atomicWhen an explosion occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Ukrainian Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the first reaction of Soviet authorities seemed to indicate more concern with avoiding the spread of anxiety than the spread of radiation.

The Minister of Internal Affairs gave a telephonic report of current affairs in the Ukraine to his superior, and only at the end of the conversation casually mentioned an explosion at the plant. When he was asked how the people in the nearby town were doing, he replied “some are celebrating a wedding, others are gardening, and others are fishing in the Pripyat River.” A few hours later, however, the denizens of Pripyat experienced widespread symptoms of radiation poisoning, including uncontrollable coughing fits, vomiting, and headaches.

The aphorism “what someone doesn’t know can’t hurt them” has been debunked so many times and in so many ways that it is stupefying to me that people still use it.

An inescapable characteristic of the sin of believers is that it always affects other people. Since all believers are part of a community—the Body—even the most personal of sins always spawns devastating public fallout.

Eph 4:4-5 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism…

When you settle into unrepentant sin, it affects us all. How?

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If you loosely follow evangelical apologetics circles like I do, you’ve possibly run across the name Mike Licona.  A few years ago he was involved in a kerfuffle when he questioned the historicity of Matthew 27:51-54 in his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.  He commented on “that strange little text in Matthew 27:52-53, where upon Jesus’ death the dead saints are raised and walk into the city of Jerusalem” (548) and wrote:

“it seems to me that an understanding of the language in Matthew 27:52-53 as ‘special effects’ with eschatological Jewish texts and thought in mind is most plausible. There is further support for this interpretation. If the tombs opened and the saints being raised upon Jesus’ death was not strange enough, Matthew adds that they did not come out of their tombs until after Jesus’ resurrection. What were they doing between Friday afternoon and early Sunday morning? Were they standing in the now open doorways of their tombs and waiting?” (552)

Licona closed of his discussion of Matthew 27:51-54 writing, “It seems best to regard this difficult text in Matthew as a poetic device added to communicate that the Son of God had died and that impending judgment awaited Israel” (553).  How did that idea fare for him?

Not so well.

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September 17, 2015

Review: Captive

by Jesse Johnson

It was a jail break 10 years ago that helped make Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life one of the best selling books of all time.

In Atlanta on March 11, 2005, an inmate awaiting trial for rape found himself in an isolated hallway with a lone female deputy. What followed became a nationally televised man-hunt that you likely remember.

The inmate, Brian Nichols, punched the deputy in the face so hard he put her in a coma, stole her gun and radio, entered court, murdered the judge and a court reporter, and then killed another deputy while fleeing the building.   Continue Reading…


I live in a revolving-door town and so interact regularly with people who are church shopping. It can be a difficult decision  because of things like the commitment needed, the change involved, and preferences we have. Add to that, the various church options in some locations, and it can get trickier. But, are all the options, options? And, are we approaching the search with the right criteria?

God’s word is clear that to not plug in is not an option. So, what are some things to keep in mind as we make the very important decision of choosing a local church?

First, a few preliminary marks.

  • The church is a gift from God to his people. Plugging into God’s kind of church is a privilege and joy for believers. Keeping this in mind will help us maintain a necessary humility as we search.
  • A little more, than less, time spent in a church can facilitate a good decision. It’s usually beneficial to attend a few corporate gatherings, home groups, and some kind of individual setting with a long-time member of the church.
  • Like many big decisions in life, choosing a church is something that should be done with the help of mature believers and/or church leadership.
  • Finally, God has not left essential church matters up to us. Choosing a church, then, is not an arbitrary process. The God of the church has laid out in the manual of the church (the Bible) the essential ingredients which need to be present in a church.

Using biblical criteria over personal preference is needed for the decision. For example, style of music, fancy-ness of the kid’s ministry, and average age of the congregation should not be the deciding factors since they are not God’s essentials for the local church.

With that in mind, here are some things we ought to look for as we choose a church:

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200wordsBaptists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. All three claim to believe in Jesus. Yet, only one of these groups can be rightly classified as a denomination rather than a false religion.

With that in mind, the question we are asking today might be stated as follows:

What are the marks of cult groups and apostate forms of Christianity that identify them as false religions—such that we can and should label them as heresies, rather than simply classifying them as different denominations?

Here is my attempt to answer that question in 200 words or less:

The New Testament articulates three fundamental doctrinal criteria by which false teachers (and false religions) can be identified: Continue Reading…

September 14, 2015

The Perfect Woman

by Clint Archer

Nadia 3We usually think of perfection as an ideal for which athletes aim rather than a goal anyone seriously expects to achieve. After all, nobody’s perfect. But that all changed at the Montreal Summer Olympics when a young Romanian girl achieved the impossible.

