Saturday, March 31, 2007

Is the Southern Baptist Convention Knowingly Planting Emerging Churches?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)—"How about beer with your Bible?"

That's the question NBC's "Today" show host Campbell Brown asked March 4 on national television to introduce a report titled "Beer and Bibles: New Churches Lure Young Members."

Featured in the two-and-a-half minute segment was Darrin Patrick, founder and senior pastor of The Journey in St. Louis—a Southern Baptist church with ties to the emerging church movement, the North American Mission Board and the Missouri Baptist Convention, which loaned the church $200,000 to help start a church planting center.

The emerging church movement is diverse and difficult to generalize. NBC spotlighted The Journey's "Theology at the Bottleworks," a church-sponsored discussion group in a bar where alcohol is available to attendees.

"This isn't just a brew pub, it's a church," NBC reporter Jennifer London said, describing the room where the meeting is held. The "church" in reality is the Schlafly Bottleworks where The Journey reaches out to younger adults who might not consider going to a traditional church setting.

Patrick told Baptist Press he abstains from alcohol and that The Journey "doesn't personally encourage nor corporately promote the use of alcohol."

However, the reporter emphasized the link.

For full article click here.

Is Mainstream Christianity Still Christianity .. No Turning Back?

Right before our very eyes mainstream Christendom is converging with the New Age movement. In 2007, two events are scheduled, and if they occur without a strong public response by Christian leaders, then we will have entered into a full-fledged paradigm shift, and a line will have been crossed that will very likely mean no turning back.

The first event will take place in August. It is the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. It is no news that Willow Creek has been plunging head first into mystical spirituality (known also as spiritual formation or contemplative spirituality) for some time. Ruth Haley Barton's and John Ortberg's spiritual formation curriculum for Willow Creek has helped to immerse thousands in contemplative spirituality. Willow Creek has also been a catalyst for the emerging church movement. But by all outward appearances they have at least worn a cloak of evangelical Christianity. That might be changing. While the speaker line up for the Leadership Summit this year includes contemplative proponent John Ortberg (that's indicting enough), it also includes former president Jimmy Carter. Carter's message for the event is "Building Humanity." According to an interview, Carter believes that everyone will be saved, with or without faith in Christ, so "building humanity" has an interspiritual premise for Carter. In other talks, he has stated things like:

There is an intense hunger among Christians around the world for a healing of the differences that now separate us from one another.

I think the main impediment is not knowing each other, not understanding each other, not recognizing that basic truth ... that every religion emphasizes truth and justice and benevolence and compassion and generosity and love.1
In the past, Willow Creek has not hesitated in lining itself up with those who promote mystical spirituality. In their 2005 Leadership Summit, speakers included Rick Warren and Ken Blanchard. Warren promotes contemplative spirituality as well as the emerging church (not to mention his interspiritual efforts 2, 3 ), and Blanchard has been consistently endorsing and promoting eastern meditation for over twenty years.4 At last year's Leadership Summit, Willow Creek invited meditation promoter Jim Collins (who incidentally teamed up with Mikhail Gorbachev, Peter Drucker, and Ken Blanchard a few years ago for a global peace conference). Collins wrote the foreword for a 2005 book called My Highest Goal (by Michael Ray). Here is an excerpt from that book:

I attended a meditation-intensive day at an ashram [Hindu spiritual center] to support a friend. As I sat in meditation in what was for me an unfamiliar environment, I suddenly felt and saw a bolt of lightning shoot up from the base of my spine out the top of my head. It forced me to recognize something great within me ... this awareness of my own divinity. (p. 28)

And it is this very notion of "the awareness of my own divinity" that should cause any discerning Christian great concern. It is the heart of both New Ageism and contemplative spirituality, and it is the belief that divinity (or a divine spark as some refer to it) is within every human being, and he or she just must realize it.

Speaking of a divine spark, the second line-crossing event will take place in September, and the theme is: "It Only Takes a Spark." It is Ken Blanchard's Lead Like Jesus conference. Why is this one so significant? Well, since 2005 when it came out that Blanchard was a New Age sympathizer,5 leaders who were teaming up with him (like Rick Warren and David Jeremiah) backed right off and halted their public appearances with Blanchard. It may have looked to many that Warren and Jeremiah saw the fallacy of Blanchard's spirituality and decided to remove themselves from such influence. But neither Warren nor Jeremiah made any public stance against Blanchard's spiritual affinities. In fact, both of them defended Blanchard (and incidentally publicly scorned Lighthouse Trails at the same time). Now, two years have passed, and this year's Lead Like Jesus will be including Erwin McManus. What's the big deal about that, some may ask? Isn't McManus an emerging church leader? Wouldn't such a teaming up be expected? Yes, but must we also expect major Christian leaders to promote McManus when his spiritual proclivities are so obvious?

Laurie Beth Jones is also one of the speakers at the 2007 Lead Like Jesus event. Jones, who has participated in the very New Age Business and Consciousness conference promotes New Age ideologies. Listen to a few of her statements:

My personal mission and vision is to Recognize, Promote and Inspire Divine Connection in Myself and Others. ( *)

Jesus regularly visualized the success of his efforts ... "I always do what pleases God." ... Was this conceit? Or was it enlightened creativity and self- knowledge? ... Jesus was full of self-knowledge and self-love. His "I am" statements were what he became. (p. 7 & 8 of Jesus CEO)

I proudly say I AM. I shape my own destiny. What I believe, I become. What I believe, I can do. (From back of Jesus CEO)

Today, two years after our report that Blanchard was teaming up with Rick Warren yet was heavily promoting the New Age, Blanchard is still endorsing New Age authors and teachers (like his recent foreword for Jon Gordon's new book), and he is still part of the Hoffman Institute (a think tank for New Age thought). And yet, Erwin McManus sees nothing wrong with speaking at Blanchard's conference, and Christian leaders (such as the Assemblies of God Southeastern University and CCN) see nothing wrong with promoting McManus. But McManus by his own admission says that his spirituality is based on mysticism. Of his book, The Barbarian Way, he says it has a core of mysticism. And according to McManus' friend, Jon Gordon, McManus had some positive things to say about The Secret, which is a film based on the channeled works of spirit guides. In truth, it makes sense that McManus is part of Blanchard's conference. But it makes no sense that Christian leaders are promoting Erwin McManus.

Thus, 2007 is a significant year. With Willow Creek's Leadership Summit and Blanchard's Lead Like Jesus, bold steps are being taken to help bring about a convergence that will lead many people down an interspiritual road, which will ultimately deny the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

And in case you are wondering (like we are) how such delusion could take place within Christendom, perhaps the words of New Ager Wayne Dyer are right:

When enough of us align in a certain way, reaching a critical mass, then the rest of us will begin to be affected and align that way also. (Interview from Science of Mind magazine, 01/93)

And perhaps the words of Alice Bailey (who personified the New Age movement) were right also when she said that the Age of enlightenment (when everyone realizes they are one with each other and God) will come, not around the Christian church but rather through it (see chapter 6, A Time of Departing).

Whether the predictions of these New Agers are right or not, the words of the following man are absolutely right. With courage and humility (knowing we are saved by grace and walk in His strength), let us take heed to these words below and warn others of the present spiritual danger:

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie. (The apostle Paul, II Thessalonians 2:1-11)

HT:Lighthouse Trails Research Project

Friday, March 30, 2007

Does God Love the Elect and Hate the Non-elect?

There are some who teach that God loves only His elect and hates the non-elect. Is this right?

The fact that some sinners are not elected to salvation is no proof that God’s attitude toward them is utterly devoid of sincere love. We know from Scripture that God is compassionate, kind, generous, and good even to the most stubborn sinners. Who can deny that these mercies flow out of God’s boundless love? Yet it is evident that they are showered even on unrepentant sinners.

I want to acknowledge, however, that explaining God’s love toward the reprobate is not as simple as most modern evangelicals want to make it. Clearly there is a sense in which the psalmist’s expression, “I hate the assembly of evildoers” (Ps. 26:5) is a reflection of the mind of God. “Do I not hate those who hate Thee, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against Thee? I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies” (Ps. 139:21-22). Such hatred as the psalmist expressed is a virtue, and we have every reason to conclude that it is a hatred God Himself shares. After all, He did say, “I have hated Esau” (Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13). The context reveals God was speaking of a whole race of wicked people. So there is a true and real sense in which Scripture teaches that God hates the wicked.

