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Archive for July, 2017

hammering-a-nail

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of Joni Eareckson Tada’s diving accident. I remember seeing a movie about her (in which she played herself) produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association when God was in the process of drawing me to Himself.  You can read her reflections here – you’ll be glad you did.

Rob Bell says quoting Romans 8:28 is not something Christians should do when comforting someone who’s suffering. Owen Strachan responds here. I’ve heard this piece of “advice” from Christians other than Rob Bell, before and it’s terrible. How can we withhold God’s Word from His people? To do so is to not love them.

The gospel might divide a church, according to Jared Wilson. We’re under obligation to preach the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – inside and outside the church. But we need to be ready for the response, which won’t always be good. You can read the three ways this might happen here.

Golfer Matt Kuchar is a class act. This open letter to him by a British journalist explains why.

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The lyrics to William Cowper’s great hymn were needed words this morning. They were a good reminder for me.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11)

What happens when dreams die? Rusty McKie gives Scriptural help when our dreams or expectations don’t turn out the way we think they should. If you haven’t had an experience with that, you will – trust me. Read it here.

What happens when religious faith declines in a society? Paul Vitz and Bruce Buff propose the idea that it’s harmful, especially among the young. “With no belief in higher meaning, too many young people turn to hook-up sex, drugs, and social media for fulfillment.” You can read it here.

If you’re discouraged by the opposition to Christians and Christianity in the world today, you need to read this article by Amy Hall. A reminder that God is on His throne and in control is good medicine.

Charlie Gard has died – may he rest in peace. The deeper values and principles involved have not died, however. Tim Bayly responds to an article written by a British professor which gets to the core.

And now for something completely different: competitive table-setting. read about here.

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“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11).

The Charlie Gard story is incredibly sad and deeply troubling. It’s sad to see little Charlie and his parents suffer, but what is more troubling is the deeper issue. Does the state have the ultimate say in what happens to children, or do their parents? In my mind, the British courts have stepped outside of their authority and have ended up abusing three people, not just one. God has given parents sovereignty in the sphere of raising their children, not the state. Ross Douthat’s article is good, as is John Stonestreet’s (which you can read here).

Carl Trueman thinks the cultural battle will be won or lost in Christian colleges. They will either stand firm or surrender to the pressure of the world. The implications are enormous. Read his article here.

Profitable Fails. David Murray is convinced that sometimes failure is the best thing that can happen to us. He’s right. Read his article here.

Don’t talk, just listen. That seems to be the attitude, and increasingly the policy, of many newspapers and other news outlets, including websites, these days. Online comment sections are being eliminated by CNN, NPR, and others. What does this say about them? What does it say about our culture? Is it impossible for us to have civil discourse or does the Left simply want to lecture the rest of us? Daniel Lee of The Federalist writes about it here.

Ligonier Ministries has put together a two-minute video called R.C. Sproul Through the Years in honor of the 50th anniversary of his ordination to ministry. You can watch it here. Warning: Clothing styles may be unsettling for some, but that’s how people dressed at the time!

 

 

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Man Knows Not His Time: Haddon Robinson – You may not know the name Haddon Robinson, but I can guarantee that nearly every student or graduate of an evangelical seminary in the United States does. We all read his classic book Biblical Preaching and, in some way, used it as a model in our own preaching. Well done, good and faithful servant! You can read an article from Christianity Today here.

Where did the altar call come from? Thomas Kidd gives us an answer in this article. Interesting reading.

Does your church sing with the lights off? Here are a few good reasons why you shouldn’t. Make sure to read the paragraph – another good point is found there.

The decency of Dunkirk. Jon Kass of The Chicago Tribune thinks the almost-forgotten virtue of decency was on full display in the movie Dunkirk. I happen to agree with him. You can read his piece here.

Want some quiet? The quietest one square inch on the planet is located near Forks, Washington. Read about it here.

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K. Scott Oliphant, in his book Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith, has given us both an introduction to and a fresh understanding of Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics.

The most popular form of apologetics (defending the faith) today is what is known as Evidentialism. In other words, we defend the truthfulness of Christianity by presenting evidence for God’s existence, His creation of the universe, the historical and literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Covenantal apologetics, on the other hand focuses its attention on the underlying assumptions we all have as fallen human beings, and then proceed from that point (while not denying the importance of evidences).

