church-history-peanutsIntroducing a series about church history … and why you should care about it.

A little less than a month from now, I will make my way to a classroom full of (mostly) first-year seminary students. I can imagine it already.

When I open the door, there will be the inevitable and slightly uncomfortable pause in the hubbub of pre-class conversation. It is the awkward moment every teacher experiences at the start of a new semester — when you enter a room full of unfamiliar faces and everyone stops talking to turn and watch you.

As a relatively new professor, I probably feel the awkwardness more acutely than my seasoned colleagues. But there is no turning back.

Under the watchful gaze of my students, with first impressions already forming, I will walk to the front of the room and set down my bag on the lecture table. Without looking up, I’ll get out my laptop, turn it on, and make sure it’s connected to the projector. Then I’ll arrange whatever books or notes I’ve brought with me.

Soon, everything will be ready to go. I’ll give a nonchalant glance to the clock on the back wall which will remind me that it’s time to start. Without further delay, I’ll take a deep breath, smile, and hear the following words come out of my mouth. Continue Reading…

 Last week I wrote about how Christians can cultivate a love for evangelism. This post picks up on that same theme, but aims it a pastors. It is adopted from A Guide to Evangelism, written by the faculty at Southern Seminary.

centrifuge

centrifuge

Is your church a centrifuge for gospel ministry? Are believers compelled out from the safe harbor of Christian fellowship to engage our unbelieving world?

Many churches can become evangelistic cul-de-sacs. Lots of believers go in, but very little gospel going back out. Instead of evangelistic DNA, it’s become an appendage expressed primarily in programs and events.

Instead, Christians must cultivate evangelistic instincts that a humble tenacity to engage in conversations that go beyond the point of least resistance and move toward the gospel. Last week, I wrote about how Christians can develop these evangelistic instincts. This week I want to pick up that same theme and ask how pastors can help their churches a church cultivate evangelistic living in the congregation.

Here are a few ideas for church leaders to help raise the voice for Christ exalting, gospel proclaiming evangelism in the local church:   Continue Reading…

The Pope just returned from his visit to Brazil, and three different stories from the trip dominated the religious news last week. First, he declared that retweeting his updates about World Youth Day would help merit an indulgence. Then he led Mass for 3 million people in Brazil, and finally he declared that it is “not my role to judge gay priests.”

Pope on a plane

That’s quite a news cycle, but hardly news.

If you are not familiar with the differences between Catholicism and the gospel, here is a one paragraph theology lesson followed by a one paragraph history lesson: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that people can be saved from hell through a combination of faith and works (works energized by faith, if you will). Of course, salvation from hell is only part of the story, because according to the RCC, at death your soul goes to purgatory where the remaining sin is purged through suffering and torment. The difference between purgatory and hell is one of duration, and clearly the doctrine of purgatory is not compatible with even a rudimentary understanding of the New Testament.   Continue Reading…

July 29, 2013

Raising Hell

by Clint Archer

hot stuff red devilWhen I was a young boy an occasional treat would be to spend the night at my cousins’ home. They had some funky interior novelties—secret passageways, legless chairs hanging from chains, mirrored ceilings— that made the visit a fun exploration of alien territory. One room that I avoided was the Hell room. (I am not making any of this up). One bathroom was painted entirely red. Red walls, flooring, tiles, bath, toilet, towels, everything. And on the wall was a Styrofoam cut-out of a cartoonish red devil complete with pitch fork. When the bath was drawn the bellowing steam would fill the room, and my nightmares. No wonder my cousins hated bath time. It was Hell for them.

Why Raise Hell?

Many dismiss Hell as a mythological dimension used to scare children into compliance, but not taken seriously as an adult. Devilish décor was all the rage in some avant garde niches in the 80s, much the way the paranormal TV genre is trending among teen viewers today. This desensitizing of a bewildering Scriptural reality has an unfortunate mind-numbing effect. We anesthetize the horrors of Hell by relegating the teachings of the Bible to the realm of academic debate. That is not my intention here.

I have been preaching about Hell as I was dragged there by the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. I am fully aware of the need to let the distasteful truths marinade our discussion.

Why even raise the topic at all? Because teaching about Hell is important because it encourages believers to evangelize and maintain an eternal perspective; and unbelievers can be warned.

But for this post I want to simply present a some fascinating facts we can glean from the appellations used in the Old and New Testaments for the place we generically refer to as Hell.

Continue Reading…

In college I can remember questioning the sincerity of my faith. The conflict warred in my mind between being redeemed by faith in Jesus, while still sinning on a daily basis (cf. Rom 7:21-25). Thankfully, through prayer, Scripture reading and Martin Luther, I came to realize that the Christian life embraces the reality that we are simultaneously justified and yet a sinner. Reflecting back on that period of time in my life, I wish that I had read more of the second century pastor, Irenaeus. His pastoral ministry focused on helping believers gain assurance of faith. The sage wisdom of Irenaeus is only strengthened by a knowledge of the time in which he lived. Indeed, we first need to hear his story to truly hear the words of the man.

