Saturday, May 31, 2008

Quote of the Day: Flavel on Christ


John Flavel on Christ:

“Christ is the great favorite in heaven: his image upon your souls, and his name in your prayers, makes both accepted with God.”

Works of John Flavel, Vol 1, “The Fountain of Life”, Sermon II, p 50.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Quote of the Day: Machen on Catholicism and Liberalism


J. Gresham Machen on Catholicism & Liberalism:

“How great is the common heritage which unites the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the early creeds, to devout Protestants today! We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all.”

Christianity and Liberalism (Eerdmans, 1923), p 52.

FAITH QUESTIONS: Is it wrong to use denominational titles?



ASK THE PASTOR: Is it wrong to identify yourself by denominational names like Baptist or Presbyterian?

If not, what name would you use? "Christian"? Before you decide, it might be helpful to remember where the title "Christian" originated. Believers were first called 'Christians' by the citizens of Antioch (Acts 11:26). Antioch was the third largest city in the world during the era of the New Testament. It was diverse, and constituted many different religions and people groups. When non-believers heard about the teachings of Jesus Christ, they mistook the title "Christ" for a name. Roman citizens had three names: the praemomen (first name), nomen (family name), and cognomen (surname). Generally Romans went by their cognomen. For example, the name of one eminent Roman statesman was Marcus Tullius Cicero, though he was generally known as Cicero. Most likely, the non-Christians at Antioch mistook the title "Christ" for a cognomen, and hence called the followers of Christ Christianoi, "Christ's people". Thus, the very name "Christian" resulted from a misunderstanding of pagans and was not a name given to us by Christ. This is not to say that it is wrong to use this title, but it does suggest that absolute dedication to it is unwarranted.

Now, however, we seem to be plagued with many "sub-names" that appear to dis-unify the body of Christ. Some four hundred years ago John Bunyan, the author of the Pilgrim's Progress, wrote that the "titles of Anabaptist, Independents, Presbyterians, or the like...came...from Hell and Babylon; for they naturally lead to divisions." [1]. As we survey the Christian landscape, it is easy to understand Bunyan's point. Schisms and factions plague Christ's Church. Why, then, would we continue to identify ourselves by denominational names and titles? Isn't it better simply to go by the title "Christian"?

The Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians preciously because of "denominational schisms" [2]. Paul writes, "For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided?" (I Cor 1:11-13a ESV). Many see in these words an apostolic disdain for using titles of differentiation. I disagree. In this passage Paul is not condemning reliance upon a human leader or theological stance. The early Christians were not monolithic in their theological understandings. Some (like Paul) had more Hellenistic leanings, others (like James) had more Hebrew leanings. If Paul was forbidden following leadership why would he tell the Corinthians "Therefore, I urge you to follow me" (1 Cor 4:16)? The problem Paul is addressing isn't their identification into various groupings but rather the quarreling that was taking place.

I believe that denominational titles are important for the following reasons:

1. Denominationalism allows Christians to be proud of their denominational heritage. As Paul demonstrates, there is nothing wrong with following the example of human leaders. A Wesleyan is simply someone who recognizes the teaching influence John Wesley. Non-denominationalism tends to lead to a chronological snobbery: "only the present is of value". It ignores the centuries of tradition, debates, discussions, and reflection upon the great theological doctrines of the church.

2. Denominationalism stimulates mature, reflective theological thinking. Denominationalism keeps alive the respective theological peculiarities of a specific group. If forces the worldwide Body of Christ to constantly ponder the doctrines of the faith, pushing us all to a deeper understanding of God's word. Issues like baptism, salvation, justification, spiritual gifts, the role of the holy spirit, church government, and original sin are not shoved under the rug. Instead, they are continually debated and discussed. Non-denominationalism tends to minimize the importance of most doctrines, which eventually creates a doctrinally illiterate membership.

3. There is no escape from it. Frankly, it is silly to think we can escape labels or divisive attitudes. Groups such as the Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and the Plymouth Brethren all eschew denominationalism--but have only succeeded in creating more denominations. Christians who say they are not part of a denomination but only follow "Christ" are still condemned by 1 Cor 1:11-13 as Paul also includes the label "of Christ". Trying to run from denominationalism only increases it.

4. Denominationalism is honest. A denominational label like Presbyterian, Baptist, or Methodist leaves little doubt regarding the theological stance of a church. For example, I should not be surprised to hear an arminian-sounding sermon in a Methodist church. Nor should I be surprised to find infant baptism taking place in a Presbyterian church. Non-denominational churches sometimes hide their theological positions and one only discovers them once he or she is well within the labyrinth.

Of course, these are reason why denominational labels are permissible to use. None of these arguments constitute a requirement. To be honest, I think denominational labels cause as much harm as good. However, I do not see how non-denominationalism solves the problem, and frankly I believe it only exasperates it. Denominationalism in and of itself is not the problem. The problem is the quarrelling that occurs between the denominations. For someone to declare themselves non-denominational, and then to criticize the denominations, only seems to increase the quarrelling.

As for John Bunyan, it seems he realized one could not ultimately escape such labels. In his book The Heavenly Footman Bunyan exhorts his readers to “have a care of Quakers, Ranters, Freewillers (Arminians); also do not have much company with some Anabaptists, though I go under that name myself”.

Don't be afraid of being part of a specific denomination (I would, of course, urge you become a Baptist!). But remember that the Bride of Christ is a kaleidoscope of colors, and dazzling as it is, your denomination is only one of them.

Principles and True, John Bunyan Online Library, http://www.mountzion.org/johnbunyan/text/bun-peaceable.pdf (accessed November 16, 2007) p 10.
[2] Readers are asked to forgive this obvious anachronism.
[3] John Bunyan, “The Heavenly Footman”, 1894. In vol. 3 of The Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor (Edinburg: Banner of Truth, 1999), p. 383.