So an important distinction must be made. God loves believers with a particular love. It is a family love, the ultimate love of an eternal Father for His children. It is the consummate love of a Bridegroom for His bride. It is an eternal love that guarantees their salvation from sin and its ghastly penalty. That special love is reserved for believers alone.

However, limiting this saving, everlasting love to His chosen ones does not render God’s compassion, mercy, goodness, and love for the rest of mankind insincere or meaningless. When God invites sinners to repent and receive forgiveness (Isa. 1:18; Matt. 11:28-30), His pleading is from a sincere heart of genuine love. “‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezek. 33:11). Clearly God does love even those who spurn His tender mercy, but it is a different quality of love, and different in degree from His love for His own.

For more on this topic from John MacArthur click here.

LOL - April Fool's

I think these are the funniest April Fool's prank's that I have ever read.

1) Burger King, an American fast-food chain, published a full-page advertisement in USA Today in 1998 announcing the introduction of the "Left-Handed Whopper," specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new burger included the same ingredients as the original, but the condiments were rotated 180 degrees. The chain said it received thousands of requests for the new burger, as well as orders for the original "right-handed" version.

2) In 1996 the Taco Bell Corporation announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called up the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell is housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed that it was all a practical joke a few hours later. The best line inspired by the affair came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale, and he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold, though to a different corporation, and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Serving Christ

By (J. C. Ryle, Mary & Martha, Luke 10:38-42)

"Observe how different the characters and personalities of true Christians may be. The two sisters of whom we read in this passage were faithful disciples. Both had believed. Both had been converted. Both had honored Christ when few gave Him honor. Both loved Jesus, and Jesus loved both of them. Yet they wereevidently women of very different character. Martha was active, stirring, and impulsive, feeling strongly, and speaking out all she felt. Mary was quiet, still, and contemplative, feeling deeply, but saying less than she felt. Martha, when Jesus came to her house, rejoiced to see Him, and busied herself with preparing a suitable refreshment. Mary, also, rejoiced to see Him, but her first thought was to sit at His feet and hear His word. Grace reigned in both hearts, but each showed the effects of grace in different ways.We shall find it very useful to ourselves to remember this lesson. We must not expect all believers in Christ to be exactly like one another. We must not set down others as having no grace, because their experience does not entirely tally with our own. The sheep in the Lord's flock have each their own peculiarities. The trees in the Lord's garden are not all precisely alike. All true servants of God agree in the principal things of religion. All are led by one Spirit. All feel their sins, and all trust in Christ. All repent, all believe, and all are holy. But in minor matters, they often differ widely. Let no one despise another on this account. There will be Marthas and there will be Marys in the Church, until the Lord comes again."

Wise Words

As believers we know that we are supposed to hate the sin in our lives. 1 John 1:9 is not meant to be a trump card in the life of a believer. A true believer in Jesus Christ does not have the attitude, "Oh I will sin and God will forgive me later." The Christian understands that the apostle Paul clearly says in Romans 6:1 a believer should not continue a life of sin. If you have been cherishing a sin (s) in you're life begin asking God to have you hate it, make a practice of daily repentance in your life; this is the sign of a true believer in Jesus Christ. Like David, pray that God will give you a clean and a pure heart before Him.

These are great words this morning from CH Spurgeon.

"Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered."—Hebrews 5:8.

"We are told that the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering, therefore we who are sinful, and who are far from being perfect, must not wonder if we are called to pass through suffering too. Shall the head be crowned with thorns, and shall the other members of the body be rocked upon the dainty lap of ease? Must Christ pass through seas of His own blood to win the crown, and are we to walk to heaven dryshod in silver slippers? No, our Master's experience teaches us that suffering is necessary, and the true-born child of God must not, would not, escape it if he might. But there is one very comforting thought in the fact of Christ's "being made perfect through suffering"—it is, that He can have complete sympathy with us. "He is not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." In this sympathy of Christ we find a sustaining power. One of the early martyrs said, "I can bear it all, for Jesus suffered, and He suffers in me now; He sympathizes with me, and this makes me strong." Believer, lay hold of this thought in all times of agony. Let the thought of Jesus strengthen you as you follow in His steps. Find a sweet support in His sympathy; and remember that, to suffer is an honourable thing—to suffer for Christ is glory. The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to do this. Just so far as the Lord shall give us grace to suffer for Christ, to suffer with Christ, just so far does He honour us. The jewels of a Christian are his afflictions. The regalia of the kings whom God hath anointed are their troubles, their sorrows, and their griefs. Let us not, therefore, shun being honoured. Let us not turn aside from being exalted. Griefs exalt us, and troubles lift us up. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Teens Rally Against an "Un-Christian" Culture

March 28, 2007 — One recent weekend at San Francisco's AT&T Park, almost 25,000 teens gathered to proclaim their faith and devotion to God, all while rejecting the negative influences of today's pop culture. The two-day concert event is known as BattleCry and takes place almost every weekend around the country.

"The media is just cramming garbage down their throat. … It is absolutely immoral. I wish it was illegal, but the whole idea is we have people making money, not caring what they are doing, what they are doing to kids," said Ron Luce, the founder of BattleCry.

Click here for full story.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blessed Are the Forgiven!

Blessed Are the Forgiven
Psalm 32
A Maskil of David.

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ps 32:1-11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Eucharist or Euchacrazy? You Decide!

LTRP Note: Because of the current emphasis being put on the Eucharist by many contemplative/emerging leaders within the evangelical/Protestant camp, we believe this article by former Catholic nun, Mary Ann Collins, is important:

Transubstantiation is the doctrine that if a validly ordained Catholic priest consecrates bread and wine, then Jesus Christ is literally present -- body, blood, soul, and divinity -- in every crumb of consecrated bread and every drop of consecrated wine. This is the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is clearly stated in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church."

Catholics call this "the Eucharist" or "holy communion." They speak about the "real presence" of Christ in the bread and wine. Things relating to it are called "eucharistic." A consecrated communion wafer is called a "host." Hosts that are left over after Mass are kept in a tabernacle, (a large, ornate container that can be locked). When hosts are in the tabernacle, a candle is lit. This enables Catholics to know that consecrated hosts are inside, so they can kneel and pray in front of the tabernacle as a form of eucharistic devotion. The tabernacle also protects the hosts by making it difficult to steal them.

When I was a Catholic, I sometimes attended special services called "Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament." A large consecrated host was put in a monstrance. (This is a large, ornate, metal container, in the basic shape of a daisy with a stem, plus a base so that it can stand up.) The monstrance looked like it was made of gold. It had a circular chamber in the middle which held a large, round host. The front of the chamber was glass, so you could see the host. Visually it looked like gold rays were coming out of the host.

The priest put the monstrance on the altar. We worshiped the host, believing that it was Jesus. Click here to read more.

The Pastor and his Bible

Alexander Duff, first foreign missionary of the Church of Scotland, got off to a rough start. He was young, only 23, and bright and innovative. But on his way to India in 1829 with his new wife, he was shipwrecked—not once but twice! The most serious wreck occurred when his ship, the Lady Holland, was within a few miles of India.
At 10 o’clock at night, Duff was half-undressed when a shock and shudder ran through the vessel. He rushed to the deck where the captain met him with terrifying words, “Oh, she’s gone! She’s gone!” The ship split apart, but a portion clung precariously to a reef. Through the night the passengers huddled in terror in the surviving portion, expecting every moment to be swept away. They were saved the next day, but their clothes and prized possessions were lost, including Duff’s entire library of eight hundred volumes.
Later, standing on the shore and looking sadly toward the reef, Duff saw a small package bobbing atop the water. He watched and waited as it floated close enough for him to wade out and retrieve.
It was his Bible. Of all his precious books, it alone survived. His heart soared, for he took it as a sign from the Lord that this one Book alone was worth more than all the others put together.
He assembled his fellow survivors and read Psalm 107, the Traveler’s Psalm. Soon, using the same Bible, he began his first class with a little group of five boys under a banyan tree. Within a week the class had grown to three hundred, and it soon became a school that evangelized and educated the higher classes in India, producing a qualified generation of leaders for the nation’s young church.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Churches are Bailing out of Preaching/Teaching Biblical Doctrine

