VGTH coverThis is a snippet from my book A Visitor’s Guide to Hell. The book is meant to help unbelievers understand (or believers explain) why Christians believe in Hell, and what the Bible teaches about it. Here’a snippet, followed by a link to a video clip promo of the book (comments about my mongrelised accent will be deleted!!)

 

A History of Hell

As far back as recorded history takes us, in any and every culture that bothered to write down their beliefs, Hell has haunted mankind. It is not my intention to give a history of how the doctrine developed in literature, art, and religious belief systems. Others have done a fine job of that.

But frankly, learning about what different religions believed as well as how and when those doctrines evolved is not as fascinating to me as the fact that they all hold certain aspects in common. Here is a brief sample of some recognizable religions conceive as Hell. See if you can spot similarities.

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If a person were to ask you what the most widely misunderstood story was in the Bible, what would you say?

The night meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3?

The creation story of Genesis 1?

The entire book of Revelation?

There’s definitely shortage of competitors when it comes to “commonly misunderstood texts of scripture”, right?

That being what it is, I’d suggest that the most widely known is probably the story of David and Goliath, and that story is always misunderstood…hence the title.

Usually, the story is generally taken as some sort of underdog tale meant to encourage people to tackle impossible odds, or something along those lines.

Sumo

Sorry. That is not what it’s about.

Part of the confusion about the story is because people assume they know the meaning of the story based on cultural assumptions, but part of that is also from a lack of contextual understanding.  We tend to not pay attention to the inter-relationships of the various narratives in Old Testament historical books, and that regularly comes back to bite us.  Being familiar with most of the Old Testament stories from our childhood, we often think we know Old Testament stories far better than we actually do.

So what’s the contextual understanding that is commonly lacking? Continue Reading…

It seems like everyone and their dog is hearing “the voice of God” these days.

“Hearing the voice of God” used to be the mark of a prophet of God, but over the last century or so, it’s slowly become the mark of a “mature believer.”   These days, “conservative” folk (like Beth Moore or Francis Chan) regularly suggest that God speaks to them…not in audible voices, but definitely in some sort of propositional statements (ultimately the audible/inaudible distinction is meaningless).   The issue of “hearing the voice of God” is probably the most significant infiltration of bad Charismatic theology into non-Charismatic circles.  It’s a train hauling insanity and heresy that is steaming through Evangelicalism and it seems like there’s no stopping it.

Part of the danger of “God told me” train is that it’s seemingly immune to both Scripture and logic.  As illustration of that, I recently was doing some historical research into the foundation of Assemblies of God.  In 1906-1915, the “God told me” train was chugging like mad all over North America.  It was quite revealing to see how quickly the “God told me” train derailed when everyone and their dog was getting divine revelations.

Dog

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letterIt was pretty early on in my ministry when this guy, John, arrived at our fledgling church. With the addition of one person, our church grew by about 5%. Needless to say, I was excited. But what John did when I first met him fascinated me. We met for coffee the following week. After some small talk and getting to know him a bit, he handed me a manila folder with a letter in it. “This is from my previous pastor,” he said. “He thought that the leadership here would want this.”

That week, I opened up the letter and read it. John’s immediate elder had written to our leadership team, describing him to us. He unpacked things like John’s ministry involvement, training and equipping classes he went through, and his overall character. As a leadership team, we still needed to get to know John, but it made transitioning him into our fellowship much smoother than if he had come without the letter.

I had heard of church transfer and recommendation letters before, but had not seen it in meaningful action. This was different. Though the letter itself does not guarantee all will be fine and dandy with the individual, if done meaningfully, it’s a huge blessing to both the individual and receiving church.

In light of that, here are a few reasons for local church leadership teams to keep the practice of meaningful recommendation letters alive and well:

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true_successWhat does it mean to successful?

That is a vital question for anyone to ask – one that determines a person’s priorities and direction in life.

Whether you are a pastor, an accountant, a school teacher, a stay-at-home mom, an office manager, a construction worker, an engineer, or any other occupation – if you are a believer in Jesus Christ – this question pertains to you. What does it mean to be successful?

What does true success look like, not in terms of getting a new promotion or a raise, but in the highest and loftiest sense of that word?

Consider the “heroes of the faith” listed in Hebrews 11. From a worldly perspective, these individuals would hardly be regarded as successful. Continue Reading…

burried statue of libertyI’m not trying to be relevant. From my disadvantaged vantage point from the nether side of the globe (South Africa), the snookered view I have of the brouhaha over Indiana’s religious liberty legislation seems a bit like a storm in a tea cup.

I thought that freedom was already well established as a cherished virtue in the USA since the days of the Mayflower Pilgrims, Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, We the people, send us your huddled masses, and all that.