Questions for Pastor Josh can be submitted via Email. "Ask the Pastor" is a feature in the monthly newsletter of Indian River Baptist Church. This blog republishes those Questions, along with others not selected for print publication.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quote of the Day: Mr Hervey on Living for God

Mr Hervey’s resolution regarding how to live for God:

“Never to go into any company where I cannot obtain access for my Master.”

quoted in The Christian Ministry
by Charles Bridges
(Banner of Truth, 2001 reprint),
p 115.

Daily Devo - Thursday, May 29, 2008

“do what is required…”
Philemon 8b

Human beings have a remarkable ability to make things more complicated than necessary—and miss the whole point in the process. As the saying goes, ‘details are the Devil’s playground, and we tend to cram in enough details at times for him to make an entire theme park.

Some today are obsessed with biblical prophecies and fill their time studying (or making) prophecy charts, graphs, and timetables. They focus on the minutia and squeeze every vague reference in Scripture into some elaborate end times doctrine. Others attempt to find “secrets” that are “hidden” in the Bible. In the second century there was a ‘Gnostic’ teacher named Basilides. He taught that reality was comprised of 365 ‘heavens’ controlled by 365 angelic beings. The lowest level, the kosmos (our physical universe), is the one we are currently trapped in. Mixing paganism with Christianity, Basilides taught that the “Father” sent Christ to the world to teach us the secret of advancing through all 365 levels. Almost like some trendy religion designed for Hollywood elites, he said the trick is to read the scriptures for clues, and also to listen to other ‘revealers’ who have clues for us. Its adherents endlessly searched in vain for some secret information, while failing to live according to clear commands. Whether a true believer obsessed with “bible secrets” or a heretic guilty of twisting scripture, both allow themselves to become distracted from the plain truth that lies in front of them.

Scripture is amazingly simple and straightforward. It state that (1) God made us, (2) we sinned against him, (3) we deserve eternal death, (4) He sent Jesus to save us, (5) we are to give our lives to Christ, and (6) we are to live for His glory. God has even specified how we are to bring Him honor and glory—namely, by being loving as He is loving.

Micah 6:8 is a remarkable passage that indicates what God has wanted from us all along. The prophet writes, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Elsewhere we are told that “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Both passage mix holiness with compassion. In the Philemon passage, Paul is reminding the wealthy slave-owner of the basics of Christianity. Neither holiness nor compassion is optional for the believer. We are, by definition, those who are singularly focused on accomplishing our mission—which is to bring God glory both by our holiness before Him and our compassion before others.

The more we abound with spiritual blessings in heavenly things,
the more God is honored, and his name glorified.
– William Attersoll

What the abortion clinics never tell you

Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people.
- Proverbs 14:34 (NIV)

Note: This tragic story is more evidence of the horrendous emotional damage caused by abortion.

___________

An artist killed herself after aborting her twins when she was eight weeks pregnant, leaving a note saying: “I should never have had an abortion. I see now I would have been a good mum.”

Emma Beck was found hanging at her home in Helston, Cornwall, on Feb 1 2007. She was declared dead early the following day - her 31st birthday.

Her suicide note read: “I told everyone I didn’t want to do it, even at the hospital. I was frightened, now it is too late. I died when my babies died. I want to be with my babies: they need me, no-one else does.”

News Link: The Telegraph

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quote of the Day: The Evangelical Manifesto on Politicized Faith


The Evangelical Manifesto on Politicized Faith:

“The Evangelical soul is not for sale. It has already been bought at an infinite price”.

Daily Devo - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

“…I am bold enough in Christ to command you
to do what is required…”

Philemon 8

I enjoy having someone mad at me about as much I as like drinking spoiled milk. Both experiences are unpleasant, foul, and bring out the sudden urge to lose my cookies. At one point in ministry, I found myself in the situation of needing to gently correct an older woman in the church. Actually, I wasn’t really even correcting her—instead I was simply reminding her of the need to show grace in a particular situation. Her response was as sharp as it was unexpected—and for 20 minutes I found myself being verbally ripped apart by her and her husband. Who was I, they demanded, to ‘talk-down’ to them in such a manner? In no uncertain terms they reminded me that I was half their age. They had been Christians longer than I was born—which they loudly proclaimed in front of half the church—and would not be told about grace from me.

I was stunned. I hadn’t even thought the conversation was a confrontation—I was simply excited about the opportunity to show grace and assumed they would be too. When my head stopped spinning (about 18 minutes into the conversation), I mumbled something about “an unfortunate misunderstanding”. The rest is a blur—and probably not my finest moment in pastoral ministry.

Yet it is moments like these that give shape to ministry. Such difficulties remind us that ministry must involve a certain amount of chutzpah—a wonderful Yiddish word meaning ‘boldness’ or ‘confidence’. In this letter, Paul is writing to Philemon—a very wealthy man of great social status in his own community. On the social ladder (which was quite rigid in Paul’s day), the apostle clearly ranked far below Philemon. Yet here we find Paul firmly urging Philemon to a certain course of action—and even declaring he has the right to order the rich man around! Add to this the fact that Paul was writting from a prison cell, and the scene almost looks comical. We might think Paul was insane, but that is far from the case. Paul’s chutzpah originated from his understanding that he was given an assignment from the king of Kings—to declare the King’s message. Such authority overrode all human conventions and hierarchies.

The job of a minister is to teach and remind God’s people of the way of Christ. We only relay a message, and urge others to obey. Being less than an apostle, we cannot order obedience nor should we beg for it. We are ambassadors of the King, not little potentates oor miserable beggars. Like an angel from the Lord, Christians are called to boldly proclaim Christ’s message while patiently urging others to follow Him. Boldness prevents craven cowardice, and love prevents domineering arrogance. Show a little chutzpah for your God—but be loving too!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: John Calvin's Sermons on Acts 1-7


Basic Info:

Title: John Calvin’s Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles: Chapters 1-7
Author: John Calvin
Translator: Rob Roy McGregor
Publisher: Banner of Truth Trust
Year: 2008
ISBN: 9780851519685
Binding:
Cloth
Pages: 688
Index: Scripture Index only
Reading Level: 3.0
Price: $36.00

Josh Gelatt’s Review: Rob Roy McGregor, retired pastor and able scholar, has done inestimable service for God’s kingdom with his recent translation of John Calvin’s sermons on the book of Acts. Though many recognize Calvin as a ‘giant’ among theologians, he was also uniquely gifted as a pastor. While students and pastors typically turn to his commentaries while studying a text, it is his sermons which best demonstrate how Calvin communicated deep theological truths to his congregants—many of whom would have been illiterate. McGregor now offers us—for the first time in English—Calvin’s sermons on chapters 1-7 of the Acts of the Apostles.

