February 26, 2015

Worry & Happiness

by Wyatt Graham

It’s pretty easy to worry when choices confront us. Worry can cripple, wound, or otherwise prevent us from experiencing the joy of our salvation. And sometimes there are no clear answers in the murky world in which we all live.

In 1931, Montagu Norman, the head of the Bank of England, had to decide how to save the economy: would he drop the gold standard and adopt bill economy or keep the gold standard and risk running out of it? Both options were possible, but the stress got to him and Montagu had a nervous breakdown. While vacation, his office made the decision and killed the gold standard. While none of us will have the same responsibility, we can easily fall into the sways of anxiety and depression due to stress, to the crippling effect choices have on us.   Continue Reading…

Wallpaper_CalvinWe are only a few days away from what is shaping up to be a historic Shepherd’s Conference. The reason being is that this year’s focus is on one most important issue: biblical inerrancy.

And with the conference on the horizon, there have been some good conversations surrounding the nature of Scripture. One in particular I was in recently involved the idea of having a reverence for Scripture. You may have seen one of the conference graphics which quotes John Calvin from his commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16: “We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from him alone.”

In response to that quote, an insightful friend asked, “If we owe Scripture reverence because it proceeded from God, would this imply that we owe the same reverence to creation, as it also proceeded from God”? (By reverence, we assume that Calvin means something like, “To revere or show deferential honor due to the nature of the thing.”) It’s a great question that needs answering, especially in our day.

Both the Bible and creation did proceed from a perfect and holy God. So, which do we hold higher, if any, and why?

Here are a few thoughts on why we owe Scripture reverence, but not creation:

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AnselmAnselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) is most famous for (1) his ontological argument for the existence of God and (2) the satisfaction theory of the atonement.

But today, I’d like to share my favorite quote from Anselm. It is found in his “Exhortation to a Dying Man,” in which he consoles those who are about to face death by asking them a series of questions.

The first set of questions is aimed at fellow clergy and the second is for laypeople.

* * * * *

Question. Do you rejoice, brother, that you are dying in the Christian Faith?
Answer. I do rejoice. . . .

Qu. Do you confess that you have lived so wickedly, that eternal punishment is due to your own merits?
An. I confess it.

Qu. Do you repent of this?
An. I do repent.

Qu. Do you have the willingness to amend your life, if you had time?
An. I have.

Qu. Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for you?
An. I believe it.

Qu. Do you thank Him [for His passion and death]?
An. I do thank Him.

Qu. Do you believe that you cannot be saved except by His Death?
An. I believe it.

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As a kid I wore around my neck a small, sterling silver disc with an engraving of St Christopher piggy-backing a youthful Jesus. It brought me comfort to know that the patron saint of journeys was vigilant for my mobile safety needs. After my conversion to Evangelicalism I dutifully replaced reformed my reliance on the amulet, and instead invoke the sacred Protestant privilege of praying directly to God for “journey mercies.”lost luggage

As legend has it, the presciently named Christopher (as in Christ-bearer) was an unusually tall and muscular guy who worked as a human ferry carrying people across a fast-flowing river. One day, in I’m guessing 6 or 7AD, he bore a small boy on his back whose weight became heavier and heavier with each laborious step. As the current swelled to dangerous levels the two exchanged some clever repartee about the weight of the world while Christopher resolved to keep the child safe or die trying. You guessed it, the kid was Jesus. And Christopher was rewarded for his service with a halo and a line of jewellery that has remained in fashion to this day.

The popular practice of wearing St Christopher charms is still clung to by many Coptics, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox commuters, fuelling the haughty derision of iconoclastic Evangelicals who tut-tut at the superstitious silliness of trusting a talisman for protection. And yet, I fear many of us ride our prayers into a parallel groove of error with our prayers for travellers to enjoy journey mercies.

Am I saying it is wrong to pray for travellers? May it never be. As a motorcyclist and frequent flier on budget airlines I am grateful for God’s physical protection in any situation where asphalt, human judgment, and combustible fuel are involved. But I wonder if my prayers aren’t sometimes less concerned with survival and tend more toward the vein of convenience.st christopher

For people who have not experienced real danger, travel is not as frequently life-threatening as it is stressful. Lost luggage, delayed flights, flat tires, and speeding tickets are these days more common that plane crashes and masked highwaymen.

So how, exactly, are we to pray when we boldly go where our itinerary takes us?

Here are three guidelines when praying for journey mercies…

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Now that Presidents’ Day is behind us we can be sure of one thing: “Fifty Shades of Grey” brought in a whole lot of green. According to box office analysts, the carnally erotic full length motion picture brought in $94.4 million over the extended Valentine’s Day weekend.Thanks to mass marketing visionaries, it seems as if the bedroom of society has been transformed overnight into a chamber of bondage. It seems as if the American culture has finally learned to normalize darkness.

But there is also one more thing that we can be sure of with the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey:” the black and white clarity of the Bible has strangely turned grey in the lives of many in the church. Perhaps the most visible example of this has been Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who hasn’t allowed his professed Christianity to stop him from “enjoying” the film. But he is only an example of a much larger problem within cultural Christianity. Somehow, someway, those who claim Christ have rationalized perversion as being normal. How does that happen? Through the slow and indiscernible process of cultural assimilation.

