Osteen Waffles on the Gospel!

It is a sad day when some within evangelicalism would classify Joel Osteen as an evangelical Christian. There is no room in Scripture for waffling on the gospel. A person who claims to be a minister of the gospel and yet claim that he doesn’t know whether Jews, Muslims, or Hindus would go to hell if they do not believe in Jesus Christ alone is not worthy to be a minister, and according to Scripture this man is not even a true believer himself. His teaching is nothing short of heresy. True believers, be warned of this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Dr. Steve Lawson does an excellent job addressing Osteen’s waffles.

Your Only Hope – Christ Alone!

Dr. Steve Lawson produces an amazing impromptu message on the gospel. Truly, this is the only Biblical gospel that can and must be preached in the world today for there is NO HOPE in anyone or anything else. Flee to Christ while there is yet time!

Thanksgiving Perspectives

This Thanksgiving Day, we are providing a post written by the Pilgrim from Thanksgiving 2009. So much has happened and changed in the world in the last 4 years, but there are also many things that have not. This is a reminder we should have in front of us every year.

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As we in America celebrate Thanksgiving, and all the great freedoms, advancements, and benefits that the exporting of Christianity to this land brought with it, let us not forget about those millions of other people who are trapped in the bondage of their nations who are held captive to false religions and the human wreckage that those false religions bring.

Becoming Last had a post containing some pictures which reminded me exactly how thankful we should be, and exactly how starkly different the continent of North America may have turned out had the light of Christianity not pierced the darkness that covered this land.

The pictures in the post came from a piece in the Sacramento Bee. I’ve included some of these sobering but needful reminders below.


Let us not go to our graves having done nothing to see the advancement of the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world, where the worship of idols and demons keeps millions, if not billions, of souls in bondage.

The Most Terrifying Truth of Scripture!

The gospel cannot be made any clearer than this. This is the message that is simple and free to all who will come and plead for mercy at the feet of a holy, righteous God.

Quotes on the Gospel – JC Ryle

Dangersign

1. Substitute anything for Christ, and the Gospel is totally spoiled!

2. Add anything to Christ, and the Gospel ceases to be a pure Gospel!

3. Put anything between a person and Christ, and that person will neglect Christ for that very thing!

4. Spoil the proportions of Christ’s Gospel, and you spoil its effectiveness!

5. Evangelical religion must be the Gospel, the whole Gospel and nothing but the Gospel!

~ J.C. Ryle

Quotes from J.C. Ryle

God’s Wrath is Coming!

This is a message that should be preached in EVERY evangelical church in America until it is fully understood, and each person in attendance is driven to their knees in repentance, or until they flee because of the willful, deliberate hatred of their heart against a holy God.

Oh friend, flee from the wrath of God before it is eternally too late!

Truth – The Wrath of God

Saved Out of 27 Years of Homosexuality!

Listen to this wonderful testimony of God’s saving grace. When God truly saves a person, He saves them from their sin AND out of their sin. He will not save somebody that He does not change. As David shares in his testimony, God does save homosexuals, but He does not leave them there. You cannot remain in your sin willfully and deliberately while thinking that you are a true believer in Jesus Christ.

Christ Saves Out of Sin

God’s Wisdom in Proverbs

Any preacher worth his office will tell you that proper handling of wisdom literature (particularly GWIP_thumb[2]Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Proverbs) is most difficult. Even “simple” Hebrew narratives do not always flow in chronological form as does western literature. Wisdom literature adds another twist in that it not only is designed to impart wisdom, it requires wisdom from God to rightly draw out the meaning. In his book, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, Dan Phillips leads us by the Word of God to rightly understand this part of the His Word. And he does it with a good sense of humor that should have you smiling broadly, if not laughing out loud. This is not a commentary – it is a guide-book to this overly familiar book in God’s Word.

This book has eight chapters:

  1. Essentials for Understanding Proverbs

  2. The Stated Design of Proverbs

  3. The Foundation of Wisdom

  4. WISDOM: Seeking and Finding

  5. Relating to God by Trust and Worship

  6. Skill in Godly Relationships

  7. Skill in Godly Marriage

  8. Skill in Godly Child-training

There are four appendices, covering the question of human authorship, word studies in Proverbs, an examination of Proverbs 22:6, and preaching and teaching from Proverbs.

Throughout this exceptional book (I only regret not reading it when I first bought it a couple years ago), Phillips keeps front and center the need we all have for a healthy fear of Creator God as the beginning of wisdom and as the posture that keeps us from being full of self and/or comfortable with sin. Says the author – “A God-fearer today is the man who has repented of his good works as well as his bad, trusted Christ alone as his Savior, relied on Christ’s righteousness alone, by the grace of God alone, and taken God’s Word alone as his marching orders, with God’s glory alone as his uniting motivation. That is the man who fears God.” AMEN!

Brothers and sisters – this entire book is founded on this very perspective. It will serve the body of Christ very well.

In telling us how to gain wisdom, he compares it to getting bread. Though the Lord’s prayer includes “give us this day our daily bread”, one doesn’t merely wish or pray for bread. He works for it, goes to where it is, buys it. The same principle, he tells us, applies whether we are after wisdom or whole wheat – pray and work. Creator God rules by means as well as ends.

