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.

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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)…

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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…

thabiti preachingFive years ago at the Together for the Gospel Conference, Thabiti Anyabwile delivered a message on the myth of racial categories. Essentially it was an appeal for Christians to stop viewing race as a valid category, and to see that the entire concept of race is inextricably joined to the theory of evolution and an affront to the teaching of the Bible.

He argued that there is no biological basis for race, and that forcing humans into racial categories only leads to harm.

It was a powerful message for me, and one that I’ve thought about ever since. Anyabwile pointed out that race is problematic. He asked in what category should you put a person who speaks with a Jamaican accent, lives in Grand Cayman, and yet has white skin? Treating her like she is from Montana or Macedonia certainly misses the mark, but so does calling her Caymanian, black, or Jamaican…and then you come to find out she was born in Honduras.  For many people, culture doesn’t allow a coherent racial structure, and the pursuit of race as a category is simply “misplaced, wrongheaded, and inadequate.”

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ram-The Gospel of Jesus Christ is inescapably bloody. Tying together all the biblical imagery of Jesus as the high priest (Heb 2:17; 4:14-15; 5:1-10; 7-9), the Lamb (John 1:29; Rev 5:12), and the One who cleanses sinners (Heb 1:3; 9:14; 1 John 1:7), is the historic reality that He poured-out His blood for His people (Matt 26:28; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor 11:25; 1 Pet 1:2; Eph 1:7). When we say that Christ died for our sins, we mean that He died a bloody death on our behalf (1 Cor 5:7).

It is not surprising that the world still finds this foolish (1 Cor 1:18), but it is a shock when professing Christians do. Many reject the Bible’s description of Jesus’ atoning work, this “bloody Gospel,” because they find it repulsive. I would suggest at least two reasons for their revulsion – one cultural, the other, spiritual.

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If you are anything like the typical Christian parent who loves their child, you probably have an opinion about whether a child should (or may) be schooled at home, at a private Christian school, or in the public school system. The way some proponents of the various views air their opinions, one would think they’re helping you to choose whether to send your child to Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell.classroom

I don’t view Dante’s Inferno as an allegory for school selection, but I do empathize with the heavy responsibility that presses on a parent’s shoulders like Atlas. And I know I will annoy you who passionately hold to any of the above options. We have three little kids (and counting), and I can already tell that they are each going to thrive in different environments, and by God’s grace could probably survive in any educational atmosphere.

School is not an institution that God recognizes as responsible for the spiritual formation of your child. The role of teaching children about God is up to the parents.

Parents may recognize their inadequacy in imparting calculus and trigonometry to their wunderkind. They may decide to staff that out to a local school; no harm, no foul, if you ask me. But that is an entirely different matter from whether or not parents are involved in teaching the children about the Lord, and how to apply the Bible’s wisdom to their lives.

Your offspring may prove as prodigious as Good Will Hunting, but if he cusses, brawls, lies, and otherwise behaves like a hellion, as Matt Damon did in that movie, then what’s the point of his education? God is not impressed by evil genius.

kid reading

It makes sense to me why a parent would get upset with a school that does a poor job at teaching a child Ohm’s law or English grammar. What are we paying them for, if not to teach the students the math that is over our heads? But we’ve missed the point of school if we become disgruntled because of the absence of Bible instruction offered in the classroom, or a presence of unwholesome morals, or spawning misinformation about world views.  It certainly is nice when a school helps with that stuff, but biblically it is not their role, it’s ours.

Homeschooling is an effective approach that avoids using the school as a support of the family at all. But there are legitimate reasons why a family may choose to avail themselves of the help a school offers. There is nothing sinful about parents who dropped out of high school admitting that they cannot keep up with their gifted eleventh-grader’s chemistry syllabus. A parent doesn’t have to be smart to be wise, and he or she doesn’t need a diploma to be godly. But parents do need to do the best they can to equip their children for the spiritual traps that will await them while they are in school.

So, how can we use the school as a helper, without letting it become a substitute?

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read-my-blogMany pastors blog and I happen to think that’s a good thing, especially since yours truly is one of that number. This is not to overlook, as Carl Trueman has put it, the madness of how many Christians use the web:

This is madness. Is this where we have come to, with our Christian use of the web? Men who make careers in part out of bashing the complacency and arrogance of those with whose theology they disagree, yet who applaud themselves on blogs and twitters they have built solely for their own deification? Young men who are so humbled by flattering references that they just have to spread the word of their contribution all over the web like some dodgy rash they picked up in the tropics?

The Rev. Dr. does have a point, doesn’t he? Much of what Christians contribute online, even from pastors, is little more than an ungodly attempt at self-deification in the pseudo-society of social media. I do hope that’s not why I blog – and if it is, the extent of my readership is a fitting parable to the futility of seeking deification in God’s world. Notwithstanding these ever-present pitfalls, I think pastors should blog today to fulfill that ancient function of pastoral ministry, writing.

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Foxe's_BookFox’s Book of Martyrs is a must read for every Christian. Written by John Fox over 350 years ago, it catalogs the lives of hundreds of believers who, throughout church history, were willing to give their lives for the cause of Christ. When it comes to contagious courage, I can think of no greater testimony than reading about those who embraced their Lord to the point of embracing death.

One such account concerns the lives of Jerome Russell and Alexander Kennedy, two English Protestants who took a daring stand for what they believed. Because of their biblically-sound doctrine, the pair was arrested and imprisoned. Kennedy was only eighteen years old. After some time, the two men were brought before religious officials for questioning. Russell, being older, gave an articulate defense, using the Scriptures to support his belief in salvation through faith alone. Yet, in spite of the evidence, the men’s accusers prevailed and Russell and Kennedy were deemed heretics.

In keeping with the jurisprudence of the times, they were condemned to death—their sentence to be carried out the following day. Early the next morning, Russell and Kennedy were led from their prison cells to the place of execution. They could have denied their Lord, right then and there, and been spared. But when Kennedy, being but a young man, began to display signs of fear, Russell quickly encouraged him to stand firm: Continue Reading…

An increasingly common theme in worship songs is a refrain along the lines of “let your name be lifted higher,” “we lift your name up,” “we exalt you,” or something similar. Behind those words is the idea that in our song we lift up the name of God, which is to say we exalt his attributes.

I’ve always wondered about those kind of lyrics.  Is it biblical to “exalt” God? Certainly we are called to exult in God. But are what does it mean to lift God up? Does he need our help?

Lift on high

Bob Kauflin points out that this language is tricky in worship for the simple reason that God is not like us. In human relationships, when you praise someone in front of others, the value of the praised person increases in the eyes of those who over hear the praise. If I tell people how helpful and godly one of my friends is, your estimation of that person increases (assuming you believe I’m telling the truth). You previously didn’t know how kind and helpful he was, and now you have heard my report, so your thoughts about him are lifted higher.

But is that true of God?   Continue Reading…