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Seeing that the Inerrancy Summit is coming up in just over a week, I’m tossing something up along those lines and will help get your fires stoked for Shepherd’s Conference 2015!

Growing up in the (hypothetically) conservative Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference, I didn’t learn about the concept of inerrancy until I was in Bible College. I was taught the standard Mennonite Brethren position that the Bible is infallible but not inerrant. In practice this was a way of pointing out that the Bible is meant to teach about salvation rather than science, which had the conspicuous side-benefit of giving Mennonites an easy escape from the need to…well…know anything outside of some sort of basic gospel presentation.

Bible Origami

The denomination that I grew up in used language taken from people like Harold Loewen, who addressed 2 Tim. 3:14-17 and wrote:

“Scripture here tells us to look for the knowledge of salvation in its message, that and nothing more. Biblical authority, therefore, pertains only to salvation matters. Thus the apostle speaks here of the functional authority of Scripture as it relates to salvation alone…”[1] Continue Reading…

pulpitFaithful Bible preaching is not always easy to find. In some churches the Bible is barely opened, much less preached. And even when it is preached, how do we know that what is happening is faithful and helpful by God’s standards? Things like our feelings or filled pews, for example, are not good barometers.

The following will make a few suggestions on where to start. This is not all that constitutes biblically faithful preaching, but a few things which we should observe as the Bible is opened and preached:

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Persecutor

* Note: This article has been updated. And by updated, I mean completely changed.

The article I originally posted this morning was an amazing tale of intrigue, conspiracy, and dramatic conversion. It involved a former KGB agent named Sergei Kourdakov who violently persecuted the church in Russia only to be radically saved in America where he began working with Underground Evangelism—a California-based ministry that helped to smuggle Bibles into communist countries.

He was like a modern-day apostle Paul, risking his life to minister to the very people he had formerly persecuted. The parallels to Paul’s testimony were obvious and compelling. Moreover, the details of Kourdakov’s life were all arranged in convincing fashion in an autobiography published by Fleming H. Revell soon after he died (in 1973).

His story has been repeatedly told in books and sermons. Even Wikipedia houses an article propounding the details of Kourdakov’s incredible testimony.

My post this morning accurately conveyed details from Sergei’s autobiography. The problem is that his autobiography appears to have been a work of fiction, rather than fact.

Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger, Tim Challies, I discovered that the story Kourdakov recounts in his autobiography is most likely untrue. Christianity Today tells the full story at this link.

I had not been aware of the controversy surrounding Sergei Kourdakov’s story before seeing that link. But now that I’ve read the article there, I cannot in good conscience leave my previous post online.

If Kourdakov’s story is in fact false, it is a good reminder (for me) of the need to verify everything carefully. One of my pet peeves is sermon illustrations that are untrue. It appears, on this occasion, that I may have been unknowingly guilty of using such an illustration.

Consequently, I’m posting this retraction — possibly the first in Cripplegate’s history. While it might not be the last, I certainly hope to do better at vetting stories like this before I publish them.

In honor of the US Presidents Day weekend I wanted to share this highly personal post I wrote as a tribute to a hero of mine the week President Nelson Mandela died. It was originally titled Nelson Mandela Changed me: How to Love a Terrorist.

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) died on Thursday, at 95 years old. Today the world will talk of how his politics molded history. There will be documentaries about his presidential legacy and movies telling his remarkable story. But I doubt any of that will capture the impact he had on people like me. I was a racist and a detractor. I was ignorant and brainwashed. I was a pessimist and a cynic. But Mandela changed my mind.B&W Nelson Mandela

I grew up in the dystopia of Apartheid. As an English speaking White child in the 1980’s I had no idea that the country I lived in was not a democracy—my parents voted, and one day I would too.

I was vaguely aware of banned books, censorship, and protest poetry, but none of that affected my life. I hadn’t an inkling that Whites were a minority, and that Blacks outnumbered us nine-to-one. I lived in a city, which meant that Blacks were only allowed there temporarily and if they had permission papers. They were there to do the dirty jobs. At night they slunk back to their distant and disgusting shanty towns. It never occurred to me that those hodgepodge shacks, built from our rubbish, housed 30 million real people.

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At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, . . . and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
– Philippians 2:10–11 –

Name Above All NamesThe wonderful hymn of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation reaches its climax in these verses. Paul has said that the Father exalted Jesus and bestowed on Him the name. He’s said it was the name which is above every name. And here he says that at that name—which is better rendered: in honor of that name—every knee is going to bow.

So what’s the name? Jesus has a lot of names. Is it: Son of Man? Son of God? The Alpha and Omega? The First and the Last? The Faithful and True? The Beloved Son in whom the Father is well-pleased? Is it Christ? The Messiah? Is it the long-awaited prophet? Is it our Great High Priest? Is it the King of kings?

Finally, the almost unbearable suspense is broken, and the Apostle Paul tells us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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