It is no surprise to me that basic biblical doctrine is being forsaken in churches today. As a Southern Baptist, I am concerned that many churches in our denomination are pushing aside basic doctrine. Any time you have a denomination like the SBC at 16.3 million it's not a shock that a healthy diet of doctrine is being overlooked and put on the shelf. We will give SBC churches the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps some of them are presently preaching/teaching doctrine. I hope you will agree with me that our Baptist churches and other denominations need to hear preaching/teaching of biblical doctrine; for instance doctrines like the Word of God (All Scripture is God-breathed), God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit (Trinity), God's Great Salvation (Election, Justification), The Christian Life (Sanctification), The Church (Living Organism-Redeemed of All the Ages), God's Final Victory (End Times). Remember these are fundamental truths that Baptists have always stood for. So, what are we to do? Remember our rich heritage and teach the way these great ones did in the past. Baptists in history have always felt like doctrine is important; men like CH Spurgeon, and William Carey to name a couple. Take heart, continue teaching/preaching and uplifting these great doctrines in your ministry. If you are a person that is attending a church where doctrine is not being preached/taught faithfully from the Bible begin thinking about leaving and going someplace that does lift it up to the glory of God. The book of Hebrews points to the fact of leaving elementary truths behind and to begin chewing on some meat and growing in your salvation; just like a cow chewing its cud all day long. We need solid truth for the sheep in the pew to chew on in our churches and that means that great doctrine needs to be expounded from the Bible. We need Men of God today who will stand up in the pulpit and boldly and unashamedly proclaim the entire Word of God, which includes sound doctrine.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Praying at Burger King - Book Review

Praying at Burger King

Praying at Burger KingAuthor: Richard J. Mouw

Publisher: Eerdmans

ISBN: 0802840469

134 pages, paperback

A number of years ago I was at a chain restaurant with my pastor and fellow elders. Our special guest for the evening was the pastor’s uncle, who had been a lifelong Southern Baptist evangelist. After we placed our orders the uncle asked us if we minded if he gave thanks for the food. Of course we were delighted to have this venerable preacher of the sawdust trail pray for us and insisted that he take the privilege. To our shock—and I’ll confess on my part at least horror—he stood up and in a loud voice asked the entire restaurant to join him in “saying grace.”

Moments like that tend to make one think about Jesus’ warning that he will be ashamed of those ashamed of him (Luke 9:26). Is being embarrassed when a country preacher calls a prayer meeting at Applebee’s being ashamed of Jesus, or is it just being ashamed of rudeness in his name?

Richard Mouw (author of Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport) thinks a lot about the public face of Christians. His latest book, Praying at Burger King, is a collection of short essays centered on the theme of how we live our lives before an unbelieving world. Mouw’s concern is with discipleship in the everyday little things: choosing to bow one’s head to pray (silently!) at Burger King, making eye contact with teenage store clerks, or assessing the proper level of dignity one owes a roasting chicken. He is working in the biblical category of wisdom, seeking to apply biblical teaching in areas where there is no law to fall back on.

Sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, Mouw provides excellent examples of how we might attempt to think God’s thoughts after him in the everyday things. You will probably not agree with all of his conclusions, but then who is to say that every one of us will work out wisdom in the same way? At the very least, most of his essays will get you thinking about what you would do in the situation, and in the process you find that you too are “doing wisdom.” - Mark Traphagen, Westminster Bookstore Staff, March 2007

Buy this book

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Believer? Non-Believer? What's the Real Difference??

Vital Signs of a True Christian

A Distinct Testimony

In Matthew 5:13‑14 Christ referred to believers as "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." A Christian's life‑ style will be easily distinguishable from the world's. Just as salt preserves decaying meat, Christians are a preservative in the midst of a decaying civilization. One reason the prophesied Great Tribulation of the end times will be so terrible is the preserving effect of the church will be gone. Christ compares His disciples to a light set on a hill and salt that has retained its saltiness. Is it evident to those around you that your life is different, or do you do the same things they do? If your life didn't change when you were supposedly saved, then you aren't really a Christian.

An Obedient Life

A child of God is characterized by obedience. In Matthew 5:17‑19 our Lord said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Christ's point is this: if you are truly saved, you will be obedient. You will have an overwhelming desire to submit to God's Word. Paul hungered to obey God's Word, even though sin was always tugging at him (Rom. 7:15‑25).

Matthew 5:21‑32 maintains that if you have really been converted, you will think differently. Apparently the Israelites controlled their outward behavior but not their thoughts. The Lord said to them, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, Thou shalt not kill and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of judgment; but I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment" (vv. 21‑22). A believer doesn't even desire to hurt anyone‑‑let alone kill‑‑because he has a different heart. In Ezekiel 36:26 God promises that when you become redeemed, He "will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and ... will give you an heart of flesh."

In Matthew 5:27‑28 Christ says that a Christian is not to commit adultery or even entertain adulterous thoughts. Someone who claims to be a Christian and continues to be immoral, practicing such things as adultery or homosexuality, will never inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9‑10). Until you are broken over your sinfulness and crawl into Christ's Kingdom hungering for righteousness, you will never know what true redemption is.

In Matthew 5:33‑37 Christ discusses perjury and keeping one's oaths. He emphasized that true conversion produces pure and truthful speech, "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34 ). In Matthew 5:38‑47 He adds that a citizen of His Kingdom doesn't retaliate but is kind. He loves his neighbor (v. 43), and even his enemies (v. 44). The goal is for believers to be like God (v. 48).

No one is a Christian because he went forward at a meeting and signed a card, or because a counselor said he was. In fact, a counselor should never assure someone he is saved after that person verbally commits his life to Christ. No counselor can be sure of that. It is the Holy Spirit's job to grant assurance to a believer. He grants it by an inward testimony (Rom. 8:16 ) and an outward demonstration.

James 2:17 says that "faith, if it hath not works, is dead." An unfortunate legacy of modern evangelism is that one's assurance of salvation is attached to a decision. Biblically, however, assurance has nothing to do with the past; it's related to what your life is like right now. Jesus said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31 ). Evidence of salvation is always present in a true believer.

Sincere Worship

A believer demonstrates the right kind of worship (Matt. 6:1‑ 18). His worship of God is genuine, in contrast to that of the Pharisees, whose only concern was attracting attention to their spirituality. A Christian gives of his resources because He loves God, not because he craves public recognition (6:1‑4). His prayers aren't hypocritical but a sincere expression of his heart (6:5‑15). Also he doesn't need for others to know that he's fasting (6:16‑18).

A Biblical Perspective of Money and Materialism

According to Matthew 6:19‑24 the citizens of Christ's Kingdom don't love money: they do not lay up for themselves "treasures upon earth" (v. 19). They refuse to serve money because they know it's impossible to serve both it and God (v. 24). If you have committed your life to acquiring wealth, you are not a servant of God. If you are a friend of the world, you are an enemy of God (James 4:4). If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you (1 John 2:15 ). Matthew 6:25‑34 adds that Christians are not to be preoccupied with the necessities of life. They know God takes care of those things vv. 31‑32).

An Uncritical Love of Others

Matthew 7:1‑12 emphasizes that genuine believers have good relationships. They don't constantly misjudge other people and act pious toward them while ignoring their own problems. Christians are known for loving others (cf., John 13:35 ).

Perhaps after this survey of what Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount, you are wondering how anyone could ever live like that. If you're thinking it's impossible to do all those things, that's the very response the Lord wants. After confronting a rich young ruler with his materialism, Jesus said to His disciples, "Verily I say unto you that a rich man shall with difficulty enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God " (Matt. 19:23‑24). It's impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle! That's exactly what the Lord wanted people to conclude. Verses 25‑26 say, "When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who, then, can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." No man has the resources within himself to live up to God's standards. That's why we have to cast ourselves on the mercy of God. The rich young ruler in Matthew 19 wasn't willing to do that. He wanted to enter the Kingdom but on his terms. However, that's like trying to put a camel through the eye of a needle. The only way into the Kingdom is by becoming broken in spirit, mournful, and eager for a righteousness that you can't attain and don't deserve.

