December 8, 2012

Truth Rings Out

Truth Rings Out

A man, reckoned as dead
in Jerusalem’s grip.
Led by his Lord
on a very long trip.

Governors. Kings. Rulers. Guards.
He holds nothing back;
bloodied,  beaten, scarred.
Truth rings out.

In Herod’s palace,
the accused brings peace.
Speaking truth,
testifying of one
who is truly great.

Purchased by Christ.
Chained for Christ.
Sent by Christ.
Truth rings out.

October 18, 2012

Book Impressions: Come to Me! by Tom Wells

Come to Me! - An Urgent Invitation to Turn to Christ, Tom Wells, Banner of Truth, 113 pages.

This short book is packed with good news! Sometimes we get too wrapped up in intellectual theology to the neglect of the great truths of the gospel stated in everyday language. Wells glorifies Christ in the simplicity and clarity of the gospel he presents. Particularly beneficial are the three chapters: Come to Me as King, Come to Me Exclusively, and Come to Me Immediately.

The entire book is helpful for those who are not yet Christians and these three chapters are especially helpful to those who are already Christians. They are a great reminder of the glory, beauty, and uniqueness of Christ and His claim on every sinner.

October 13, 2012

Book Impressions: Today's Evangelism - Its Message and Methods, Ernest C. Reisinger

Today's Evangelism - Its Message and Methods, Ernest C. Reisinger, Craig Press, 163 pages.

This book lives up to its title. It is a good examination of the foundation of evangelism and the outworking of that foundation in our methods of evangelism. The late pastor Ernest Reisinger writes to the layman at his level and not to the academy. He utilizes a three-point evaluation: a right rule (the Word of God), a right end (the glory of God), and a right motive (love to God and love to man).

Why should we examine our methods of evangelism?  Reisinger writes, "The question is not going to be 'Does it work?' but 'Is it true?' - 'Is it biblical?' The Jehovah's Witnesses' system works because they get converts, but is it true?" This book is a relatively quick read and it has lasting value. It's a good dose of 'true truth' for all the Lord's evangelists.

October 11, 2012

Words of Wisdom

"Oh! Reader, beware of self-righteousness. Open sin kills its thousands of souls. Self-righteousness kills its tens of thousands. "
   --J. C. Ryle, The Cross

October 9, 2012

Resting in Jesus or Justification by Faith Illustrated

Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." (Romans 4:4-8, NASB)

One of the great truths of the Gospel that was recaptured and rightly emphasized through the Reformation was the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. Justification by faith alone was so foundational to the work of reformation that it became embodied in one of the slogans of the Reformation--Sola Fide (Faith Alone). It is not the only "sola" of the Reformation and there is a need to see it in combination with the other solas to understand the full picture. But such an examination is outside the scope of this little note. We are going to focus our attention on sola fide and will leave the broader examination for another time.

During the Reformation, "Faith Alone" was set in contrast to the Roman Catholic concept of works of merit done in a state of grace for which it was fitting (in the Catholic view) for God to judge them as worthy of reward. But the Reformers uncomprisingly held to the Biblical witness that our salvation is based SOLELY on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and not on anything done in us or by us. The Reformers held that God's judicial verdict of "righteous" in favor of us could be based solely on our sin being counted to Christ and correspondingly Christ's perfect righteousness being counted towards us. How can our sin be laid upon Jesus and His righteousness made ours? By placing our faith in Jesus as Savior, trusting Him to save us. This faith in Jesus has, at times, been described as "resting in Jesus".

"Faith Alone", like all Biblical doctrines, can be misunderstood. One way it is misunderstood is when people hear "faith alone" and think it means the following:

God does not justify us because of our good works. He justifies us because of our faith. Our faith stands in the place of good works. Our faith is what deserves our justification before God. In other words, faith becomes the one good work which we must do so that we deserve to be saved.

In such a view, faith itself is seen as being our righteousness, not as the means of connecting us with the righteousness of Christ. In this view, faith replaces the work of Christ and becomes the basis upon which God gives salvation to us. Repeatedly throughout the years, as I have discussed "faith alone" with people, I have been conscious of the danger of misunderstanding "faith alone" in such a way. As I was thinking about "faith alone" and how to overcome this misunderstanding, the imagery of resting in Jesus came to mind. Let me describe what unfolded in my mind's eye.