Calvin typically preached at least five times per week, and from 1549 through 1560, many of Calvin’s sermons were transcribed by Denis Raguenier, who had developed a new method of shorthand. Other continued this practice until 1654 (the close of John Calvin’s ministry). As McGregor notes in his introduction, these shorthand transcriptions were subsequently written out in long hand and then bound into volumes. In time, over 40 of these volumes were produced and were put in the care of the deacons of the Reformed Church of Geneva. In 1613 these volumes were moved to the University Library in Geneva. Sadly, most of these volumes were lost to history when the Library sold them in 1805 to open up much-needed self-space.

Of the volumes that have been recovered, only a few have ever been translated into English. Those fluent in French or Latin can avail themselves of the massive Supplementa Calviniana, which is a scholarly attempt to produce a critical edition of the surviving works of John Calvin. Volume 8 is the base of McGregor’s present translation, and is titled Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles. Apparently there originally were four volumes covering the entire book of Acts, though volumes two, three, and four have been lost to us. The forty-four sermons covered in this Banner of Truth edition were originally preached between August 25, 1549 and January 11, 1551.

The present volume is a modern English translation and is very smooth and easy to read. McGregor’s style captures the simplicity of Calvin’s original without obscuring its profound depth. McGregor rarely adds footnotes, but when he does they are brief and beneficial—though I frequently found wishing he had made more notations. The sermon titles seem to be modern additions, and sometimes are a bit contrived but generally helpful.

Physical Copy: Cloth bound on blue board with glued binding and an attractive dust jacket. It is printed on off-white alkaline (acid-free) paper and the text is sharp and clean. Dimensions are 6 x 9 inches.

Quote of the Day: John Flavel on Good Preachers


John Flavel on good preachers:

“He is the best artist that can most lively and powerfully display Jesus Christ before the people”.

Works of John Flavel, Vol 1, “The Fountain of Life”, Sermon I, p 39.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Quote of the Day: Cicero on Crucifixions


Cicero
on crucifixion:

“To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him an abomination, to kill him is almost an act of murder: to crucify him – What? There is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed.”

Against Verres II.v.66, para. 170

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quote of the Day: Charles Bridges on Pastoral Study


Charles Bridges on Pastoral study:

“The habit of study must be guarded, lest it should become an unsanctified indulgence.”

The Christian Ministry (Banner of Truth, 2001 reprint), p 49.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Quote of the Day: Plantinga on the Seeker Church


Cornelius Plantinga on the seeker church:

“Suppose a seeker came from a service of the kind I’ve been describing (let’s say a heavy-duty service of that kind). Suppose she came away and said to herself, now I understand what Christian faith is all about: it’s not about lament, or repentance, or humbling oneself before God to receive God’s favor. It’s got nothing to do with a lot of boring doctrines. It’s not about the hard disciplined work of mortifying our old nature and leaning to make God’s purposes our own. It’s not about the inevitable failures in this project, and the terrible grace of Jesus Christ that comes so that we might begin again. Not at all! I had it all wrong! The Christian faith is mainly about celebration and fun and personal growth and five ways to boost my self-esteem!

Cornelius Plantiga, “The Seeker Service Dilemma”

Friday, May 23, 2008

Quote of the Day: John Dod on Prayer


John Dod on prayer:

“Either prayer will make a man give over sinning, or sin will make a man give over prayer.”

John Dod, The Ole’ Sayings of Mr. Dod

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Quote of the Day: Wells on the Pursuit of Happiness


David F. Wells on America’s pursuit of happiness:

“At America’s genesis, we set out to make happiness the end of life and enshrined its pursuit as an inviolable right in our constitution. Along the way, however, we have come to think that happiness is unattainable and unimaginable in the absence of comfort and affluence.”

David F. Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quote of the Day: John Flavel on Children


John Flavel on children:

“What is a child, but a piece of the parent wrapt up in another skin?”

Works of John Flavel, Vol 1, “The Fountain of Life”, Sermon IV, p 67.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quote of the Day: D.A. Carson on Liberal Theologians


D.A. Carson on Liberal Theologians:

The classic devout liberal scholar is a gradually dying breed, replaced by a scholar who is no less liberal but much less devout.

- Christ and Culture Revisited (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008) 35.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Quote of the Day: P.T. Forsyth on Turning from Liberalism to Orthdoxy


P.T. Forsyth on turning from liberalism to orthodoxy

It also pleased God by the revelation of His holiness and grace, which the great theologians taught me to find in the Bible, to bring home to me my sin in a way that submerged all the school questions in weight, urgency, and poignancy. I was turned from a Christian to a belieer, from a lover of love to an object of grace. And so, whereas I first thought that what the Churches needed was enlightened instruction and liberal theology, I cam to be sure that what they needed was evangelization.

- Positive Preaching the Modern Mind, 3rd Edition (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998, reprint), 177.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quote of the Day: Tertullian on Truth


Tertullian on truth:

“My first principle is this. Christ laid down one definite system of truth which the world must believe without qualification, and which we must seek precisely in order to believe it when we find it. Now you cannot search indefinitely for a single definite truth. You must seek until you find it, and when you find, you must believe, since you also believe that there is nothing else to believe, and therefore nothing else to seek, once you have found and believe what he taught who bids you to seek nothing beyond what he taught.