In helping us understand the large volume of verses expounding foolish behavior, having just discussed the child who honors his parents, Phillips writes, “By contrast, in Proverbs the foolish child is neglectful during his years of instruction and learning (10:5), disregards what he has been taught (19:27), is abusive and insulting to his parents (19:26), is stupid (17:25, 19:13), ignores correction (31:1), and hangs around with sorts of people his father warned him about (1:10. 24:21, 28:7).” Which of us see our younger selves in this summary? Perhaps we are grieved by a close friend or a child of our own who embodies this whole-hearted foolishness. Our hearts should break – yet we should trust in God and cry out to Him for mercy on the fool. For no man can rescue a fool from his God-hating position, none of us can debate or argue the spiritually dead man to come to life. Let us continually thank the Lord for having delivered us from darkness and pray without ceasing for those who are perishing, while we proclaim the gospel to them.

I am tempted to tell you all the good things in this book – but then I would violate the reason for this review. Let me be content to assure you that each chapter and appendix will prompt you to think biblically, will cause you to repent of foolishness or a casual attitude towards the Word of God, will encourage you to trust God all the more and show you the joy that is ours as we walk as children of the light.

The chapter on child-training is worth the retail price of the book. Among the many good things he teaches us, Phillips says, “We must not rear our children in a certain way because it will work (pragmatism); we must rear them in such as way because it pleases and honors Yahweh (fear of Yahweh). God’s pleasure and glory must be our focus. Then we can trust the results to Him with a clean conscience (Prov 16:1, 3, 9).”

One of the comments that made me smile with irony – his style is priceless while the observation is sobering – is in the chapter on marriage. “Modern Christian thought often drinks long and deep at the trough of sociology and psychology, adds a sprinkling of Christainoid pixie-dust, and then merely closes in prayer.”

Lastly, I will tell you about the 3rd appendix, covering Proverbs 22:6. You know the text – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. How many of us have given serious thought to this verse? Do we know what Solomon meant, or our we content to merely see the words and allow our culturally trained brain and self-righteousness nature to guide to a conclusion? I’ve read of the interpretation Phillips argues for here and found it to make much more sense than the way I’ve been this verse all my life. He will make you think deeply, even if you do not agree with him.

I’ve been in contact with Dan Phillips and found him to be very cordial and brotherly, even though I told him I abhor dispensationalism (which he holds to). I dare say we would be friends if our paths crossed. He passed this along to me –during November the Proverbs book is actually on sale for 65% off. You have to order it from Kress here in Texas (http://bit.ly/18iX5b5), and use the coupon code BR60833557256.

Still Carrying the Torch in Liberia

I thought I would share a very encouraging letter I received from one of the men whom I was able to train over the six months we spent in the jungles of Liberia, West Africa. The brother is Cyrus Smith. He receives no regular funding but he remains faithful. This letter and accompanying picture will allow you to see what the Lord has used this godly man to accomplish. Please read and remember to keep this brother in prayer.

By way of further explanation, when God called this man to ministry, he was the town chief of one of the jungle villages. It was a position that provided income and a good status. When we moved into town for my health, he resigned everything to join us for continued nightly teaching. The Lord continues to bless this man for his faithfulness.

PS – I will add appropriate comments as necessary.

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Hello father and mother in Christ, (a term of honor towards Violet and I)

I am very encouraged about the work in Dentaa and Beletanah. God is really blessing this work.Now I have about 40 to 50 people who have put their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. They are studying with me now and God himself has chosen a place for this work to get started before it can expand in other village. The village is Dentaa.

(Dentaa and Beletanah were the next villages we had targeted to begin a new work after starting the two missions in the villages of Foloblai and Tamayta. The Lord gave Cyrus a real burden to go here and begin the work as a missionary church planter out of the two works we began.)

This happen because the numbers of people from Dentaa are many so, I decided to move in along with the few people from Beletanah there. The people are encouraged. My wife, Orpah, takes care of the children class but in this picture she was not with me because of her pregnant condition. The distant from Beletanah to Dentaa is about 30 minutes walk. We meet on every Wednesday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday morning for Bible study.

(This is a true sign of those who are interested in God’s Word. They will have a hunger to learn and to be taught the truth of Scripture. This is true whether in Liberia, England, or America.)

The elders of Dentaa have given us (2) acres of land on the car road that is leading in this village. It is a good place and I thank God for that. I have not introduced offering business in this ministry until baptism can be done but I need your advice. I thank God for the motorcycle as it makes the work effective.

(The only “church” that has been in this area is Roman Catholic. This brother recognizes from the Word of God that Catholicism is based on heresy from the teaching we were able to do with him. The elders giving up land for free is a very encouraging sign that the church has been recognized as being a permanent establishment in the community. To gain 2 acres right on the main road is an amazing blessing!)

My studies with the Bible school is coming on fine and I know God is in control. I am working with David Quinah in the Bible school matter in a possible way that this ministry B.I.C.M. (Bible Institute of Church Ministries) should grow.

(This is the Bible Institute we were able to establish while in Liberia. Each month they train 30-40 pastors and church leaders in the truth of Scripture. For the last fourteen months since we left, these men have continued with no promises of support. Many of them walk from 3 hours to 1 day away in order to gain training not otherwise available.)

Please extend my greeting to your family and the church, I miss you a lot. I am adding a picture of some of the people in the new church from Dentaa and Beletanah.

In Christian love and grace.

Cyrus Smith
Church in Liberia

Twelve Things to Do In Times of Trouble

Reprinted by permission of MindRenewers.com.

Mind Renewers

I said on Sunday that Psalm 61 is an “every-trouble” Psalm.  The Psalm’s title has nothing to tell us of the circumstances that triggered it.  And David says in the second verse that he can cry to God “from the ends of the earth” — wherever he may be, whatever the situation.  In addition, he says he can cry to the Lord when his heart is “overwhelmed.”