Most people don't want to meet those conditions. They want to do things their way. They resemble a man with four pieces of luggage‑‑worldliness, sin, Satan, and self‑‑trying to get through the turnstile into the Kingdom. They want in so they can have happiness and stay out of hell, but they want in on their terms. However, the Lord said, "Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in that way" (Matt. 7:13). Many people enter through the wide gate because they can take their baggage of good works and self‑righteousness with them. Verse 14 continues, "Narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." The Greek word translated "hard" literally means "compressed." You have to strip yourself of everything to go through the narrow gate.

A Deceptive Illusion of Eternal Life

Notice that the broad way leading to destruction is not marked as the way to hell‑‑it's marked as the way to heaven! People get on the broad road because it doesn't require a change of life‑style. You simply have to say you made a decision, were baptized, went forward at a meeting, or signed a card. The sad thing is that many people are on that road. But the way that leads to life is restrictive, and very few find it.

If you still cling to your worldliness and self‑righteousness, you're on the wrong road. You may think you're headed to heaven and that your good works will get you in. But someday you will discover what John Bunyan described in The Pilgrim's Progress: that there is an entrance to hell from the portals of heaven. In fact Christ warned people to beware of false prophets (Matt. 7:15‑20) because they sell tickets to the broad way; they'll tell you you can get to heaven without changing anything.

In Matthew 7:21‑22 Jesus says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out demons? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Many people won't discover until it's too late that they were on the wrong road.

Christ concluded the Sermon on the Mount by illustrating the destinations of the broad and narrow roads. In Matthew 7:24‑25 He speaks of a wise man who builds his house on a solid foundation. Verse 25 says, "The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock." That man came to God on His terms‑‑he built his house on the rock, which is obedience. Therefore his house stood. Christ continues, "Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand" (v. 26). The foolish man built a beautiful house; his religion looked good. He is one of those who prophesied, cast out demons, and did wonderful works (v. 22) but never came to God on His terms. Verse 27 says, "The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.”

What a disaster it would be to come before Christ on Judgment Day and discover you are sentenced to hell because you didn't come to Him His way! Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith. As Peter said, "Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you" (2 Peter 1:10 ; New American Standard Bible).

For more on this subject click here.

When Sin Won't Let Go

How should we deal with stubborn pockets of sin in our lives that won't seem to go away even after much prayer and honest heartfelt desire to change?

One of the great Christian classics is a devotional booklet written by Saint Thomas à Kempis called The Imitation of Christ. In that book he talks about the struggle that so many Christians have with habits that are sinful. He says that the struggle for sanctification is often so difficult and the victories that we achieve seem to be so few and far between, that even in the lives of the greatest saints, there were few who were able to overcome habitual patterns. We’re talking about people who overeat and have these kinds of temptations, not those who are enslaved to gross and heinous sin. Now Thomas à Kempis’s words are not sacred Scripture, but he gives us wisdom from the life of a great saint.

The author of Hebrews says that we are called to resist the sin that so easily besets us and that we are admonished and exhorted simply to try harder to overcome these sins. You say, How do we escape these pockets of sin that we have such great struggles with, that we have an honest and heartfelt desire not to commit? If the desire not to do it is really honest and penetrates the heart, we’re 90 percent home. In fact, we shouldn’t be locked into something. The reason we continue with these pockets of repeated sins is because we have a heartfelt desire to continue them, not because we have a heartfelt desire to stop them. I wonder how honest our commitment is to quit. There’s a tendency for us to kid ourselves about this anytime we embrace a pet sin. We need to face the fact that we commit the sin because we want to do that sin more than we want to obey Christ at that moment. That doesn’t mean that we have no desire to escape from it, but the level of our desire vacillates. It’s easy to go on a diet after a banquet; it’s hard to stay on a diet if you haven’t eaten all day. That’s what happens particularly with habitual sins that involve physical or sensual appetites. The ebb and flow of the desire is augmented and diminished. It increases and fades. Our resolve to repent is great when our appetites have been satiated, but when they’re not, we have a growing attraction to practice whatever the particular sins may be.

I think what we have to do is first of all be honest about the fact that we really have a conflict of interest between what we want to do and what God wants us to do. I think we have to feed our souls with the Word of God so that we can get what God wants us to do clear in our mind and then build a strong desire to obey.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Richness of Sound, Theological Music

Steve Camp said, "Following are lyrics to a song, "My Sins, My Sins, My Savior", that I wrote for the "Desiring God" album a few years ago. I hope they will encourage you to keep the main thing, the main thing in ministry; and not to venture off into the fantasies of genome doctrine and a biological view of explaining and understanding the temptations and struggles of mankind with sin. The Scriptures are sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness beloved... I am a great sinner; but He is a greater Savior. Amen?"

My Sins My Sins, My Savior By Steve Camp

"My sins, my sins, my Saviour! They daily battle me, Deaf and dumb Thy servant is, save only Christ to Thee; In Thee is all forgiveness, fully free abundant grace,I find my hope and refuge, in Thine unchanging face My sins, my sins, my Saviour! How great on Thee they fall;Seen through Thy patient mercy, I ought forsake them all; Their penalty's forgiven; yet their power suffers me Their shame and guilt and anguish, they laid, my Lord, on Thee My sins, my sins, my Saviour! What cost to Thee ensuedThy heel bruised in temptation, no Devil could subdue Thou wrestled in the garden; and prayed the Cup would passThy sanguine sweat, Thou trembled yet, embraced His will at lastMy sins, my sins, my Saviour! Thou perfect Sacrifice Drained wrath's chalice to the dregs; Thy Father satisfied.O Holy Lamb of Glory, High Priest, Lord God and King We worship Thee with reverence, Thy matchless Name we sing My songs, my songs, my Saviour! No grandeur theme shall know They'll trumpet of Thy glory, to wretched man below; Thy righteousness, Thy favor, stream from Thy throne above Sustain the hearts my Saviour that Thou hast lavished with Thy love"

(You can download this song from the AudienceONE website at our online store or listen to it on today's blogcast as well.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Needing Some Help!

I am now turning to my internet brethren for godly wisdom and advice on writing my dissertation. My topic is the importance of prayer in the preparation of the expository, biblical sermon. If you have any thoughts or can recommend sources from books or magazines please email me at Thank you for any suggestions!

I might add that I want to concentrate on the lives of Steve Lawson, CH Spurgeon, and DL Moody regarding this area.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Why John MacArthur is not "Reformed"

John MacArthur's opening lecture at the Shepherd's Conference created two main points of contention. The first has to do with the on-going debate over eschatology (specifically the millennial question). MacArthur--who is an ardent dispensationalist--stated and defended his position. That's OK and no one is surprised or upset about that. But people are upset because MacArthur so badly misrepresented amillennialism, and because he defined "premillennialism" as though it were dispensationalism. Not true. The loud howls of protest to MacArthur's dispensationalism coming from historical premillennarians is proof. We'll talk more about this matter in the coming days.

The second point of contention is MacArthur's questionable attempt to co-opt "Calvinism" from amillenniarians and claim it for the dispensationalists. This is seen in MacArthur's remarkable claim that amillennialism is inherently "Arminian."

As I thought about drafting a response to this claim, it occured to me that it has already been done. In 1993, Richard Muller--who was my Ph.D. dissertation advisor and acknowledged by all as the leading authority on Reformed scholasticism and Calvin (Click here: The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition (Oxford Studies in His)--published a short essay entitled, "How Many Points?"

In this essay, Muller demonstrates why people like MacArthur are not Reformed. MacArthur may hold to the "five points", but Muller shows why MacArthur is not "Reformed" nor a "Calvinist" in any meaningful or historical sense of those terms.

Before you read Muller's essay, please remember that the issue he's tackling is not whether those outside the Reformed churches are truly Christians (they are, if they are trusting in Christ). Muller is not saying that they have nothing good to contribute to the cause of Christ, nor any other such thing.

The specific issue Muller tackles is "who is Reformed?" And John MacArthur is not.

For full article click here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

As A Pastor You Will Face More Persecution From Your Church Then Anywhere Else

How do you reform the church in the face of opposition?

