Now I will relate how You set me free from a craving for sexual gratification which fettered me like a tight-drawn chain, and from my enslavement to worldly affairs: I will confess to Your name, O Lord, my helper and my redeemer.[1]

Broken Chain

Last week we looked at Augustine’s famous maxim that the human soul is restless until it finds its rest and satisfaction in the Triune God. This week, I want to look at Augustine’s own account of coming to that saving rest.

While he had been sitting under the Gospel preaching of Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo had the occasion to hear of the testimonies of the rhetorician Victorinus and of Anthony and the Egyptian monks—schooled philosophers whom Augustine held in high esteem, men who had come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit by the Scriptures and were humbled to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. At this point he could bear the convictions of his own soul no longer. He confronted his dear friend Alypius and spoke of the inner turmoil he was experiencing.

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On December 31, 1995 something momentous happened.  Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins released the book Left Behind, a fictional account of their (somewhat fanciful) ideas of what the rapture would be like, as well as the 7 years of tribulation that followed.  The book spawned a series that would ultimately involve 16 novels and would sell 65+ million copies.  Many people read the books, many people hated the books, and many people presented the books as the reason for rejecting various points of end times theology (properly known as eschatology) for the next 20 years (if I had a dime for every time I found myself in a conversation about eschatology where someone brought up a series of fiction books as their reason for rejecting Biblical doctrine…).  But that wasn’t the end of it all.  On October 31st, 2000, the Left Behind series hit the big time when it (*gasp*) became a movie.  Not only did it become a movie, but it was a movie that starred Kirk Cameron (the Tim Challies of “Christian” cinema) as well as that guy from Walker, Texas Ranger…

Walker

…and some other show from the eighties that I cannot remember the name of.

This was one of the first “big budget” Christian films ever ($4 million), and I’ll never forget seeing my first “Christian” movie: confused shock.  Shock that people on my TV were talking about Jesus in a way that wasn’t idiotic or revealing a writer who apparently slept through every post-flannel board lesson in Sunday School.  I was weirded out, but mostly because I wasn’t used to seeing Christians act like Christians on my TV.  It was obvious that this was no Hollywood-quality production but it was definitely something I was not used to seeing.  That confusion and novelty factor was likely what gripped me the most about the movie.

Now that Hollywood has basically remade everything that was ever any good, they’ve remade Left Behind too.  This time, it was staring Nicolas Cage rather than Kirk Cameron, and the budget was 4x bigger ($16 million).  On October 3rd (opening night) I sat through the remake.

Here’s a summary of the movie and some thoughts (both positive and negative). Continue Reading…

The Home TeamIt is said that marriage and family counseling comprise something around 80% of all counseling issues. This means that the bulk of a pastor’s counseling will be in the throes of the family. It also means that the bulk of the strife, hurt, and pain out there exist in the place where they should be the most scare: the family.

Not a few writers have recognized that. For example, an Amazon search of books pertaining to help with the family serves up some 200,000 hits. Point being: in so many ways, the family is one of the great battlefields. Everyone needs help and equipping for it. But not all that glitters among the 200,000 hits is gold. For all those reasons, it was a joy to read Clint Archer’s newest book, “The Home Team.”

As you might guess, Clint uses the team theme throughout in order to flesh out the structure and happenings of biblical life in the home. Using that unique illustration, nine chapters are given to covering the family dynamics.

I benefited from the book and recommend it for several reasons:

1. It’s biblical.

This isn’t a given in the slough of family literature out there. In fact, it’s probably the vast minority. Clint’s work is an exception.

A sound theology undergirds each chapter. For example, in chapter one, Clint clears the air as to what the origin of the problem for all families: the Fall. This is critical to set up families up for realistic expectations and actual solutions.

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(Editor’s note: In light of recent news events, it seemed fitting to repost this article written in February 2012 by George Lawson.)

In the beginning of May, 1665 London had a divine appointment with what the Puritan Thomas Vincent described as “one of the most terrible plagues that was ever visited on this or perhaps any other kingdom.” We now know it as the bubonic plague.

plague_victims

The disease at first claimed the lives of only nine people, but after a pause it rapidly spread across the city and was soon taking no less than 470 people a week. The number of deaths collected from the bills of mortality amounted to 68,596 in that first year, though some have estimated that the number was much higher.

