August 28, 2013

The Class of 2017

by Jesse Johnson

Where I live (the Washington DC area), most students return to school this week. So as a service to youth pastors (to keep them from making hackneyed references) and adults everywhere (to make us feel old), here is this helpful guide to this year’s freshman, aka the class of 2017:

class of 2017

They were born in 1999/2000, which means they were too young to remember September 11. But it also means that:

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gideon_fleeceIt’s easy to over complicate the call to ministry. But there’s nothing particularly magical about discerning it, even when it comes to church planting. And we need not put out a fleece or wait for a vision. In fact, if you’re looking for that, then you’re probably looking in the wrong place. The call to plant a church is similar to the call to pastoral ministry since a church-planter, by definition, will do all that a pastor does, though a bit more. Church planting, then, is fundamentally pastoral ministry, which makes discerning the call simpler than we might think.

Here are 5 criteria to help discern the call:

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William Carey is widely regarded the father of Modern Missions. There are several critical moments on the timeline that mark progress from his modest career as a cobbler, to the revolutionary impact he would have on the way we do missions. Before Carey, it was unheard of for multiple small churches to band together and pool support for the purpose of permanently transplanting  a volunteer to the foreign field. Missionaries were Christians who used to go on short-term journeys, or otherwise were passengers of the Catholic armada that accompanied British Colonial conquests. Carey pioneered this profound shift. One of the lesser known turning points was after the second attempt he’d made to have his minister’s fraternal establish a missions committee.

William Carey turned the tide of history with a simple, pleading question he posed to Andrew Fuller, his like-minded friend and fellow member of the Baptist fraternal of ministers who met at Nottingham in 1792. It was the meeting at which Carey had preached his renowned “Deathless sermon” which challenged the ministers to “Expect great things of God, attempt great things for God.”

The seventeen delegates were about to close the business of the day without any resolution in favor of initiating a mission to the lost. This would be the second time Carey was disappointed by their sluggish lassitude. Ecclesiastical wheels grind slowly at the best of times, but it was Carey’s passion that lubricated the mechanism that historic day.

Carey turned in agonizing desperation to the taciturn Andrew Fuller, grasped his arm and cried out earnestly… Continue Reading…

Don't Miss the Forest for the TreesLast week I wrote an as-condensed-as-possible version of the great story of redemption, tracing God’s gracious promise to provide the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent through the Old Testament. We looked at how that promise narrowed from the seed of the woman, to the seed of Abraham, to the nation of Israel, and to the line of David. We saw how Israel’s repeated failure to be faithful to the covenants Yahweh established with them all pointed to the One who would exemplify covenant faithfulness and fulfill all righteousness on behalf of His people. To put it another way, contrary to what some believe about dispensationalists and the Old Testament, we observed how the whole of the Old Testament finds its climax and fulfillment in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the Israelite par-excellence, and the Son of David. If you’ve not read that post, I’d encourage you to do so.

I mentioned in that post that a great help for interpreting the Bible properly consists in keeping that big picture in the front of our mind so that we can interpret the parts in light of the whole. We don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. This is especially helpful in the Old Testament, where the increased historical, cultural, geographical, literary, and even covenantal gaps can make us raise our eyebrows at not a few passages, which just seem wholly unfamiliar.

Now, we need to be sure that we interpret each passage on its own terms, according to its context, always in search of the intent of the original author. But keeping this grand narrative of redemptive history in mind and locating at what point in the story of redemption that a particular passage finds itself, can often help us understand why some more obscure (or at least, seemingly-removed) passages are in the Bible. Passages that look like road blocks or obstacles in our Bible-reading plans can be transformed (at least in our perception, anyway) by relating them to the larger story of redemptive history.

Today I’d like to just share a few examples.

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2000_YearsThis post wraps up our list of 10 reasons why church history is important … and why you should care about it. To access the previous three articles (for the complete list) click here (Part 1), here (Part 2), and here (Part 3).

8. Because just as we can learn from the good examples of faithful Christians (see Reason #7), we likewise have much to learn from those who failed at various points.

It is an old cliché, but often true: those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

In church history, we see examples of all kinds of spiritual failure. There are those who fell into heresy, those who gave way to corruption, those who denied the faith, and those who fell morally. The lives of such individuals serve as a warning for us.