- Prescription Against Heretics


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Quote of the Day: Daniel Dyke on Rejoicing with Others


Daniel Dyke (17th cent. Puritan) on rejoicing with others: “Many will rejoice in that love which is profitable to themselves. But where is he that will as well rejoice in that love which is profitable only to others?”

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Daily Devo - Thursday, May 15, 2008

“Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ
to command you to do what is required…”

Philemon 8a

In ancient Jewish culture one finds many references to the saliah. This Hebrew word literally means “sent one” and refers to the person sent on behalf of a private individual or group. If someone desired to get married, the head of the household would sent a saliah to negotiate for the bride. Also, the religious leaders in Jerusalem would send out saliahs to the Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire to collect the annual temple tax.

The saliah was granted the right to legally and fully represent the one who sent him. There actually was a legal phrase for this: “The-one-whom-a-person-sends (saliah) is like the sender”. In the New Testament, which was written in Greek, the writers use a different—but very similar—word. The New Testament word for this idea is apostolos, from which we get the word ‘apostle’. The word simply means “messenger” and signifies ‘a person sent by another’. Many times rulers and leaders would send out ‘apostles’ to represent them in a legal matter or to intervene on their behalf. The legal principle still applied, “The-one-whom-a-person-sends (apostolos) is like the sender". He had full authority to act on behalf of the one who sent him as long as he stayed within the confines of his mission.

In the passage above we see Paul subtly referring to his apostolic authority. Behind all of this is the legal idea that “The-one-whom-a-person-sends (saliah) is like the sender”. As an apostle ‘in Christ’, Paul is not simply giving good advice—rather, he is expressing the will of the one who sent him.

Yet the true beauty of this is not that Paul had the authority to order Philemon around—though he clearly did have such authority! As the authoritative representative of Christ, Philemon had a duty to submit to Paul’s leadership. Paul spoke on Christ’s behalf, and therefore Paul’s words were Christ’s words. This is important, and we must never forget that scripture continues to hold apostolic authority over us. To dismiss scripture, or any portion of it, is to reject the authority of the apostles and prophets. Considering the ancient legal principles that “The-one-whom-a-person-sends (saliah) is like the sender”, this is in reality a rejection of God himself.

The authority of the apostles is important, but it is the mission of the apostles that is truly beautiful. The saliah (or, apostolos) was the one trying to secure a bride for the groom he represented. He also was the one trying to secure those precious coins that belonged in the Temple’s treasure-house. In both cases, the saliah/apostolos’ main mission was to collect what rightfully belonged to the person he represented.

In this letter Paul is not pushing his authority. Instead, he is reminding Philemon of the great mission—securing souls for the treasure-house of heaven. Paul’s great mission was to unite people in an eternal relationship with God. He could simply command them to be obedient to Christ, but that would be placing authority over mission—something no true saliah could do. It was important, and necessary, for Philemon to submit to the apostle’s authority. This remains important for us today, as well. Yet the issue has never simply been submission, it has always been about relationship. By refusing to heed Paul, Philemon would have indicated that he was outside of a healthy relationship to God—the very thing Paul was trying to accomplish.

Quote of the Day: D.L. Moody on Evangelism

D.L. Moody on Evangelism:

“If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all, there are comparatively few people in the world who have great talents.”

BOOK REVIEW: The Reason for God (Keller)


Title: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
Editor: Timothy Keller

Publisher
: Dutton
Year: 2008

Cover: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Binding: Smyth-sewn
Reading level: 3.0

ISBN-13: 9780525950493
Price USD: $24.95 list price.

WHERE TO BUY:
Monergism Books: $14.97
Westminster Bookstore: $13.72

REVIEW: Timothy Keller is the preaching pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Ministering mainly to young urban intellectuals, the shape of Keller's ministry conforms to the intellectual demands and questions of his target audience. Previous to this, Keller served as pastor to a blue collar workers in Pennsylvania for several years. As a result, the sum total of Keller's pastoral work has enabled him to produce an apologetical work that probes the deepest questions of the intellect in a communication style that is engaging and simple.

The Reason for God is divided into two sections. The first ("The Leap of Doubt") gently dismantles seven arguments against the Christian faith. There is no hint of an argumentative spirit in Keller's work. Rather than challenging agnostics and atheists with his Christian presuppositions, Keller instead challenges them with their own intellectual presuppositions which are contradictory with the way they live. Far from disproving Christianity, Keller demonstrates how the arguments against Christianity do more damage for the atheist/agnostic position. Throughout the section Keller's tone is respectful and engaging. Clearly he has a heart for young intellectuals and patiently journey's with them in their discussions of Christianity. Section one offers what is the best example of applied presuppositional apologetics in print. While never mentioning terms such as 'reformed', 'presuppositional', or 'Calvinism', Keller clearly writes from such a perspective. A fine example of being reformed with being hung up on terms.

The second section ("The Reasons for Faith") is Keller's attempt to lay out a foundation of belief for the existence of God. In this later half of the book Keller also spends much time outlining the basic Christian message of the gospel. He has an innate ability to bring his readers to an understanding of the nature of 'sin' without overusing the word, and this book offers one of the clearest definitions of sin I have seen in print (chapter 10). At the end of the work, the evangelistic nature of Keller become clearly evident. The reader clearly sees that Keller is not interested in intellectual debates. Rather, he is interested in having conversations with people while pointing them towards a deep and biblical relationship with the Triune God.

This work is an amazing resource for pastors. It would be an excellent book for small group discussion and serves as a valuable resource in aiding young men and women who have questions about the faith. Furthermore, the work also serves as a model of doing ministry. Pastors are called to be scholars, but never simply scholars. Our primary focus should always be compassionate care for God's sheep, and a sacrificial willingness to go after the 'lost sheep' to bring them into the fold. Yet, as we go about this work, we are to be wise, informed, and disciplined in our own thinking. We live and work in the devil's playground, and therefore must be thoroughly equipped. Keller is a wonderful model of a church servant with the heart of a pastor, and the mind of a scholar.

