Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Walking, Not Just Talking

The following is from Pulpit Magazine (http://www.sfpulpit.com/):

(By John MacArthur)

If we really believe the objective, rationally-understood truth of Scripture is both authoritative and incompatible with error — since the Bible is the singular Word of the living God — we must not only study and teach it; we must live it, too. It is not enough to give lip service. If we genuinely believe the Bible is divine truth, we must allow it to permeate our life and ministry. To live otherwise is tantamount to denying the truth. People who think otherwise may “profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16).

Ezra, the high priest in Nehemiah’s time, is the prototype of what every godly minister ought to be. “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10, emphasis added).

I learned this lesson from my father, who as a lifelong pastor has been my model of integrity, as was his father before him. I first began to appreciate how difficult the struggle can be when I began in the ministry as a young man in my twenties. I had been in the pastorate for barely a month when I was asked to perform a wedding for a girl in our church who was planning to marry an unbeliever. In a meeting of the church board, some of the leaders urged me to do the wedding because the girl’s father was an influential man. A lot was at stake, they said. We might lose this family from the church if I declined.

I said, “But I can’t do that. I can’t do what the Scripture clearly forbids. Believers are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Second Corinthians 6:14.”

They were already prepared for that. They replied, “Well okay. We understand your feelings. We know a minister from somewhere else who will come in and do it, so that this girl can be married in the church.”

I asked them: “But whose church is this? Is this your church to be used at your discretion, or is this Christ’s church?”

They replied to their great credit, “You’re right; we can’t do it. This is Christ’s church.”

That was the Rubicon for Grace Community Church. That was the moment when the future of our congregation was decided. Yes, an entire family left, and several other people withdrew their membership over that incident as well. But we decided as elders that day that we would not only preach the word of God; we would expect it to be lived out in the corporate life of the church.

That same expectation is laid on all who would claim the name of Christ, both within the church and outside of it. We are those who have been commanded to walk in a manner worthy. This means that the authority of Scripture must be more than something we proclaim. It must be something we live.

Posted in Ministry, Ethics
http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/07/29/walking-not-just-talking/#more-1348

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ties That Bind


The following is from Pulpit Magazine (http://www.sfpulpit.com/):

(by John MacArthur)

Have you ever noticed how different the individual members of the same family can be? One child may be melancholy while another is a live wire. One may be especially gifted in music, and another, who has no interest in music, may excel in sports. In some cases they look nothing like each other or even their parents. Yet the members of a family share a bond stronger than their differences.

In the same way, within the Body of Christ churches develop their own unique personalities. Some may insist on formal worship services, while others thrive in a relaxed atmosphere. But the most important thing about a church isn’t the superficial things that make it different, but what it has in common with other Christian assemblies.

There are certain truths—fundamental doctrines—that every true church is committed to. These doctrines are unalterable; they cannot be compromised in any way. They are non-negotiable. Yield on any one point, and the church ceases to be a church. Here are five foundational truths that distinguish all authentic churches.

A High View of God
It is essential that a church perceive itself as a body of believers designed for the glory of God. Unfortunately, most churches today have deviated from that priority and developed a human focus: meeting man’s felt needs. Instead of faithfully proclaiming God’s sufficient Word to direct people’s minds toward God, church leaders respond to superficial needs with temporary solutions like psychology, self-esteem, entertainment, or a myriad of other diversions.
As a result, the church is no longer an organism that emphasizes knowing and glorifying God; it is an organization that tries to help people feel good about themselves. But if you know and glorify God, you don’t need to be concerned about your needs because “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). When your relationship with God is right, your perspective on your needs will also be right. That doesn’t mean we should ignore people’s needs—we are to be concerned about people the same way God is. But there must be a balance, and it begins with a high view of God.

We must take God seriously and exalt Him. Yes, we are to reach out to people with the love of Christ, but God must be the focus of our worship and our life.

The Absolute Authority of Scripture
A second non-negotiable truth is the absolute authority of Scripture. God reveals Himself primarily through the pages of Scripture; that is why we must uphold it as our absolute authority.

Because we believe Scripture is true, we must proclaim it with conviction and without compromise or apology. The Bible makes bold claims, and Christians who believe it ought to affirm it boldly.

Anyone who faithfully and correctly proclaims the Word of God will speak with authority. It is not our own authority. Insofar as our teaching accurately reflects the truth of Scripture, it has the full weight of God’s own authority behind it. That is a staggering thought, but it is precisely how 1 Peter 4:11 instructs us to handle biblical truth: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.”

If the Bible is true, then it is also authoritative. As divinely revealed truth, it carries the full weight of God’s own authority. If you claim to believe the Bible at all, you ultimately must bow to its authority. That means making it the final arbiter of truth—the rule by which every other opinion is evaluated.