As I thought on the phrase "resting in Jesus", an illustration came to mind which might help us see why faith itself is not why God will justify us. Now, this is an illustration, and no illustration is perfect. Think of your bedtime. At the end of a long, wearying day you look forward to a night of restful sleep. When bedtime arrives, you sit on the edge of the bed, turn off the light, pick your feet up off the floor, and rest on your bed. When you pick your feet up and lay down, your full weight is carried by the bed beneath you. You are "resting in bed". It is the bed which is holding you up. It is bearing the burden of all your weight. You cannot lay on it harder or softer. Your entire weight is all you have and no amount of "laying down harder" will put any additional load on the bed. We don't speak of laying down hard or soft. It's not a matter of degree. Laying down is not done in parts. It's all of you. When we speak of "resting in Jesus", it is this kind of resting that is being described. This kind of "full weight laid upon another to bear the load" is what I have in mind for "resting in Jesus".

Well, if you misunderstand "faith alone" to mean that you are saved by your work of faith instead of by Jesus' righteousness, how would that change the illustration? You would probably want to do the best job you could of laying in bed. So once you pick your feet up off the floor, you may think this way, "I must lay down as good as I possibly can. I am doing such a good job of laying here. I'm certain that this bed is going to recognize the quality of my laying here and reward me for it. Others can see that I am doing my best at laying here. I will continue to do my best at laying here." Perhaps you will think you should lay down harder, bearing down on the bed with all of your might (which really accomplishes nothing and certainly does not contribute to your rest). Or maybe you become convinced that you should lay lighter, but how would that be done? Perhaps you should stand and merely lean on the bed? Once again, you will not find true rest in such a posture. Are you really contributing anything to the bed's ability to hold you up as you lay there? Of course not! It is the bed that is upholding you and not anything to do with your laying will make you to be held up any better or more than you already are.

You see, "faith alone" is "resting in Jesus". This resting is a placing of all your weight on Jesus for HIM to bear you up. This resting, like physical resting, is not something which can be done more fully through exertion. It is a trust in HIM to uphold your full weight. It is a resting in HIM from the weariness of sin. Who does the work? Jesus does the work in holding you up, just as the bed alone holds you up and you contribute nothing to it without ruining your rest. And when people look to your resting in Him, what will they see? Not the fact that you are resting so well that God should forgive you, but that Jesus is holding you up entirely and perfectly. When you look to your own resting, what will you see? Not your resting, but the Beloved One who holds you up.

Do you see that faith alone does not point to your resting, to your faith, but to the one upholding you. He is the one bearing you up fully and completely. This is "faith alone". This is for His praise and glory. Amen.

October 8, 2012

Words of Wisdom

"We have in many areas blindly and unknowingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the gospel [Jesus] taught. Here we stand amid an American dream dominated by self-advancement, self-esteem, self-sufficiency, by individualism, materialism, and universalism."
-- David Platt, Radical.

October 4, 2012

Book Review: The Life of God in the Soul of the Church by Thabiti Anyabwile

The full title of the work is The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship. It is published by Christian Focus under the 9 Marks imprint.

Henry Scougal was a 17th century Scottish pastor who wrote a small book for a friend entitled The Life of God in the Soul of Man.  Although the book was small, it has proven to possess enduring quality and powerful insights even to this day.

Enter Thabiti Anyabwile, a 21st century pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman.  Pastor Anyabwile, inspired by Scougal's original work has written a book designed to extend our understanding of the Life of God beyond the individual soul, to encompass the overall fellowship of the local church. 

Pastor Anyabwile's book is offered as a corrective to over-emphasized individualism found in many evangelical churches. He seeks throughout the book to highlight discipleship pursued intentionally through relationships in the the local church, using the rich tapestry of fellowship found throughout the New Testament as the basis for this course correction.

The book is essentially a lightly edited sermon series that Pastor Anyabwile preached in his home church in 2008.  As expected from a sermon series, the book is not written in a heavily academic tone but rather carries a pastoral feel, with strong contextualization within the body of his local church.  Publishing a collection of thematic sermons has both strengths and weaknesses.  It is written at a very understandable level, avoiding unnecessary theological jargon. This makes it accessible to nearly every adult Christian. As expected of sermons, many illustrations and most applications are chosen and emphasized from within the congregational life of a pastor's local church. Since this work is a collection of sermons, this means it requires some re-interpretation for your own local church context, with little instruction within the text itself in how to do this.

