November 19, 2013

Help with holiness

by Steve Meister

We must be holy, because this is the one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world [2 Cor 5:15Eph 5:25-26Titus 2:14]… Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more – He breaks its power (1 Pet 1:2Rom 8:29Eph 1:42 Tim 1:9Heb 12:10).

 J.C. Ryle, Holiness

I’ve recently preached a mini-series on holiness for our congregation (audio here). We began with Lev 10:1-11 and 1 Cor 6:9-11, and concluded with Heb 12:1-14.

After being a Christian for nearly 20 years, I can unfortunately say that personal holiness has not been a topic that’s received great emphasis in the churches and ministries with which I’ve been in fellowship. In Rediscovering Holiness, J. I. Packer points to the same reality.

Packer identifies 3 evidences that Christians today evidently do not think personal holiness is very important:   Continue Reading…

 “If Superman were real, since he was born on Krypton and not a descendant of Adam, would he have a sin nature?”

I have been asked this type of hypothetical question on occasion while trying to have a meaningful conversation with an unbeliever about the gospel. Some of the atheists I encounter are very well versed in theology and Scripture, and have dismissed the gospel after what they consider to be thoughtful enquiry. They may express their disdain for gospel by posing conundrums meant to expose the inadequacy of the gospel, or an apparent inconsistency in my theology.Superman

By the time I am fully engaged in a gospel presentation I tend to get quite caught up in it. I really want the person to believe and repent, and for a moment, I forget that their salvation isn’t up to me, but the Holy Spirit. So, I have fallen into a trap most level-headed Calvinists wouldn’t. I have attempted to answer the proffered puzzle, so that I can show how consistent Christian theology is, and how the Bible is sufficient to answer every metaphysical question.

The problem is, it’s not. The Bible cannot answer every question relating to life and godliness—only the ones that actually have answers.

C. S. Lewis, with his towering apologetic intellect could also not answer questions that were posed to him by academic peers, such as “Can God make a square circle?” In A Grief Observed Lewis wrote with relieving candor,

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that.”

Continue Reading…

November 15, 2013

Considering suicide

by Josiah Grauman

image001Suicide – “the act of killing yourself because you do not want to continue living” (Merriam Webster).

When it comes to Theology, it’s easy to ponder and solve life’s great mysteries in the realm of the hypothetical. We pose the question: “If a believer commits suicide, will he go to heaven?” Then we embark on our theological excursion, perhaps never even giving a thought to that bruised and battered soul who is so dejected that he is actually considering the unthinkable. So, as a former hospital chaplain, I’d like to start our theological discussion in the realm of reality.

Will you be saved if you take your own life?

My heart aches as I consider what might drive someone to this point, and words seem unfit to bring the sort of comfort needed. I only know that God is merciful, and that at His right hand stands a Man, who by virtue of His genuine humanity understands our lives completely, and by virtue of His complete divinity has the omnipotent power to help. If you ever face such dark temptations, run to Him, and you will find rest for your soul… and not only rest, but also hope and joy, even through the toughest of times (1 Pet. 1:3-6). There are so many other things I would like to say, and hugs that I would like to give, but alas, a blog is not suited to such things. I can only urge: If you are struggling, please find help in a Biblical local church.

Yet there are a few more things I should say.

Continue Reading…

The missionary spirit is utterly contagious.

Even just one life burning brightly for the gospel can ignite the hearts of hundreds of others for generations to come.

What a powerful thing it is to contemplate that reality in the history of missionary work! Consider, for example, the following chain of gospel influence:

1. John Elliott (1604–1690) was a Puritan settler in New England who began evangelizing the native Americans. Known as the “apostle to the Indians,” he translated the Bible into their native language, helped to establish churches, and sparked a missionary zeal among Christian settlers in the New World.

2. That missionary spirit inspired men like David Brainerd (1718–1747) to similarly devote his life to reaching native American Indians with the good news of the gospel.

3. Though Brainerd died at only 29 years of age, his friend Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) was so impressed by the young missionary’s passion that he edited Brainerd’s diary and published it. Edwards himself would later work as a missionary to the native American Indians of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

4. In 1785, an English shoe cobbler named William Carey (1761–1834) read a copy of An Account of the Life of the Late Rev. David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards. The book had a profound impact on Carey’s thinking, igniting a passion in his heart to take the gospel to India. William Carey left for India in 1793 and the modern missions movement was born. Continue Reading…

FootstoolGod does not need us, nor is He impressed with any of our works. In fact, Isaiah 66:1-2a demonstrates that all of our efforts are downright silly in light of His greatness.

Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.

Would we build Him a house? The earth is His footstool! Even more, what material would we use in our service to Him? The oxigen we breath is His, along with every other molecule we touch! We are like the 4 year old girl who buys her parents a gift and boasts about how rich she is because she can buy such things – not recognizing that her parents gave her the money for the gift in the first place!   Continue Reading…

Is conversion easy to experience, or difficult? If you can’t remember your conversion experience, is it likely you are not saved? Do all people come to faith the same way? Does conversion always bring assurance of salvation? Is conversion seen in a decision that is made, or in a process that is experienced?

Turning to God

Turning to God, by David Wells, documents how the doctrine of conversion has been withering away for centuries. Written in 1989, then updated and re-released in 2012, the book catalogs various attacks against a Christian understanding of conversion, and it contains Wells’ call for evangelicals to cultivate a robust understanding of how we entered the Christian life. He shows how the questions asked above illustrate the difficulty inherent in any effort to understand conversion.   Continue Reading…

I can’t decide whether or not to attend “Indecision Anonymous” meetings. While I’m making up my mind about that, I could use your help in picking a cover for my new book on short term missions (STM), called Holding the Rope. Michael Hyatt would call this crowd sourcing; my dad calls it “passing the buck.” Either way, your help would be appreciated.