Sound Doctrine
Another non-negotiable for the church is sound doctrine. If you have a high view of God and are committed to Him, you will obey His Word. The content of God’s Word is sound doctrine.

Countless Christians today are vague about doctrine. Many pastors offer short sermons that might excite or make their congregations feel better, but they have little to do with truths that matter. We need truths that we can hold on to—truths about God, life and death, heaven and hell, man and sin, redemption through Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit and angels, the believer’s position in Christ, and Satan and his realm. You need to be able to read a biblical text, discover what it says, and draw out divine principles. God’s people need solid doctrine to build their lives on.

Personal Holiness
We must draw lines when it comes to personal holiness and be careful what we expose ourselves and our children to. We dare not lower our standards to those of the world. Christians are called to live a pure life, and we can’t compromise that.

Second Corinthians 7:1 says, “Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” A church must enforce that standard (see Matt. 18:15-17). That’s why we implement church discipline where I pastor. If someone sins, we confront him or her for their own good and the good of the church as a whole.

Many Christians aren’t as concerned about their personal holiness as they should be. Where are you in terms of holiness and real communion with the living God? Church leaders aren’t the only ones who should live holy lives. You can’t have a half-hearted commitment to God and expect Him to work through you.

Spiritual Authority
One more component that’s true of a biblical church is spiritual authority. A church must understand that Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22; 4:15) and that He mediates His rule in the church through godly elders (1 Thess. 5:13-14; Heb. 13:7, 17).

Hebrews 13 says to submit to those over you in the Lord, for they watch your souls. Follow their example. Paul says to “recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

I am one of many leaders at our church. I happen to be the one whom God chose to preach, but I am one elder among many. While there are variations in the giftedness of spiritual leaders, there is still an equality of spiritual authority among those the Bible calls elders or overseers. Such spiritual leadership is essential to the church of Jesus Christ. That’s why the church must be committed to training and obeying godly leaders.

There is room for diversity within the Body of Christ. But every true church is united by certain non-negotiables. Make sure you and your church are committed to the ties that bind.

Posted in Evangelicalism, Ministry
http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/07/25/ties-that-bind/#more-1346

Friday, July 25, 2008

What Should We Think About Archaeology and the Bible?


The following is from Albrt Mohler (http://www.albertmohler.com/):


Posted: Tuesday, July 08, 2008 at 2:44 am ET


Archaeology is in the news again. An interesting juxtaposition of news stories concerns what might be the boyhood home of George Washington on the Rappahannock River and the claim that a collector has revealed an ancient stone tablet from Israel that might -- hold that thought -- speak of a resurrection just years before the time of Jesus.

The news about the home of the first president hit the media just in time for the Fourth of July. As The Los Angeles Times reported the story:

After years of searching, archaeologists have identified and excavated the boyhood home of George Washington, site of such legendary -- if perhaps apocryphal -- events as chopping down the cherry tree and throwing a coin across the Rappahannock River. The find indicates that the Washington family lived in a spacious eight-room home -- a sign that the family was well-off for its day -- and provides new information about George's childhood, a period that has remained largely obscured in the mists of history.

The account is interesting, as is the ruin of the home. It turns out that the property had been basically known and preserved. The discovery of the foundation and ruin of the home came as that property was more thoroughly studied. The most significant aspect of the discovery seems to be the fact that George Washington's father, Augustine Washington, was evidently a man of wealth. The eight-room home would have been a sign of exceptional wealth in that era of colonial Virginia. The discovery changes nothing of importance in our understanding of George Washington, but is obviously a site of significant historical interest.

The media attention devoted to what some call "Gabriel's Revelation" is a matter of greater controversy.

Here is the issue as reported by David Van Biema and Tim McGirk of TIME:

A 3-ft.-high tablet romantically dubbed "Gabriel's Revelation" could challenge the uniqueness of the idea of the Christian Resurrection. The tablet appears to date authentically to the years just before the birth of Jesus and yet -- at least according to one Israeli scholar -- it announces the raising of a messiah after three days in the grave. If true, this could mean that Jesus' followers had access to a well-established paradigm when they decreed that Christ himself rose on the third day -- and it might even hint that they could have applied it in their grief after their master was crucified. However, such a contentious reading of the 87-line tablet depends on creative interpretation of a smudged passage, making it the latest entry in the woulda/coulda/shoulda category of possible New Testament artifacts; they are useful to prove less-spectacular points and to stir discussion on the big ones, but probably not to settle them nor shake anyone's faith.

The tablet is owned by a Swiss-Israeli collector and it "came to light" about a decade ago. The tablet itself is interesting, but as Professor Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary argues in the story, the reading of the ink-on-stone text is contentious at best. As for the text itself, even if correctly dated to years just before Jesus, the text at the crucial line is smudged and the wording is unclear.

