he preaches an anti-gospel. He craftily does this by portraying the essence of Christianity as following Jesus and treating people the way Jesus did. While this is important, living the “Jesus life” is not the essence of Christianity and neither is obeying the commands of Jesus (as important as that is). The essence of Christianity centers upon the work of Christ on behalf of sinners (i.e. substitutionary atonement). This is the matter of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3) that was the prioritized message of Jesus’ apostles (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:2). Missing this is no small oversight by Bell. It is missing that which is of first importance! Over and over again he talks about living the way of Jesus and being like Jesus, but without the essence of the gospel, which is Jesus’ work! This is scandalous.

Rob Bell makes me mad because he writes off the virgin birth of Jesus as non-essential (pp. 26-27). You heard right, he writes off the virgin birth of Jesus as not essential! To state the obvious, this is entirely out of step with the Bible. Sure, one can redress and then mimic once-trendy quasi arguments by unbelievers about the word used for virgin in Isaiah 7:14 possibly meaning young woman. But the New Testament leaves no wiggle-room on the intent and therefore meaning of the word. We know this because the Isaiah text is quoted and essentially interpreted in the New Testament. In Matthew 1:23-25 the word virgin is used twice and shown by the context to mean virgin in the classic sense of the term. To ignore this is to show gross negligence which seems to depend upon an assumed biblical illiteracy by his readers. Far from being not essential, the biblical reality of Christ’s virgin birth is vital to His unique status as the sinless God-Man. As troubling as this unorthodox teaching by Bell is, he commits a more dangerous foul. Bell continues with arguments against the virgin birth of Jesus followed by an attempt to defuse would-be critics by slipping in a token affirmation. Bell professes to be a Christian. But given his disregard for Christian doctrine, the name “poser” comes to mind (borrowing an old title from the punk rock scene).

Rob Bell makes me mad because he downplays the vital role of conversion. In a horrible overreaction against professing Christians wrongly not being compassionate, Bell says “the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people…” (p. 167). He then proceeds to establish a supporting argument that would surely set well with most anyone who is either ignorant of or ignoring what Jesus says in John 3—unless someone is converted, they will not see the light of day in the kingdom! Bell’s tactic is entirely unacceptable and irresponsible, but dare I say, fits with his mimicking the likes of the quintessential theological liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969). Certainly Christians must love those in need if they are going to truly follow Christ. But such love is to augment the need to proclaim a gospel of repentance which calls for conversion according to Jesus.

Rob Bell makes me mad because he does violence to the clear words of Jesus. On page 21 for example, when he talks about Jesus’ claims of exclusivity in John 14:6, he spins them to mean something other than what they clearly say and have been recognized as saying by Christians throughout the ages. At first I was surprised at how much Bell sounded like a radical theological liberal like Marcus Borg, but then I saw that the very first endnote in the book was an unqualified recommendation of a book by Borg! Bell’s recommended reading on his church’s web site promotes reading by John Dominic Crossan, the former co-director of the Jesus Seminar, so endorsing Borg is not a matter of isolation. Such men have a reputation for shamelessly doing violence to Jesus and His gospel.

Rob Bell makes me mad because he is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church. I am not suggesting that churches with “Bible Church” in the name are anything special per se, but historically they have not been places where things like the virgin birth is considered non-essential. In my estimation this is downright deceptive.

A New Dress
Simply put, Rob Bell is a theological liberal resembling the mainline denominations of the early 1900s. The difference is that Bell is sporting a fashionable new dress or in his case, a new pair of geek-chic glasses.

If J. Gresham Machen were alive today, I suspect he would do what he did with Bell’s theological predecessors. Machen would remind him that while he has the freedom to start a new religion, he really should call it something other than Christian given that his religion does not resemble what Christ actually established as recorded in the Christian book, the Bible.

In my opinion, the reason this book is resonating with so many is because we have seen the evangelical church abandon the Evangel Himself. Yes, much of evangelicalism is empty because the Evangel of our evangelicalism is gone or as David Wells so aptly put it: He has been dislodged from its center. Couple this with a general ignorance of the Bible and church history and you have a book like Velvet Elvis actually seen as publishable by a “Christian” publisher and selling as if it were something novel and good.

Because I love the Evangel of the Bible and therefore historic Christianity, I guess it is off to anger management class for me.