This book is a hard read.  Not hard to read.  Anyabwile challenges us across the spectrum of church life. There is a mix of ideas presented, from strongly exegetical to less binding personal preference. This is one of the reasons it is a hard read. A variety of Anyabwile's examples could be directly applicable to your church.  Others may need to be applied as a concept and not necessarily using the explicit example offered in the book.  It takes effort to grasp these differences and thoughtfully mingle them with the character of your own individual local church.

The book has two major divisions. Part 1 builds the foundation for Christian fellowship as union with Christ.  Part 2 has specific examples of union with Christ expressed through fellowship in the local church.  The specific examples cover a broad range of fellowship, including: loving one another, spiritual gifts, restoration, suffering and comfort, giving, acceptance, and singing to one another among others.

A sample of quotations follows to whet your appetite.

"Membership in the local church is a biblical idea and an implicit requirement for the Christian life."

"I pray that you would see how indispensable you are to everyone in your church according to God’s design."

"There are not two classes of Christians— super-spiritual and ordinary. Because every Christian possesses the Spirit of God through faith, every Christian is spiritual. In that sense, the gospel flattens the world for us. We are all equal; we all live on the same plane."

"It’s really remarkable to see how Trinitarian the Christian life is from beginning to end."

"To see and experience this joy, we must commit to carrying ‘each other’s burdens’ (Gal. 6: 2). Restoration cannot be achieved a hundred yards away from the burdened. We cannot restore people by shouting across a football field, ‘Hey! Get it together! Get it right!’ The idea of carrying burdens requires proximity, intimacy, and teamwork."

"The Christian church is an astounding thing. It is the bodily presence of Christ in the world. Where is God in suffering? He’s in His people administering comfort. Christian, you’re not just you. You’re you— with God working and flowing through you! You’re an utterly strange being, and the only lasting source of compassion in a world gone mad with suffering."

"The stubborn pride of man that clings to self-reliance may be so strong God may sit death before us in order to shake us from it."

Finally, one quote surprised me quite a bit, considering it is coming from a baptist pastor.

"People often ask why the church is not flowing in the gifts the way the early church was in Acts— or like the church at Corinth which had every spiritual gift (1 Cor. 1: 7). They ask, ‘Why are we not seeing miracles and things like that?’ Just reading through 1 Corinthians 12– 14, I think the answer can be boiled down to this one problem— churches are not flowing in the miraculous because the commitment to love is so weak and partial in very many churches. Congregations are not bent on loving one another so that equal concern is shown for every member (12: 25) and so that the common good is the main goal (12: 7)."

In my thought, this is a less-than-helpful explanation why God does not move through miracles displayed commonly in the church today.  I fear that this statement could be taken to extremes by many readers, laying a deep burden of guilt on the church as a whole. Perhaps my fear is unfounded, but it is my conviction that there is danger lurking here.  It could easily cause burnout in most churches as the people attempt to love one another enough so that their church is flowing in the miraculous.  When the miraculous fails to materialize, where will the church turn?  Will they speed up the love treadmill and try even harder, or pull the ripcord and float away in exhaustion?

To summarize, I recommend that this book be read broadly but with care, as should be our approach with all theological writing.

Full disclosure: I received a free review ebook from Christian Focus to prepare this review.  This has not unduly influenced me and I offer this review with a clear conscience.

October 3, 2012

Words of Wisdom

"It was necessary Christ should be both God and man to work our redemption. As He was God, He was able; as He was man, He had aptness. No man nor angel could have effected it. Not man; for how could he, who was dead in sin, give life to others? Not the angels; for they had not sufficiency to stand upright themselves."  --Fulgentius, quoted in H. Bonar's Words Old and New.

June 21, 2012

Going to War(field)

That's it.  I'm going to jump in and do it. I have had 10+ volumes of Warfield on my shelf for many years now and it is time to dive in. I'm looking forward to learning much from the old Lion of Princeton. May God bless this for His glory and my good.

April 8, 2012

Thoughts on E-Reading

I have about six months with my Kindle at this point. Like anything, there is good and bad. I planned to use it primarily for light reading but have been lured in by super-low prices on a few academic titles. I thought it would be worth giving it a try with the longer works, to see how well it worked. So I purchased a few of them (usually $30 and upwards harcovers in print but $8 or less on Kindle). The longer books are proving to be a real challenge, even after adopting Douglas Wison's advice to read like someone who can afford to forget.