The narrative of Irenaeus’ public ministry begins with blood. In 177 AD, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius authorized a mass execution of Christians in city of Lugdunum (modern day Lyons, France). Although he lived there, Irenaeus happened to be traveling during the executions. On his return, he found the Christians of that city laid low, with key members decapitated or crucified. It was at this macabre time that Irenaeus became Bishop of Lugdunum, ministering to a persecuted, hurting and needy congregation. His difficulties only continued from here. Continue Reading…

ive got a messageEvangelizing unbelievers can be difficult for the same reason criminals struggle to find policemen…most are not looking for one. Instead of pursuing others with the gospel, we are cocooned with those who already know it.  A vortex pulls us into Christian activities and lulls us toward indifference to those yet to repent.

Genuinely drawing near to Christ will rightly submerse us in believer’s fellowship, but it will simultaneously thrust us toward others in gospel ministry.  Heavily evangelistic churches become that way as individual believers are passionate and proactive in daily life. They implement the faithful exposition of Scripture and are propelled out to reach sinners for Christ.

The Great Commission is an individual commission and it is not fulfilled in silence. but in conversations that confront ungodliness and unrighteousness with the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Day by day, we look for points of intersection, where the “salt and light” will collide with decay and darkness.  Transforming hearts forge evangelistic instincts, and here are four ways to  prepare those instincts:   Continue Reading…

Money in HandIn the Old Testament, teaching people about giving financially to the Lord’s work was simple—there were express commands dictating when to give and how much to offer, and all the funds went to maintaining temple worship and supporting the Levites. But that system went away with the temple veil, and in its place stands a church that is supported by the generous and sacrificial giving of those that attend.

Which means that it is a basic part of worship to give financially to the church you attend. This is evident in Acts, where corporate worship had giving as a central feature, and it is confirmed throughout the Epistles as well. Thus, giving is a basic discipline of Godliness and the New Testament teaches fundamental principles that should guide how we give. Here are ten of them:   Continue Reading…

SartreBeing morbid, troubled, and intermittently teetering on the brink of insanity/suicide is an occupational hazard for many professional Existentialists. Another burr in their saddle is a dearth of entertainment choices congruent with their bleak outlook—is a novel still a “good book” if you enjoyed it, or is it only a worthy read if it upset you? Naturally, the movement embraced playwrights with a penchant for cynical subtleties that they recognized as a palatable substitute for humor.

This is the context in which French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit” made a splash in the tepid pond of Existential academia. For a man who occasionally believed he was being chased by a giant lobster (I kid you not), in his more lucid moments Sartre possessed an ability to articulate cynicism in a winsome way. Allow me to present the synopsis of the play in a way that the writer and his friends would cringe at—that is, briefly.

“No Exit” is about three characters, in a room, who start to chat. That is the entire play.

What you discover from the dialogue—if you stay awake— is that they are dead people and the shared room represents Hell. They start off relieved that there is none of the anticipated torture. As the play progresses, they begin to get snippy with one another, bored of each other’s company, and eventually so totally frustrated, exasperated, and desperately unhappy with each other that the stage is set for Sartre’s infamous punch line:

L’enfer c’est les autres…Hell is other people.”

Though this depiction of Hell is grossly underestimating the actual torment of the place as revealed in Scripture, Sartre’s point should not be missed. The problem with the world is not what happens to us, as much as what happens because of us.

Continue Reading…

Strange FireSo, word is getting around about the Strange Fire Conference. On October 16 to 18, over 4,000 people from all 50 states and 20+ countries will be traveling to Southern California to hear from a world class array of preachers and speakers (including John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Steve Lawson, Conrad Mbewe, our own Nate Busenitz, and others) on the history and theology of the Charismatic movement, along with the true biblical teaching concerning the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. As you can tell from the title (cf. Leviticus 10:1–3) as well as from an excellent assortment of teaser videos, the conference plans to be critical of the aberrations of Charismatic doctrine and practice.

And as you can imagine, there’s been a little bit of a buzz about this already in the blogosphere. Aside from drawing the ire of the “Holy Ghost Bartender,” MacArthur’s commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture, to the biblical definitions and employment of spiritual gifts, and to the orderliness and reverence of a worship service has brought criticism from one Michael Brown. In a Charisma News article, Brown levels several critiques about MacArthur’s position on the miraculous gifts and their abuse in Charismatic theology. Now, I don’t plan on offering a detailed response to each of the points he makes. Actually, Lyndon Unger has done that quite well on two different occasions (see here and here). You should read Lyndon’s posts.

Instead, what I want to do is highlight one particular argument that Brown made and simply make the observation that the most popular of the Five Uninvited Guests has made an appearance. Toward the end of his article, Brown writes,

In reality, more people have been saved—wonderfully saved—as a result of the Pentecostal-charismatic movement worldwide than through any other movement in church history (to the tune of perhaps a half-billion souls)…

Continue Reading…

Our objective here is not to attack homeschooling. We have many homeschool families here at our church; and I personally have good friends, and even extended family members, who were homeschooled or who practice homeschool with their kids. In instances where parents choose to homeschool their children—assuming their reasons for doing so are genuine and noble—our church gladly supports their efforts. So this post is not an attack on homeschool as either an institution or a community.

Our objective, rather, is to dispel the notion that homeschooling is the only option a Christian can legitimately choose—the idea that those who do not homeschool their children are in violation of a biblical mandate, and therefore in sin. We believe homeschooling is one option, and in fact a good one for many families.

But is it the only legitimate choice that Christian parents can make? Or perhaps more to the point: Does the Bible mandate homeschooling? Continue Reading…