There are three books I often give away to non-Christians. I don’t use these like tracts. I don’t hand them out on street corners, or give them away at Starbucks. But I do hand them out frequently. I give them to those to whom I’ve explained the gospel, and who have indicated that they would be willing to read a book that urges them to come to faith in Christ.

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September 24, 2014

Five solas, two books

by Jesse Johnson

Painted by Stephen Procopio

Earlier this year my church went through a series on the five solas of the Protestant Reformation. In preparation, I went on a hunt for books that walk through them, explaining them and applying all five of them. I really only found two that I liked, and here I commend them to you:

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Martin_LutherIt was just over 500 years ago, in the fall of 1510, that a desperate Roman Catholic monk made what he thought would be the spiritual pilgrimage of a lifetime.

He had become a monk five years earlier, much to the surprise and dismay of his father, who wanted him to become a lawyer. In fact, it was on his way home from law school, that this young man—then 21 years old—found himself in the midst of a severe thunderstorm. The lightning was so intense he thought for sure he was going to die. Fearing for his life, and relying on his Roman Catholic upbringing, he called out for help. “Saint Anne,” he cried, “Spare me and I will become a monk!” Fifteen days later, he left law school behind and entered an Augustinian monastery in Erfurt, Germany.

The fear of death prompted him to become a monk. And it was the fear of God’s wrath that consumed him for the next five years—so much so, in fact, that he did everything within his power to placate his guilty conscience and earn God’s favor. Continue Reading…

In good churches there tends to be a LOT of preaching. Sometimes it feels a tad overwhelming. Sermons come at you rapid-fire from all directions, like a paintball ambush.

Sunday morning and evening, Tuesday cell groups, Saturday men’s meeting, and now with the advent of MP3 players a barrage of world-class preaching is a screen-touch away. It can be a bit like drinking from a fire-hose.

And how much of this biblical truth is really going in? Am I honestly expected to beware of the 15 symptoms of hypocrisy in Luke 11, as well as the 3 tools God uses to save sinners, and the 6 steps to being a good steward of my money? And if I am supposed to remember this stuff, what about next week, and the week after that?

Is a photographic memory a requirement for being a faithful Christian these days?

We are not the first generation to flounder in information overflow. Continue Reading…

Do you attend the perfect church?

No?

Well, me neither.

It’s definitely not news that Christians generally think their church isn’t exactly the model of the perfect church.  Everyone recognizes that there are a plethora of problems with their church, and for each problem there is a biblical solution that is both difficult and time consuming to implement, since churches are filled with people and every denomination has a joke about how many of their ilk it takes to “change a light bulb”.

light_bulb

But, there’s one generic answer that always comes up and always sounds super spiritual:

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One result of our culture’s post-modernism is its entirely modern love affair with its own view of science.

Once-upon-a-time, the word science referred to the scientific process: verifiable propositions, experimental procedures, and reproducible observations.

And today? Science may still mean that in the dictionary, but in popular culture? Not so much.

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September 17, 2014

The Holy War

by Eric Davis

swordIt’s a word with which much of the world has unfortunately become familiar in recent years: “jihad.” “Jihad” is the Arabic word which carries the idea of “struggle,” and is often referred to as “holy war” within Islam.

While not all Muslim scholars agree on the way in which holy war should look, one need not look far to understand what it means to many in our world today.

But though such wars have been going on for centuries, Christ would in no way attribute the term “holy” to them. Worship and devotion to the true God means loving, not murdering, our enemies. Those of different faiths are not to be the object of our killing, but praying.

There is, however, a true holy way commanded by God. This war is spiritual in nature. It is a war against ourselves, and against the lack of holiness within, the moment we become a Christian. The true holy war is physically peaceful towards others, but spiritually aggressive towards self. Its not about strategically hunting down, and systematically taking out, the enemies outside of us, but the enemy inside of us.

While God’s agenda advancement for his disciples today does not consist of killing others, it certainly consists of killing our own sin.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).

john-owen-by-john-greenhillThe 17th century puritan pastor, John Owen, has been greatly used of God to help the church in the holy war. He writes, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it [while] you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Now, studying sin may seem strange and undesirable to many. But our sin is not something we forget about simply because we are forgiven of it. An attraction to sin still exists inside the Christian because of our residual fallenness, the flesh. As such, it is our great enemy within. And its the thing which keeps us from doing what we most want: to love Christ. That’s why the true holy war is one of the sine qua non’s of the Christian life.

Here are 7 truths to arm God’s people for the holy war:

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CranmerA brief sketch from the pages of Reformation history.

Four hundred fifty eight years ago, on March 21, 1556, a crowd of curious spectators packed University Church in Oxford, England. They were there to witness the public recantation of one of the most well-known English Reformers, a man named Thomas Cranmer.

Cranmer had been arrested by Roman Catholic authorities nearly three years earlier. At first, his resolve was strong. But after many months in prison, under daily pressure from his captors and the imminent threat of being burned at the stake, the Reformer’s faith faltered. His enemies eventually coerced him to sign several documents renouncing his Protestant faith.

In a moment of weakness, in order to prolong his life, Cranmer denied the truths he had defended throughout his ministry, the very principles upon which the Reformation itself was based.

Roman Catholic Queen Mary I, known to church history as “Bloody Mary,” viewed Cranmer’s retractions as a mighty trophy in her violent campaign against the Protestant cause. But Cranmer’s enemies wanted more than just a written recantation. They wanted him to declare it publicly. Continue Reading…

Under the churchillian title “Blood, Sweat, and Fear” a sanguine little article by J. E. Holoubek made a big splash in the arid annals of The Journal of Medicine (02/1996). It presents seventy-six patients who claimed to have, at least once, sweated blood. The descriptions of these putative stigmatics were channeled into broad categories (disease, exertion, psychogenesis) and filtered further into likely causes. The causes most likely to, um, precipitate the symptoms were acute fear and intense mental contemplation.drop

This exceedingly rare condition, called hematidrosis, is when blood pressure becomes so high that the subject’s subcutaneous capillaries rupture and leak out the pores and tear ducts.

It sounds like something a Bond villain would have on his résumé, but occurrences have been documented in reputable sources including Leonardo Da Vinci who mentions a knee-knocking soldier who became so fearful before he entered battle that his sweat became mingled with blood. Another case manifested in a man facing imminent execution.

Because of the causes of the condition— intense fear in the face of impending death—there are very few stories involving hematidrosis that have a happy ending.

But I found one.

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Last month I posed this question: Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry? Or, more particularly, in states that have followed the democratic process to define marriage as exclusively between a man and woman, should judges intervene and nullify those laws? Where new elections are held, should Christians vote to allow LGBT couples to legally marry?

I answered this question by saying that as much as it depends on voters, legislatures, or judges, that no, marriage should not be redefined. There are three parts to this answer:

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