David was not an overwhelmed-heart kind of guy.  As a shepherd, he faced down a lion, and a bear.  As a youth, he faced Goliath.  He faced Saul’s treachery with courage, dealt with the opposition of the Philistines, and even in old age he kept going out to battle until his men wouldn’t let him go any longer.  So when someone like that is talking about problems that overwhelm the heart, you know he’s talking about great trouble.  As we look at Psalm…

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The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror

The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror by Hal Brunson  9780595438167

Hal Brunson’s book, The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror, is a small collection of parables – two parables about Paedobaptism (one of which brings in Dispensationalism for comparison) and one parable about the death of Christ. Although a short book, Brunson’s work is a compelling examination of some unbiblical teachings about ecclesiology and soteriology. Baptism is the foil in both cases.

The first parable is the tale of a meeting between two now famous men – the young but already distinguished Princeton teacher, Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield and the aged and famous John Nelson Darby. Attending the meeting, as Warfield’s escort from London to Oxford, was a young man of the name Harmon Diapson – grand nephew of the infamous Charles Darwin. On the train to Oxford, Warfield and Darby engage in a vigorous discussion about theology, all the vast differences that exist between the Presbyterian Covenant Theology and the then still-new system of Dispensationalism.

Overhearing this discussion on the train is a portly, cigar smoking man that is, at length unable to restrain himself and asks to participate, making the bold assertion that he can prove that Warfield and Darby have much in common – as though they are approaching each other from opposite ends of a rickety bridge and will meet in the middle, over a deep gorge of false teaching. Warfield and Darby are incredulous and protest wildly; young Diapson is eager to hear this man who describes himself as a country parson. Through many questions of these well known theologians, the parson quips that he sees the basic structure of the bridge connecting them. Darwin’s grand nephew sees it first – “It’s a biological bridge, sir: both coventalism and dispensationalism unite in this one idea – the Abrahamic Covenant finds its earthly fulfillment in biological offspring.” The parson congratulates Diapson, adding “Mr. Darby sees the fulfillment in the Jewish child, and Dr. Warfield sees the fulfillment in the Christian child.”

Brunson comments, “Because of that mutual mistake, the dispensationalist commits an eschatalogical error – the covenant finds it ultimate fulfillment in the biological descendant of the ethnic Jews, and the paedobaptist commits an ecclesiastical error – the covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in the biological descendant of the Christian parent.” This Presbyterian view amounts to gross presumption that so-called covenant children are in the New Covenant, to be confirmed later in life.

The second parable, The Broken Mirror, drives deeper into the paedobaptist problem, highlighting their common twisting of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. This is an oft overlooked but grievous error that every Christian should be on guard against. Buy the book to find out more about this parable.

The third parable in this too-short book is of the Death of Christ. In this section, Brunson does not rely on fanciful tales to illustrate absurdities in theology, he examines picturesque Scripture that serves as types that point to and illustrate the depth and glory and horror of the death of our Savior. And in this section of the book, Brunson displays a glorious view of Christ that will do the soul of any Christian much good. He examines:

      1. the oceanic chaos of pristine creation

      2. the flood of Noah

      3. the sorrows of David described as “great waters

      4. the casting of Jonah into the sea, and, finally,

      5. Jesus’ understanding of His death as an apocalyptic baptism.

I will leave you with a couple short examples of the author’s style in this section, the first one talking about the flood: “The captain of our salvation may have gone to the depths for the salvation of His people, but the old ship of Zion rides the waves with linen sails unfurled, impervious to raging winds and roaring waves, speeding safely upon the scarlet billows of judgment to the soul’s desired haven.” Later in this section, “These graphic symbols of baptism require an understanding of our Savior’s death as an immersion, not just into waters of physical suffering and death, but into the oceanic fury of God’s wrath.” Oh, the Savior’s love for His Father – and all those He chose to redeem in Christ!

At the end of the book is a short record of a debate between the author and a friend of his who is a Presbyterian. Brunson, the Baptist, set the rules – no Baptist sources could be used, only “secular” or paedobaptist. The results are devastating, as Brunson reveals one after the other of heralded paedobaptist theologians defending believer’s baptism and admitting there is no biblical support for infant sprinkling. B.B. Warfield being one of the star witnesses against his own position.

This is a delightful book, well written and easy to read. Brunson keeps Christ in focus and the Word of God as the foundation of all his arguments. I am so glad I found it and read it.

Emotional Pornography

The following article was written by Jon Gleason of Mind Renewers. He is originally from Oregon, but now resides in Scotland where he is the pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes. The article is reprinted here by permission from Pastor Jon.

Emotional Pornography

I’d been saying it for a long time. A couple of years ago, I noticed others began to say the same thing, or something similar: many modern romance novels (even “clean” ones) are emotional pornography, and may do as much damage as visual pornography.

I don’t normally link to Mormon sources, but I appreciated this article addressing the addictive nature of these books: Romance Novels Can Become Addictive.

Psychologist Julia Slattery: “There is a neurochemical element with men and visual porn, but an emotional element with women and these novels.”
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Women are more stimulated by romance than sex, so they read romantic stories (and they don’t have to be explicit to work) they can experience the same addicting chemical release as men do.
….

Women may find their standard for intimacy begins to change over time because they may not be able to get as satisfied with their partners as they can reading a book.

Pornography addiction counselor Vickie Burress said reading romance novels or viewing pornography may eventually lead to an affair for some women.

Then, there is this article, written about the same time, by Russell Moore: Can Romance Novels Hurt Your Heart? (Though I can’t give Moore a blanket endorsement, either, he’s much more sound than a Mormon source! And this article is excellent.)