I am noticeably struggling with remembering what I have read. I consider myself a spatial learner.  I have always connected details about a page in my memory which has helped me recall it later (even if only a vague wisp of a memory). At least I realize now that I'm not alone in my learning/memory style, after reading the article do e-books impair memory? I think the development of e-readers will continue and will begin to tap into landmarks that will function similar to printed works.

Is it truly surprising that a technology (printing/publishing) which has been refined for hundreds of years has a few important things figured out that a fledgling technology has overlooked right out of the gate? Not really surprising at all. Even so, I would encourage you to consider an e-reader.  Here are some thoughts to consider.

April 1, 2012

How Jesus Patiently Loves, Conclusion

Part I here.
Part II here.

Someone is missing from the scene.  The disciple named Thomas is not with them here.  What nickname do we give Thomas?  “Doubting Thomas”.  I think we defame him with such a name. 
So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?"...

"Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (Joh 11:6-16, ESV)

Yet for all his faith and boldness, where is Thomas now?  Not with the disciples.  He is broken by the events.  Sound familiar?  Sound like some of the same struggles you have faced, where God's plan became a painful mystery too hard to accept?

How does Jesus demonstrate the gospel of God's grace to Thomas? How does He patiently love Thomas?

(John 20)
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.

 Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."

Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."

Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"

The broken has been restored.  The unbelieving is now believing.  The one who said “unless I see ...” is confronted by the persistent and patient love of Jesus and now he says “My Lord and my God!”   I love Thomas for his proclamation of faith here. 

Jesus' patient love demonstrated in the passages we have briefly examined here gives me great hope.  Great hope for me and for you.  Hope for faith.  Hope for perseverance.  Hope for restoration.  Hope because of God's grace, not because of anything in us or done by us.  Our hope and boasting is in God, not in the strength of men.

In conclusion, John tells us why he wrote these things.  I have reflected on them with the same purpose and goal in mind.

“these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. “

I call you today; man, woman, girl and boy, Christian, and non-Christian alike, to believe that Jesus is the Savior of sinners, to believe he is the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

March 30, 2012

How Jesus Patiently Loves, Part II

Part I here.

Let's walk in the disciples' sandals for awhile...

... returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:9-11)

... they (the two disciples on the road to Emmaus) rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:33-35)

The women visit the tomb, find it empty except for angels announcing the risen Christ. The women return to tell the apostles and other disciples, who do not believe it. He appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who then come back and tell the others. How patient He is. How He loves them. Appearing again and again, the patient love of Jesus is evidenced. He understands how hard it is for the disciples to believe He has risen, even though He told them about this before His crucifixion.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!" But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:36-43, ESV)

"He showed them His hands and His feet.” You are seeing the good news of the grace of God in Jesus' resurrection. Jesus condescends to show them His pierced hands and feet, to prove it is truly him standing alive before them. He is their risen Messiah and He will stop at no ends to ensure they believe in Him.
While their doubts continue, He says,“Have you anything here to eat?” Oh, the patient love He shows for His disciples here. He is not asking for something to eat because He is hungry. He is eating in front of them to destroy their unbelief and renew their faith in Him. Their doubt is like a great rock wall they cannot scale or break through. It even blocks out the light of the risen Son standing before them. He destroys the wall of unbelief with hammer-blow after hammer-blow as He presents himself alive to them.
He saw and exposed the doubts in their heart to the full light of reality.
  • See! 
  • hands 
  • feet 
  • touch me! 
  • flesh and bone 
  • eat 
They must know it is truly Him, truly alive, truly risen from the grave. See how the hammer falls again and again on the great rock wall, crushing their unbelief through his patient love.
To Be Continued...

March 28, 2012

How Jesus Patiently Loves, Part I

Many Convincing Proofs


Jesus' public ministry has been growing for about 3 years. The small band of disciples has grown to a large crowd that follows Jesus from place to place. He comes to Jerusalem, greeted by throngs of worshipers. Only a few days later, he is brought to trial and condemned to die the most cursed death in the Roman arsenal of punishment even though he is innocent of any and all wrong-doing. The disciples panic at his betrayal and arrest, scattering in all directions. He is crucified, dies, and is buried in a donated tomb under the guard of Roman soldiers and the seal of the government placed on the stone covering the doorway.

This is not what the disciples expected. Sound familiar? Have you ever had a clear vision where your path would lead as you followed the Lord and found yourself completely stunned when it took an unexpected, disastrous turn?