Physical Copy: Dimensions are 9.25 x 6.25 inches. Appears to be a Times New Roman text type or equivalent.

The Cedarville Issue

Yesterday I received an anonymous email warning of Cedarville's supposed departure from the historic faith. Presumably, the email was associated with a group that runs a website called http://www.cedarvillesituation.com.

I have not kept up with the Cedarville issue, though the rumble of this thunder in Ohio can be heard even in furthest regions of northern Michigan. I am not an alumnus of that school, though I do have some connection with the current president Dr. William Brown. I was a student of William Jennings Bryan College (now just 'Bryan College') in Dayton, TN while Dr. Brown served their as president. I found him to be a true believer in Christ, dedicated to the historic faith 'once for all delivered', and a man whose personal and theological life was beyond question.

Frankly, I have no idea if the above group have legitimate concerns. They may well. What disturbs me is the anonymous email that was sent. I find such tactics more in line with the prince of darkness than the Lord of light. Sending out a mass email, without attaching one's name to it, amounts to libel. "Slander" is spoken statements and "libel" generally refers to written or otherwise permanent defamation. Interestingly, libel is also more prone to litigation, which is why the writer of the email covered his/her name.

When we use such tactics---anonymously hide while throwing mud at our opponents---it can only serve to make a mockery of Christ. I suggest, instead, that the individual call and make an appointment with Dr. Brown or another official from the school. Spend an hour together and hear their perspective.

And....don't send me anymore emails.


---------------------------------------
Below is the email I received, followed by my response:

Hello,

I am writing you to inform you of an important situation currently taking place at Cedarville University. It is critically important for your Church and potential future students of Cedarville to be aware of the school's current direction. The ramifications of what happens next will surely have an eternal impact and your prayer is greatly needed.

Please visit and notify your colleagues:
http://www.cedarvillesituation.com

Currently there are four articles with in-depth discussion regarding the current theological struggle at the University. The links page contains crucially important material as well, including:

-Content from the student newspaper advocating gay marriage, abortion, the liberal Emerging Church movement, etc.

- Letter from the 'Coalition of the Concerned' detailing concerns over the school's direction and multiple terminations of conservative Bible professors

-Multiple stories from newspapers and magazines detailing the legal aspect of revoked tenure contracts issued to in bad faith

-Legal threats by the school against concerned alumni who post material about the situation

-And much, much more.

Please continually visit the website as many more updates will be coming as the summer unfolds. The University has already released broad statements to calm concerned audiences, yet the fruit clearly indicates a shift quite opposite of that which is publicly shown. The situation is not yet resolved and prayer is currently needed by you and many others.

Please pass this e-mail to other staff members or individuals who would be concerned enough to pray for the future of Cedarville. Again, continue to check for updates this summer as the site will update you on the status of the situation.

Please pray for Cedarville add this to your prayer requests.
May God richly bless you as you continue to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Him,
Anonymous & Concerned

--------
Dear Anonymous,

While you may have correct concerns about Cedarville, I believe writing such things anonymously is shameful, sinful, and unbecoming a child of God. Sin hides in darkness. I will not listen to any voices that have no name attached to them. Furthermore, I will direct my congregation accordingly.

Pastor Josh Gelatt

--------------------------
UPDATE:

[Received May 15, 2008]

Pastor Gelatt,
You are more concerned over my method of notification than the substance of that site.
Anonymity exists for the purposes of protection, not slander.
The site author is not anonymous nor are the posted signatures of the concerned faculty.

If you read the material, you would know the proper avenues have been explored to no avail.
In addition, if you do not deem the content on the links page as solid evidence -- including signed statements from Godly men and restatements of already public material -- nothing will convince you.

Have a good day.

------

Anonymous,

There is no justification for darkness. I am not contesting your claims. I am rebuking your methods. If you do not model godliness, on what basis do you attack Cedarville's lack of it?

JG

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quote of the Day: Attersoll on the need for personal savlation


William Attersoll (17th cent. Puritan) on the need for personal salvation:

“No man can be saved by another man’s believing, no more then be nourished by another man’s feeding”

Daily Devo - Wednesday, May 14, 2008


“Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ…”

Philemon 8a


The story of Esther is one of the most amazing examples of literature produced by the ancient world. It recounts the true story of Esther, a Jewish girl who becomes queen of the very nation that is oppressing her people. Though she becomes queen simply to serve as ‘eye-candy’ for the king, Esther learns to embrace her role as monarch when she learns that her people are in jeopardy of extermination at the hands of the evil Naaman, a powerful nobleman in the king’s court. Yet the law of the land is clear: to approach the king without being summoned, even for a queen, is to risk immediate execution. In a climatic moment in the story, Esther boldly comes before the throne and (eventually) pleads for the life of her people.

The author of Hebrews describes a similar scene, though he is not speaking of Esther. Instead, he writes of every believer in Christ when he states, "Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." If the throne of a human king is capable of producing fear and terror, how much more terrifying is the throne of the living, sovereign God. Our view of God as a ‘nice grandfather’ is both perverse and unbiblical. He is raw power, absolute terror, infinite strength, and righteous fire. God warns Moses that no human can see His face and live (Exodus 33:20). When ushered before the heavenly throne Isaiah fell down in fear, convinced his life was at an end (Isaiah 6). Yet it is before this throne that we may now boldly come; that is, all who have Christ as their Lord, savior, and righteous shield.

Because of Christ we can approach the very creator of the universe. There is no longer a separation between believing humanity of the father-king. Proverbs 28:1 hints to this relationship when it states, “The wicked flees when no man pursueth; but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Though the father-king is indeed a person to be feared, Christ has atoned for our sins so we may relate to him as the sinless, holy creatures that we were meant to be. We tremble at his throne, as did Esther. But like Esther, we remember our position. She was the very queen of Persia, yet our position as sons and daughters of God is greater still.