TIME's story concludes with this:

It remains to be seen whether Gabriel's Revelation, and especially Knohl's [Israel Knohl of Hebrew University in Jerusalem] interpretation, will weather the hot lights of fame. Even the authors of its initial research seem a little dubious about his claims that it is a dry run for the Easter story. But, as often happens in such cases, they seem better disposed to a slightly toned-down assertion: in this case, that the Gabriel tablet does indicate a very rare instance of the idea that a messiah might suffer -- a notion introduced in Judaic thought centuries before by the prophet Isaiah but which supposedly went out of style by Jesus' time. If that more modest theory gains traction, it will forge a link between a trend in first-century Judaism and one of Christianity's galvanizing thoughts -- that God might throw in his lot with a suffering or even murdered man -- that could contribute to a growing mutual understanding.

Van Biema and McGirk are helpful in acknowledging the fact that many supposed "discoveries" much-touted in the media turn out to recede quickly from attention. For example, they refer back to last year's media swarm over the so-called "lost tomb of Jesus," and note that "despite considerable initial hoopla" the entire story is still regarded as speculation by many. The media attention moved to other concerns long ago.

All this raises the whole issue of archaeology and the Christian faith. Christians are understandably interested in the archaeology of the lands of the Bible. After all, ours is a faith that makes historical claims about persons and events with specific places, timing, and details provided in the text of the Bible. This was true for Israel and it is equally true for the church.

Our faith looks to the fall of the walls of Jericho as Joshua and the people of God marched around its fortified walls, to Jerusalem and the building of the first and second temples, to Galilee and the miracles performed by Jesus, to Bethlehem and the birth of the Messiah, back to Jerusalem where Christ was crucified and raised from the dead, and to a host of other places where the Bible grounds God's acts in history. Authentic biblical Christianity stands on these events as events in history, not as cherished myths.

For this reason, Christians are too often overly excited about the latest "discovery" that gains media attention -- either in elation or travail. Archaeology is an important scholarly discipline, but it is not immune from ideology and many of the conclusions and arguments announced to the public are actually not at all what they first appear to be. Furthermore, archaeology is largely a matter of historical reconstruction, often with little actual evidence. As a rule, the more distant the time, the more difficult the reconstruction. That makes sense, of course, as time destroys both evidence and the preservation of memory.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Christians were tempted to argue that the historical claims of the Bible (especially the Old Testament) had been "proved" by the intense proliferation of archaeological investigations that marked the period. This was the era in which William Foxwell Albright and his American Schools of Oriental Research were defining a new discipline known as "biblical archaeology."

Then, especially after World War II, a new generation of archaeologists argued that their findings effectively disproved the accounts of the Bible. Kathleen Kenyon excavated Jericho and argued that the Bible's account was factually wrong. Others made similar claims.

Those Christians who were tempted to place too much confidence in archaeological discoveries (and too little in the Bible's own claims of inspiration and authority) were shaken by Kenyon's "findings" and by similar accounts. This same pattern appears when the media give attention to stories like the "lost tomb of Jesus" or the so-called "Gospel of Judas."

Archaeological findings are of great interest, of course. But the key issue is what kind of authority we invest in archaeology in terms of authenticating or disproving the text of the Bible. Christians err by accepting or investing too much evidentiary authority in archaeological "findings," whether considered to support or to question the biblical accounts.

Authentic Christianity is based upon the inscripturated revelation of God -- the Bible -- as our authority. In the end, archaeology cannot prove or disprove the biblical text. Nothing can be found, or not found, that should shake our faith in the total truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Word of God. Archaeology can expand our knowledge and understanding, but cannot establish the authority for our faith.

That authority is the Word of God, and the Word of God alone.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

What Did Jesus' Tomb Look Like? An Interview with Leen Ritmeyer (Part 2)

The following is from Justin Taylor:

http://theologica.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-did-jesus-tomb-look-like-interview.html

A previous post contained part one of my interview with Leen Ritmeyer, who oversaw the reconstructions for the ESV Study Bible. In the first part of the interview, we talked about Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. We now turn to talk about the Tomb of Jesus. Our drawing is below (click image to enlarge to full size):


After it was confirmed that Jesus was dead, the Bible tells us that his body was taken to a garden and laid in Joseph of Arimathea’s newly hewn tomb (Matt. 27:60; Luke 23:53; John 19:41). Why is that important information for archaeologists?

The fact that the tomb was a new one is hugely significant for the way in which archaeologists would try to understand the tomb layout. Tombs of the New Testament period usually consisted of several rock-cut chambers, which had burial and arched niches cut into the side walls. The first chamber was an entrance porch, while the other chambers had burial niches cut into the side walls for the burying of the dead. But multiple chambers would contradict the description of the tomb of Jesus in the gospels, for the women involved with the burial could apparently see the body from outside the tomb (cf. Matt. 22:61 and Luke 23:55). And John, while being outside the tomb and stooping to look inside, saw the linen grave clothes lying (John 20:5).

