Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Holy Spirit: Swirling Everywhere?

Christianity Today, in A Wind that Swirls Everywhere, discusses Pentecostal scholar Amos Yong's Pneumatology. Dr. Yong is head of the Ph.D. program in renewal studies at Regent University School of Divinity in Virginia.

Apparently, Dr. Yong posits that it is possible that the Holy Spirit is active not only among Christians of all denominations but also among believers of non-Christian world religions.

According to the article, Dr. Yong's central thesis is that, "because the Spirit of God is universally active in creation and new creation, 'the religions of the world, like everything else that exists, are providentially sustained by the Spirit of God for divine purposes.' Where most Pentecostals see the devil's work, Yong sees the Spirit's. Concretely, that means Christians should be open to learning from and being enriched by the Spirit's work in world religions."

Is this merely opening the door to syncretism and pluralism? Tell me what you think.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." [not Buddha, Mohammed] (John 15:26)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sanctification - Growing In Grace To Be More Like Christ

I’ve discussed with some of my friends what I believe to be an oft-neglected area of teaching in the church – the Doctrine of Sanctification.

What is it? It is the growth of Christians in Christ; separation to God and His purposes (set apart to God); and God-pleasing conduct (becoming more like Christ).

John Murray, in his book Redemption Accomplished and Applied, says that (1) all sin in believers is the contradiction of God’s holiness [I Pet. 1:15-16, I John 2:16, and I John 3:2-3], (2) the presence of sin in believers involves conflict in their hearts and lives [Rom. 7:15, 21-23], and (3) though sin still remains it does not have mastery [Rom. 8:2-4].

Anthony Hoekema, in Five Views On Sanctification, defines sanctification as: “that gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, involving our responsible participation, by which He delivers us as justified sinners from the pollution of sin, renews our entire nature according to the image of God, and enables us to live lives that are pleasing to Him.”

What say you? What emphasis have you placed in your life in the area of holiness/sanctification and/or the study thereof? How important do you believe this is (or has been) to you in your life right now? What do you see in your study of the Lord's sanctification work in your life that you'd like to share?

Recommended Reading Sources:
Beeke, Joel R., Holiness: God's Call to Sanctification
Beeke, Joel R., Overcoming the World: Grace to Win the Daily Battle
Bolton, Samuel, True Bounds of Christian Freedom
Murray, John, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied
Owen, John, The Mortification of Sin
Ryle, J.C., Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots

Various On-line Resources:
Sanctification / Growing in Grace

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Lego Mega-Church; But With an Organ, and Crosses!

Amy Hughes (who obviously had way too much time on her hands, *wink*) built a church (seating capacity, 1,372 Lego people) completely out of Legos (over 75,000 pieces)! Her church, with 3,976 windows, comes complete with stairs that lead to a balcony with a pipe organ; restrooms; coat rooms; several mosaics; a nave; and a baptistry, alter, crucifix, and pulpit.

For some, this will be a matter of concern and consternation, that even Lego people are into megachurches!

All kidding aside, Amy, well done!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

J.I. Packer: Need for Biblical Gospel

A Must Read! J.I. Packer's 1958 introduction to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Banner of Truth). The Death of Death is considered by many to be the most comprehensive exposition on the meaning and extent of the atonement ever written. Dr. Packer says,

"Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered [the Biblical] gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. Why?

It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts . . . it is too exclusively concerned to be 'helpful' to man - to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction - and too little concerned to glorify God. [Its} center of reference is man, [and its] concern seems limited to making them feel better. [T]he new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of 'helpfulness.' Accordingly, the themes of man's natural inability to believe, of God's free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for his sheep are not preached. [It] appeals to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; [it] speaks of his redeeming work as if he had make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; [it] speaks of God's love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and [it] depicts the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence 'at the door of our hearts' for us to let them in. . . . [I]t needs to be said with emphasis that this set of twisted half-truths is something other than the biblical gospel. To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need."

How (even more) true are these statements today, in 2006, than they were in 1958?! Sobering! And challenging.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Debra Lafave: "Just A Bump In The Road"

Former teacher, Debra Lafave, charged with having sex with a 14-year-old middle school student, and who recently pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior, had this to say following a plea agreement,

"I am a strong Christian woman . . . I believe that God has a path for me, and this was just a bump in the road."

Let's see, "I'm a strong Christian woman." Now, was that before or after the 14-year-old? "...[T]his was just a bump in the road." Just a bump in the road? You've got to be kidding me.

I'm sorry, but this story, and in particular these quotes, just really bothered me!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bonhoeffer: You’re on the Wrong Train

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor and theologian, executed by Nazi Germany as a co-conspirator in the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, said, “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running down the aisle in the opposite direction.” You will still arrive at the wrong destination.

What is he saying to the Church today? To believers who are members of the Episcopal Church, USA (for example) which has ordained an open, practicing homosexual as Bishop, or those in some Pentecostal churches that deny/reject the Trinity, to those in churches that deny the 5 Solas and teach baptismal regeneration as required for salvation, or that deny/reject the inerrancy of scripture?

How many believers are running down the aisle in one direction (apparently thinking they can make a "difference" by being on the inside) while the ministry, teaching, church, denomination with which they've associated themselves is heading the opposite direction?

What do you say to them? What should they do?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

It's All About You, Right?!

