wesleyJohn Wesley (1703–1791) is best known in church history as the founder of Methodism. His commitment to the biblical gospel, passion for evangelistic preaching, and skill at organizing the budding Methodist movement are all notable traits. And God used those qualities to help spark the Evangelical Revival in England in the mid-18th century (a revival that paralleled the Great Awakening in North America). In that respect, there are many helpful things that we can learn from Wesley’s example.

His marriage, however, left a different kind of legacy; one which is also noteworthy, but not for good reasons.

As Methodist author John Singleton explains:

The saga of John Wesley’s marriage is a cautionary tale from the roots of Methodism that ought to resonate today with any couple so involved in church life that they fail to leave enough space for each other.

Wesley and Mary Vazeille, a well-to-do widow and mother of four children, were married in 1751. By 1758 she had left him—unable to cope, it is said, with the competition for his time and devotion presented by the ever-burgeoning Methodist movement. Molly, as she was known, was to return and leave him again on several occasions before their final separation.

Due to her husband’s constant travels, Molly felt increasingly neglected. She grew jealous of her husband’s time since he was often away. And she became suspicious of the many friendly relationships he maintained with various women who were part of the Methodist movement. Wesley for his part did little to assauge her fears. Continue Reading…

If we can agree that the goal of the Christian life is to glorify God as much as is possible, then there really is only one natural question: what is the single most God-glorifying action a Christian can do?

Some may argue that all elements of a Christians life, such as prayer, fasting, worship, parenting, sanctification, etc.,  are equally important. But I disagree. While all spiritual disciplines are interconnected—if your prayer time falters, so do your affections for Jesus, and then your sanctification falters, and then you sin—they are not all equal. I argue that evangelism is the single most important action for a Christian, and I measure importance by the way an action glorifies God. Pastor MacArthur has often said “nothing so much glorifies God as his gracious redemption of hell bound sinners,” and if the chief purpose of mankind is to glorify God, nothing glorifies God as effectively as evangelism.

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Pursuit of HappinessIn my last two posts, I reflected a bit upon the prominence that Scripture gives to joy in the Christian life, as well as the nature and character of this joy that we are commanded to have. We learned from Scripture that joy is not merely a decision of our will, but an affection of our heart. We also learned that joy is a gift and fruit of the Spirit of God, something we can’t just work up in ourselves. But we also saw clearly that it is our “bounden duty,” as Spurgeon said, to pursue our joy.

How is that possible? How are we supposed to obey the command to rejoice in the Lord always if true Christian joy is a gift of God?

I love the way the Scottish Puritan Henry Scougal answers this question. He says,

“All the art and industry of man cannot form the smallest herb, or make a stalk of corn to grow in the field; it is the energy of nature, and the influences of heaven, which produce this effect; it is God ‘who causeth the grass to grow, and the herb for the service of man’ (Ps 104:14); and yet nobody will say that the labours of the [farmer] are useless or unnecessary….” (The Life of God in the Soul of Man, 78–79).

You see, man can’t make grass grow. We can’t make the land sprout fruit and vegetables. Those are blessings that come to us as the gift of God. But God has ordained that the earth yield its produce by means of the farmer’s labors. In the same way, we can’t fabricate or manufacture joy by seeking to manipulate our feelings, or by whipping ourselves up into an emotional frenzy. Spirit-wrought, God-exalting joy is a gift that He gives. But God has ordained that we bear this fruit of the Spirit through means. And so when Paul commands us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he is commanding us to make diligent use of the means the Spirit employs in working genuine joy in us.

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Like all people, I have a whole lot of memories.  Some of them are good, some of them are bad, most of them are lost in history, and some I cannot but remember (but won’t mention because they’re often quite incriminating of my own stupidity).  One of the ones that isn’t incriminating of myself (too much) comes from my days in Bible College.

I remember sitting in a class with my professor, studying a subject, and the topic turned to the bible in relation to a specific issue that apparently wasn’t around in Jesus’ day.  I was young, naive, and easily convinced when my professor taught the class that Bible doesn’t mention various subjects at all (i.e. anything that wasn’t around in Jesus day, like cell phones or stem cells or democracy) so we cannot help but go to the people who are the experts in that subject (psychologists, biologists, etc.) for an understanding of it.  At the time, that seemed somewhat reasonable since I knew that the Bible didn’t really talk about things like the internet, right?  I mean, there definitely was no internet in Jesus’ day, so I guess Jesus couldn’t have addressed it, right?

jesus_mac_stainedglass Continue Reading…

The book, Things that go Bump in the Church (Harvest House) is being released on April 1st (no, really).Bump Cover

The work deals with intimidating doctrines that Christians sometimes fear. I was privileged to co-author the work with Mike Abendroth and Byron Yawn. Our goal was to provide accessible, biblical presentations of teachings that are often misunderstood, and to do so in an engaging style (we at times lapse into satirizing the Amityville horror genre). The subjects we cover include demonology, elder rule, election, homosexuality, controversial liberties, among several others.