The truth of this description can now be confirmed by archaeology. Over 1,000 tombs have been studied around Jerusalem, and we know now that the first stage in tomb construction is the cutting out of a single chamber with benches arranged along the three sides, leaving a pit in the middle, so that the workmen could stand upright while working. A tomb could be left like this for a while, until the other chambers were added.

Such a newly hewn tomb could be used for the first phase of burial, the so-called “primary burial,” where the body was laid out on a bench. A year or so later, when only bones were left, these were placed in “ossuaries” or bone boxes. This was called “secondary burial.”

Other reconstructions of Jesus’ tomb show burial niches carved into the wall. Why are these lacking in the ESV Study Bible illustration?

The second phase in the development of a family tomb was the cutting out of a proper burial chamber. Such chambers had loculi (burial niches) where the body was put in. These niches were narrow and about 6 feet deep, so that a complete body could be put inside and the opening sealed off by a large stone. Higher up the wall, arched niches (arcosolia) were carved for the placing of the ossuaries. Once the tomb had reached this stage of construction, it could no longer be called a “newly hewn tomb.” It would be wrong therefore to portray burial niches in the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The drawing of Jesus' tomb in the ESV Study Bible accurately shows what a newly hewn tomb would have looked like.

Within the tomb where did they probably place Jesus' body?

The gospel record tells us that the body of Jesus could be seen as soon as someone looked inside the tomb (cf. John 20:5). Newly hewn tombs usually had a bench running along three sides of the chamber. Looking inside a tomb, the first thing one would notice is the bench opposite the entrance. It is reasonable therefore to suggest that the body of Jesus was laid on the bench opposite the entrance. In the drawing, the grave clothes and head cloth (cf. John 20:5–7) can be seen on that bench, as an indication as to where Jesus’ body was laid. This arrangement makes it also possible for the two angels to sit on either side of the place where the body of Jesus had been (cf. John 20:12). The Bible says that there was a massive rolling rock that sealed the tomb.

How big would such a rock have been?

Only a few of these rolling stones have been found. They usually have a diameter of 4.5 feet (1.4 m) and were about a foot (0.3 m) or so thick. Based on these measurements, the stone would have weighed a good few hundred kilos. Were rolling stones typical of tombs in the first century? Surprisingly, only very few tombs dating to the Second Temple period (c. 516 B.C.–A.D. 70) had rolling stones to close off the entrance. Actually, only four have been found in the Jerusalem area. The most well-known examples are the so-called Tomb of the Kings (more likely the Tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene) and the Tomb of Herod’s Family. These were very elaborate tombs, built by wealthy people, as it is more expensive to build this kind of closing mechanism than just putting a blocking stone in front of the entrance. It confirms the fact that Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man (cf. Matt. 27:57).

How big would have been the entrance to the tomb?

Tomb entrances, even those with rolling stones, were rather small, about 2.5–3 feet high and 2–2.5 feet wide. There was no need to make the entrance larger as it was only used during burials. Smaller entrances are also easier to close off. The fact that the disciples had to stoop to look in (Luke 24:12; John 20:5; John 20:11) is in perfect harmony with the archaeological record of tomb architecture of that time.

Thanks, Dr. Ritmeyer, for taking the time to do this interview, and for the countless hours you invested in this project. Any final thoughts?

It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve as the archaeological and architectural reconstruction editor for the ESV Study Bible. Ever since I started to work as archaeological architect in 1973, it has been my aim to show what ancient buildings looked like. It is vital for Bible students to have a correct knowledge of the background of the Bible, and I am sure that the Study Bible will be of tremendous help for those who love to study the Word of God. With its many exquisitely rendered reconstruction drawings and accurate maps, a new standard has been set for biblical illustration, raising the bar for many years to come.

http://theologica.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-did-jesus-tomb-look-like-interview.html

Pragmatism: Trend or Trap?

The following comes from Pulpit Magazine http://www.sfpulpit.com/:

Pragmatism: Trend or Trap?
(by John MacArthur)

By God’s grace, I have been the pastor of the same church now for nearly forty years. From that vantage point, I have witnessed the birth and growth of menacing trends within the church, several of which have converged under what I would call evangelical pragmatism — an approach to ministry that is endemic in contemporary Christianity.

What is pragmatism? Basically it is a philosophy that says that results determine meaning, truth, and value — what will work becomes a more important question than what is true. As Christians, we are called to trust what the Lord says, preach that message to others, and leave the results to Him. But many have set that aside. Seeking relevancy and success, they have welcomed the pragmatic approach and have received the proverbial Trojan horse.

Let me take a few minutes to explain a little of the history leading up to the current entrenchment of the pragmatic approach in the evangelical church and to show you why it isn’t as innocent as it looks.