In 2 Corinthians 6:10–12, the apostle Paul uses the negative illustration of the Israelites in the wilderness to teach his readers an important spiritual lesson. Paul’s example sets a precedent for the way we think about both biblical history and church history. Continue Reading…

dispensationaismDavid Murray is a prof at Puritan Reformed Seminary who normally blogs at Head, Heart, Hands–a blog I often read and frequently recommend. Yesterday though he posted at Ligonier’s blog, and he gave seven reasons why preachers neglect the OT. Number four on his list was

…cue ominous music…


Now I don’t want to be a knee-jerk dispensationalist-blogger and over-react to a passing comment with undue defense or anything, but I couldn’t help but notice that dispensationalism appeared on his list with some uncouth company. In the case of the missing OT, here are Murray’s suspects, and you should read this list while humming the Sesame Street song, One of these things is not Like the Other:

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August 20, 2013

Becoming Like Children

by Joey Newton

smiling baby w momChristians think, feel, and act different from the world. Now, by the world, I mean – of course – the world system. The parts of this world that are what they are because they are not submitted to God and in love with all He is for us in Christ. The world that John describes in 1 John 2:15-17. This should not surprise us, for this world “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and this “evil one” has “blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who its the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Christians, by contrast, are those who have seen the “glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), who “have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13), who have been made “new creatures” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), and are different from the world. Thus, to be in the kingdom requires nothing less conversion – to become as a child.   Continue Reading…

Airport security seems to have surrendered common sense as a weapon in the war against terror. In a desperate attempt to appear politically correct and unbiased toward Arab Muslims, the TSA eschews profiling techniques. Profiling is when a person is singled out based on certain traits that they have in common with previous terrorist attacks. For example, the 9/11 bombers were all young, single, Arab, Muslim, males.

sneaky terroristThe lack of profiling begets some silly scenarios, as when a soldier traveling with his platoon in full uniform had his nail clippers confiscated…but not his gun. Or, the case in February 2011, when Alaska State Representative, Sharon Cissna refused to allow the TSA to inspect the scars of her mastectomy surgery. She was barred from boarding the plane because common sense might look like bias, even though it is an undisputed fact that no lady’s prosthetic breast (or nail clippers for that matter) have ever been used in any assault on land, air, or sea.

On the other hand, if profiling had been allowed, perhaps they would have prevented what happened on Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas Eve 2010 when Umar Farouk Abdul-mutal-lab, a 23 year told, single, Muslim  male, who paid cash for a one-way ticket, and checked no luggage, cruised through airport security without any hassles. But when the plane was in flight, he promptly activated the explosives stashed in his underwear. Fortunately, instead of exploding, his underwear just caught on fire. Three passengers incapacitated him (while, as I imagine, children nearby chanted “Liar, liar…”).

Sometimes just a smidgen of common sense is needed to know that if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck… it might just be a duck.hunter spotting

When evaluating a seminary on the spectrum of conservative to liberal, right to left, no one can know everything about all seminaries. So, here is a little toolkit of implements with which to diagnostically delve around in their doctrinal statement.

Unearthing the truth may take some CSI inspired sleuthing on your part. Some seminaries, who covet the sobriquet “conservative” without earning it, may surreptitiously conceal what they really teach for the sake of recruitment.

The clues to discover the species of poultry you are hunting for are to be found nesting in passages that have contentious interpretive conundrums with both a conservative and liberal solution. If a seminary’s faculty consistently falls on the side of the more liberal views, then that is a quacking sound which belies the presence of a duck. Let the hunt begin…

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Recently I had the opportunity to teach a condensed class on an introduction to hermeneutics, or basic principles of Bible interpretation. One of the things we mentioned was the importance of understanding the parts in light of the whole—of keeping the big picture in mind as we seek to understand the scenes frame by frame. Today I’d like to share with you what I celebrated with them.

Greatest StoryGod’s goal in all of His creative and redemptive work is to bring glory to Himself (Isa 43:7; cf. Eph 1:6, 12, 14).

This is expressed in His creation mandate to Adam and Eve, in which He commissions man, as those uniquely made in His image, to rule over the earth in righteousness (Gen 1:28). Man is to bring glory to God by their manifesting His presence as His vice-regent throughout all creation.

But immediately Adam and Eve fail in their commission. The serpent deceives Eve, Adam eats of the forbidden tree, and in that moment the human race is catapulted into spiritual death and damnation (Gen 3:1–7).

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Two weeks ago, we began a series articulating ten reasons every Christian should learn more about church history. So far, we have considered the first four on our list of ten. Today we will consider three more reasons why church history is important … and why it should matter to you.

5. Because sound doctrine has been guarded and passed down by faithful generations throughout history.

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul told his son in the faith: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” To study church history is to meet the generations of Christians who loved biblical truth and faithfully passed it on to those who came after. Moreover, it is encouraging to know that the truths we hold dear have been cherished by believers all the way back to the time of the apostles.


The study of church history reminds us that we are standing on the shoulders of those who have come before us. The halls of history are filled with accounts of those who loved the truth and fought valiantly to preserve it. Thus, while we recognize that church history is not authoritative (only Scripture is), we are wise to glean from the wisdom of past church leaders, theologians, and pastors. Their creeds, commentaries, and sermons represent lifetimes of meditating on the text and walking with God. We would be unwise to ignore their voices and their insights — as we similarly seek to rightly divide the Word.

Furthermore, when we study church history we are reminded that some truths are worth fighting for (and dying for). We remember that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. And like those who have come before us, we too have a responsibility to faithfully guard the treasure of biblical truth and sound doctrine that has been entrusted to us, being careful to pass it on to the those who will follow us.

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