You can pre-order the paperback or Kindle version by clicking here.

To get a taste, here is an excerpt of the introduction to my chapter on church membership, titled…

“Anuptaphobia and Church Membership”

He was new to the creepy little town, but not a visitor. This dot on an Appalachian map was now home. His Christian upbringing had left his conscience averse to the “Solo Lobo Syndrome”— a lone wolf is a dead wolf was Grandma’s sagacious mantra. So that first Sunday he dutifully visited the only church in town. Its shabby, unkempt exterior didn’t put him off. It matched the ageing appearance of all the local buildings, and their occupants. He wasn’t expecting much from the service that morning, but still there was something slightly off-kilter about the experience, like when a painting has been hung askew, just enough to pique one’s awareness but not enough to be called crooked.

The bald greeter at the door seemed genuinely happy to meet the stranger. And although he never removed his right hand from the pocket of his suit pants, he warmly gripped the visitor by the shoulder and led him toward the sparse, seated congregation. The evidently tight-knit cohort of a dozen or so regulars greeted him enthusiastically. Everyone was friendly, though one or two could not mask their bemusement that this stranger had chosen to worship with them.

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Today’s post is Part 4 of a series focusing on the gift of tongues. (Click here to view Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.)

Tongues_Newspaper

In particular, we are considering the continuationist claim that tongues in the New Testament did not always consist of real human foreign languages. Wayne Grudem, in Making Sense of the Church, represents the continuationist position when he writes:

“Are tongues known human languages then? Sometimes this gift may result in speaking in a human language that the speaker has not learned, but ordinarily it seems that it will involve speech in a language that no one understands, whether that be a human language or not” (emphasis added).

In his book, The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, continuationist author Sam Storms echoes that same thesis, insisting that “Acts 2 is the only text in the New Testament where tongues-speech consists of foreign languages not previously known by the speaker.” Storms’ assumption is that, even in the New Testament, the majority of tongues speech consisted of something other than human language.

Storms marshals nine arguments to defend that assumption. We have already considered his first two arguments (in the previous two posts). Today we will consider a third.

Continuationist Argument 3: First Corinthians 12:10 states that there are different kinds of tongues, therefore not all tongues are human languages.

In 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 Paul writes,

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

Because Paul says that there are “various kinds of tongues,” continuationists assert that this means there are at least two categories of tongues speech: human (earthly) languages and non-human (heavenly) languages. Storms articulates the argument like this:

Note also that Paul describes various kinds [or ‘species’] of tongues (gene glosson) in 1 Corinthians 12:10. It is unlikely that he means a variety of different human languages, for who would ever have argued that all tongues were only one human language, such as Greek or Hebrew or German? His words suggest that there are different categories of tongues-speech, perhaps human languages and heavenly languages.

Based on that interpretation, Storms believes 1 Corinthians 12:10 provides exegetical support for the notion that tongues can be something other than human languages.

So what are we to make of the phrase “various kinds of tongues”? Is Paul differentiating between two fundamentally different categories of tongues (as Storms and other continuationists contend)? Does this verse really distinguish between earthly (human) languages on the one hand, and heavenly (non-human) languages on the other? Continue Reading…

In my life I often have a conversations that quickly turn to spiritual things.  I was once talking with someone involved in a sort of “para-church ministry” and as we talked it came up that he was wondering if he was called to actual church ministry.  As I probed his doubts I realized that he didn’t actually know what it meant to be “called”, hence he was terribly confused about the whole situation.  As was the case with many young adults I talk to, there was no real understanding of the concept of “call” outside of an esoteric concept that it involved something you got from God (somehow) and was necessary to go into ministry (or at least that’s what you’re expected to say to people who ask).  He knew he needed to get it, but he wasn’t sure what it was or what it would look like when it arrived.

Nutella

I really feel sorrow for so many people who know that ministry is some form of a “calling”, but when pressed to the wall they’re not able to give provide a concrete understanding of what a “call” is or how in the world to know if they’re called.  Now I’m not exactly going to unpack the whole concept of “call” since Clint has generally done that quite wonderfully and Eric has addressed that in the specific avenue of discerning a calling to church-plant, and there’s no real need to re-invent the wheel.  Instead, I’ll just add a little something to the wheel!