Recent History

The 1970s, for the most part, were years of spiritual revival in America. The spread of the gospel through the campuses of many colleges and universities marked a fresh, energetic movement of the Holy Spirit to draw people to salvation in Christ. Mass baptisms were conducted in rivers, lakes, and the ocean, several new versions of the English Bible were released, and Christian publishing and broadcasting experienced remarkable growth.

Sadly, the fervent evangelical revival slowed and was overshadowed by the greed and debauchery of the eighties and nineties. The surrounding culture rejected biblical standards of morality, and the church, rather than assert its distinctiveness and call the world to repentance, softened its stance on holiness. The failure to maintain a distinctively biblical identity was profound — it led to general spiritual apathy and a marked decline in church attendance.

Church leaders reacted to the world’s indifference, not by a return to strong biblical preaching that emphasized sin and repentance, but by a pragmatic approach to “doing” church — an approach driven more by marketing, methodology, and perceived results than by biblical doctrine. The new model of ministry revolved around making sinners feel comfortable and at ease in the church, then selling them on the benefits of becoming a Christian. Earlier silence has given way to cultural appeasement and conformity.

Even the church’s ministry to its own has changed. Entertainment has hijacked many pulpits across the country; contemporary approaches cater to the ever-changing whims of professing believers; and many local churches have become little more than social clubs and community centers where the focus is on the individual’s felt needs. Even on Christian radio, phone-in talk shows, music, and live psychotherapy are starting to replace Bible teaching as the staple. “Whatever works,” the mantra of pragmatism, has become the new banner of evangelicalism.

The Down-Grade Controversy

You may be surprised to learn that what we are now seeing is not new. England’s most famous preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, dealt with a similar situation more than 100 years ago. Among churches that were once solid, Spurgeon and other faithful pastors noticed a conciliatory attitude toward and overt cooperation with the modernist movement. And what motivated the compromise? They sought to find acceptance by adopting the “sophisticated” trends of the culture. Does that sound familiar to you?

One article, published anonymously in Spurgeon’s monthly magazine The Sword and the Trowel, noted that every revival of true evangelical faith had been followed within a generation or two by a drift away from sound doctrine, ultimately leading to wholesale apostasy. The author likened this drifting from truth to a downhill slope, and thus labeled it “the down grade.” The inroads of modernism into the church killed ninety percent of the mainline denominations within a generation of Spurgeon’s death. Spurgeon himself, once the celebrated and adored herald of the Baptist Union, was marginalized by the society and he eventually withdrew his membership.

The Effects of Pragmatism

Many of today’s church leaders have bought into the subtlety of pragmatism without recognizing the dangers it poses. Instead of attacking orthodoxy head on, evangelical pragmatism gives lip service to the truth while quietly undermining the foundations of doctrine. Instead of exalting God, it effectively denigrates the things that are precious to Him.

First, there is in vogue today a trend to make the basis of faith something other than God’s Word. Experience, emotion, fashion, and popular opinion are often more authoritative than the Bible in determining what many Christians believe. From private, individual revelation to the blending of secular psychology with biblical “principles,” Christians are listening to the voice of the serpent that once told Eve, “God’s Word doesn’t have all the answers.” Christian counseling reflects that drift, frequently offering no more than experimental and unscriptural self-help therapy instead of solid answers from the Bible.

Christian missionary work is often riddled with pragmatism and compromise, because too many in missions have evidently concluded that what gets results is more important than what God says. That’s true among local churches as well. It has become fashionable to forgo the proclamation and teaching of God’s Word in worship services. Instead, churches serve up a paltry diet of drama, music, and other forms of entertainment.

Second, evangelical pragmatism tends to move the focus of faith away from God’s Son. You’ve seen that repeatedly if you watch much religious television. The health-wealth-and-prosperity gospel advocated by so many televangelists is the ultimate example of this kind of fantasy faith. This false gospel appeals unabashedly to the flesh, corrupting all the promises of Scripture and encouraging greed. It makes material blessing, not Jesus Christ, the object of the Christian’s desires.

Easy-believism handles the message differently, but the effect is the same. It is the promise of forgiveness minus the gospel’s hard demands, the perfect message for pragmatists. It has done much to popularize “believing” but little to provoke sincere faith.

Christ is no longer the focus of the message. While His name is mentioned from time to time, the real focus is inward, not upward. People are urged to look within; to try to understand themselves; to come to grips with their problems, their hurts, their disappointments; to have their needs met, their desires granted, their wants fulfilled. Nearly all the popular versions of the message encourage and legitimize a self-centered perspective.

Third, today’s Christianity is infected with a tendency to view the result of faith as something less than God’s standard of holy living. By downplaying the importance of holy living–both by precept and by example–the biblical doctrine of conversion is undermined. Think about it: What more could Satan do to try to destroy the church than undermining God’s Word, shifting the focus off Christ, and minimizing holy living?