Patrick Abendroth

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Recommended Reading in Christology by Dan Wallace

In some blog comments, Dr. Dan Wallace recommends the following books as an introduction to the study of Christology:

Martin Hengel, Issues in Early Christology

Richard Bauckham, God Crucified

Larry Hurtado, One God, One Lord; Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity

C. F. D. Moule, Origin of Christology

Bowman and Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place

Actual Passover Lamb Sacrifice Online Video in Jerusalem

When someone sinned in the Old Covenant, they were to bring a sacrifice. This revealed how serious sin was (and is), that it deserved death.

The site of the video states the following:

"Over 3,000 years ago, God brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. He accomplished this by bringing ten devastating plagues upon the Egyptians, the last and greatest of which was the death of the oldest son in each family. God made a way for the Israelites to escape this death by sacrificing a lamb and putting its blood on the doorposts of their houses. Then the angel would “pass over” the house with the blood so that the firstborn would not die. At that time, God commanded the Israelites to celebrate the Passover every year. Each family would choose a lamb on the 10th day of the month of Nisan and on the 14th day, the lamb would be slain.

Shortly after the time of Christ, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Since then, the Jewish people have not been able to follow the command to kill a lamb on Passover. But this year, a group of Jewish people carried out a ritual slaughter in Jerusalem not far from where the temple used to be.

Watching this sacrifice shows how, as God said, “the life is in the blood.” This sacrifice brings home the high cost of sin which requires the death of a substitute in the place of man. And it should bring to mind what the writer of Hebrews said, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Just before the animal is slain, the priest pronounced a blessing: "Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the world, who has sanctified us with his statutes and commanded us concerning the [ritual] slaughtering."

Here are Todd Bolen's thoughts:

"We read about sacrifice in the Bible but we don't really understand what that means. We read passages that talk about the "life being in the blood," but those are just words that we don't really consider. We "know" that the wages of sin are high, but we don't get the life lesson that the ancient Israelites received every year.

The point of sacrifice was simply this: you deserve to die because of your sin. This animal is dying in your place. Watching the priest slice his throat and watching the blood drain out drove the point home much better than reading a chapter of Leviticus.

Today New Testament believers know that the blood of bulls and goats is not enough to take away sin. But I think that we can often just take for granted Jesus' death in our place. We don't think about his innocent blood draining away because we can't conceptualize it. We don't always appropriate the idea of substitute because we've never seen a living object die in our place. But our loss can be this: sin is easy because forgiveness (we think) is cheap."

See here for the video.

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, April 19, 2008

An Interview with David Wells Concerning His New Book

David Wells, professor of theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, has written a new book called The Courage to Be Protestant. The A-Team Blog has a 2 Part Interview with Dr. Wells here: (part 1, part 2).

HT: Justin Taylor
Are You an Emergent Christian? Take this Test

Brandon O'Brien, Leadership's assistant editor, quotes the following from the book Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should B by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck (Moody, 2008) (see the website for more details about the book):
After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement. You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Frank, Walter Winks, and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem;...
if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu; if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage; if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie; if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found; if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naïve, and rigid; if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic; if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide; if you want to be the church and not just go to church; if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden; if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us; if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—if all or most of this torturously long sentence describes you, then you might be an emergent Christian.*
So are you an emergent Christian?

HT: Brandon O'Brien
Tim Keller Online Videos

On March 11 Westminster Bookstore and the Westminster Gospel & Culture Project were pleased to present Tim Keller in two events speaking about his bestselling book The Reason for God.

Keller Roundtable with WTS Faculty
Keller at U Penn "Reason for God"
Keller at U Penn Q & A

HT: Westminster Bookstore

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ESV Study Bible Site Now Live

Check it out here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Upcoming Interesting Book Releases