Dr. Mark Dever, Pastor Capitol Hill Baptist Church
(Excerpted from an interview):

Yeah, it made a good teaching tool with the congregation, so I could begin, say, taking members on the basis of whether or not they would assent to the statement of faith, and they would pledge themselves to live as this church covenant said. So we began with those kinds of changes, and then we also tried to begin encouraging people to come along to the services, to understand the differences between the services. We made some changes in the Sunday night and the Wednesday night services. We revised the church covenant, because there were one or two things in it that were required, but which were not required by the Bible. And so if we were actually going to use the covenant as an active document it had to be biblical. We had to be able to defend it from Scripture. So, after we revised that covenant, then we were in the position to begin asking people to either sign it, well, forget the either, just to sign it in order to be a member of the church. And so, in the Spring of ‘96, we went through a several month process of weeding through our church membership and getting our membership from about 500 down to about 250. When we dismissed at one members meeting, back in May of ’96, I can’t remember, about 256 members, I think. I think that was a crucial point for the church. I think the church began to understand that someone isn’t saved by having their name on the members list. Someone is saved by having a relationship with Christ, and if they’re not evidently living that out in front of us, it’s not appropriate for them to be a member. It doesn’t mean we don’t think they’re not a Christian, it just means we’re not in a position as a church to know. So, if you’re interested, you can certainly contact the Center for Church Reform to find out more about how we specifically did that.

I know other churches have done this as well. We didn’t just drop a lot of people, though. We tried to contact them as part of exercising careful pastoral duties. We tried to take the commitment they had made, sometimes 30, 40, 50 years earlier to join the church, we tried to take that seriously in the way we dealt with them. Even by doing that, to try to teach the church membership something about what it meant to be a member of the church, something about the seriousness of it, at that member’s meeting, I wanted to read every single name, separately, and we read the first couple, and one member of the church raised her hand, and said, “But Dr. Dever, we know where those boys are!” Those boys, by the way, being in their mid-40s. And the chairman of the deacons at the time leaned forward and responded with great wit, in a way that I think helped us do the rest of the list, “Yes, ma’am, but the problem doesn’t seem to be that we don’t know where they are but that they don’t know where we are.” And everyone laughed and they could immediately see the problem, and so we went ahead and we did that. And since that time, we have revised our church constitution and just continuing on with changes and reforming direction. When I say changes and reforming direction, I mean there’s nothing we’re doing that hasn’t been done in Baptist churches 100, 150 years ago. We’re not doing anything that’s in that sense, particularly unusual.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Should a Church Have Elders?

There are many pragmatic reasons why a church might have elders. A plurality of elders can help to carry the burden of pastoral ministry; they can bring a rich variety of experience to bear on the issues and problems every pastor faces; they can hold the pastor accountable in a context of shared ministry; they can save the pastor from a multitude of errors in judgment before it ever becomes apparent in a congregational meeting. The list could go on.

But the best reason a church should have elders is because the New Testament says that it should. Throughout his epistles, and especially the pastoral epistles, Paul makes it plain that every New Testament church should have elders, that is men who "direct the affairs of the church" (1 Timothy 5:17-18). He commissioned Titus to make sure that all the churches in Crete had elders (Titus 1:5). And he took the time to outline for both Timothy and Titus what sort of men should be called to that office (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9), as well as the procedure that should be followed should a man need to be removed from the office (1 Timothy 5:19-20). So central were elders in Paul's thinking that, though eager to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost, he took the time to call the Ephesian elders together and give them one last exhortation (Acts 20:16-38), the heart of which was that they be faithful as "shepherds of the church of God".

Of course, elders were not just Paul's idea. Peter too assumed their presence in the churches to which he wrote, and gave them a message identical to Paul's: Be shepherds of God's flock. (1 Peter 5:1-4). So did the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 13:17).

So the Bible clearly teaches that New Testament churches are to be led by elders. At the end of the day, this question is just another way of asking whether or not we are going to allow the Scriptures to be the sole authority in the life of the church. For though there are lots of pragmatic reasons to have elders, from the perspective of a pastor, there are more pragmatic reasons not to have them. Elders can slow a senior pastor down, they can disagree with him, they can even tell him on occasion that he's wrong. Pragmatically speaking, who would want that?

But Peter and Paul remind us that the churches we pastor are not our own. We are pastors of God's church, God's flock. And so it is God's Word that must have the final say. Jesus created the church, he died for the church. He is its only King and law-giver. If we are committed to shepherding Christ's church, and not our own, then we must be willing to do it his way. According to the Bible, his way includes elders.

Further reading: Edmund Clowney, _The Church_ (IVP, 1995) ch. 14; T.E. Peck, _Notes on Ecclesiology_ (repr. GPTS Press, 1994), ch. 16. The problem with both of these recommendations is that they are written by Presbyterians, who claim far more for the authority of elders than Scripture warrants. Nevertheless, they both lay out clearly the argument from Scripture for the presence of elders in the local church.

Purpose Driven Church Splits?

Once again, the secular media has missed the mark in their reporting about Rick Warren. ABC News Nightline interviewed Warren on March 7 and kept only to the surface when addressing the reasons some Christians are concerned about Warren's teachings (Rick Warren and Purpose-Driven Strife).

While the report said that "Warren's 'outside in' approach to church growth is now causing rumblings," it only touched on some of the symptoms of Warren's theology, such as "Madison Avenue" marketing approaches and loud music that catered more to young people and disregarded older members.

The article did not mention things like Rick Warren's goal to bring about a new reformation that includes all religions, his continued promotion and embracing of contemplative spirituality and the emerging church, his dominionist views as well as his disregard for biblical prophecy, the cruel treatment by Purpose Driven pastors towards those who do not go along with the program, and his connections to and influence by New Age sympathizers like Ken Blanchard and Robert Schuller.

The article stated: "When asked if he [Warren] thinks that some of these [church]splits are actually because Christians themselves are indulgent and refusing to change, Warren said, "Oh, without a doubt." And when asked if he blames them, he replied, "I do blame them. Every church has to make the decision. ... Is it going to live for itself, or is it going to live for the world that Jesus died for?" (Watch this video where Rick Warren says this.)

Once again, Rick Warren has publicly denounced those who resist him.

Emerging Church Confusion - What Does it Really Mean?

When it comes to the emerging church, Christian leaders seem to lack understanding and discernment. Some books and several articles have now been written about the emerging church, and interestingly, nearly all of them lack the most important element -the emerging church (which incorporates the teachings of the Emergent leaders: McLaren, Pagitt, Kimball, etc.) is a conduit for mysticism and is heading right into the arms of Catholicism and eventually a universal interfaith church.

Many feel that the real problems with the emerging church are centered around methodology (e.g., how much lighting to have, where to hold church services, and what to wear while attending them, etc.) Such distraction from the true concerns is like telling a neighbor that his dog is tearing up the garden when his house is burning down and his children are inside.

The emerging church is fundamentally mystical as can easily be seen by the leaders who feed the emerging movement a steady diet of contemplative spirituality. Leonard Sweet, one of the emerging church movement's most prolific leaders explains the role of mysticism in the emerging church:

Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center.... In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, "The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing." [Mysticism] is metaphysics arrived at through mindbody experiences. Mysticism begins in experience; it ends in theology. (p. 160, ATOD)

Another influential emerging church leader is Spencer Burke, director of The Ooze. He explains his views on mysticism as well:

I was struck by the incredible wisdom that could be found apart from the "approved" evangelical reading list. A Trappist monk, [Thomas] Merton gave me a new appreciation for the meaning of community. His New Man and New Seeds of Contemplation touched my heart in ways other religious books had not. Not long afterward my thinking was stretched again, this time by Thich Nhat Hanh--a Buddhist monk ... Hanh's Living Buddha, Living Christ gave me insight into Jesus from an Eastern perspective. (p. 157. ATOD)

While many try to minimize the seriousness of the emerging church movement, we hope you can see where this is all going. Some say that Emergent has some problems, but emerging church is ok for the most part. But here is how it works. Emerging spirituality (which ultimately proclaims the divinity of man) has been around since the Garden of Eden when the serpent said to Eve, ye shall be as gods, and later when Lucifer said, I will be like the most High God. Emergent came on the scene when some business men (i.e., Leadership Network) launched Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Mark Driscoll and some others and capsulated emerging spirituality within the confines of these young leaders. Leadership Network teamed up with business guru Peter Drucker and a successful publishing house, and wham, a formula for success - the Emergent movement was birthed. These new young leaders (then called the Young Leaders Network) in turn produced books, seminars, websites, blogs, and "conversations" that bore the fruit of the current emerging church movement. And because the true premise of this movement is grounded in mysticism and Ancient Wisdom, many are grasping hold of something that has been here all along. Emergent or emerging, whatever term you want to use ... it's heading in the same direction, and that is away from the Cross.