All those things are happening slowly, steadily within the church right now. Tragically, most Christians seem oblivious to the problems, satisfied with a Christianity that is fashionable and highly visible. But the true church must not ignore those threats. If we fight to maintain doctrinal purity with an emphasis on biblical preaching and biblical ministry, we can conquer external attacks. But if error is allowed into the church, many more churches will slide down the grade to suffer the same fate as the denominations that listened to, yet ignored, Spurgeon’s impassioned appeal.

Make it your habitual prayer request that the Lord would elevate the authority of His Word, the glory of His Son, and the purity of His people in the evangelical church. May the Lord revive us and keep us far from the slippery slope of pragmatism.

http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/07/24/pragmatism-trend-or-trap/#more-1345

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

John Piper on the Prosperity Gospel


The audio in this clip is from the message "Where Is God? (UCF)."

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Work of the Spirit (Part 1)

The following comes from Pulpit Magazine (http://www.sfpulpit.com/):


(By John MacArthur)


How can a true work of the Holy Spirit be distinguished from a false one?


From a careful study of 1 John 4, the great theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards was able to identify five distinguishing characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s work. In short, a true work of the Holy Spirit: (1) Exalts the true Christ, (2) Opposes Satan’s interests, (3) Points people to the Scriptures, (4) Elevates truth, and (5) Results in love for God and others.


The following material is condensed, adapted and excerpted from Jonathan Edwards’s The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.


It Exalts the True Christ.


“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (John 4:2-3)


When a ministry raises people’s esteem of the one true Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin and was crucified — if it confirms and establishes their minds in the truth that He is the Son of God and the Savior of men — then it is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God. If the spirit at work among a people convinces them of Christ and leads them to Him; if it confirms their minds in the belief of the history of Christ as He appeared in the flesh; if it teaches them that He is the Son of God to save sinners; if it reveals that He is the only Savior, and that they stand in great need of Him; and if it begets in them higher and more honorable thoughts of Christ than they used to have; if it inclines their affections more to Him — that is a sure sign that it is the true and right Spirit. This is true even though we are ultimately incapable of determining whether anyone’s conviction or affections reflect real saving faith.


The words of the apostle are remarkable. The person to whom the Spirit testifies must be that Jesus who appeared in the flesh — not another “christ” in His stead. It cannot be some mystical, fantastical “christ,” such as the “inner light” extolled by the Quakers. This imaginary christ diminishes their esteem of and dependence on Jesus as He came in the flesh. The true Spirit of God gives testimony for that Jesus alone.


The devil has a fierce hatred against Christ, especially in His office as the Savior of men. Satan mortally hates the story and doctrine of redemption; he never would go about to stress these truths. The Spirit that inclines men’s hearts to the Seed of the woman is not the spirit of the serpent that has such an irreconcilable enmity against Him.


(Continued at http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/07/16/a-work-of-the-spirit-part-2/).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fighting the Good Fight

The Whole Armor of God
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak." (Ephesians 6:10-21. ESV.)

"Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me." (Psalm 119:133. NIV.)

To Be All There

This post is from the Girl Talk blog (http://www.girltalk.blogs.com/):

To Be All There

It is not only homemakers who need to remember that their current season is not a holding pattern or a hindrance. Two of our single readers also see that it is important to apply these truths to their lives and “live to the hilt” of what God has called them to today:

Thank you so much for your encouraging post which reminds me to try to serve God in whatever I do. I have the opposite problem to the young woman described in your post!

I'm a woman who isn't married yet and who works, and I look at my married friends with children and am envious of all the opportunities they have to share the gospel, serve their husbands and children and glorify God in a way which seems better than the situation I am in. But then comparing isn't the point is it? It is to be as Susannah Wesley says! I've been very struck by Col. 3.17 recently and am asking God to help me to do this whatever I do in work, in my church life and most particularly (this is where it has really hit!) in my courtship. Which is revealing to me just how sinful and selfish I am! But how great of God to save me, so I must keep that in mind!

Emma

I think the mindset that we are not using our gifts as homemakers can also apply to single women waiting to be married or married women waiting to have children. We are waiting for that season where we think God will really start his plan for our lives and for our service to Him, but like you said earlier this week, we should imitate Jim Elliot's words and whatever season of life we are in, be all there for the glory of God!

Rachel

Posted by Carolyn Mahaney on July 02, 2008 at 05:54 PM

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Honoring God in Gray Areas

The following is from Pulpit Magazine (http://www.sfpulpit.com/):

Honoring God in Gray Areas
(By John MacArthur)

If the issue you are wondering about is not specifically addressed in the Bible, then it’s helpful to ask these questions from 1 Corinthians to help you in deciding what to do. Asking these questions (and others like them) will help you make a wise decision based on sound biblical principles.