There is boldness to being a Christian, and the Christian faith is no place for wimpy, spineless, fear-filled faith. Even when faced with difficult situations, we remember who we are. This is why Paul and Barnabas could “wax bold” (KJV English at its best) in Acts 13:46. When your dad is the father-king of the world, how could we possible fear anything else? Christ gives us the boldness to come before God, which then fills us with the boldness needed for daily life. With the psalmist we can sing:

I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
When I called, you answered me;
you made me bold and stouthearted.
Psalm 138:1-3

Lesson Learned in My First Year of Ministry: #2 - Preach for the Pew, not the Professor

[This post is part 9 of a 10 part series of the most important lessons I have learned in my first year of ministry. While I understand that family, friends, and congregants will read it, please remember it is written more to other pastors--especially those new in ministry.]

Lesson #2: Preach for the Pew, not the Professor

As I am now finishing my second year in the pastorate, I have had to radically rethink my approach to preaching. The benefits of ascending to the pulpit weekly (or, multiple times weekly) is that it affords one the opportunity to experiment with different models or styles of preaching. Apart from being rather taxing upon one's unfortunate congregation, it is nevertheless a tremendous learning experience for the young pastor.

In seminary (or bible college) we are taught an approach to preaching that I find rather unhealthy. While such schools generally (and rightly) emphasize the need for expository preaching, I have found their definition of such preaching is many times out of line with the preaching of faithful ministers throughout the centuries. The sermons that most impressed the professor I have found to be the very sermons that most alienated the person in the pew. The earnest Christian professor rightly calls upon us to faithfully preach the text, but the method of preaching they advocate is many times more suitable for a scholarly lecture than a Sunday pulpit. Over the past year I have come to realize that I have been called to preach for the pew, not the professor. Of course, I always believed this--I just didn't practice it.

A. Preach with clarity.
Your job as a pastor is to be very, very simple. The pulpit is not the place to creatively rearrange the text to fit it into some sort of contrived alliteration. Though that preaching method is from a generation ago, it rises from the still contemporary need to push the text into some grand framework. While creativity is an important dimension to preaching, it is secondary. Furthermore, the sermon is no place to speak of the technical aspects of Hebrew poetic structure, the Greek verbal system, or scholarly arguments about authorship. Nor is the sermon the place for excessive quotation from Church Fathers, the magisterial Reformers, Puritan expositors, and even your childhood pastor. By all means, be conversant in these things! They will help shape your preaching--but they shouldn't be the shape of it. Know your congregation. Keep it simple. Your goal is that they understand that passage and offer ways of application. Nothing more.


B. Preach the whole counsel of God.
Seminaries many times discourage us to incorporate other texts into our sermons. The strict exegetical approach to preaching--which binds one only to the text before him--is absurd and out of line with the great Protestant and Early Church preachers of our past. Pick up a Puritan, or read the great Early Church expositor Chrysostom--all of these men freely interacted with other portions of scripture. They were not afraid to preach the whole counsel of God and allow those scripture to inform the passage under question. They regularly drew their readers into a fuller understanding of God's revelation--and rarely (if ever) limited themselves to the confines of only a few verses.

C. Preach God's heart, not yours
To be honest, I don't care what's on your heart--nor should anyone care about what's on mine. My thoughts cannot change lives. The goal of a sermon should never be about communicating something that is important to me. There is a word for that--it's called a speech. A sermon, by contrast, is about what is important to God. We are called to preach His message--nothing more, nothing less. If people walk away impressed with me as a speaker, in a very real sense I have failed. Christ said that John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived, yet he sought to decrease that Christ may increase. If John was willing to get out of the way so Christ could work, I sense a chump like me should as well.



Previous Posts in this series:


Lesson #9: They had to hate someone, it might as well be You.

Lesson #8: Poor Pastors Have Pretty Knees

Lesson #7: Know the Waitress by Name

Lesson #6: The Need is Not the Call

Lesson #5: I'm an Idiot

Lesson #4: Stink Like Your Sheep

Lesson #3: Remember Who You Work For


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Daily Devo - Tuesday, May 13, 2008


“…my brother…”
Philemon 7 (ESV)

There are two evils that continually plagued fraternal relations among the people of God. Like polar opposite twins, they look starkly different but stem from the same source. The first evil is the denial of Christian fellowship to someone who is truly a brother or sister in Christ. The second is to grant Christian fellowship to someone who is not a true sibling. Both evils arise from the same source: a misunderstanding of the nature of Christian ‘brotherhood’.

The biblical term ‘brother’ can correctly be translated as ‘brother and sister’. The concept of ‘maleness’ is not in view, rather the term expressed the sibling relationship among God’s people (and in our contemporary age we need not add fuel to the raging feminist fire). It is a powerful term that occurs over and over in the New Testament. Whereas the gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) preferred the term “disciple”, Paul preferred the term “brother” in order to emphasize the corporate nature of discipleship. It is a term which indicates the deep spiritual bond that connects believers. As Christian siblings, we share both in the atoning work of Christ and the fullness of the Spirit. We have been made joint-heirs of the Father and have been called to a common mission. Each of us has been given only limited ability and giftedness, forcing us to rely upon one another in order to bring glory to God with our lives.

By refusing to recognize someone as a brother or sister in Christ, even though they share a genuine faith in Jesus, we commit a heinous insult to the cross. By doing so we tear asunder the very Bride of Christ (a virtual rape of her beauty, dignity, and worth). Yet it is equally disastrous to admit someone into fellowship who does not share in the faith and mission of Christ and the Spirit. At best, as churches we play the fiddle of fellowship as the false-brother continues along pathway to hell. At worst, we begin to walk on that path ourselves. The first erroneously divides, the second naively unites.

Therefore, it becomes important for us to recognize our spiritual siblings. All who call upon the name of Christ and submit their lives for the glory of God are our brothers and sisters in the faith—regardless of what denomination they may be found in. Jesus asks the question, “Who are my brothers” even as his physical brothers were near the door. He answered that question by pointing instead to his disciples, saying, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven in my brother” (Matthew 12:50). Scripture plainly tells us to examine the faith of those who wish to be considered our brothers in Christ. Paul tells us to judge the faith of those inside the church (1 Cor 5:12b). Those who are found to have an immoral lifestyle are to be removed from fellowship. Paul forbids us from even eating with such people (verse 11b), and commands us to purge the evildoers from our midst (verse 13b). We are even told to avoid spiritual brothers who are “idle” (i.e. those doing nothing for God’s glory, see 2 Thess 3:16).