Some may say, "But there are positive attributes to the emerging church movement." Yet would you drink a glass of mountain spring water if it had only a drop or two of cyanide? Not if you didn't want to get very, very sick.

Jesus Christ made it clear in Scripture that we are to cling to truth. HE is truth, and He is the only way to salvation. Divination (doing a ritual or performing some method in order to gain some information or "hear God"), which is the same premise as contemplative mysticism, is forbidden by God in the Bible. Salvation, and a relationship with Jesus Christ, is free. He already paid the price for us with His blood. When we accept His gift, we will have eternal life. If we reject it, we will not. And that is something to think about.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gospel Centered Hermeneutics - Book Review

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation

Gospel Centered HermeneuticsAuthor: Graeme Goldsworthy

Publisher: IVP

ISBN: 0830828397

Hardcover, 341 pages, bibliography and indexes

In Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Graeme Goldsworthy takes to the platform, wags a revival-preacher’s finger at a tent-full of interpretive theorists, and shouts, “Your hermeneutics need to get saved!” Turning aside, he shakes a fist at the ground given up by evangelicals to secular theories of communication and interpretation. For a moment, he gives a nod of recognition to non-Christian postulations in those areas, noting that they often make valuable contributions. But soon he rises to the climax of his sermon: there is, and should be, a distinctively evangelical hermeneutic in regard to Scripture, and it is unashamedly gospel-based.

The title of the book’s introduction–“Can Hermeneutics Be Saved?”—is an intentional pun. On the one hand, Goldsworthy places the science of hermeneutics on the endangered species list, the result of binging on too many philosophical dead ends. On the other hand, he is quite literal about the word “saved” in a sort of ordo salutis of interpretation: “[T]he grace of God acting for us, is prior to, and is the source of, the action of God in us…This theological perspective also applies to hermeneutics. Our ability to interpret Scripture must be saved, justified, and sanctified through the gospel” (p. 16, emphasis added).

He goes on to argue that “the need to specify a gospel-centered, evangelical approach to hermeneutics arises from the distinctive beliefs of evangelicalism” (pp. 18-19). When Goldsworthy says “distinctive,” he is clear that he has the solas of the Reformation in mind. First and foremost, though, he insists that an evangelical hermeneutic is one that presupposes a regenerate mind interacting with Scripture. Evangelical hermeneutics has some common ground with secular hermeneutics because of common grace, but believers are to think with “transformed minds” (Rom. 12:1-2) and so should not let secular approaches dictate the agenda.

Goldsworthy positions himself throughout Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics as an unrepentant Van Tillian presuppositionalist. His operating presuppositions are the Reformation solas, as well as christocentrism (Christ as the ultimate aim and interpretive center of all of the Bible). Additionally, he maintains that Christians should never separate theology from hermeneutics, particularly biblical theology. Biblical theology reveals the consequences of human sin, consequences that cause humans to fail in the hermeneutical task. Therefore salvation in Christ is the only hope for the salvation of hermeneutics.

In the middle section of his book, Goldsworthy gives an overview of the philosophical trends in each era of church history that he thinks have tended to “eclipse” the gospel and therefore a truly gospel-centered hermeneutic. He intentionally chooses the term eclipse, noting that no eclipse is completely total; there have been valuable contributions in each of these schools of thought as well. However, these eclipsing paradigms are the blocks that must be cleared in order for a truly evangelical hermeneutic to emerge.

The final part of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics details Goldsworthy’s conception of what such a hermeneutic would look like. He rejects the fideism of both early church mysticism and later existential theology as well as the empiricism of both Thomistic and Enlightenment approaches. Instead he favors Calvin’s call to reason in biblical categories, best expressed in the opening chapter of his Institutes. Rather than beginning as Thomas did with Aristotelian categories, Calvin insists that biblical reasoning must start with a full recognition of the fallenness of humans. While truth about God is evident in nature, our sin keeps us from recognizing that truth and rightly interpreting it. Therefore, we need the special revelation of Scripture read with a redeemed mind. Moreover, Reformation teaching maintains the bond between Word and Spirit; the authority of the Word comes from God (not the church or personal experience), and he is faithful by his Spirit to bring understanding to his people.

The remainder of the third part explores the implications of the gospel in a number of relevant areas: literary, historical, theological, and contextual. Finally, Goldsworthy explicates what it means to have Christ, in all that he is and has done, as the center of our hermeneutics. In keeping with his conviction expressed throughout that the Bible is a book for all Christians, not just theologians, the author ends with practical suggestions for reading and studying our Bibles.

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics is a clarion call for those who believe that the Bible is the word of God to interpret it like it is the word of God. It is chock full of insights useful to any thoughtful believer who wants to be able to read his or her Bible Christianly. Goldsworthy is to be particularly commended for his clear demonstration that a robust and believing biblical theology provides a solid foundation for knowing how to approach the Bible. - Mark Traphagen, Westminster Bookstore Staff, March 2007

Other endorsements:

“The focus of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics is not word studies but Word study: a sustained reflection on the priority and centrality of the good news concerning Jesus Christ as the distinct way that Scripture interprets Scripture and, indeed, all of reality. Goldsworthy’s attention to the role of biblical theology in biblical interpretation is particularly welcome, providing a refreshing contrast to what often gets produced by the contemporary hermeneutics industry. And by highlighting the gospel of Jesus Christ, he puts the evangel back into evangelical hermeneutics.” — Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Graeme Goldsworthy is widely known as a master interpreter of biblical texts. In particular, his studies have enriched the thought of many students of the Bible and informed the sermons of countless ministers. How wonderful that Goldsworthy now guides us in a study of how to read the Bible. His readers will be rewarded with a deeper understanding of the gospel-centered nature of Scripture.” — Tremper Longman, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

Buy this book

Monday, March 12, 2007

Problems with Premillennialism

For those interested in studying eschatology--and who are open to considering an articulate case on behalf of ammillenialism--check out this series of studies by Sam Storms. (Unfortunately, for some reason the link won't work in Firefox, so I'm copying the whole list of studies to the end of this post.)

I recently read Storms's overview on Problems with Premillennialism, which shows why premillennialism can't be squared with passages like 1 Cor. 15:22-28; 1 Cor. 15:50-57; Rom. 8:18-23; 2 Pet. 3:8-13; Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; and John 5:28-29.

In my (hopefully humble) opinion, these passages are clear that when Christ comes, it's "curtains" on sin and death. There will be a final judgment and a final resurrection, with a new heavens and a new earth.

Nowhere do I see Scripture teaching things like there being both glorified bodies and unglorified bodies on earth at the same time--and I have to confess that the idea of such seems quite unsettling and depressing to me.

I'm open to being persuaded that I'm wrong. Most of my exegetical heroes are pre-mill, post-trib. But books like Hans laRondelle's The Israel of God in Prophecy and especially Anthony Hoekema's The Bible and the Future put me over the edge exegetically.

I know that this issue is a hot potato, a can of worms, or (insert your own cliche here ______). I recognize that people have strong feelings about this. So I ask that any interaction in the comments be measured and respectful. You can go after ideas, but not persons. And please use arguments instead of just stating opinions.

Here is the list of studies by Storms:

HT: Justin Taylor

Friday, March 9, 2007

What's Going On At Shepherds' Conference This Year???!!!

Dispy or Amill The Line Has Been Drawn

Is this a debate or are the lines in the sand being drawn? After the first general session at the Shepherds' Conference I was wondering how wise it was that I paid $300.00 to come here.

Then I read fide-o and got really depressed. Thanks Jason your are always such a good source of encouragement!

I have to say, I was taken aback by what I heard and I was shocked at what Dr. MacArthur had to say. I will tell you this, Dr. Macarthur’s ministry has been very encouraging for me and I look forward to attending his conference next year.

Never the less, I cannot tell you how disappointed I was when Dr. MacArthur gave his “speech” and the apparent attitude he had toward Amillers. His argument compared Amillers to Theistic Evolutionists saying that we change our hermeneutic. His point was that Amillers don’t interpret Scripture literally and Dispensationalists do. I have one question then how do Dispensationalists interpret Matthew 16:28?