On July 18, 1976, fourteen-year-old Nadia Comăneci represented Romania in the gymnastics team event. Spectators watched in riveted silence as she confidently completed a mesmerizingly ambitious and astonishingly flawless routine on the uneven bars . . . until the instant her feet planted an unfaltering dismount, which generated an avalanche of applause. But the jubilation dissipated suddenly when her result appeared on the digital display: Comăneci’s brilliant performance had scored only 1.0.

In gymnastics, a panel of judges rates each performance according to its difficulty, creativity, and the technical proficiency of its execution. The highest and lowest figures are discarded and the final score represents an average of the remaining numbers. The highest number a judge can give is a perfect 10, and every judge would need to give a 10 in order for the cumulative score to be 10.

one point oBecause this is so unlikely, the electronic score board only allowed space for a single digit on the left side of the decimal point: the maximum number it could show was 9.9, which means it displayed Comăneci’s score as 1.0 instead of the perfect 10 the judges had awarded for the first time in Olympic history. An apologetic voice over the public address system explained the error and the crowd roared to ovation.

Little Nadia was—gymnastically speaking—the world’s first perfect woman.

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No PermissionIn my last post, I outlined some foundational biblical/theological teaching on the decree of God. We looked at passages of Scripture that speak of God’s decree as eternal, unconditional, unchangeable, and exhaustive. As a result, we concluded that God is properly said to be the ultimate cause of all things.

Immediately, this raises the question: How can God be the cause of actions and events that are evil and sinful—things which God Himself prescribes against—and yet not be rightly charged with unrighteousness? Some people answer this question by appealing to the notion of divine “permission.” In other words, though God is ultimately in control, He doesn’t ordain evil; He merely allows it. I don’t find this kind of explanation convincing for two reasons.

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September 10, 2015

Review: War Room

by Jesse Johnson

Christian movies can’t win. If they are overt about the gospel—such as Courageous or Fireproof—then they are criticized that they are too in-your-face. If they are more subtle—Chronicles of Narnia, for example—then they are criticized for not being Christian enough, whatever that is supposed to mean.

There are two new Christian movies that fill opposite ends of this dichotomy: War Room (in theaters now) and Captive (releasing next week). I saw them both back-to-back and was struck at how they each intentionally aim for different ends of that dichotomy. I’ll review War Room today, and Captive next week.   Continue Reading…

Prior to ascending back to heaven, Christ commanded his church to take up the mission of making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). Consequently, churches have the responsibility and privilege to obey this command through preaching the gospel, both in the public/corporate gathering and in various smaller settings. Our goal is to be faithful to the word of God with the hope and prayer that individuals would be saved and learn to make disciples themselves.


Visitor and assimilation ministries in the local church can be one helpful means of making disciples. Often times these ministries serve as a bridge to move people from a visitor to plugging into the local church so as to come to faith in Christ and get the shepherding God desires.

As a younger church, planted about seven years ago, we are often thinking through various ways to do visitor and assimilation ministry. Several months ago, as we made some adjustments, we also did a statistical study to observe what was happening in this disciple-making process. Our assistant and counseling pastor, Matt Mumma, did a wonderful job overseeing the individuals and details of the study, while also compiling and calculating the data. I am simply reporting his hard work.

The study, and visitor and assimilation ministries, are not an end-all absolute in the disciple-making process, but one way of application. Here are some of the details of our study:

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Recent events suggest that our society is growing increasingly hostile to genuine Christianity. Consequently, more intense forms of persecution may be on the horizon for the American church. In the face of that reality, believers can be encouraged by reflecting on the faithfulness exhibited by previous generations of Christians, and by resting in the promises of God. Hence the re-posting of today’s article…

Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a must read for every Christian. Written by John Fox over 350 years ago, it catalogs the lives of hundreds of believers who, throughout church history, were willing to give their lives for the cause of Christ. When it comes to contagious courage, I can think of no greater testimony than reading about those who embraced their Lord to the point of embracing death.

One such account concerns the lives of Jerome Russell and Alexander Kennedy, two English Protestants who took a daring stand for what they believed. Because of their biblically-sound doctrine, the pair was arrested and imprisoned. Kennedy was only eighteen years old. After some time, the two men were brought before religious officials for questioning. Russell, being older, gave an articulate defense, usI ing the Scriptures to support his belief in salvation through faith alone. Yet, in spite of the evidence, the men’s accusers prevailed and Russell and Kennedy were deemed heretics.

In keeping with the jurisprudence of the times, they were condemned to death—their sentence to be carried out the following day. Early the next morning, Russell and Kennedy were led from their prison cells to the place of execution. They could have denied their Lord, right then and there, and been spared. But when Kennedy, being but a young man, began to display signs of fear, Russell quickly encouraged him to stand firm: Continue Reading…