  • Bridge, Donald & Phypers, David The Water That Divides: Two Views of Baptism Explored [Christian Focus]
  • Duncan, Ligon & Reid, Nicholas J. Fear Not!: Death and the Afterlife from a Christian Perspective [Christian Focus]
  • House, H. Wayne ed. Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues [Kregel]
  • Kauflin, Bob Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God [Crossway]
  • Kostenberger, Andreas & Swain, Scott Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John's Gospel [IVP/Apollos]
  • Morgan, Christopher & Peterson, Robert Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism [IVP Academic]
  • Piper, John What's the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible [Crossway]
  • Tripp, Tedd & Tripp, Margy Instructing a Child's Heart [Shepherd Press]
  • Trueman, Carl Minority Report: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism [Christian Focus]
  • Wells, David F. The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World [Eerdmans]
  • Brownback, Lydia Trust: A Godly Woman's Adornment [Crossway]
  • Brownback, Lydia Contentment: A Godly Woman's Adornment [Crossway]
  • Cameron, Kirk Still Growing: An Autobiography [Regal]
  • Carson, D.A. Christ and Culture Revisited [Eerdmans]
  • Dever, Mark 12 Challenges Churches Face [Crossway]
  • DeYoung, Kevin & Kluck, Ted Why We're Not Emergent: (By Two Guys Who Should Be) [Moody]
  • Hansen, Collin Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists [Crossway]
  • Harris, Alex & Harris, Brett Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations [Multnomah]
  • Jackson, Andrew Mormonism Explained: What Latter-day Saints Teach and Practice [Crossway]
  • Kaiser, Walter The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments [Zondervan]
  • MacArthur, John A Tale of Two Sons [Thomas Nelson]
  • Packer, J.I. & Dever, Mark In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement [Crossway]
  • Phillips, Richard What's So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? [Reformation Trust]
  • Ryken, Leland & Mead Marjorie Lamp A Reader's Guide To Caspian: A Journey into C.S. Lewis's Narnia [InterVarsity]
  • Dorsett, Lyle A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer [Moody]
  • Leahy, Michael Porn Nation: Conquering America's #1 Addiction [Moody]
  • McCallum, Elizabeth & Scott, Jane The Book Tree: A Christian Reference for Children's Literature [Canon Press]
  • Nichols, Stephen Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ [InterVarsity]
  • Oliphant, Scott K. & Mays, Rod Things That Cannot Be Shaken: Holding Fast to Your Faith in a Relativistic World [Crossway]
  • Pollock, John Fistful of Heroes [Christian Focus]
  • Reymond, Robert Faith's Reasons for Believing: An Apologetic Antidote to Mindless Christianity [Christian Focus/Mentor]
  • Zacharias, Ravi The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists [Zondervan]
  • Comfort, Ray Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups [Bridge-Logos]
  • DeMoss, Nancy Leigh Brokenness, Surrender, Holiness: A Revive Our Hearts Trilogy [Moody]
  • DeMoss, Nancy Leigh Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom [Moody]
  • Driscoll, Mark On Church Leadership [Crossway]
  • Driscoll, Mark On the New Testament [Crossway]
  • Driscoll, Mark On the Old Testament [Crossway]
  • Driscoll, Mark On Who Is God? [Crossway]
  • Duriez, Colin Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life [Crossway]
  • Schreiner, Thomas New Testament Theology [Baker Academic]
  • Beeke, Joel Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism [Reformation Trust]
  • Kostenberger, Andreas & Swain, Scott Father, Son and Holy Spirit: The Trinity and John's Gospel [IVP Academic]
  • Busenitz, Nathan Reasons We Believe: 50 Lines of Evidence That Confirm the Christian Faith [Crossway]
  • Copan, Paul When God Goes to Starbucks [Baker]
  • Parsons, Burk ed. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology [Reformation Trust]
  • Altrogge, Stephen Game Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes [Crossway]
  • Chester, Tim & Timmis, Steve Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community [Crossway]
  • Driscoll, Mark & Breshears, Gerry Death by Love: Letters from the Cross [Crossway]
  • Johnson, Gary & Gleason, Ron Reforming or Conforming?: Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church [Crossway]
  • Koukl, Gregory Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions [Zondervan]
  • Lawson, Steven The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards [Reformation Trust]
  • Mahaney, C.J., ed. Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World [Crossway]
  • Piper, John Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ [Crossway]
  • Piper, John & Taylor, Justin eds. Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints [Crossway]
  • Reynolds, John Mark & Overton, Roger eds. The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ [Crossway]
  • Geisler, Norman & Betancourt, Joshua Is Rome the True Church?: A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim [Crossway]
  • Kostenberger, Elizabeth Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is? [Crossway]
  • Ortberg, John Faith and Doubt [Zondervan]
  • The Bible ESV Study Bible [Crossway]
  • Murray, Andrew Essential Works of Andrew Murray [Barbour Books]
  • Lawson, Steven Pillars of Grace [Reformation Trust]
  • Driscoll, Mark Vintage Church [Crossway]
HT: Challies and Discerning Reader

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The ESV Study Bible: A Sneak Preview