He rises on the third day. Jesus died and now lives, and that makes all the difference in the world and all of creation. But what about his disciples? They ran away at his arrest, stayed away from his trial, and were conspicuously absent during his crucifixion, death, and burial.

How is the gospel of God's grace in Christ demonstrated by Jesus following his resurrection?

"In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:1-3, ESV, emphasis added)

The disciples are trying to cope with the circumstances of Christ's death. His death was a tremendous blow to their faith. They did not expect the circumstances to play out as they did. Then, hearing of his resurrection and even seeing him alive was such a tremendous shock to their system that they could not believe it.

I see here... Jesus' patience with people. And this gives me great hope. Great hope for me and for you. Hope for faith. Hope for perseverance. Hope for restoration. Hope because of God's grace, not because of anything in us or done by us. Our hope and boasting is in God, not in the strength of men. (Hint: men and women, boys and girls have no strength.)

To be continued...

March 27, 2012

Words of Wisdom

"O glorious state! unspeakably desirable! No sin, no curse, no death, no sorrow, no pain, no temptation; God Himself with us for ever, and our God: all holiness, all blessing, all life, all joy, all bliss, all victory and triumph for evermore! What a scene of glory must this be! Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!" - Edward Bickersteth   Excerpt from Words Old & New by H. Bonar

March 25, 2012

Philip's Successful Ministry?

Continuing in Acts chapter 8, we come to a series of events that directly challenge the modern idea of 'successful ministry'. Philip the Evangelist has been preaching and performing miracles in the city of Samaria. The people of the city are listening intently to the gospel and believing in Jesus the Messiah. News gets back to the apostles at Jerusalem that Samaria is receiving the word of God, so they send Peter and John to Samaria. This results in the apostles praying for the Samaritan believers to receive the Holy Spirit, and their prayers are answered.  If ever Philip could have prayed for 'successful ministry', he is right smack dab in the middle of it. Philip's faithful preaching has been used by the Lord to bring a significant harvest of lost souls into the kingdom of God in Christ.  (Acts 8:5-25)

People are being saved. The message is being preached. Philip is told by an angel... to leave, to go somewhere else (Acts 8:26). What does Philip do? He is in an amazing series of events in Samaria, with the gospel bringing the blessings of life and joy to the people. What does he do? Without hesitation, he immediately rises and goes where the angel of the Lord directs him. (8:27) In the middle of what gives every appearance of 'being in the will of the Lord', the picture changes. Can the Lord be trusted to know what is best?

Oh, dear reader, eager obedience to your Master is successful ministry no matter the outward circumstances. (Sidebar: this is not an endorsement of Francis Chan bailing on his church.) Philip lives out his love for Christ through active obedience. How active? As the scene continues, the Spirit tells Philip to go up to the chariot waiting on the road. Philip runs to the chariot. I love that picture. Obedience. Eager obedience. Philip has traveled from the city of Samaria, to the south of Jerusalem and sprints the final stretch. He has moved from ministering to a city to preaching to a single person. Without hesitation. 

We are tempted, even counseled these days, to think 'successful ministry' is about numbers, new buildings, larger programs. Philip's ministry was successful in the truest sense of the word, whether he was ministering to a city or a single person, whether there were disciples made or only seed sown. Success was not the number of converts, or the harvesting, but rather his eager obedience to the Lord.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15, ESV)

March 20, 2012

Persecution Brings... Joy?

Reading through Acts, the motion is always forward. The story presses on with little pause. Immediately following the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts 7, persecution breaks out broadly against the church. Men and women are being dragged out of their houses and off to prison by the blindly zealous Pharisee named Saul. This scatters everyone except the apostles. Philip, one of the deacons appointed alongside Stephen earlier in Acts, goes to the city of Samaria.

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.  (Acts 8:5-8, ESV)

The gospel of Christ comes to the Samaritans in word and power, gaining a hearing with the people. God has a purpose in Philip's presence and preaching. Philip bears witness from Scripture and history -  Messiah has come!  It is said that 'the crowds with one accord paid attention' to what Philip was saying. You can almost see in your mind's eye the entire city, to a man, turning to face Philip and giving heed to his words. What a blessing God is pouring out on Samaria. Grace, mercy, and demonstrations of His mighty power to save. Philip calls them to faith in the risen Christ; calls them to repentance from dead works that they may serve the living and true God; calls them as Lazarus from the hopeless tomb of sin to the eternal-life-giving cross of Christ.

