January 28, 2016

Tor and the Trinity

by Jesse Johnson

Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins, in yellow, stands next to the Rev. Jesse Jackson as she prepares to speak during a Chicago news conference earlier this month.

It started with a hijab during Advent, and ends with a foundational lesson in the Trinity.

Larycia Hawkins, a professor of Politics and International Relations at Wheaton, decided to wear a hijab to her classes. She explained on Facebook that she did this as part of her “advent worship” in order to demonstrate that she:

“Stand[s] solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

In addition to her strange identification of Christians as “people of the book” (which is an Islamic category), her expression of solidarity with Muslims was poorly timed, to say the least.

For many Middle Eastern Christians, the hijab represents the brutal oppression of women by Muslims. Moreover, in much of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Libya, this was the first Christmas season in 2000 years without Christians to celebrate it. Islamic terrorists (who require women to wear a hijab by law) have essentially eliminated churches through much of the Middle East. So from the comfort and safety of Illinois, an American Professor publically showed “solidarity” with those who are slaughtering Christians by wearing a symbol of Islamic female suppression.   Continue Reading…



John the Baptizer was not your average guy. His wardrobe consisted of fur de desert rat. His diet, grasshoppers and unfiltered honey. His domicile, the desert. His message, repent. His career, ended sometime in his 30’s with jail and execution.

And yet, God said of him, “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!” (Matt. 11:11). For most of us, that’s probably not the first thing that would pop into our mind if we encountered a guy like him.

Among other things, something which Jesus identifies in John’s life was his unwavering commitment to God and his truth. John was no spineless man-pleaser: unlike river reeds, he stood firm in the midst of fallen, cultural winds (“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?”, Matt. 11:7).

We do not have record of everything John every preached, but from that which God has given us in Scripture, we have enough to observe a few characteristics of his preaching. What are some themes you would expect to see in the greatest man’s preaching? And what can we learn from him so that our churches avoid becoming First Church of the Reeds?

Here are a few observations about the preaching of the greatest man born of women:

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Last week I attended the march for life in Washington D.C. which is a yearly peaceful protest of the Roe v. Wade decision from 1973. As we were marching down the road with the snow falling from the sky, with thousands of people and signs everywhere, my eyes caught a sign that made the whole event come to life for me.

MOTHER FROM RAPE POSTERA middle aged woman was holding a sign with incredible confidence and indescribable joy. The sign had a short but profound message:

Mother from rape I love my child!

I will never forget the face of the woman. The joy in her eyes was contagious. It was obvious that this woman had not believed the lie, the lie that she was worthless and powerless. That not only was she a victim, but had to live as a victim for the rest of her life. She was strong. She was capable. She was a woman.

As we were marching for life, I couldn’t help but think about the obvious truth that being pro-life is actually the same as being pro-woman. In fact, the opposite is true as well. Being pro-death is congruent with being anti-woman.

The day before the march, I had the opportunity to hear from so many different leaders in the pro-life movement, and although I had done a lot of thinking about pro-life issues in the last year (a lot of it because of those eye-opening planned parenthood undercover videos), I walked away from the March for Life weekend with a greater conviction about being pro-life because of the very truth that being pro-life is being pro-woman.

The world lies. It always does. Hundreds of thousands marched with me the other day, and yet very few, if anyone, reported on it. You may say that they have more important things to report on, like the snow coming. The record-breaking snow that, despite its threat, was powerless to keep all those people from marching on.

The abortion industry is evil. And on top of that, despite its claims, it is anti-woman. It lies to you, and twists the truth either to satisfy its insatiable desire to take your money, or in self-deception thinks they are helping women because they believe these lies. Three big ones to be exact.

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seals jumpingNavy SEALs and other elite military units are experts in a death-defying insertion maneuver known as HALO, or High Altitude Low Opening parachute deployment. From oxygen starved altitudes of 30,000 ft, where the temperature is -45C/ -50F, out of the range of surface to air missiles, the troops free fall at terminal velocity, and deploy their chutes just in time to land on earth alive.