Pornography and romance novels aren’t (or at least aren’t always) morally equivalent, but they “work” the same way.

Both are based on an illusion. Pornography is based on the illusion of a perfectly willing, always aroused partner without the “work” of relational intimacy. Often romance novels or their film equivalents do the same thing for the emotional needs of women that pornography offers for the erotic urges of men.

….

In both artificial eros and artificial romance, there is the love of the self, not the mystery of the other.

Voyeurism is watching the private lives of others. Whether it is peering into a picture of a physical body that should have been private, or peering into the intimate emotions of others, it is still voyeurism — and it is inherently selfish.

It’s not surprising, actually. The god of this world will use every resource at his disposal to attack a gift from God as good as marriage. If he can draw the eyes of men to women other than their spouses, he certainly will do so, even if it is fictional images of women that they will never meet. If he can draw the emotional eyes of women to other men, he will do it, even if it is fictional portrayals of emotional responses to fictional men they will never meet. Why would we think our adversary would only attack husbands? For though women can be drawn into pornography and men can be drawn into emotional pornography, it is most often the emotional pornography that is used to attack wives.

Both the pornographer and the modern romance novelist want you to vicariously enjoy something, with someone else, that God intended for your spouse. An artificial “person” becomes the object of your attention. In the romance novel, you emotionally identify with a character, sharing in the feelings described in the book.

But of course, your spouse may not stir those feelings in the exact same way. “Others have a spouse who behaves in that way, and that way.” Even if it is only subliminal, the books create expectations of certain kinds of feelings. “It’s supposed to feel that way when I look at my husband or when he talks to me” can even become, “My husband doesn’t love me like that man in the book loved her, he doesn’t make me feel the way he made her feel” — with all the danger to a marriage which that kind of thinking brings.

Ultimately, as Moore said, both emotional pornography and visual pornography do the same thing — they stir up relational feelings and responses that are focused on some other person, when that “other” is not in a relationship with us at all, is not even real — and so, it simply becomes about my feelings.

“Oh, that’s silly, Jon. You’re blowing this out of proportion. It’s only some Mormon and some seminary professor who had too much time on his hands saying this.”

A response (I don’t recommend the link [language], but I give it for completeness) in the Guardian was quite interesting. “Romance novelists and readers have come together to defend their chosen genre….” (Wait. This is news? Is anyone surprised that novelists and their readers would defend their work? Ok, back to the post.)

What really caught my attention was the following quote from a defender of romance novels:

There is nothing wrong with you for exploring different worlds, different relationships, different emotions, different personal experiences through fiction, and if romances are your preferred way to be entertained, more power to you.

This is an advocate, not a critic (her website name includes “Trashy Books”). She says these books are a way to experience different relationships and emotions. Is that really what God wants? When we make our wedding vows, do we vow to be completely for our spouse? Should we involve ourselves in these kinds of emotional experiences?

As with many things in our corrupt culture, some people will read these books without taking any real harm. Not everyone reading a modern romance novel identifies vicariously with the characters (though that is what the authors usually seek to attain, even in many “Christian romance novels”). Not everyone becomes emotionally involved, and many do not become dissatisfied with their spouses. The subconscious effects may not be significant for many people.

But to the extent a viewer of pornography sets his/her desire on a picture or video, that person gives to a mirage the gift of intimacy and desire that should have been given to a spouse alone. And to the extent a romance novel reader identifies with the emotional attachment of one character to another, that person gives to a mirage the emotional gifts that should have been reserved for his/her spouse.

These “gifts” chip away at a marriage, especially when we receive (in exchange for these “gifts”) expectations of our spouse which God does not want us to have, and which our spouse may not (and perhaps should not) ever meet.

The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God by Jeffrey Johnson

Although I had been raised in a family that attended various churches, from non-imagesdenominational military chapels with no discernible doctrine to Nazarene churches with Arminian theology (later in life I was to wonder why those preachers ever preached anything other then Hebrews chapter 6), I was never with an interest in the Word of God. When I was redeemed, I began my search for meaning in the Scriptures and found the popular dispensational teaching of my Baptist church to be very suspect and off track. Once I began learning the doctrines of grace (known as Calvinism), the Scriptures came into a more clear view and then reformed theology was opened to me and I saw the larger redemptive story in the Bible; the main point of the Scripture is to show man how sinful he is and point him to the promised Redeemer.

But something still wasn’t right. The predominate teaching in the reformed world is from the Presbyterians. And while I can accept their church practices (though I cannot agree with them), I could not see how they made the church equal to the nation of Israel. This perspective, and a couple others closely related to it, cause our Presbyterian brothers to view virtually all Scripture as applicable to the church. It was the complete opposite of what I was taught in my dispensational churches, where there is near complete separation between the church and the nation of Israel. Neither system made sense to me.

By the providential hand of God, the early part of the 21st century has brought us a renewed interest in historical Baptist views. While several very good books have been written in this rather large field, the one that made the biggest impact on me was The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism, by a man who has become a dear friend to me, Jeffrey D. Johnson. That book made a very clear, biblical argument against the underlying theology of paedobaptism and introduced me to an historic and biblical Baptist view of covenant theology. This title, plus a couple of books on biblical theology (a process that keeps systematic theology from losing its place in Scripture – biblical theology is the contextual study of what the Bible says. The historic, redemptive context of a passage provides more clues to its meaning than anything other than related Scripture.), were foundational in helping me the Word of God even more clearly.