  1. Will it benefit me spiritually? First Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”

  2. Will it put me in bondage? First Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” Any questionable practice that can be habit‑forming is not wise to pursue.

  3. Will it defile God’s temple? First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” We should not do anything with our bodies that would dishonor the Lord.

  4. Will it cause others to stumble? First Corinthians 8:8‑9 says, “Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” One should refrain from using his freedom in an area which might cause others to sin. For “by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore,” Paul said, “if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.”

  5. Will it help the cause of evangelism? First Corinthians 10:32-33 says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.” We must think of the effect any practice might have on our testimony to the lost.

  6. Will it violate my conscience? First Corinthians 10:25‑29 contains three references to abstaining from a certain practice “for conscience’ sake.” And Romans 14:23 says, “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” If we are not sure whether an action is pleasing to God, we should not do it. That way our conscience will remain clear and our relationship to God will not be hindered.

  7. Will it bring glory to God? First Corinthians 10:31 summarizes all these principles by saying, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Posted in Spiritual Growth, Cultural Issues

Pictures from the Road

One of God's indescribable creations.



The Grand Canyon, AZ


Thank you Heavenly Father for your grace today!

Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God


The following is from the Girl Talk blog (http://www.girltalk.blogs.com/):


The girltalk conversation begins with the four of us, but we love it when you jump in! Tina sent us the following excerpt from Noel Piper’s inspiring book Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God that fits and expands perfectly on the G.K. Chesterton quote Mom shared yesterday. This quote comes at the conclusion of Mrs. Piper’s profile of the missionary doctor to Africa, Helen Roseveare:

"Perhaps the deepest underlying personal factor in Helen's tension was the need she felt to do her very best and, if possible, to be the very best. God called her to Africa where that was not possible. There were continuing lessons for her: learning to treat malaria by symptoms rather than with prescribed lab tests, having to operate without having been trained as a surgeon, needing to make bricks rather than spending the day with patients.

Perhaps that is an issue for some of us--struggling with the reality that God has called us to do less than we want to do or less than what we believe is best. That can happen in any setting. For me, it's been especially true in my years with small children - 'I got a college degree for this?' Maybe the problem is the way we see ourselves. Maybe we think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

If anyone was too good to die, it was Jesus. If anyone should have done greater things than walking dusty roads and talking with people too dense to understand him, it was Jesus. In Philippians 3 . . . is the verse, "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death" (verse 10). When God called Helen to less than she expected, he was helping her become like Christ, rather than like the best doctor or missionary she knew of. Who is it we want to be like?" (p. 172)

Posted by Nicole Whitacre on July 10, 2008 at 01:15 PM Permalink

Friday, July 11, 2008

Part IV: A Call for Discernment


Justin Peters exposing the Word of Faith movement.
A Call for Discernment: Justin Peters Part 4 (5 mins.)

Justin Peters exposes the false gospel of the World of Faith movement, and whilst he addresses the blapshemies of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Hagan, it cannot be denied how similar their false theology is to much of the professing church today, with their erroneous 'free-will theology' and 'God can't make a man do something'.

So Similar to 'Free-Will' Manology.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Part III: A Call for Discernment


Justin Peters exposing the Word of Faith movement.
A Call for Discernment: Justin Peters Part 3 (9 mins.)

Justin Peters exposes the false gospel of the World of Faith movement, and whilst he addresses the blapshemies of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Hagan, it cannot be denied how similar their false theology is to much of the professing church today, with their erroneous 'free-will theology' and 'God can't make a man do something'.

So Similar to 'Free-Will' Manology.

Come back this week for the final part to the series.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Part II: A Call for Discernment


Justin Peters exposing the Word of Faith movement.
A Call for Discernment: Justin Peters Part 2 (10 mins.)

Justin Peters exposes the false gospel of the World of Faith movement, and whilst he addresses the blapshemies of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Hagan, it cannot be denied how similar their false theology is to much of the professing church today, with their erroneous 'free-will theology' and 'God can't make a man do something'.

So Similar to 'Free-Will' Manology.

Come back this week for the following 2 Parts to the series.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Four Part Series: A Call for Discernment


Justin Peters exposing the Word of Faith movement.
A Call for Discernment: Justin Peters Part 1 (8 mins.)

Justin Peters exposes the false gospel of the World of Faith movement, and whilst he addresses the blapshemies of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Hagan, it cannot be denied how similar their false theology is to much of the professing church today, with their erroneous 'free-will theology' and 'God can't make a man do something'.

So Similar to 'Free-Will' Manology.

Come back this week for the following 3 Parts to the series.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Local Churches: Do We Need Them?

(By John MacArthur)
http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/07/03/local-churches-do-we-need-them/

The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of local assemblies. In fact, it was the pattern of Paul’s ministry to establish local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel. Hebrews 10:24-25 commands every believer to be a part of such a local body and reveals why this is necessary.