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no cussing signIn 2005 the American Film Institute voted that the best movie line of all time was the one that Clarke Gable deftly delivered as the character Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. If you endured all four hours of melodrama you’ll certainly recall his parting dismissal of Scarlett O’Hara’s whiny interrogative, “Where shall I go, what shall I do?” Rhett rewardingly utters the words on the mind of every male viewer who is still awake, served with the cool and immortal preamble: “Frankly, my dear …”

The Motion Picture Association’s production code was fortuitously amended a mere month prior to the film’s release and for the first time it allowed the use of borderline curse words under this condition:

if it shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact …or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste.”

The determining standard of what is “intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste” has proven quite the moveable feast. Words that were respectable vernacular in the Elizabethan era would get a kid’s mouth washed out with soap today, and diction that would never escape the censor’s “intrinsically objectionable” razor as recently as 1939 are now heard on every silver screen in the Western world, and even occasionally on the news (at least in Anchorage).

While as Christians we acknowledge that God’s standards of holiness are immovable a thinking linguist must acknowledge that what different cultures and periods consider to be taboo is a perplexing field of study.

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AugustineMany Christians recognize the name of Augustine of Hippo from his valiant defense of the biblical doctrine of divine sovereignty against the man-centered heresy of the British monk Pelagius. And we know that the Reformers made exceedingly frequent references to Augustine’s work as they fought against the man-centeredness of the Roman Catholic Church. But what many don’t know about Augustine was his consistent emphasis on the centrality of the affections—and particularly joy—in the believer’s life. In fact, he even defined love for God in terms of enjoying Him: 

“I call [love to God] the motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of God for his own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and of one’s neighbor for the sake of God.” [1]

It was this pursuit of his own pleasure—indeed, his own pleasure in God Himself—that strengthened Augustine to engage in the many debates and altercations of the Pelagian controversy. When a friend asked him why he even bothered with the polemical disputes, he answered:

“First and foremost because no subject gives me greater pleasure. For what ought to be more attractive to us sick men, than grace, grace by which we are healed; for us lazy men, than grace, grace by which we are stirred up; for us men longing to act, than grace, by which we are helped?” [2]

For Augustine, there was no dichotomy of “enjoying sovereign grace” on the one hand and “fighting for sovereign grace” on the other. The latter was fueled by the former. The joy of the Lord was his strength (Neh 8:10).

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Yesterday I explained that spiritual gifts were God’s way of uniting believers in the church and advancing the gospel through the church. Every believer uses their spiritual gifts when they serve the church for the purpose of building up each other (1 Cor 10:23-24, 1 Cor 12:7).

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But there is an obvious exception to these principles: the sign gifts. By sign gifts I mean the gift of languages, interpretation, the gift of healing, the gift of apostleship, and the gift of miracles. These gifts were not merely examples of people serving the church, but instead they had a much more immediate role: they validated the ministry of the Apostles. This is exactly why Paul called them “sign” gifts (2 Cor 12:12).

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Tragically—and ironically—one of the casualties of the modern charismatic movement is a biblical understanding of what spiritual gifts actually are. By emphasizing only a handful of gifts (the sign gifts) many Christians have lost sight of the less glamorous yet more common spiritual gifts.

With a focus on tongues, signs, miracles, healings and the like, it is easy to be confused about how God through the Holy Spirit has actually equipped the church. That confusion isn’t limited to charismatic churches–in fact because of an avoidance of the sign gifts, that confusion is often seen even inside of cessationist and continuationist churches too. People think “those sign gifts are not what we do…” and the question of gifts never really gets around to “so what do we do?”

With that in mind, here are three truths about spiritual gifts. Understanding these truths will not only help you serve in your church, but will restore the wonder that God uses us to do his will:

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September 30, 2014

Only One Life

by Nathan Busenitz

ctstuddThe year was 1860.

A lot happened in that year. In 1860, the Pony Express sent its first riders from Missouri to California. That same year, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States. And on December 20, 1860, South Carolina declared its secession from the union, setting events in motion that would culminate in the American Civil War.

It was in that same year, on December 2, 1860, that Charles Thomas Studd was born into a wealthy family in England.

Charles was a teenager when his father committed his life to Christ after attending an evangelistic meeting led by D. L. Moody. A short time later, at the age of 16, Charles himself came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Continue Reading…

I use “worship leader” in the vernacular sense of the guy who leads the music. Of course, musical worship is only a smidgen of the worship that happens on Sunday. It’s one candle in the worship array of preaching, fellowship, serving, giving, and parking far away so that the elderly can park closer.

But when people talk about liking/hating “the worship” they generally mean “the band.” One congregant who should avoid this is the worship leader.

Here are four guidelines for the leader of a worship band...

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