And now, much to my joy, our brother and servant of God, Jeff Johnson, has written another book: The Kingdom of God, A Baptist Expression of Covenant and Biblical Theology, due out early next year. Rather than a polemic pointing out the errors of paedobaptist theology (in an effort to convince Baptist to stay in the camp and comprehend a better view of the covenants), Jeff’s new book is a focused apologetic in favor of the historic Baptist view of covenant theology and biblical theology.

Is this stuff important? While it’s not as important as a biblical comprehension of who you are and who is the Christ, it is pretty important stuff. Because it will help the reader see the importance of approaching the Scriptures with humility rather than with unexamined presuppositions that subtly influence your understanding of what you read. When we open the Bible, we are taking into our minds the Word of God. The right fear of God and humility because we rightly see ourselves are essential attitudes for certain understanding of His Word and the covenants revealed therein. Charles Spurgeon went as far as to say, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity. I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based on fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and grace”

Johnson’s writing style is straight forward and easy to read. The main focus on his study of covenant theology is the Abrahamic Covenant and the duality therein. Failure to see the continuity as well as the discontinuity would leave one embracing paedobaptist theology on the first hand or dispenationalism on the other. From an early chapter in his new book, “In one sense, the debate between the continuity and discontinuity of the Old and New Covenants centers on the true identity of the people of God and the relationship between Abraham’s physical seed and Abraham’s spiritual seed, which returns us to the original question. Who are the true people of God? Are God’s people “the nation of Israel”? Are the people of God “believers and their seed?” Are the people of God “believers only?” Are God’s people some sort of combination of the two groups? The differing answers given to this question are what separate these theological positions from one another.”

He ends this section of the book with an examination of the covenant theology revealed in the book of Romans, showing how the Apostle who wrote Galatians was consistent in his theology, even when it went against his deepest human concerns.

The second part of the book is relatively short introduction to biblical theology which makes this topic approachable by any child of God. The historical record from Scripture shows the rise and fall of kingdoms and peoples, all of which were brought to pass to deliver, preserve, and protect the promised Seed. Creator God is the God of means as well as ends. Biblical theology helps us see His hand of providence in history and keeps us from falling into the error of thinking man is in charge of his own destiny.

There is a BONUS appendix in this book, where brother Johnson takes a quick look at The New Perspectives on Paul. Some who are impressed with the wisdom of man have been swept away by this new view; Jeff shows us why the wisdom of God is to be trusted – even in the face of all the king’s men with all their advanced degrees. The biblical Apostle Paul, not the one found in The New Perspectives, told us he did not come to us with brilliance of speech or wisdom, for he didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among us except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He came to us in weakness, in fear, in much trembling. His speech and proclamation were not with impressive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that our faith would not rest on the wisdom of men but on God’s power.

40% off: Pre-publication sale for The Kingdom of God: A Baptist Expression of Covenant & Biblical Theology.  280 page, hardcover with dust jacket.  Retail price $28.00.  No payment necessary until after it is released. To reserve a copy, email freegracepress@gmail.com. Reserve two copies for 50%, plus free shipping. This is a pre-publication sale only. This offer ends on 27 November.

Goodbye, So Long, Farewell…Sort Of

walking-through-the-lightIt seems like such a short time ago that I was invited to become a contributing writer to DefCon. Pilgrim brought me on board when I was running a blog that received maybe 20-30 views per month. He blessed me with an opportunity to share with a larger audience about the necessity of Christians to share the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. What an amazing journey this has been.

I have been blessed by many readers who have been encouraged and edified. I have also seen the darker side of the blogging world, those who view each article as their own personal sounding board to vent anger and vitriol within the comments. Yet, it is not really for any of those for whom I write, but in truth, it is for an audience of One. I write to bring glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If I do not bring honor and glory to Him, then none of what I do is worth anything. I pray that I have done that.

Last year, Pilgrim approached me and asked me to take over the reigns of DefCon. I was humbled more than I can say by this. It is an awesome task to take over the responsibilities of a blog site that over 1,000 people a day visit. It requires being a writer, a leader, a mediator and much more. It can be invigorating and exhausting all at the same time. However, I saw first hand what Pilgrim became weary over, the almost constant vitriol from readers who either took issue with an article because it addressed an evangelical sacred cow, or called us compromisers because we were not “fundamental” enough for their tastes. I saw brothers and sisters bite and devour one another over things that, while important, simply did not rise to the level of the core doctrines of the faith. Such animosity toward the brethren made me weep.

It was this that led me to call for a change to DefCon. It was always my personal stance that, while discernment articles are sometimes necessary, they should never be the primary diet of the Christian. Being strengthened and edified in the word of God was one primary tasks of every Christian. Thus, my writing reflected that (I hope). As the head administrator, I made the call to change the primary direction of the blog to that end. No more would we be the instigators of so much virtual “bloodshed” by providing the steady diet of discernment to our readers. We would go back to the word and expound it for the purposes of edifying and strengthening the brethren. While some were not fond of this change, and their absence is noted, I have never once regretted that decision. The glory of God and His character are far too important to me than generating more hits on this site.

However, as I wrote earlier this year, my family took quite a hit when my wife was diagnosed with a rather aggressive form of cancer. My priorities in life changed. While I tried to maintain my administrative duties (along with those required of me on the Cross Encounters Radio program), I found that it was my duty to my family that was of paramount importance. I was grateful for my fellow contributors who managed many things during my absence. Their work made it possible for me to focus on the time of tribulation we were enduring.

We are now three months past my wife’s final treatment and are cancer free by God’s grace. She is going through the tests and medications necessary to maintain this status, but her continued ability to draw breath is by God’s hand alone. As I have noted in recent posts, this last year has given me some clarity about my responsibilities as a follower of Christ, from the worship of my Savior to the study of His word. And as such, a growing sense of change has made itself known in me.