Mark Driscoll
, pastor of Mars Hill Church Seattle, gives a sneak preview of the ESV Study Bible. It sounds amazing and I think that it will end up replacing the famous NIV Study Bible. Here is some of what he shares:

The ESV Study Bible is the result of extensive work from 93 evangelical Bible scholars from 9 countries representing nearly 20 denominations and over 50 seminaries and Bible colleges. To the best of my knowledge, none of the theological contributors owns a prayer labyrinth or has ever finger painted their doctrinal statement, which is very comforting. Heading up the team are Lane Dennis (Executive Editor), Wayne Grudem (General Editor), J. I. Packer (Theological Editor), C. John Collins (Old Testament Editor), Thomas R. Schreiner (New Testament Editor), and my buddy Justin Taylor (Managing Editor).

The ESV Study Bible includes the 757,000 words of the Bible along with an additional 1.1 million words of theological resources, which is the equivalent of a 20-volume resource library. Those resources include 25,000 notes, over 50 articles, 200 full-color maps, 200 charts, 80,000 cross-references, and some 40 color illustrations that are far cooler than the typical Bible pictures that look like a kindergartner tried to draw the Temple with their left hand.
As a geek who always reads the footnotes, I am particularly excited about Clinton Arnold’s work in Colossians and Philemon, Andreas J. Kostenberger’s work in John, Raymond Ortlund’s work in Isaiah, Grant Osborne’s work in James, Simon Gathercole’s work in Galatians, Thomas Schreiner’s work in Romans, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude, and Frank Thielman’s work in 1 Corinthians.

The theological article lineup is nastier than the heart of the Red Sox order. Here are just some of the titles:

  • “The Authority and Truthfulness of the Bible” by Wayne Grudem
  • “How to Interpret the Bible” by Daniel Doriani
  • “Overview of the Bible” by Vern Poythress
  • “Reading the Bible Theologically” by J. I. Packer
  • “Reading the Bible as Literature” by Leland Ryken
  • “Reading the Bible for Application” by David Powlison
  • “Reading the Bible, Prayer, and Communion with God” by John Piper
  • “Reading the Bible with the Church” by John Hannah
  • “The Bible’s Use in Preaching and Public Worship” by Kent Hughes
  • “God’s Plan for Salvation” by Mark Dever
  • “The Theology of the New Testament” by Thomas Schreiner
  • “Reading the Gospels and Acts” by Darrell Bock
  • “Reading the Epistles” by Thomas Schreiner
  • “The Canon of the Old Testament” by Roger Beckwith
  • “The Old Testament and Critical Scholarship” by Walter Kaiser
  • “The New Testament and Critical Scholarship” by Darrell Bock
HT: Justin Taylor

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Some Interesting Stuff

Interesting Sermons:

Excellent questions from an excellent article for pastors who want to make the gospel central:
  • When I correct someone are they primarily aware of the hope of forgiveness in the gospel?
  • Do I encourage people around me to obey because of Christ’s work or because they simply have to?
  • Are people more aware of my encouragement or my correction?
HT: Pure Church
Oprah's Church

Check out this disturbing and informative video:

Speaking to Oprah's comments about the jealously of God, Thabiti Anyabwile says this:

"One thing I'm thankful for from this video is that Oprah helps us preachers to think a bit more carefully about our audience. There are no doubt many in the pew who would find teaching about a jealous God repulsive, and yet they've not understood how God's jealousy for His own name is utterly unlike fallen human jealousy or how it is absolutely right that God infinte in every perfection be jealous for His name, that God's own zeal for His name is commendable in light of who God is. I'd love for Oprah to sit down with Piper and work though some of this! And I'd love to preach to my own people in a way that doesn't leave them at 20-something staggering away from the Lord because they're projecting themselves onto God.
Oh that the Lord would make me a preacher!"