28 Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

A regular literal meaning of this passage would say that either most of the Disciples are still alive or the kingdom is here. Dispensationalism as described cannot be true. The kingdom is here!

But the real core of this issue is how we are going to define Israel and the promises made to Israel?

I don’t believe that Dr. MacArthur got it right but I will wait for his session tonight to see how he ties this all up.

More to follow……

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Akin Backs Expository Preaching

If you know me you know that in my opinion it does not get any better than good expository preaching. I am so glad to have a current seminary professor that endorses this method of preaching God's inerrant, infallible, authoritative, Word. You probably are aware that Danny Akin is the president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dr. Akin spoke from this outline and more at a Chapel Service yesterday at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He said that there will be more great words about expository preaching coming his website later this week. These thoughts are too good not to pass along.

“A Crisis in the 21st Century Preaching: a Mandate for Biblical Exposition”

By: Daniel L. Akin, President

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Expository preaching is text driven preaching that honors the truth of Scripture as it was given by the Holy Spirit. Discovering the God-inspired meaning through historical-grammatical-theological investigation and interpretation, the preacher, by means of engaging and compelling proclamation,explains, illustrates and applies the meaning of the biblical text in submission to and in the power of the Holy Spirit, preaching Christ for a verdict of changed lives.”

1. Preaching Must Be Text-Driven So That It Truly Honors What Is In The Divine Revelation.

6 advantages in this method? By: Don Carson

  1. It is the method least likely to stray from Scripture.
  2. It teaches people how to read their Bible.
  3. It gives confidence to preachers and authorizes the message.
  4. It meets the need for relevance without allowing the clamor for relevance to dictate the message.
  5. It forces the preacher to handle the tough passages.
  6. It enables the preacher to most systematically expound the whole counsel of God if sufficient chunks are handled.

2. Preaching must honor the principle of authorial intent, recognizing that the ultimate author of Scripture is the Holy Spirit, God Himself.

3. Scripture must be interpreted and understood as it was given to the original audience. The text cannot mean today what it did not mean then.

4. Pulpit Proclamation must affirm that the historical-grammatical-theological interpretation will best discover both the truth of the text and the theology of the text.

A faithful minister of the Word will bombard every text with a series of questions:

1. What does this text say about the Bible (and the doctrine of Revelation)?

2. What does this text say about God (also Creation, angelology)?

3. What does this text say about humanity (and sin, our falleness)?

4. What does this text say about Jesus Christ (His person and work)?

5. What does this text say about the Holy Spirit?

6. What does this text say about Salvation?

7. What does this text say about the Church?

8. What does this text say about Last Things?

Let your exegesis drive your theology. Let your theological system be shaped by Scripture and not the reverse.

I would encourage us to always ask of every text two questions, and to ask them in this order:

1) What does this text say about God; and 2) What does this text say about fallen humanity?

5. Effective biblical instruction will take serious and develop the implications of what

Jesus said in Luke 24 about the Christological nature of Scripture.

6. From beginning to end, from the study to the pulpit, the entire process of biblical

exposition must take place in absolute and complete submission to the Holy Spirit.

7. Changed Lives for the glory of God is always the goal for which we strive. Therefore

it is a sin, of the most serious sort, to preach the Word of God in a boring and

unattractive fashion.

“What you say is more important than how you say it, but how you say it has never been more important.”

Are You Willing to “Waste” Your Life?

Extravagant Love for Jesus Looks to Some Like a Waste

Judas simply could not understand Mary’s ridiculous decision. During dinner she had just taken a jar of expensive perfume and dumped it on Jesus’ feet! That perfume was worth almost a year’s wages. What a waste! Just think what could have been done with that money.

“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

But helping the poor wasn’t really Judas’ concern. “He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief and being in charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6). Judas was Judas’ concern.

John 12 shows Mary and Judas in stark contrast. One “wasted” her costly perfume on Jesus’ feet. The other stole from Jesus’ moneybag.

For full article click here.

The Shepherds' Conference

Let me say this is the best conference that I have ever been to. This will be my third year and not my last one, Lord willing! What a line up of speakers! Could it get any better? I do have to say that I am a bit disappointed that John Piper will not be able to speak this year at Shepherds' but I understand why. If an earthly father is about ready to face death any son/daughter needs to be there. Maybe RC Sproul will be called at the last minute, now that would be something, really something. Men, if you can ever go to this conference in the future, go! I think there may be a womens branch starting up also if I am not mistaken.

I hope you keep up with the conference through Tim Challies blog. He has some great things to say about the conference on his blog this morning and will be live blogging once again on the internet this year.

I am excited to leave soon for Los Angeles CA this morning. I look forward to the weather, probably a good 30-45 degrees warmer; I anxiously await the conference starting tomorrow and being around 4000 other pastor brothers and male leaders in churches all around the globe. It is a sight my friends. My first year I met a man from India. Pastors all over the world come to prepare themselves to give out spiritual food from the Bible to a hungry flock and a community in which they live and minister.

I will however miss my family, church family and a dear pastor/brother/friend that I have grown to love and appreciate, Pastor Justice. He will, bottom line, go to the conference next year!

It was God who called me to this fine state of Iowa. I understand that God has brought me and my family here to minister to the people of Calvary Baptist Church and the community of Clinton, Iowa. It doesn't matter how cold the weather gets in Iowa, I am there to shepherd and minister in love to this great flock.

Keep up with the conference this week will you? Stop what you are doing once in a while throughout the week and pray for your pastor if he is going, pray for the speakers, the conference in its entirety; that it will bring glory, honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Health and Wealth - Prosperity Gospel - Amazing How the Pastor is the Only One Getting Rich! ...Or Is It??

Prayer Palace junior minister doesn’t mention Star expose’ of lavish lifestyles

The junior pastor at one of the country’s largest evangelical churches preached the virtues of wealth and smart investment to his working-class congregation yesterday.

It was the same morning the Toronto Star published an investigation into how Paul Melnichuk, patriarch of the Prayer Palace, and his twin sons, Tim and Tom, have amassed a fleet of fine cars and a pricey portfolio of fancy homes while doing little of the charity work their church claims to do.

The Star expose’, part of an ongoing series on Canadian charities, documented the Melnichuk family’s lavish lifestyle, including about $12 million in personal real estate north of Toronto and in Florida, in contrast to the bulk of their congregation. Most church members faithfully give 10 per cent of their income.

“You see, you weren’t designed to live in a apartment building. You were designed to own the apartment building you’re living in,” Tom Melnichuk said, calling for his followers to think positive. “If you don’t watch it, you’ll be eating at Denny’s for the rest of your entire life.”

The speech seemed at times more business seminar than sermon. In it, Tom called himself a “smart investor” and suggested church members learn to be the same.

Paul Melnichuk, or “Pastor Paul” as he is called by some at the church, is expected to respond to the expose’ this Sunday. He was seen yesterday sunning on his dock in Bradenton, Fla., alongside his wife Kathleen.

“How many of you love Pastor Paul?” a smiling Tom asked the crowd gathered near Highway 400 and Finch Ave. “He’s a very, very special man.”

Hundreds of congregants listened to Tom’s folksy speech and shouted amens as he delivered an energized and rambling sermon on everything from compound interest to the time in high school when he set out on the road to wealth.

“My neighbour calls me Donald Trump,” he grinned. “I’m not really Donald Trump.”

Approached by two Star reporters after the service, Tom said he had no comment. Asked whether he has a message for people, he added: “Shrewd business, faith in God.”

Two congregants leaving the massive, UFO-shaped church called the reporters “wicked.”

“The people don’t feel taken advantage of,” said another church member, who identified herself as “Erica,” after the service.

She said the fact the pastors are wealthy, combined with the church’s pattern of declining investment in charitable programs, “doesn’t mean the money they’ve accumulated has come from the charity.”

Meanwhile, the Star was deluged yesterday with calls and emails from readers. But some questioned why Prayer Palace leaders should be scrutinized if congregants are content.

“If the entertainment offered by the Melnichuks was not meaningful and worthwhile, the admission-paying public would stay away … and the money would dry up,” wrote Toronto resident David Moffat.