There is such a thing as a false brother. Whether we like it or not, we are not allowed to associate with such people, or even let them into our homes (2 John 10). We should never rush to this judgment, and there is room for healthy benefit of the doubt. A hasty decision to exclude one from fellowship is indeed a sin, but refusing to ever come to a decision is a sin in and of itself. May Christ protect us from both.

Quote of the Day: Spurgeon on church members


Charles Spurgeon on church members:

“The most useful members of a church are usually those who would be doing harm if they were not doing good.”

Reformational Golf

I have an idea. No...it's more of a dream. Yesterday a buddy and I were playing golf and we began talking about how wonderful it would be to get a group of pastor guys together for a day of prayer, reading & discussing the Word, and (of course) plenty of golf. A very beautiful golf club near our home offers free golf to pastors, making such an outing affordable. Also, my wife and I are currently living in a spacious, upscale log-cabin on 70 acres of wilderness along a river (obviously, not a home we own--it's more of a longer-term house-sitting arrangement).

Here's the plan:

1. Every couple of weeks we gather together on Mondays.
2. Optional breakfast at our cabin for all the families/couples. There is plenty of room downstairs for the kids, a large field for outdoor games, a shallow pond for swimming, hot-tubbing, etc.
3. Ladies can have a time of fellowship and (well, whatever it is that ladies do).
4. Guys will depart for the course.
5. Assemble in the club-house for a time of reading a portion of Scripture & prayer.
6. Golf - as we golf--we discuss the scripture passage.
7. Late Lunch - we hear an exposition from one of the brothers on that passage. Time of discussion.
8. Back with the ladies/families--for family fellowship.
9. Families/couples traveling from a distance would be welcome to stay with us overnight. There is plenty of room and privacy.

The details can change, but the basic ingredients are: golf, Scripture, families, prayer.

Let's golf for the glory of God!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Muslim Father Kills Daughter for Falling in Love

Abdel-Qader Ali killed his daughter after he learned that she had fallen in love with a British solider, even though she was still a virgin and did little more than admit infatuation. Her brothers helped him kill her. According to father, police congratulated and released him. His only regret? That he did not kill Rand Abdel-Qader, 17, as a baby.

Abdel-Qader Ali gives an insight into the society that we are fighting to preserve in Iraq. When asked about any regrets, he said: “If I had realised then what she would become, I would have killed her the instant her mother delivered her.”

A government employee, Abedel-Qader, 46, gave the shocking interview sitting in his garden as a free man.

His daughter was studying English at Basra University when she met a British soldier while she worked as a volunteer for displaced families.

When her father learned that she had been seen in public with the soldier, known only as Paul, he choked her to death with the help of her brothers. Her mother had actually called her brothers Hassan, 23, and Haydar, 21, to restrain Abdel-Qader but they ended up helping him kill her instead.

When they dumped her body, her uncles spat on her grave and the father later said: “Death was the least she deserved, I don’t regret it. I had the support of all my friends who are fathers, like me, and know what she did was unacceptable to any Muslim that honours his religion.”

Abdel-Qader, a Shia, says that the police supported and “The officers were by my side during all the time I was there, congratulating me on what I had done.”

This is only the latest story of how we are preserving a system that continues to abuse women in this fashion, for a story from Afghanistan click here.

For the full story, click here.

HT: Jonathan Turley

Quote of the Day: William Penn on Governmental Law


William Penn on governmental law:

“If we are not governed by God, we will be ruled by tyrants.”

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Review of "That They May Have Life"

That They May Have Life

A review of an ‘Evangelical and Catholics Together’ document

PART 1: BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW


BACKGROUND:

Beginning in 1994 a group of Protestant and Catholic leaders assembled together for a series of discussions on issues that both divided and potentially united the two groups. Over the course of the years, they have produced several joint statements (full documents) regarding the conclusions reached in those discussions. The first statement, The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium, was a pledge to solidarity in the common task of evangelization. Next came the document titled The Gift of Salvation which affirmed the way each group understood that salvation is by faith alone, through grace alone, and because of Christ alone. The third treatise (Your Word is Truth) offered a statement of common understanding on the nature of scripture and the role of the church in the task of interpretation. In 2003 the group took of the subject of The Communion of the Saints and affirmed that, by virtue of our common union in Christ, we are in a real (though imperfect) communion with one anther in Christ’s body, the Church. Two years later, the group produced a document titled A Call to Holiness. In this statement, the participants affirmed that holiness is the mark of a true believer and offered ways in which our communities of faith can foster and embody holiness. In the fall of 2006 the group produced statement outlining their common understanding of the sanctity of human life and the Christian community’s role in presenting this view to the public square.

The group has not been without its critics. The two groups have been charged with theological compromise from constituents on both sides. While there can be little doubt that the group has made massive strides in fostering Evangelical-Catholic dialogue, some wonder if such dialogue has been made possible only through an intentional minimizing of the theological issues which have historically been cause for division. Instead of overcoming the chasm of separation between the two parties, the participants have been charged with donning blindfolds as they approach the precipice. Rightly or wrongly, the dialogue is both historic and influential. In the discussion that follows we will discuss their latest joint-statement titled That They May Have Life.


OVERVIEW

That They May Have Life is broken into two rather large sections. In the first section, the authors note the fact that the West is a culture currently marked by different worldviews in conflict for domination. Rather than “joining in the despair” of believing no solution is possible, the document affirms that through the use of reason, deliberation, and persuasion the American culture can find a common way to rightly order its life together. Thought both groups recognize the effects of sin upon human reason (though they differ as to the extent), they jointing “affirm together that human reason…has a capacity for discerning, deliberating, and deciding questions pertinent to the civil order.”