Speaking to this comment by Oprah, "God... in the essence of all consciousness... isn't something to believe. God is. God is. And God is a feeling experience, not a believing experience. And, in fact, if your religion is a believing experience... if God for you is still about a belief, then it's not truly God," Thabiti says this:

"So much for her earlier comment in this video, where she defended the idea that there is not one true way to God but that all paths lead there. All paths except belief in a personal, sovereign God who reveals himself in the Word of God and calls all men everywhere to repent and believe.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
--Jesus Christ (John 3:16-21; emphasis in the original)"

HT: Pure Church

Monday, April 07, 2008

Interesting Story About J.I. Packer and the ESV Bible

Josh at Ephemeros shares an anecdote about J.I. Packer not signing a copy of the ESV:

After I had my book [Knowing God] signed, many more pressed him. He signed books as he answered questions. The insight he provided into the Puritans in those few minutes still have a lasting impact on me. During the conversation, a young man (my age) approached Packer with a newly purchased ESV Bible (of which Packer was a general editor). Excitedly, he asked Packer to sign it and handed it to him. For a few moments Packer held the Bible in his hands, and quietly returned it to the young man. He said, “Son, this is God’s book. If you want it signed you will need to ask him.”

HT: ESV Blog

Things to Ask a Church When Considering a Pastorate

Matt Schmucker writes the following: "Young pastors are too often focused on what they’ll be asked rather than on what they should ask. If this is the flock God is calling you to shepherd, ignorance is not your friend. The list below is not complete, nor should it be used exhaustively. It is simply a list of some things you may want to consider.

1. Statement of Faith. Is it available, used, and understood? Can I affirm each section? Does the congregation live this out? Is it an adequate statement about Scripture, God, and salvation? Does it require anything that the Bible does not require of being a Christian, i.e. abstinence?

2. Church Covenant. Is it available and practiced?

3. Constitution (bylaws). Does one exist? Is it updated and used? In it you’ll learn how they choose officers, accept new members and much more. Constitutions are generally invisible until there’s a problem and then they become incredibly important. Know what it says.

4. Budget. Does a budget exist (you’d be surprised!)? How is it formed? Does the congregation vote to accept the budget? A church’s budget will tell you a lot about the vision and priorities (i.e. heart) of a church.

5. Balance sheet. Don’t just look at the church budget; look at the balance sheet. It will tell you things about debt, designated funds and valuation of buildings. These things are not as important as a statement of faith, but there not unimportant, often dictating what a church can and cannot do financially.

6. Missions. A part of the budget should be international missions. You’ll learn a lot about a church through their missions giving. Do they give? Are they going to hard-to-reach places? How do they pick who to support? Do they support a few people very well or a lot of people poorly?

7. Order of service. Ask to see several weeks’ bulletins to get a feel for what the church does when it gathers.

8. Programs. Are they program heavy? What’s the focus of the programs – insiders or outsiders?

9. Church calendar. Do they have one? Again, what’s the focus?

10. Denomination. Do they support the denomination at the national, state and local level? Is that a good thing? Are they aware of denominational priorities and problems?

11. Membership. How many members are in the church? How many attend? Do they have an inactive list? What’s their understanding of membership? Do they live close to each other and to the church building?

12. Church Discipline. Any understanding of the idea? When was the last time the church removed someone from church membership for unrepentant sin or non-attendance?

13. Former pastor(s). Consider asking for the names and contact information of the last pastor(s). Be careful here. You will learn a lot about that pastor and the flock, but you also owe it to the flock to grant a fresh start and benefit of the doubt (…believing the best). But you also may find pressure points that need to be addressed before you accept a call.

14. Elders/deacons/leaders. Consider asking to have private meetings with key leaders in the church. You can only gain in learning the prejudices, hopes and expectations of the next pastor through these leaders. An easy way to learn is by asking the leaders to review the ministry of the last couple of pastors.

15. Ambitions. Ask this question: If you could be like any church in America, which would it be?

16. Staff and office support. One new pastor I know was surprised to see how much time out of each week was taken up with cleaning/repairing the church building and making bulletins. Find out who does what on the current staff and whether or not there are plans for increased paid or volunteer staff.

17. Weddings and funerals. Are there any policies surrounding functions like these?

18. Living as a pastor. Maybe you don’t take these issues on in the first interview, but eventually they need to be addressed:

a. Cash salary (you need to eat)
b. Housing benefit (you need to sleep)
c. Healthcare (you will get sick)
d. Retirement (you will get old)
e. Days off during the week (you need to rest)
f. Holidays and vacation (you need to get out of Dodge)
g. Sabbatical (you need to recharge)
h. Children’s schooling (they need to learn)
i. Pastor’s wife (she needs to know if anything is expected of her)

No one or any combination of these issues should be regarded as deal breakers. The goal of this list is not to create picky pastoral candidates who will never find a church that satisfies all their criteria--sheep who already have their act together! Rather, asking these types of questions will help you know what you're getting into from the start, and it will give the church some indication of what they would be getting in you--that is, a man who pays attention to these types of things and just might, one day, have an opinion about some of them."