“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

It is only in the local body to which one is committed that there can be the level of intimacy that is required for carefully stimulating fellow-believers “to love and good deeds.” And it is only in this setting that we can encourage one another.

The New Testament also teaches that every believer is to be under the protection and nurture of the leadership of the local church. These godly men can shepherd the believer by encouraging, admonishing, and teaching. Hebrews 13:7 and 17 help us to understand that God has graciously granted accountability to us through godly leadership.

Furthermore, when Paul gave Timothy special instructions about the public meetings, he said “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Part of the emphasis in public worship includes these three things: hearing the Word, being called to obedience and action through exhortation, and teaching. It is only in the context of the local assembly that these things can most effectively take place.

Acts 2:42 shows us what the early church did when they met together: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They learned God’s Word and the implications of it in their lives; they joined to carry out acts of love and service to one another; they commemorated the Lord’s death and resurrection through the breaking of bread; and they prayed. Of course, we can do these things individually, but God has called us into His body-the church is the local representation of that worldwide-body-and we should gladly minister and be ministered to among God’s people.

Active local church membership is imperative to living a life without compromise. It is only through the ministry of the local church that a believer can receive the kind of teaching, accountability, and encouragement that is necessary for him to stand firm in his convictions. God has ordained that the church provide the kind of environment where an uncompromising life can thrive.

Posted in Cultural Issues, Ministry
http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/07/03/local-churches-do-we-need-them/

A Quick Thought on Independence Day


(By Nathan Busenitz)
http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/07/04/a-quick-thought-on-independence-day/

It’s Independence Day. And there is perhaps no better day than today to remember the words of 1 Timothy 2:1–2:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

This would not only apply to our Republican President, but also to our Democratically-controlled congress, our judicial system, our state representatives, and even our local mayors, supervisors, and councilmembers.

Instead of listening to political talk radio today, getting angry at this politician or that policymaker, why not spend those same moments praying for the government officials that God has placed over us? If Paul could pray for his leaders (including guys like Nero), we certainly have no excuse for neglecting to pray for ours.

Homemaking is Not a Hindrance

Thanks Christie for pointing this out to me. :)

The following is from the Girl Talk blog:
http://www.girltalk.blogs.com/

Homemaking is Not a Hindrance
(by Carolyn Mahaney)

I recently heard a young woman confess that she struggles with not being able to “use her gifts” because she is primarily at home, caring for small children. She is not alone in her struggle. I can remember occasionally battling similar thoughts in those early years of nursing infants, changing diapers and child training, and I know other women have as well.

It’s easy for us to look around and see “everyone else” playing a productive and meaningful part in the church’s mission and feel like we are the “only one” languishing on the sidelines.

Now, it is good and right for us to want to invest the gifts and talents God has bestowed on us for the good of the church; but when we view homemaking as a hindrance to using our gifts, I think we’re missing a vitally important truth.

You see, the gifts God has given to each of us are not only for the “common good” (1 Cor. 12:7) of those outside our family, but they are first and foremost for the good of those within our family. In fact, I would argue that there is no place where our gifts and skills should be more heartily put to use than with the family God has given to our charge.

Are you creative and artistic? Then make your house a fun and beautiful place to be. Are you organized and methodical? Then apply your skill in the management of your home. Are you a skilled counselor? Then be the woman of understanding who draws out the “deep waters” of your family member’s hearts (Prov. 20:5). Can you sing? Then fill your home with music. Whatever gift you have been given or skill you have acquired turn around and invest it in your home.

Be like Susanna Wesley, “the incomparably brilliant and well-educated mother of sons who shook two continents for God” who wrote: “I am content to fill a little space if God be glorified” (Dorothy Patterson, "The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective").

Let us be content to use our gifts, energies, talents and skills for the good of our family to the glory of God.

Posted by Carolyn Mahaney on July 01, 2008 at 04:30 PM

For more on the subject of homemaking please visit the Girl Talk blog at http://www.girltalk.blogs.com/.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

TORTURED FOR CHRIST--- free book!


It was the book that shocked the nation. After surviving 14 years in communist prisons, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand came to America to proclaim the trials and testimonies of our persecuted brothers and sisters.

In Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand tells of his imprisonment for his work with the underground church and introduces the work of The Voice of the Martyrs. Forty years later, The Voice of the Martyrs remains true to its calling to be a voice for persecuted Christians, to serve with them in their time of need and to assist them in their efforts to proclaim the gospel.

We would like to extend this special opportunity for you to request a complimentary copy of Tortured for Christ for your Christian friends and family members. Help spread the message of today's persecuted church. Simply follow the link below:
» I would like to request a complimentary copy of Tortured for Christ for my friend(s).

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