I truly love being a part of DefCon. Being able to share the amazing gospel of Jesus Christ through the posts I have written is more joyous than I can say. To bring glory to His name and to encourage the brethren to do likewise is an amazing gift given to me by the Lord. However, God has also given me several amazing responsibilities. The first is to be a husband and father, according to His calling, to be the model and the teacher of the gospel in my home. The second is to be a faithful employee in my chosen profession, to honor my superiors with my best effort. The third is to be the assistant manager and on air producer to a Christian radio program that focuses on evangelism, the ministry that is truly my heart’s desire. And very much tied with the last, is the blessing of being the administrator of this blog that ministers to so many wonderful brethren. With such awesome responsibilities, I am faced with a choice. I could either attempt to hold to all of them, yet not give the full attention all required. Or I would have to step down from something.

Through much prayer, and discussion with some of my fellow contributors, I came to a bittersweet decision. It is with much heaviness of heart that I must announce that I will be stepping down as head administrator and contributor to DefCon. I love this blog and I love the readers who are a faithful part of it. However, at this time, I cannot be a good steward of the position given the current circumstances in which I find myself. I believe that in this season of life, the Lord has led me to this point and another must take my place. While I hate to leave this role, I know that my successor will be more than capable of handling the task.

Mark Escalera (aka, The Jungle Missionary) has graciously stepped up and accepted the mantle of leadership. He has been a steadfast and godly contributor for several years. His articles have blessed many brethren and his wisdom has been greatly appreciated. Mark held down the fort for me on many occasions during the last year and I can think of no better person to take the role of head administrator. As he steps into this role, I ask you readers to be a blessing to him as you have been to me during the last couple of years. Thank you Mark, I know this blog will be in excellent hands.

And now I must say goodbye…sort of. I am not heading off into the sunset never to be heard from again. I am still very much involved in the ministry of Cross Encounters Radio as co-host and on-air producer (and I can be found roaming the Twittersphere sharing the occasional thought that leaks from my brain). My articles will remain, if Mark finds them useful, for folks to continue to read. While I will not be part of DefCon, I am not ceasing my involvement in online ministry. So if you see me roaming the virtual halls of the world wide web, tap me on the shoulder to say hi.

I thank you all for taking time to let me be a part of your lives. I am grateful that you gave this nobody from nowhere more than five minutes of your time and read the rambling thoughts I shared. I pray it has been helpful to you in some small way. May God bless you and keep you. And may you all be busy about our Father’s business of proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Still …

True, biblical love, is not self-serving. It is a gift from God, given in measure to His redeemed. Far too often, people who are married fail to grow in their love for their spouses, but continue to live for love themselves. This should not be so among the people Christ has redeemed by His blood.

Friends of mine, at my church, made this short video – depicting the love from God that we ought have for one another. Particularly in the covenant of marriage. I pray this prompts many to examine themselves and turn to YHWH in repentance and renewed faith.

Why God Won’t Go Away

Why God Won’t Go Away by Alister McGrath

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 In his book, Why God Won’t Go Away, Alister McGrath acquaints his reader with “new atheism”, a term apparently coined in 2006. He identifies four well-known atheists (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens) with this philosophy, telling us how it got started, what’s new about it, what characterizes it, and how we as Christians should respond to it. As we read through this book, we find that there’s about as much “new” in new atheism as there is in new age – it’s an age-old false view of creation that unrighteous men use to suppress the knowledge of Truth that our Creator has put into His creation (Romans 1:18). The common element in this view, advocated by these high profile professing atheists, is a condescending attitude toward Christianity. Much ink has been spilled by these men trying to dissuade people from believing in the One Who created all things and people. Books such as The God Delusion and The End of Faith, as if there could be a human that could live on this earth without having faith in something – even if only that the chair would hold up when sat upon. These men tend to lump all professed religions together in an effort to “prove” God cannot exist because He is full of contradictions. No matter that the Word of God reveals that man creates and worships and serves all sorts of false gods and calls some of by the name of the one true God.

Hitchens admits he is not merely unconvinced of God’s existence, but that he is more an anti-theist than an atheist. McGrath quotes a humanist chaplain from Harvard, who defines anti-theism this way: “While atheism is the lack of belief in any god, anti-theism means actively seeking out the worst aspects of faith in god and portraying them as representative of all religion. Anti-theism seeks to shame and embarrass people away from religion, browbeating them about the stupidity of belief in a bellicose god.” People whose focus is on tearing down their enemies tend to lose all sense of perspective and end up redefining who they are by their irrational inability to allow Christians to believe what they want to.

Chapter 3 is a provoking look at a history full of violence committed by professing Christians, which gives a high road of condescension to the anti-atheists. Ah, but we also get a look at the history of bloodshed at the hands of atheists – this proving what Christians know to be biblical truth: all men are capable of hideous acts. The Lord God of Heaven restrains sinful men so that very few are as bad as they might be and His Spirit leads the redeemed to desire holiness rather than the sinful desires of the flesh.

Next up, the enlightenment is still going strong, as our anti-atheists worship at the altar of human wisdom. We learn here why it is hopeless to try and argue an anti-atheist into the kingdom of God – it’s hopeless to try and argue anyone into the Kingdom of God. Men are born again, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. We should not be tempted to argue with lost people over facts related to the gospel – they are at war with God and He alone can give a man with a heart of stone understanding and love for Him. The intellect of the anti-atheists blinds them to the Truth, and only the Author of Truth can give him sight.