HT: 9 Marks Blog

Gospel Counterfeits

In their book How People Change, Tim Lane and Paul David Tripp lay out seven counterfeit gospels.

  1. Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”
  1. Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”
  1. Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”
  1. Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”
  1. Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”
  1. Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs."
  1. “Social-ism.” “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”

Jonathan Leeman writes: "How many of these do you recognize in your own heart? How can we help our congregations to recognize them in their hearts through preaching, discipling, and counseling?"

HT: The 9 Marks Blog

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Importance of One to One Ministry

Tony Payne of Matthias Media, whom I had the privilege of having of meeting and having a group lunch with in Washington DC, talks about the positive effects of this neglected practice here.

HT: Challies

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Former Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) President Dies

Dr. Mariano DiGangi, who served as president of the EFC from 1969 to 1971, died on March 18. DiGangi, a retired Presbyterian minister, was also chair of the Canadian Lausanne Committee, professor of pastoral studies at Ontario Theological Seminary (now Tyndale University College & Seminary), as well as minister at Knox Church, Toronto.

Recognizing False Teachers/False Prophets

Prepared by Nicholas Hill, Director of the Rexdale Youth Centre, Rexdale Alliance Church

This is something that I prepared for my youth. It may be helpful to some of you. Your feedback is welcome.

So, how do we recognize a true prophet/teacher from a false prophet/teacher? According to the Bible, false teacher will be recognized by one or more of the following characteristics. Only listen to those teachers or pastors that are not characterized by the following:

1) Love of Sexual Immorality

2 Peter 2:14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed-- an accursed brood!

2) False teaching/doctrine

In the Old Testament the false prophet denies the authority of Moses and the covenants that God made with the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5: 1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.”

Jeremiah 5:31: The prophets prophesy lies. The priests exercise power by their own authority. 1 And my people love to have it this way. But they will not be able to help you when the time of judgment comes! 2

Ezekiel 13: 3 This is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit but have seen nothing! 13:4 Your prophets have become like jackals among the ruins, O Israel.

In the New Testament, deny Jesus Christ and the teaching of the apostles appointed by Jesus:

Acts 20:29 I know that after I am gone 7 fierce wolves 8 will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 20:30 Even from among your own group 9 men 10 will arise, teaching perversions of the truth 11 to draw the disciples away after them. 20:31 Therefore be alert

2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-- bringing swift destruction on themselves.

2 Peter 2:3 these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.

1 John 2:23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

1 John 4:2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,

3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

1 John 4:5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.

2 John 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

3) Love of Money

Titus 1:11 who must be silenced because they mislead whole families by teaching for dishonest gain what ought not to be taught.

1 Timothy 6:5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

2 Peter 2:3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

2 Peter 2:14: they are experts in greed

Jude 1: 11 they have rushed for profit

12 shepherds who feed only themselves

Mark 12: 40 They devour widows' houses

4) Love of Power

Mark 12:38 As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."

1 Timothy 3:7: They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently.

5) Tell People What they Want to Hear

1 Kings 22:1 There was no war between Syria and Israel for three years. 1 22:2 In the third year King Jehoshaphat of Judah came down to visit 2 the king of Israel. 22:3 The king of Israel said to his servants, “Surely you recognize that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us, though we are hesitant to reclaim it from the king of Syria.” 3 22:4 Then he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to attack Ramoth Gilead?” Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I will support you; my army and horses are at your disposal.” 4 22:5 Then Jehoshaphat added, 5 “First seek an oracle from the Lord.” 6 22:6 So the king of Israel assembled about four hundred prophets and asked them, “Should I attack Ramoth Gilead or not?” 7 They said, “Attack! The sovereign one 8 will hand it over to the king.” 22:7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord still here, that we may ask him?” 22:8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man through whom we can seek the Lord’s will. 9 But I despise 10 him because he does not prophesy prosperity for me, but disaster. His name is Micaiah son of Imlah. 11

2 Peter 3: 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

6) Full of Arrogant Pride

1 Timothy 6: 3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,

4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions

2 Peter 2:10 Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings;

2 Peter 2:18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.

7) An overall immorality

2 Peter 2:13: Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight.

2 Peter 2:19: 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity-- for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

Jude 1:4 They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

1 John 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

1 John 2: 4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.