The effect on an unsuspecting enemy is undeniable. One moment you are casually plotting the demise of democracy (or whatever villains do nowadays) and the next moment you are inundated with a disorientating shock-and-awe rapid-fire invasion.

It’s not only SEAL teams who are trained for this style of descent. We learned to do this in seminary.

Well, that’s how it felt to me. Our Apologetics and Evangelism professor had us do every kind of evangelistic technique known to man. I suppose the purpose was to equip us for whatever our future ministries needed, but to me the HALO-style campus evangelism was the hardest to do.

I could preach to a hostile crowd, or craft a written apologetic argument, or even approach an unbelieving friend with a face to face gospel discussion. But what terrified me was being dropped off at the local secular college campus armed with a Bible, a fistful of cheesy tracts, and a brown paper bag for my hyperventilation.

I was expected to accost total strangers with a gospel presentation they had neither invited nor expected. I can’t tell who was more uncomfortable, me or the single guy eating his lunch in peace until he made eye contact with me, which activated my jelly-legs to carry me over to sit next to him.

It was a rewarding exercise, which made me really admire Christians who are gifted at that kind of cold turkey evangelism. Countless souls have been won to Christ through such bold efforts. But there are also other ways to evangelize.

The Apostle Paul—not known to need much prodding toward evangelizing!—wrote to the Colossians, with a surprising prayer request…

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There are many passages that teach the sinfulness of abortion, but often overlooked is the encounter between Yahweh and Moses described in Exodus 3-4. This passage is particularly applicable to those considering abortion because of some perceived defect or genetic disability diagnosed in the baby.

The scene is this: Moses had been in Midian for decades, and had obviously settled down. He had a wife, a family, and a job. But Yahweh “remembered” Israel, called Moses out of retirement, and told him to go and lead the Israelites to freedom.

Moses declined, and gave a series of excuses to God. First, he said he wasn’t sufficient (God’s answer: of course you aren’t, but the Lord is). Then he said he didn’t even know who God is (God’s answer: Yahweh). His third objection was that nobody would believe Yahweh spoke to Moses (God’s answer involved leprosy, snakes, and turning water into blood).

But then Moses got personal. He told God that he couldn’t go lead Israel, because his tongue didn’t work. God made him with a defective mouth. Literally, he says “my tongue is too heavy, my speech is unintelligible” (there is debate in commentaries about if Moses always had this impediment, or if he developed it by burning his tongue with a coal, as many Jewish historians allege). The point is Moses couldn’t talk well, and—in the interest of full disclosure—God should know about that if he is going to ask him to lead.

And here is where Yahweh’s response to Moses’ objection gives a window into why God hates abortion:   Continue Reading…

January 21, 2016

Beloved Brethren

by Mike Riccardi

Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
– Philippians 4:1 –

BelovedAs glorious as it is to be brothers and sisters in Christ, that metaphor alone does not exhaust the description of believers’ relationship to one another. It goes even deeper than that. It’s true that the familial bond wrapped up in the term “brethren” is objective; you don’t have a choice who your brothers and sisters are. And sometimes you don’t always like them, do you? And almost as if the Apostle Paul is thinking that very thing, he adds a second term of endearment to describe his relationship with his fellow-believers in Philippi. They are beloved.

Look again at verse 1. Literally, “Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for….” And then after he gives them the exhortation to “stand firm in the Lord,” again, at the end of the verse, Paul repeats this designation and calls them “my beloved” again. The relationship he has with the Philippians is not one of feuding brothers and sisters; there’s no thought of, “Well, you’re my brother and so I guess I’m stuck with you.” No. He brackets the verse by expressing his deep and heartfelt love for them.

This word that the NAS translates “beloved” is the adjective form of the Greek word agape, which scholars describe as “the richest, deepest, and strongest Greek word for love.” William Hendriksen writes that this love is “deep-seated, self-sacrificing, thorough, intelligent, and purposeful—a love in which the entire personality takes part.”

