Don't Miss the Forest for the TreesSome time ago I wrote an as-condensed-as-possible version of the great story of redemption, tracing God’s gracious promise to provide the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent through the Old Testament. I examined how that promise narrowed from the seed of the woman, to the seed of Abraham, to the nation of Israel, and to the line of David. We saw how Israel’s repeated failure to be faithful to the covenants Yahweh established with them all pointed to the One who would exemplify covenant faithfulness and fulfill all righteousness on behalf of His people. To put it another way, contrary to what some believe about dispensationalists and the Old Testament, we observed how the whole of the Old Testament finds its climax and fulfillment in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the Israelite par-excellence, and the Son of David. If you’ve not read that post, I’d encourage you to do so.

I mentioned in that post that a great help for interpreting the Bible properly consists in keeping that big picture in the front of our mind so that we can interpret the parts in light of the whole. We don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. This is especially helpful in the Old Testament, where the increased historical, cultural, geographical, literary, and even covenantal gaps can make us raise our eyebrows at not a few passages, which just seem wholly unfamiliar.

Now, we need to be sure that we interpret each passage on its own terms, according to its context, always in search of the intent of the original author. But keeping this grand narrative of redemptive history in mind and locating at what point in the story of redemption that a particular passage finds itself, can often help us understand why some more obscure (or at least, seemingly-removed) passages are in the Bible. Passages that look like road blocks or obstacles in our Bible-reading plans can be transformed (at least in our perception, anyway) by relating them to the larger story of redemptive history.

Today I’d like to just share a few examples.

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One of my favorite events that we get to experience in the church age is Baptism. To watch someone courageously declare the Lordship of Jesus in their life is an awesome blessing to witness. It is a declaration of freedom. It is the symbol of being dead to sin and alive to Christ. (Rom 6:11) It is the announcement that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20). That’s why we believe in believer’s baptism. That is someone who knows the difference between good and evil and can declare their commitment to Christ.

Sometimes in our circles (those who do not believe baptism saves) we are tempted to minimize the importance of baptism, but it is of vast importance. Baptism is the way a person declares their commitment not only to Christ but to a local body of believers as well (Acts 2:41). This declaration of commitment is why churches require baptism before membership. I believe that for the sake of obedience to Jesus and for the sake of conscience we should take the practice of baptism seriously.  So, in light of the importance that Scripture places on baptism, here are three reasons which might lead a person to consider getting “re-baptized.”

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November 11, 2015

When Affliction is Stacked

by Eric Davis

stacked afflictionYou’ve probably been there. Unprecedented affliction enters your life. Along with it, all the new experiences. The anxiousness. The sleeplessness. The darkness, loneliness, anger, sorrow. Things compound.

By God’s grace, you seem to make it through. The storm seems to end. There is that huge relief with the breaking sun. Tears of joy come in humble rejoicing at the storm’s passing.

But then it happens. Another life-storm moves inland to your life. And another behind it. And another. Maybe it’s a reoccurrence of a previous trial. Or a compounding of differing trials; a financial on top of a spiritual. Or a physical trial consequent of a previous physical trial. Or all of the above.

The questions: “Ok, Lord, did I not meet my suffering quota for the year? Is there not some sort of trials-tap that can run dry from time to time?”

The frustration: “This just cannot be happening, again.”

The despair: “How in the world will I be able to keep going and be faithful to all the other stuff in my life with these constant storms?”

These are all normal. Perhaps not all excusable, but normal nevertheless. And there are not pixie-dust solutions to these problems, of course. We’re talking about a crux par excellence of life, after all.

Though not an exhaustive list, here are some possible explanations for the multiple afflictions God allows in our lives:

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Red_Coffee_CupFacebook has been abuzz lately about angry reactions (particularly from a self-proclaimed evangelical named Joshua Feuerstein) to the new Starbucks holiday cup design. In case you’ve missed the controversy, in years past, Starbucks’ festive cups have featured vibrant images of reindeer, snowflakes, Christmas trees, and the like. But this year, the cup is just plain red.

Some concerned folks, particularly in Christian circles, have insisted the lack of Christmas-themed doodles represents a war on Christmas. So is Starbucks playing Scrooge? Or are the naysayers overreacting?

Yesterday, I was asked to give my opinion on the issue. While I generally try to steer clear of seemingly trivial issues (like the design of a disposable coffee cup), I think the hubbub created over this current controversy warrants a response. Continue Reading…

han soloWhat body do we occupy between the time our lifeless bodies decompose into worm-fodder and when they are resurrected in glory?

The short answer is that we don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say. Biblically speaking, it’s a secret. But it’s no secret that the absence of knowledge can’t deter bloggers from opining for 800 words.

So, let’s start with what the Bible does say:

  1. Disembodied spirits seem to require a material, animated host, i.e. a person or animal (remember the pigs) in which to operate in the material world. In Scripture we see spirit beings such as angels and demons disengaged from the material dimension until they manifest in a bodily form.
  • Matt 12:43 When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.
  • 2 Kings 6:17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
  1. Bodies are mortal but spirits are immortal. A human being’s spirit separates from his/her mortal body when that body stops functioning—dies—and translocates to where Jesus is, a realm called Paradise (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor 12:3).