Want to feel good about yourself? Well, you can either watch or read good ol' Joel Osteen, or click here for an immediate self-image boost.

Come to think of it, didn’t the Sermon on the Mount say, “Blessed are those who feel good about themselves”? No, that’s not it. It was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 5:3).

Man’s problem is not poor self-esteem; he has plenty of that! Rather, it’s his sin which has separated him from God. Are we not called to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Christ?! He said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mat. 16:24-25)

Take a look at Pastor Gary E. Gilley’s Biblical View of Self-Image and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Church's Paradox - Are We Paradoxing?

Paradox (n): a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that may in fact be true. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Have you heard of the “Paradox of Our Time”? It begins with, “We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers, Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less. . . . ”

Well, the Church has (or at least at one time had) its own paradox. We find it encapsulated in the writing of an unknown, early-church father (circa A.D. 125).

Letter to Diognetus (5:1-17, 6:1-3)
For Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life. This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do.

Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man's lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth.

They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land. They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring. They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed.

It is true that they are "in the flesh," but they do not live "according to the flesh." They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require.

They love all men, and by all men are persecuted. They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless; when they are affronted, they still pay due respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life. They are treated by the Jews as foreigners and enemies, and are hunted down by the Greeks; and all the time those who hate them find it impossible to justify their enmity.

To put it simply: What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body, and Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world.

My question to you is: How true are these statements of us, the Church, today?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Big Mother/Father Now; Big Brother Later?

Tech companies focus on security, March 13, 2006

This has been around for a while, but recently a Taiwanese firm, StarsNav, has been pushing its "Personal Tracker" to watch over your children. The size of an iPod, it can be placed in a child's bag and track their movements. It also has an SOS feature and receives phone calls. According to CNN, one feature the kids might not like is that the sim card can be removed and downloaded so a parent can see exactly where they have been.

So, what does your eschatology do with this?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Necessity of Sound Doctrine - A.W. Tozer

Wonderful posting by Christian recording artist, Steve Camp on his blog, CampOnThis, highlighting an excerpt of A.W. Tozer on the necessity of sound doctrine.

A.W. Tozer begins by saying:

"It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the life of a Christian. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we would have right living. As men do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles, so sound character does not grow out of unsound teaching."

Good stuff, and a must read. From A.W. Tozer's Man: The Dwelling Place of God.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Power of Forgiveness! Vicar: No!

Vicar who can't forgive steps down from pulpit
(Telegraph UK, Mar. 7, 2006)
A vicar whose daughter was killed in the London bombings has resigned because she finds it hard to forgive the men who carried out the suicide attacks.
See also The Times (UK)

It was Jesus who said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:44-45a The truth is that God gave us forgiveness (through Christ) even after what we did (by our sin) in killing His son on the cross! What should that mean for one who claims the name of Christ and yet refuses to forgive another?

The Vicar says she "can't" forgive? Is it "can't" or "won't?" What would you do?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Theologically-Rich Worship Matters!

Looking for thoughtful, grace-filled, theologically-rich worship, in which Christ is glorified and made more beautiful? Then check out these ministers of worship:

Andrew Peterson
Bebo Norman
Caedmon's Call

Derek Webb
Indelible Grace
Jars of Clay
Sovereign Grace Music
Steve Camp
Dennis Jernigan (a sovereignly graced and saved soul)

If you have any others to suggest, please let me know.

In the meantime, also check out Bob Kauflin's Worship Matters, and Reformed Praise.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Celestial Glory, Worth the Run!

Not long ago I was reading a portion of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and was struck with this line spoken by Goodwill to Christian,

". . . is the celestial glory of so little esteem with him, that he counteth it not worth running the hazard of a few difficulties to obtain it?"

What does that say to you? Anything?

If you have not read Pilgrim's Progress, please be encouraged to do so! Here and here are a few links to help whet the appetite.

Portions are also available in MP3 format at SermonAudio.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Asleep . . . I mean Order, in the court!

Snorer in the court? Ruth Bader Ginsburg snoozes, WorldNetDaily, March 1, 2006

Hey, I could do that! Anyone want to nominate me for Supreme Court justice?

Actual sketch artist (Bill Hennessey) rendition
of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg asleep
during hearing

Saturday, March 04, 2006

What's for Dinner in Too Many of Our Churches?

Not sure what to make tonight for dinner? Then how about pulling out a box of Heresy Helper?! Many are getting hefty servings of it every Sunday, why not you?

All credit and kudos to the Sacred Sandwich, and its advertisers! Funny, and well done.

Why Doctrine Matters - Great Quotes!

"A nontheological faith cannot explain itself, but too theological a faith loses contact with the reason for its existence. . . . Too much enthusiastic faith without a corresponding degree of theological understanding is almost certain to lead to error, perhaps to serious heresy. Too much doctrine unaccompanied by a living and growing faith is the recipe for dead orthodoxy." (Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church, pg. 154)

"It is of exceedingly great importance that we should have right notions and conceptions of the nature, attributes, and perfections of God. It is the very foundations of all religion, both doctrinal and practical; it is to no purpose to worship God, except we know what we worship. . . . It is impossible we should love, fear, and obey God as we ought, except we know what He is, and have right ideas of His perfections, that render Him lovely and worthy to be feared and obeyed." (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723 [Vol. 10], pgs. 416-418)

Do you have any you'd suggest be added? Please let me know!