Furthermore, the statement declares that it is not the intention of the authors to “impose but to propose, educate, and persuade, in the hope that, through free deliberation and decision, our society will be turned toward a more consistent respect for the inestimable gift that is human life.”

Section one also defines the precise nature of the debate regarding human life. Noting that there is no medical dispute as to when life begins (which is at conception), they rightly conclude that the true debate is “over which human beings, at whatever state of development or decline, possess rights that we are bound to respect.”

Finally, the authors propose that “humanism” properly understood is essentially Christian. They note that the Christian religion is best posed to offer a “deeper and richer humanism” as it affirms the “dignity of the human person who is the object of God’s infinite love and care”. They end this section with the statement that “there is in world history no teaching more radically humanistic than the claim that God became a human being in order that human beings might participate in the life of God.”

In section two the document outlines the Bible’s teaching regarding the sanctity of human life. It affirms that “human life is sacred because it is the creation of God, the Lord of life.” Understanding that non-theists will not accept such lines of argument, the authors plead with such persons to consider the ramifications of a culture that practices wanton killing of the unborn or any other person considered too handicapped and too burdensome. They rightly note that once this logic is applied, its logical conclusion would mean that we could take life whenever we subjectively feel it is ‘unwanted’.

The statement indicates that the current abortion policy is irrational and incoherent—namely, the view that once a child is born it is afforded full protection by law, but while in the womb is susceptible to termination. It goes on to note the continued presence of evil—an evil which is currently manifesting itself in the healing professions as they embrace the practice of death-dealing.

Several paragraphs are devoted to highlighting the tragic consequences of abortion—including intense guilt and anxiety on the mother, destabilization of marriages, low value of children who are now seen as burdens (giving rise to child abuse), and even the sexual exploitation of women. Throughout this section, the authors extensively quote Scripture and ground their view of ‘Christian’ humanism in the Christian scriptures. Despite this, they authors also call for non-theists to join them in the process of deliberation and decision as we corporately attempt to create a social order that upholds human dignity. The authors then end the document with a declaration that “we cannot and would not impose this vision of a culture of life upon others”.

In part two, I will offer an analysis of That They May Have Life”.

Quote of the Day: J. I. Packer on Pelagianism


J.I. Packer on Pelagianism:

Pelagianism is the natural heresy of zealous Christians who are not interested in theology.

- Keswick and the Reformed Doctrine of Santification

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Quote of the Day: Walter Lippmann on true peace


Walter Lippmann on true peace:

It is possible for multitudes in time of peace and security to exist agreeably—somewhat incoherently, perhaps, but without convulsions—to dream a little and not unpleasantly, to have only now and then a nightmare, and only occasionally a rude awakening. It is possible to drift along somewhat nervously, somewhat anxiously, somewhat confusedly, hoping for the best, and believing in nothing very much. It is possible to be a passable citizen. But it is not possible to be wholly at peace. For serenity of soul requires some better organization of life than a man can attain by pursuing casual ambitions, satisfying his hungers, and for the rest accepting destiny as an idiot’s tale in which one dumb sensation succeeds another to no known end.

- A Preface to Morals

Friday, May 9, 2008

Quote of the Day: C.S. Lewis on the rejection of absolute truth


C.S. Lewis on the rejection of absolute truth

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings to be fruitful”

- The Abolition of Man

Daily Devo - Friday, May 9, 2008


“…my brother…”

Philemon 7 (ESV)

One of the very first sins in human history was the betrayal and murder of one brother by another. It happened just after the Fall (i.e. the sin of Adam and Eve that made humanity fall from its state of perfection and goodness).1 Cain, the older brother, became enraged with jealousy and slew his younger brother Abel. God himself actually warned Cain of the danger of his growing anger prior to the murder, but the anger became too great and soon Cain found himself consumed by it. A strong as the bond of brotherhood is, when we allow ourselves to be coupled with anger it forms a bond far stronger than any sibling relationship.

In the few years that I have been counseling professionally I have witnessed horrid examples of individuals betraying their families. Father who have the perfect family—gorgeous and loving wife, well-behaved children, etc—throw it all away for the felt-need of an extramarital relationship. Mothers who develop an addiction to drugs (either prescription or illegal) and who allow their children to be stripped by the state because feeding their addiction has become the priority. Grandparents who have retired in wealth and use their money to constantly travel the world, and therefore fail to be a regular presence in their grandchildren’s life—children who desperately need a godly, loving example. Sin comes in many forms; but regardless its form, it always bonds to our very souls. As such, it becomes our first allegiance—our first priority. Compared to this, no family relationship has a chance of competing against our relationship to our sin.

But there is one thing more powerful than sin—and that is the cross of Christ! Cicero called the cross “a most cruel and disgusting punishment”2. Yet by undergoing this “cruel and disgusting punishment” Christ waged war against sin itself—breaking its power over God’s elect and restoring person-to-person relationships to their proper place of honor. Of course, the first relationship restored is our relationship to God the Father. Now, because of the cross, we can love the Lord [our] God with all our heart, soul and mind. As a logical consequence of this newly restored relationship with the Father, we can now also love our neighbor as ourselves.

In other words, the cross undoes Cain’s betrayal of brotherhood. It restores—actually recreates—a new family of believers. This is what Paul means in Romans 8:29 when he says that Christ is the “firstborn of many brothers”. When we recognize someone as a brother or sister in the faith we are doing nothing less than declaring Jesus’ victory over sin and death. The simple greeting of “my brother” is in reality the joyous shout of victory. The enemy of true brotherhood has been defeated, and Christ is the victor. Sin destroys brotherhood, but grace the Christ sustains it.


______________________
1
Interestingly, the very first human-to-human sin also occurred within the family. Instead of truly honoring and loving Eve, Adam grumbled against her when asked by to explain his disobedient actions.
2
Cicero, Against Verres II.v.64, para. 165