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In light of my article The Dangers of Man-Centered theologyhere are some books to help us fight against our tendency to exalt ourselves and minimize God’s glory. These books have a Theocentric view of the Bible. Some of these I’ve read, others were suggestions from other pastors.

“God’s delight in being God is not sung the way it should be, with wonder and passion, in the worship places of the word. And we are the poorer and weaker for it. My hope and prayer in writing this book is that more and more people would meditate with me on the pleasures of God”

The Knowledge of the Holy by popular evangelical author and Christian mystic A.W. Tozer illuminates God’s attributes—from wisdom, to grace, to mercy—and in doing so, attempts to restore the majesty and wonder of God in the hearts and minds of all Christians. A modern classic of Christian testimony and devotion, The Knowledge of the Holy shows us how we can rejuvenate our prayer life, meditate more reverently, understand God more deeply, and experience God’s presence in our daily lives.

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I recently stumbled across a video where a guy who looked like he was possibly preaching, claimed to have had a real vision of Jesus. In the video he claims that, get this, Jesus asks him for forgiveness! It was just an incredible reminder of the times we are living in. We live in a day where the Church has become completely man-centered. to the point where now Jesus needs to ask us for forgiveness.

Man-centered theology is natural. We are born worshipping ourselves. It is in our veins because of original sin. We think the world revolves around us, and ultimately we think God exists for us. Man-centered theology can show up many different ways, but ultimately it is the exaltation of man and the belittling of God.

Your theology matters. It affects the way you think, the way you live, the way you approach others around you, and ultimately it affects your truman showrelationship with God.

As we were preaching through Ephesians in our Young Adult Sunday school class, it was pretty evident that a right understanding of scripture does not allow for any boasting in the Christian life. The more you read the Bible the more you realize that the Bible is God-centered, and eternity in heaven will be a celebration of the Glory of God. In fact I believe that the a major purpose of our salvation is for the angels to watch us in heaven worshipping God, and scratching their heads in utter amazement that sinful people like me will be able to be in God’s presence worshipping him. They’ve seen us sin, they’ve seen how hypocritical we are, and seeing us in heaven worshipping God will be yet another reason for the angels to worship the Trinity.

And yet despite the fact that scripture is so clear that salvation is not about us, we are always tempted to make it all about us. Have you noticed how many preachers talk about the worth of man, and seem to neglect speaking about God’s glory and His worth?

Our flesh is always telling us to think highly of ourselves. But I think we need to resist this urge to exalt ourselves. Here are some reasons to put away man-centered theology and to embrace a God-centered mindset.

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I recently came across this short article (perhaps it was even a sermon outline?) by W. H. Pike, who pastored Eagle Rock Community Church in Los Angeles in the early 1900’s. It serves as the introduction for “The Summarized Bible,” by Kieth Brooks, which is a Logos resource I recently stumbled across and can’t put down (if you have Logos, look for that work). It is a list of commands the Bible has concerning itself. In other words, it tells you what to do with the Bible:    Continue Reading…

Transforming-Homosexuality_with-borderIn 2005, same-sex marriage was illegal in all 50 of the United States. In ten short years all that changed. Two-thousand and fifteen might end up being known as the year of homosexual advancement. This past year witnessed the crashing of a moral wave that had been building for years when the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the 14th Amendment requires all 50 states to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples and recognize those marriages performed in other states.

Questions and confusion abound on the issue. How should biblically-thinking Christians respond? Can individuals change their sexual orientation? Should an individual change their sexual orientation? And for that matter, what is sexual orientation? Christ’s true church must take it upon themselves to become excellently equipped in the issue of homosexuality, homosexual orientation, and becoming instruments of change (Col. 4:5-6). In their recently-released book, Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change, Denny Burk and Heath Lambert provide needed equipping by tackling these questions and more.

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November 3, 2015

A Mighty Fortress

by Nathan Busenitz

‘Luther at the Diet of Worms,’ Anton von Werner, 1877, Public Domain

A post-Reformation Day reflection.

It was 498 years (and three days) ago, in October of 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

That event sparked the Protestant Reformation, as people throughout Saxony and the rest of Western Europe took a stand against the corruption and error of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. As for Luther, he quickly became a wanted man.

Just a few years later, after a series of debates and confrontations, Luther was issued a bull of excommunication by Pope Leo X. It was June of 1520. Luther was given 60 days to recant. Instead, he took a copy of the papal decree out into the center of Wittenberg and burned it as a public demonstration of his resolve.

When news reached Rome that he was unwilling to change his views, Luther was officially denounced by the Catholic church.

Shortly thereafter, the German Reformer was summoned to defend his views before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who at that time was the most powerful ruler in Europe.

Because there was no separation of church and state, European governments were often directly involved in the punishment of heretics. Luther knew that if he was convicted of heresy, he would likely be sentenced to death just as John Huss had been a century earlier.

The imperial council, known as a Diet, met in the city of Worms.

Luther arrived on April 16, 1521 and appeared before the assembly the following day at 4:00 in the afternoon. A stack of his books was presented, and he was asked if he would recant the alleged heresies they contained.

Luther, knowing what was at stake and wanting to make sure he answered in a way that was both accurate and precise, asked for more time. He was given 24 hours.

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