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In an incredible change of development, Bill Cosby could get away with rape. Allegedly, over the course of the last 50 years, Cosby has drugged and raped over 50 women. But a recent story came out claiming that Bill Cosby admitted to using sedatives to drug women back in 2005, but was promised by the prosecutor that it would never be used against him in court, and there is an email to prove this agreement. It is very likely that his confession, as well as any evidence gathered as a result of that confession, will not be allowed in court. If this turns out to be true Bill Cosby could go free. If the allegations are true, I can’t help but wonder what those women would go through if he ends up getting away with it.

martin-luther-king-mug-shotDealing with injustice is one of the most difficult things for people to go through. This situation with Bill Cosby is only one example of injustice out of a multitude this week alone. In celebrating Martin Luther King Jr Day yesterday, we were reminded yet again about the injustice he faced and that he exposed the injustice millions faced through the evil of American slavery. Later this week hundreds of thousands will be invading the streets of Washington D.C. to participate in the March For Life and protest the Roe v. Wade decision. Millions of babies have since been killed and their murderers, instead of being locked up in jail for selfishly and callously murdering their babies, are not only free, but applauded for their decisions, and given a platform to encourage others to do so as well.

How do we deal with all of this? How do we think about injustice in the world? Here are six thoughts I need to remind myself with in order to deal with terrible injustice.

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SpurgeonOn the 18th of January 1854, 162 years ago to the day, Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached his first sermon at New Park Street chapel. He was 19 years old. The church was nearly empty, about 40 members in attendance. After 38 years as their pastor, the number of new members who had joined the church was 14,460.

Spurgeon’s sermons were different from the longwinded, technical, theological lectures that were common in churches of the day. His sermons were humorous, filled with illustrations, and application. Soon he became known as the Prince of Preachers, the pastor of the largest church in the world, with one of the most successful Baptist ministries since, well, John the Baptist.

He started orphanages, dozens of outreach ministries, and a pastor’s training college with 900 students.

His success was obvious, but the reason for his success was not as obvious, except to those who knew him well.

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“Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.”
– Philippians 4:1 –

FamilyBefore Paul arrives at the crescendo of his exhortation to stand firm in our battle against sin, he couches that exhortation in a flood of the most warmly affectionate and tenderly endearing language found in any of his letters. And the first term of endearment that Paul uses to designate his relationship with the Philippians is brethren. Most fundamentally, Christians relate to one another as brothers and sisters. At the most basic level of our relationships with one another, we are marked by a unique, familial bond.

This designation dominates Paul’s thinking throughout his letters, especially in this letter to the Philippians. He addresses them as brethren six other times (1:12; 3:1, 13, 17; 4:8, 21). Although it’s well-used, it’s anything but just some sort of filler-word for the Apostle Paul. Sometimes I get the impression that we’ve begun to treat the term “brother” or “sister” as a sort of throw-away word, evacuated of all of its meaning. “Hey brother.” “What’s going on, brother?” But it wasn’t like that for Paul. He used the term purposefully, knowing that it would engender tenderness and affection from his readers by reminding them of their spiritual union in belonging to the family of God. On the basis of the atoning work of Christ on behalf of His people, all those who are united to the Son by faith have been adopted into the family of our Heavenly Father (cf. Gal 3:26; 4:5).

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January 14, 2016

How the gospel works:

by Jesse Johnson

I recently came across a video ambitiously titled, “Proving that nobody can get into heaven.” It was produced by Marshall Brain, the same guy who founded the How Stuff Works website, and the author of How “God” Works, which is essentially an argument for atheism.

The video is ten years old, but it’s still making the rounds online. To spare you the 8-plus minutes of it, I’ll summarize Brain’s argument here. He claims he can prove that heaven is “a fairy tale” by looking at the eight times Jesus was asked what it would take to go there. According to Brain, here are the eight answers:   Continue Reading…