Where McGrath departs from his call as a gospel minister is in the last chapter. He heralds Mother Teresa and declares his desire to emulate her. This woman is held up by many as a model Christian, but she made it clear many times that she did not even try to convert anyone to Christ; she thought God would be pleased and save as many as tried to be good Hindus, Buddhists, or whatever false religion one was following. This is not the model for any Christian. McGrath talks around the gospel and then states that he “cannot pursue this matter further here.” He does, however, make note that “Christian beliefs, like those of the New Atheism or any other worldview, ultimately lie beyond final rational proof.” Amen! And this is why worldly wisdom is foolishness and why we must trust God and be unashamed of His gospel and willing to be thought of as fools for Christ because we will not retreat from His Word. This book would have ended much better if McGrath would have spent three pages explaining the biblical answer to the anti-atheists – those enemies of God have no other place to go if they want truthful answers to their questions.

Christianity’s Identity Crises

Christianity’s Identity Crises

antique-185371_640-640x400Among the liberal “Christian” sites that I peruse on a daily basis is Jim Wallis’ website/magazine Sojourners.  Yes, this happy conservative Christian reads through many liberal sites daily.  It is good to stay current on those who teach a message opposite yours.  One of today’s featured articles at “Sojo” was titled: “Rob Bell, Oprah Winfrey, and Christianity’s Identity Crises.”  That is a great title.  I could write a very lengthy article entitled the same.  It’s content would be radically different.  But perhaps the very first sentence of that article could be endorsed word for word:

Christianity is facing an identity crisis that boils down to one question: Who is God?

I think this is stunningly accurate.  Jesus asked his disciples this very question: “Who do you say that I am?”  It was Peter who answered: “You are the Christ.”  This answer was a good one.  Jesus replied: “Blessed are you [Peter]!” This was recorded in Matthew 16.  Christianity depends, has always depended, on the answer to that question.

What happens when we are not correct in our identification of God?  What happens when we do not know who He is?  How could we possibly worship Him?  Sojo and C.Jay Engel agree: Christianity must answer this question.  Our identity as Christians depends on it.  Unfortunately, Sojo, Rob Bell, and Oprah, much to the surprise of no one, take a far different path than I do in seeking an answer.

For instance, the article reports that in a conversation between Bell and Oprah, the following exchange took place (italics original):

Rob: For many people … God is against us. God doesn’t want human flourishing. God is the one waiting to punish or torment …

Oprah: Yeah. Because when you say to people, “God is love,” there’s a whole other group of people who say, “Yeah, he may be love, but God is also judgment and wrath and punishing …

Rob: Right … People immediately take that to mean, whatever struggle I’m going through, whatever life is really like for me, God is against me.

This is a common liberal structure of argumentation.  It can be difficult to quickly break down, primarily because, as conservatives, we are mentally preparing for a proposition about God which can be used a representative of their position.  We want Bell or Oprah to say something like: “God is always for us and this means that He will not punish us because of how we act.”  That way, we can whip out verses A, B, and C to counter the proposition.  But anyone who reads liberals (please don’t read this word as a derogatory term) like Rob Bell knows that he likes the mysterious, come-to-your-own-conclusions,” type of conversation.  For the record, I do not in any sense oppose the “whip out the verse” type of argument, unless it lacks a spirit of love.  It is to our society’s detriment that we fear leaping to the Scriptures to prove our case.

So therefore, in order to actually analyze a positive assertion that may be held by the liberal in the quest to answer Who is God?, we must look beyond conversations such as the one excerpted above.  The liberal, as clearly shown above, enjoys making claims about what people tend to think (feel), but they rarely make a truth claim that they will stand behind.  They will talk all day about how “many people” feel that God is this or that, but they are never willing to show why the “many people” are right or wrong.”  The conservative, who believes that truth is propositional, must either refuse to get involved to deeply in these conversations at all, or else push the liberal to offer a proposition so that a more productive discussion can ensue.  When the conservative comes to the table with his theory of truth and tries to debate the liberal who has an entirely different framework, it is obvious that not much will be accomplished.

Thus, we seek something more substantive in the article with which to interact.

Here is a set of assertions written by the Sojo article which does not rely on the “many people feel or think” argument:

The crisis facing Christianity is whether God is for human flourishing or against it; whether God is love or a mixture of love and hate. Of course, this crisis is nothing new. Humans have always assumed the divine was a mixture of good and evil, of being for humans sometimes and against us at other times.

“The crisis facing Christianity is….”  This is good.  It is a statement that does not rely on the subjectivity of the masses.  We can interact with this.  We will start by disagreeing with the first dichotomy.  God is not for either one of those as an end in itself.  God is for His own glory and He glorifies Himself by portraying Himself to the world.  He portrays His love, His justice, His foreknowledge, His mercy, His wrath, His wisdom, His grace, His anger, and on and on.  He will make the human flourish or not flourish based on whether it gives Him glory.  If He was for human flourishing as an ultimate, none would be eternally punished.  This is Bell’s position, but it is not Biblical.  If He was against human flourishing as an ultimate, none would be eternally saved.  This too is wrong.  For some are saved and some are not.  Thus, this is a bad way of representing the crisis.  What we should say is that the crisis is whether God is ultimately for His own glory.  And also whether God demonstrates His glory be saving some and not saving others.  Some humans will flourish, others will not.