Nevertheless, it behooves all Christians to be reminded occasionally that religious freedom is, biblically speaking, a privilege to be prayed for, not a right to whine over.

Here are two biblical principles with which I try to brace my prayers for religious liberty…

1. It’s not the government’s job to be godly.

It is not the government’s job to be godly and spread Christianity; that’s our responsibility as God’s salt and light.

It is the government’s job to pack heat and stop bad guys.

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Sundays ComingOver the last three days, as we look forward to Resurrection Sunday, we have been considering the biblical and theological implications of the resurrection of Christ. On Tuesday, we examined the significance of the resurrection as it relates to the person of Christ. On Wednesday and Thursday, we took a look at eight implications the resurrection of Christ has for believers in Him. Because of the resurrection, the believer enjoys the blessing of regeneration and deliverance from the fear and slavery of death; the resurrection is the foundation of justifying grace, the guarantee of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the present intercessory ministry of Christ, the ground of our sanctification, power for holiness and for ministry, and the guarantee of the promise of a resurrection body of our own, free from sin and decay.

But this morning I want to ask: what does the bodily resurrection of Christ say to the unbeliever? What is the significance of the resurrection for those of you who remain outside of Christ? Whether you’re an atheist or agnostic; Buddhist, Hindu, or any other religion; or even if you call yourself a Christian but have a mere outward attachment to Christ—you would regularly attend church, and even read the Bible and listen to sermons—but you have no vital union to Christ, no living relationship, and you still cling to your sin and aim to be lord of your life. What is the significance of the resurrection for you?

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Empty Tomb 2In preparation for Resurrection Sunday, we’ve been considering the significance of the resurrection. On Tuesday, we looked at some theological and practical implications of the resurrection as it relates to the person of Christ. Yesterday, we began considering the significance of the resurrection for believers. The resurrection is the ground of our regeneration, the ground of deliverance from death’s fearful slavery, and the very foundation of the Gospel.

But that’s not all. There are more benefits the resurrection brings for the believer in Christ.

The Holy Spirit

Fourth, the resurrection guarantees the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In his Pentecost sermon, Peter is explaining the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit that has manifested in the disciples speaking in languages they had never learned. And he says in Acts 2:32–33: “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore”— that is, on the basis of this raising up of Jesus—“having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”

So Scripture links the coming of the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit to the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

Jesus Himself teaches this in John 16. As He is with His disciples in the upper room on the eve of His betrayal, preparing them to live the Christian life without His physical presence, He says, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). The Spirit will come to permanently indwell the disciples because He is going to the Father. If Christ had simply died and remained in the grave, He would not have gone to the Father, and the Spirit would not have come.

And note how glorious Jesus views the privilege of the indwelling presence of the Spirit. He sees it as so valuable that He Himself says that it is to the disciples’ advantage that He—their Lord, their Master, their Savior, the Author and Perfecter of their faith, the one in whom all things hold together—go away from them! The permanent indwelling of the Spirit must be a phenomenal blessing! And it is ours as a direct result of the resurrection of Christ.

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Empty Tomb 1Yesterday, we looked at the significance the resurrection has as it relates to Jesus’ Himself. The resurrection identifies Jesus as the Second Adam, the seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, and the Son of David. It also vindicates the testimony He had given about Himself.

Today and tomorrow I want to consider the significance of the resurrection for believers. What implications does the resurrection have for the people of God? In fact, every aspect of our salvation—our regeneration, our justification, our sanctification, and our glorification—is tied in some way to Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

The Ground of Regeneration

1 Peter 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Peter says our new birth comes through the resurrection of Christ. Our new spiritual life that is born in our regeneration has its source in Christ’s resurrection life.

And we are made to share in that resurrection life through union with Him. Ephesians 2:5–6 says that while we were dead in our transgressions, God “made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with Him.” Because of the union that believers have with Christ, Scripture says that our spiritual resurrection in our being born again has its source in Jesus’ bodily resurrection.

And so the resurrection is the ground of our regeneration.

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He Has RisenThis coming Sunday morning, we will gather together as the people of the risen King who delight to bring Him praise, and will celebrate the triumphant victory of King Jesus, who died for our sins according to the Scriptures, who was buried in a borrowed tomb, and who three days later rose from the grave, triumphant and victorious over sin and death.

But the heights of our praise will not exceed the depth of our theology. Our praise to Christ can only soar as high as our understanding of His glorious person and work is rooted in the rich soil of God’s Word. Our worship of Christ for His resurrection will not rise higher than our understanding of His resurrection.

And so to enflame our worship of the risen Lord Jesus Christ as we anticipate this Resurrection Sunday, I want to dedicate this and the next few days to meditating on the biblical and theological significance of the resurrection of Christ. Today I want to focus particularly on what implications the bodily resurrection have with relation to the resurrected Lord Himself.

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