The Star also reported details of deals the Melnichuks obtained for personal properties during Prayer Palace construction, such as having a paving company build Paul’s King City driveway in lieu of full payment to the church for land rental.

Tom Melnichuk didn’t mention questions about his family’s affluence at the altar yesterday. Instead, he called on men to ensure they don’t allow their wives to live in a “dusty apartment” watching a television with a coat hangar antenna while eating half-cold Kraft Dinner.

“How many of you have thought about living in a good house?” he asked. “How many have thought of driving great things?”

With files from Jessica Leeder

Kenneth Copeland - Flying High While His Congregation Foots the Bill

Some may say a way televangelists can measure their success is that they have the ability to fly their own corporate jet to spread the gospel.

For the past several months, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Fort Worth have been traveling the globe in a new $20 million jet. They pledged that the aircraft would be used for the purpose of serving their ministry.

Are the Copelands practicing what they preach?

The Copelands are regarded by many as the most successful televangelists in the world, and they certainly look the part these days—jetting about in their new Cessna Citation, operated, they say, in exact accordance with federal tax law and used solely for ministry purposes.

But flight records News 8 obtained raise questions.

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland’s Believers’ Voice of Victory ministry is broadcast around the world. The couple preaches not only the gospel of prosperity, but the promise of healing through faith.

It was the prospect of wellness that for years lured Bonnie Parker of Winnsboro, La. to the Copelands’ broadcast every Sunday morning, said Parker’s family.

Believer after believer, much like Parker, lined up to be healed by the Copelands. For many, they believed all it took was faith. And according to Parker’s husband Alvin and their daughter, it also took something else - money.

“We know it was a lot, a whole lot,” said Kristy Beach, Parker’s daughter, talking about the amount of money Bonnie Parker donated.

She said the total reached into the the tens of thousands, and possibly even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Parker also spent money on the lottery. Handwritten notes reflected her desire to remit her winnings to the Copelands, whom she said she believed could stop the cancer ravaging her body.

“I can’t see how they can sell something that doesn’t even belong to them to begin with, but that’s what they are doing,” Beach said. “They’re selling something that you can’t sell.”

While buying up lotto tickets, Parker’s family said she was also paying and praying for healing.

Meanwhile, the Copelands needed $20 million in their aim to buy a new jet that Kenneth Copeland said would be used only to spread the gospel.

“It will never, ever be used as long as it is in our care, for anything other than what is becoming to you, Lord Jesus,” he said.

But what “is becoming” is becoming less clear.

According to flight records obtained by News 8, the Copeland jet, on its way to an evangelical seminar in Australia last October, made a two-day layover in Maui. Then it was on to the Fiji islands for another stop.

After seven days in Australia, the Copelands headed to Honolulu for another three days of what they called “eating and rest.”

Last December, amid other evangelical stops, there was a jet ride to the Yampa Valley Airport in Colorado, just a few miles away from Steamboat Springs Ski Resort.

That same day, the jet flew back to the Copelands’ private airport north of Fort Worth.

Five days later, the jet traveled to the Yampa Valley Airport near Steamboat and returned to Texas.

One week later, there was another trip. This time, to the LaFonda Ranch in Southwest Texas, a favorite stop over the years for Kenneth Copeland and his son, John.

The La Fonda Ranch is described as a working cattle and hunting ranch located in the arid brush country.

A picture taken of Copeland and his son John shows them proudly posing with a pair of axis deer indigenous to India and Sri Lanka.

So, is a jet trip to a South Texas wild game ranch a proper use?

“You can’t take the assets that are supposed to be used for a religious or charitable purpose and use them for your own purposes without some tax consequences,” said Wayne Shaw, a former IRS agent and current Southern Methodist University business professor.

Concerns about Kenneth Copeland’s jet travel came as no surprise to Pete Evans of the Trinity Foundation in Dallas.

The organization has tracked the Copelands’ aircraft and more than $20 million in property assets for years.

“It tells everybody that Christianity is about getting stuff, and not about giving your life for the people around you,” Evans said.

Meanwhile, Parker’s husband said Bonnie died believing she hadn’t given enough money to Kenneth and Gloria Copeland.

Parker and Beach said they asked the Copelands for an accounting of Bonnie’s contributions.

“I can’t believe, I can’t comprehend them going on vacation in a jet that my mom paid for with her life,” Beach said. “I can’t imagine that.”

The Copeland ministry declined requests for an interview, and pointed to an accounting firm’s declaration that all jet travel complies with federal tax laws.

A request to see their annual tax filings and list of Board of Directors was also denied.

The reason they cited for the denial was that as a church they are not required to disclose that information.

How Important is Truth?

How important is truth? A recent Christian radio broadcast highlighted the faith of our soldiers in Iraq. God is certainly doing a work in the hearts of many and believers everywhere ought to be encouraged by that reality. At the same time, the individual chronicling their faith stated approvingly that they are not interested in doctrine but simply in what works.

An example was offered regarding a marine who would not go into battle unless a particular woman blessed his humvee because every one she had blessed had made it through. The host quipped that such a thing would cause a Baptist preacher’s head to spin as she was Roman Catholic and the young man was Baptist. The implication was that religious ritual that worked was the really important thing and not truth. Not only were doctrinal distinctives regarding the issue of salvation swept away, but priest craft and superstition were inserted. Did she have a line to God he did not have? Was it the touch of her hand and the utterance of her blessing that was effectual? Does anyone really want to go into battle with superstition as one’s only hope of survival in the here and now much less in eternity? Indeed, how important is truth?

For full article click here.

HT: Dr. Paul Dean

Emergent - Bible and Beer

In a back room at Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood, about 50 people gathered on a recent Wednesday night to talk rock 'n' roll.

Why are Bob Marley and Kurt Cobain considered by some to be messiahs? When did rock music lose its edge and become another product manufactured and marketed by huge conglomerates such as Viacom?

It was a conversation perfectly suited to the setting. Beer-stained wooden tables and the smell of hops complemented a free-flowing, spirited debate among hip young people in scruffy beards and T-shirts.

In 2007, this is church.

Click here for full article.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Book Review: Chosen For Life: A Case for Divine Election

Book Review: Chosen For Life: A Case for Divine Election
By Sam Storms
Reviewed by: David A. Thommen

Sam Storms has done the Christian community and incredible service with this publication of Chosen for Life: A Case for Divine Election. This is a revised and expanded version of an earlier publication he did in 1987. I will use Sam Storms own words here to give a brief summation of what he hopes this volume will accomplish. “I hope this book will go a long way in dispelling such unkind and terribly misleading caricatures of what people really believe” (p. 21).

He has accomplished his task with great clarity, precision, fairness, and charity that should accompany theological discussions between fellow Christians. I say this because much of what passes for “theological discussion” is simply a batting back and forth of caricatures of theological convictions. Not so in Storms book. He, being a Calvinist and one who holds to the Reformed view of predestination, when dealing with opposing positions pictures them fairly, accurately, and avoids straw man arguments.

For full review click here.

Coffee, It Is Not Always Consumed Properly

On the lighter side of things:

I was reminded of something this morning as I was listening to a CD of Phil Johnson questioning John MacArthur on the dangers of the Emerging Church. As I looked at the CD cover I noticed that it had a stain of coffee on it.

I cannot tell you how many of my study books and Bibles have coffee stains on them. There are some other things I have dumped coffee on in the past that I won't get into. A few years ago when I lived in Wichita, KS I went to see RC Sproul speak at a church that was nearby. I only had his endorsed Geneva Study Bible Study for a few hours and you guessed it, I ended up spilling coffee on it. Now, each time I pull the Bible off the shelf I am reminded of what happened to it. It is a constant challenge for me not to spill coffee on books, or Bibles that is why I don't have coffee around my desk as much anymore.

Why am I telling you this deep secret? I don't know exactly, but I do wonder if there is someone else out there in cyberspace with similar issues? I guess we could say the moral of this story is to be careful with coffee and hot things or to please the Emergents, "However you like to drink your coffee is fine, some may like it hot, some may like it cold or some may even like it lukewarm. Just know that there is more than one way to drink your coffee and be liked as you are doing it." Jokingly so we can all be accepted, "Lord help us if we say that there is only one way to drink coffee."

Thanks for continually reading Truth or Consequences!