On the second dichotomy, this one has always confused me.  That is, I don’t know what the philosophical problem is.  Let’s say that God loves when people get along.  What then does he think about people unnecessarily fighting?  Does He love that?  It would seem that if you love something, you must logically hate that “something’s” opposite.  And isn’t this a good thing?  Can’t we agree that the activity of rape should be hated –and is hated by God?  Certainly God does not love such an atrocious crime!  What else is left?  Is He neutral toward it?  What, then, does the word justice even mean?  Hence, this dichotomy, while perhaps more understandable, is at least misleading.  A better way of framing this is by asking, what, exactly, does God hate and what does He love?

Moving on.  The author writes:

I’m in the midst of reading the revised and expand version of Michael Hardin’s book The Jesus Driven Life. Michael brilliantly speaks to the history of this crisis. From nearly the beginning of religion, the human experience of the sacred has been marked by ambivalence. The gods were fickle and you never knew where you stood with them. They were loving and wrathful, forgiving and judgmental.

Michael refers to this as the Janus-faced gods. Janus was a god of Rome, and the god that January is named after. Janus was literally two-faced, but the metaphorical way we use the term “two-faced” is a good way to understand Janus, and indeed, all the archaic gods. Christianity’s identity crisis stems from our conception of God remaining infected by Janus. In fact, many theologians hold to a god that looks more like Janus than the God revealed by Jesus.

That last sentence.  I’d like to know who he is talking about.  Hint: it is not the liberals (like Bell and Oprah).  More likely, it is the conservative theologians whom he refers to.  This is a common liberal argument that can be seen often in liberal writing.  But our reply is to point out that, in actuality, it is the Conservative who avoids the problem of the so-called Janus-faced god and the liberal who pushes it.  The reason I say this is simple.  The Conservative trusts that the propositions of Scripture are literally true.  This is different than “true literally!” (oh! please dear reader, don’t misunderstand me!).  As Gordon H. Clark once explained:

This thesis that the Bible is literally true does not imply that the Bible is true literally. Figures of speech occur in the Bible, and they are not true literally. They are true figuratively. But they are literally true. The statements may be in figurative language, but when they are called true the term true is to be understood literally.

Thus, the phrase “never knew where you stood with them” cannot by applied to conservative Christian worldview in the least.  The Scriptures are very clear where we stand and what God’s response is to both faith as well as sin.  On the other hand, what about the liberal who understands the nature of Scripture far differently and embraces things like “mystery” and “subjective” and who certainly don’t take the Scriptures as literal truth?  How could they possibly know where they stand with God?  The “God revealed by Jesus” is one of clarity and absolutes.  There should be no question as to where we stand: for those who believe in Christ, they are saved.  This, the basis of the Christian doctrine of assurance.

For the conservative then, the crisis of Christianity, Who is God?, is a matter of life and death.

Here comes the most important quote of the Sojo article.

In Jesus, we discover that God has nothing to do with violence or retribution, but everything to do with a love that is for human flourishing. As Michael puts it:

“By removing retribution from the work and character of God, Jesus … opened up a new way, a path, which he also invites us to travel. Sadly, few have found that this path and church history replete with hundreds, even thousands of examples of a Janus-faced god, a god who is merciful and wrathful, loving and punishing. Some have said that we need to hold to both of these sides together. Jesus didn’t and neither should we. It is time for us to follow Jesus in reconsidering what divinity without retribution looks like.” (70)

John 3:36 reads: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”  This is the opposite of what Sojo writes.  This verse shows us two things.  One, it shows us that God is a wrathful God toward those who do not believe in Christ.  Two, it shows us something that we noted above; namely, that God is not for or against human flourishing as an absolute.  For some are saved and others are not.  It depends solely on how God wants to demonstrate His glory through them.

The quote from Michael Hardin’s book too is very misguided.  I’m curious what basis Hardin has to say that Jesus removed an aspect of God’s character!  What does that even mean?  He literally (or figuratively?) took a part of “Who” God is, His very character, and removed it?  That is remarkable, not to mention patently unbiblical.  That seems like a doctrine that comes from the same place as our modern Federal Reserve-monopolized dollars: straight out of thin air.

Hardin apparently does not like the idea that God can be both merciful and wrathful depending on the situation and the person that he is dealing with.  But the Bible is full of examples of believing Christ leads to life (because of God’s grace) and rejecting Christ leads to wrath (because of God’s justice).  To say that Jesus didn’t support this is absurd.  It may seem a bit tedious to share some verses contradicting Hardin, but is a simple rebuttal indeed.  We only have to look at one gospel to find some examples.

1. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

2. “Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:20-24)

3. “The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:38-42)

4. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” […] “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41 and 46)

And this is not even to mention the fact that the rest of the New Testament, which records the words of God written by other people besides Jesus, supports the idea that faith leads to life and faithlessness leads to death.  Hardin’s final statement as copied above was this: “it is time for us to follow Jesus in reconsidering what divinity without retribution looks like.”  Not only is he not following Jesus in such an endeavor, but he is also taking a path which leads away from the Scriptures completely.

The Sojo article contains the following in its concluding paragraph:

Christianity is suffering from an identity crisis and I thank God for it. I’m also thankful that we have Rob, Oprah, and Michael to help guide us through the crisis….

Lesson: You are not going to make it through the identity crisis successfully if you rely on Rob, Oprah, and Michael to be your guides.

But I think the identity crisis is spot on.  ”Who is God?” There is only one answer and Christianity must depend on the Scriptures to find that answer.  Sadly, much of what is called “Christianity” today does not, in fact, rely on the Bible and therefore has failed in the midst of crisis.  And if you fail in this area, if you fail on the very fundamental of the nature and person of our God, your faith is in the wrong object.  It is “your faith that saves you,” and we therefore better answer our question right.  Thanks be to God for giving us His word.

_______

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-22)