Deep down we all know that we do judge a book by its cover. So rather than fight that unfortunate reality, let’s embrace it. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

The creative design team at William Carey Library publishing house has proffered these three options. Please vote for #1, #2, #3, and if you have reasons for your preference, suggestions for improvements, or any other constructive comments, feel free to include those. If you’re bold enough to do so, include your age demographic, and whether or not you’d be interested in this book no matter how gripping the cover. (Just be nice, my wife reads this).

Here’s some blurb about the book:

“Holding the rope” is more than Carey’s iconic catchphrase–it articulates an entire philosophy of ministry. Christian missions is too daunting an enterprise to attempt alone, but the synergy of combined efforts can accomplish untold advancement for the kingdom of God.

Many churches market their STM trips by appealing to the novelty of international travel, but the real goal of a successful STM trip isn’t primarily to enrich the one going, nor is it the benefit for the sending church, but rather it is the missionary family. These have left family and lands and Starbucks, for the sake of Christ’s great commission. It is the missionary who understands the needs, pitfalls, and long-term strategy of his new home. Using William Carey’s life story as a framework, and exploring the biblical models, Holding the Rope shows how to think about STM theologically as well as how to do it effectively.

When I was the STM co-ordinator at Grace Community Church, I was privileged to meet dozens of front-line missionaries and visit them in the trenches. I used their collective wisdom to build a selection and training program for the 120 short term travelers Grace Community sent out each year. This book is half-memoir, half-manual on what I learned on the job.

If you liked my chapter on STM in John MacArthur’s Rediscovering Evangelism then you may or may not like this book. It’s an elaboration on the philosophy of ministry in that chapter, but in a far less formal style.

Here’s a dust-jacket description of the book written by the editor:

Holding the Rope gives an insightful look into the preparation, philosophy, and application of short term cross-cultural ministry. Archer addresses the issues with candor, humor, and most importantly, grace. He provides viable solutions to common problems, and encourages churches, pastors, and volunteers to adopt a biblical and practical approach for engaging in short term missions. This book is a tool for those serving the servants, a guide and celebration of those who hold the ropes.

Without further ado, I give you the three finalists…

#1 Rope Vertical Title

#1 Rope Vertical Title

#2 Hands Holding Rope

#2 Hands Holding Rope

#3 Bright Yellow

#3 Bright Yellow

 

Ideally, churches and seminaries work together in a mutually beneficial way. Like minded churches start a seminary. In turn they send their ministers to that seminary so that their future pastors receive rigorous theological education. When this relationship works, churches thrive. But when a schism cuts between a seminary and its churches, the churches wither.

This unfortunately happened in the 1960s when liberal theology cut a schism between the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and the Southern Baptist Convention. While the convention stayed its conservative course, its flagship seminary drowned in Liberalism. SBTS had abandoned its confessional roots, which date back to its founding in 1859. This meant that it had also shirked its ties to the churches who founded and supported SBTS.

During this liberal domination of SBTS, teachers disavowed the bodily resurrection of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture, and other key tenets of the faith. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, anecdotally remembers that there was a vivid opposition against the Gospel at Southern. Continue Reading…

November 7, 2013

Truth Remains

by Nathan Busenitz

In our post last week, we celebrated Reformation Day by emphasizing the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura. I ended that post with these words:

You may have a dozen copies of the Bible in your house. But don’t ever let your familiarity with the Word of God breed indifference or contempt in your heart. The book you hold in your hand is a treasure. It is the revelation of God Himself — in printed form — empowered by His Spirit to conform you into the image of His Son. The Word of God has the power to change history and transform continents. It has the power to change hearts, including yours and mine.

Today, in keeping with that theme, I want to direct your attention to a great ministry and online resource that details key parts of the history of the English Bible — Truth Remains.

truth_remains_logo

According to the ministry’s website, the mission of Truth Remains is to promote and proclaim God’s written Word, thereby stimulating greater love and devotion to the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, in His church (John 1:14). That mission is primarily accomplished by exposing believers to the history of the English Bible, and thereby reminding American evangelicals of the great sacrifices that faithful men and women made in previous generations so that we could have access to the Word of God. Continue Reading…

Grudem Asmus book titleGlobal poverty is simple in its explanation but complicated in its solution. People are poor because they lack the ability to produce their own wealth. Solving that requires a complex solution consisting of at least 78 different factors that can only really be implemented on a national level.

At least that is the view put forward in The Poverty of Nations by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus. This book is a clear explanation of what governing principles lead to the production of wealth, and it also serves as a refutation of immoral practices that lead to poverty.  Grudem (a theologian) and Asmus (an economist) make a formidable combination, and the case they lay out for how countries should run their governments is convincing.

Grudem and Asmus take complex economic theory and explain it in an accessible way. Wealth is measured by a country’s GDP (gross domestic product) and per capita income (which is arrived at by taking the GDP and dividing it by the total population). Simply put, countries are poor if their GDP is low, and countries are wealthy because their GDP is high. The solution to poverty then is to find ways to raise a country’s GDP (pp. 45, 51), which can only happen through making products of value.

The authors use an intentionally simple illustration to explain how this works. If a woman has a piece of cloth (worth, say…$3), and she makes it into a shirt (worth, say…$13) then she has added $10 to her country’s GDP (p. 53). That sounds simple enough, but consider the implications of this:   Continue Reading…