WagonWheels

For anyone who has ever wondered about their calling (and I can think of several of my immediate friends who do, and far more who thought they once had a “call” and now are quite convinced that they never did), here’s the general gist of what I told that young man: Continue Reading…

It seems like I’m apparently the “word study geek” here on the Cripplegate.  It’s not that I don’t write other things, but I have a blog that has around 350 posts and I find that the big study projects (i.e. the large word studies) are the things where I learn the most, hence that’s what I want to share with you all out there on the web.  Seeing that I am a little bit of a broken record with the word studies, I plan to do two mini-series and incorporate a word study into the first (see how sneaky I am there?).  The second series will be, well, somewhat different.  I promise that you will certainly not be disappointed, but I’ll leave everyone in suspense for now.

shocked_woman

So, for my first mini-series, I’m going to spend two posts laying some foundational understandings regarding ministry:

In this post, I’m going to unpack the term “ministry”.

In the next post, I’m going to unpack some ideas about the “call to ministry”.

I’ve had several conversations with people and have heard the word “ministry” thrown around in so many various contexts that I’ve heard basically everything and anything called “ministry”:  I’ve heard of “church ministry”, “children’s ministry”, “soup ministry”, “puppet ministry”, “lawn maintenance ministry”, “skateboard ministry”, “break dance ministry”, “paintball ministry”, “beach ministry”, “van/bus ministry”, etc.

church-van-communist Continue Reading…

What are believers today to think about the gift of tongues?

D. A. Carson asks that question in his book, Showing the Spirit. On pages 84–85, he writes:

How … may tongues be perceived? There are three possibilities: [1] disconnected sounds, ejaculations, and the like that are not confused with human language; [2] connected sequences of sounds that appear to be real languages unknown to the hearer not trained in linguistics, even though they are not; [3] and real language known by one or more of the potential hearers, even if unknown to the speaker. . . . Our problem so far is that the biblical descriptions of tongues seem to demand the third category, but the contemporary phenomena seem to fit better in the second category; and never the twain shall meet.

Storms_GuideAs Carson helpfully articulates, contemporary tongues “appear to be real languages . . . even though they are not.” By contrast, biblical tongues consisted of “real language known by one or more of the potential hearers, even if unknown to the speaker.”

But if biblical tongues consisted of real human languages (i.e. a real language known by one or more of the potential hearers), then how can modern continuationists advocate tongues-speech that produces nothing more than the appearance of language? (Those interested in Carson’s unique solution to this dilemma can find it here.)

In his book The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, author Sam Storms — like most continuationists — attempts to answer that dilemma by giving a list of reasons why he believes the New Testament gift of tongues did not necessarily produce real human languages. If he can show that biblical tongues were not always actual languages, he can demonstrate a precedent for the modern gift of tongues. We addressed his first reason in last week’s post. Today we will consider his second argument. Continue Reading…

One online encyclopedia (yes, I am a Wikiholic) describes a flash mob as:

a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression…”

The dubious honor of inventing flash mobbing belongs to Bill Wasik, the senior editor of Harper’s. He claimed the idea appealed to him as an oddball social experiment, as well as holding the promise of potential notoriety for him being credited with starting the next big thing. Ironically, it kinda worked.

heart flash mobOn June 17, 2003 Wasik employed nascent social media networking to arrange for about 150 people to meet at four staging areas in Manhattan bars. There they received their mission, and proceeded to converge on a specific locale, namely a particular rug in the furnishing department on the ninth floor of Macy’s.

The atmosphere was electric as this bevy of strangers suppressed knowing smiles and did their best to maintain a poker face as they each answered the repeated question of the sales assistants. Whenever they were asked what they needed or if they could be helped, each of the flash mobbers simply explained that they were all part of a commune that occupied a bare warehouse, and that they were collectively deciding on a “love rug” that they all liked.

And then, as suddenly as the mob had convened, it dissipated like a colony of startled ants disgorged from the department store and vanished into the anonymity of New York City’s sidewalks.

What is the point of all that effort and co-ordination, you may be excused for predictably asking. The answer is: nothing. And that’s the point.

The term “flash mob” was added to the 11th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, whose definition included the distinctive of this crowding as being “unusual and pointless” as opposed to purposeful public gatherings, like protests.

There is another spontaneous crowd formation in history that seemed pointless to some observers, but in reality was the most meaningful public gathering in human history.

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