As the message of peace with God through Messiah sinks in, and the physical blessings of healing and deliverance are accomplished, the people respond in faith. A river of joy streams from the fountain of faith. Joy in their salvation. Joy in their deliverance. Joy in Messiah, the resurrected Son of God. Great joy in God!

Seeking to stamp out the church, Saul in his persecution of the church in Jerusalem, by God's providence, has become the sower of seeds of joy throughout the region. His every intent is evil towards Christians. His every desire is to destroy the works of Jesus Christ. And his every act furthers the glory of God in Christ.

What a fantastically challenging and encouraging word. Here in America many evangelicals are supremely comfortable, untroubled as we seek out 'the good things in life', and entirely ignorant of the great purposes God has in seasons of trouble and persecution. We pursue every opportunity to minimize risk, to cover all the bases, to always have a backup plan for our backup plan. And most of all, to keep our mouths shut. (I say this to my own personal shame.)

No matter... trouble will come. Persecution will arise. With it, opportunity. Can God be trusted to lead you through trouble, through perfect storms, through persecution? Can He be trusted when trouble begins, continues, and lands squarely on your life and those around you? Can He be trusted when stress bends you, twists you, turns you inside out? Can He be trusted when illness and disease ravage body, mind, and spirit? Can He be trusted when you are pulled out by the roots and forced by providential circumstance to resettle in another area, another job, another church, another family? Is He trustworthy when there is no immediate or obvious deliverance?

Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. He can be trusted. He is trustworthy. You and I, dear brothers and sisters, are called to live by faith in the Triune God. He will lead us through trouble, not from trouble. He goes before us, follows behind us, and upholds us in every way needed.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4, ESV)

March 16, 2012

It's Clobberin Time... or is it?

James White has been a 'net friend of mine for many years. I was able to meet him in person last year when he returned to his homeland of Minnesota for a small conference. He's a great apologist and has the reputation of a pit bull on Energizer batteries when it comes to theological debates.  Many of us tentmaker apologists look up to James as a model for our apologetic approach.  He' a real scrapper - a sort of Christian Apologist version of the Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm.

For those of us who like a good theology throw-down, we run to I Peter 3:15 and latch onto the 'apologia' section of that verse like an electro-magnet. In the linked video here, James re-examines this key text and places the emphasis where it truly is in the text... "in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,...". It is wise counsel for all of us, both those apologetically-bent (meaning those bent towards apologetics) and the unapologetic (meaning those not having a clue what apologetics is). Each of us does have a common ground - our dear Lord and Messiah.

Give James a listen. It will cost 38 minutes of your life, and will be time well-invested.

Set Apart Christ as Lord In Your Hearts - James White

March 13, 2012

Good on you, Dan

I read some great news from author/blogger Dan Philips this week.  He's now Pastor Philips!  I know this has been a desire of his for many years. Dan has a great blog, Biblical Christianity and is a key part of the world famous Pyromaniacs team blog.

To follow the news, here are his two posts:
He has begun shepherding the flock at Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, Texas, with the installation ceremony to be held this coming Sunday.  They publish sermons actively on Dan has a couple sermons already on record, which I am planning on listening to this week.

I'm eager to recommend Dan's ministry in its various forms (blog, books, preaching, shepherding) because he has a proven track record in my own life. While blogs abound and many worthy ministries exist, Dan's writing has reverberated in my life for several years. I am thankful for the counsel and wisdom he has been able to provide and look forward with anticipation to a consistent preaching ministry. While I can't say that we're buddies, there is one thing I know for certain about him. Dan loves the gospel of the Triune God.

May God be glorified, magnified, exalted, and treasured by the dear souls of Copperfield Bible Church and all those reached through their faithful ministry in the coming years.

February 28, 2012

And the year goes flying by...

Dear Friends,
Contrary to every evidence available here on the blog, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. Rather, the ministry demands of my own church continue and I have chosen over the years to make face-to-face, flesh-and-blood ministry the priority.  I've also been drinking deeply in my library, having read several books in the last few weeks. 

Days come and go. The mundane and common dominate the tempo of life.  And this is as it should be.

An idea has been percolating in my brain for a few weeks.  The contrast between Christian being-ology and Jehovah's Witness being-ology needs a good treatment. I can't guarantee the result but I do know my heart gets geared up every time I think about writing on the contrast.  Knowing that it would be helpful, I will move in that direction, God willing.

Serving King Jesus with you,