God relates to human beings on the basis of covenants. The Westminster Confession of Faith 7.1, says “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension of God’s part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.” God condescends to deal with us despite our sin, and He does it by means of covenants which are solely based on His grace and mercy.

Covenantal apologetics is based on several foundational truths. The faith we’re defending  must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), who condescends to create and to redeem. Human beings (made in the image and likeness of God) are all in a covenant relationship with God. All people know the true God (see Rom. 1). Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know, while those who are in Christ see the truth for what it is. The suppression of truth, however like depravity, is total but not absolute. Three basic concepts should be understood and presupposed as being true: the authority of Scripture (there has to be a final word), a sense of the divine (and a knowledge of Him) in every human being, and God’s common grace in every human being.

There is some deep water in spots, but Oliphant makes his case in a way that’s understandable. Covenantal Apologetics has changed the way I think about apologetics, including wanting to read more of Van Til.

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Just as all the glitters is not gold, so all that goes by the name “worship” isn’t worship.

In Matthew 2:1-11, the magi come to worship the One who was born the King of the Jews. They had searched for Him and were led to Him by God’s providential use of the star. When they found Him, they worshiped.

King Herod, however, proclaimed his desire to worship, too. His real intent became clear in verse 13: “Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him” (which was carried out in verses 14 through 23).

True worship focuses on the Lord and responds to Him, in this case with rejoicing and the giving of gifts. False worship is self-focused, self-interested, and ultimately seeks to suppress and destroy the God who alone is worthy of worship.

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Andree Seu is consistently good in her writing and consistently convicting. “Being in Hate” appeared recently in World magazine. Let him who has ears, hear. Or, you might say, if the shoe fits, wear it.

You have heard of being in love. Have you heard of being in hate? People who are in love generally know they are in love. People who are in hate, not so.

People in love are emotional and realize it. People in hate think they have never been so rational.

We speak of being in love as a state. One can often identify the onset of the condition (and sometimes the expiration of it). We say of a starry-eyed couple, “They are in love.” It is an acknowledgment that something real has overtaken their brains.

There is no comparable common expression for people in hate, because few acknowledge that hate is mind-altering.

But it is. Scripture gives a host of examples. Here we learn that hate invades the mind of its practitioner in very particular ways. Cain hated his brother, and it was suicidal. God tries to rescue him by posing searching questions: “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? … sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7). Cain will not have it. As Screwtape observes, “There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery”(C.S. Lewis).

So consumed with hatred for the children of Israel is Pharaoh that he destroys his own country trying to harm them, crying, “Victory!” as he staggers, mud-splattered, son-bereft, and half insane, among the wreckage. His descent from reason to bestiality alarms even the royal court, who had joined him at first but disembarked from obsession a few exits earlier when they discerned the hand of God: “Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” (Exodus 10:7).

Haman’s hatred led him to a noose of his own making (Esther). Absalom was not the same man right after Tamar’s rape as two years later, when hate had bored like a cankerworm into his soul. It issued in the murder of his brother Amnon—with Absalom’s own royal aspirations also the casualty (2 Samuel 13).

People who are in hate don’t know what they have lost. What they have lost is their very humanity. Micro-choice by micro-choice it seeps away—like Pinocchio and his friends, who begin to sprout donkey ears, a tail, and hideous guffaws unawares, as the wages of debauchery; like the depraved man of whom the Scripture says, “gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not” (Hosea 7:9). He imagines himself to be still his old vigorous self—physically, mentally, and spiritually. But he is deluded. He thinks of hate, “I got this!” Hate says of him, “I got this!”

In the final, drawing room scene of the 2001 movie Conspiracy about the fateful Wannsee Conference of Jan. 20, 1942, that produced the “final solution” for the problem of European Jewry, Gen. Reinhard Heydrich relates to two other SS officers a story told him by Friedrich Kritzinger during the break:

There was a man who loved his mother fiercely but hated his father. The mother had always been kind, but the father had been cruel. When his mother died, at the funeral the man tried to cry but could not. The father lived much longer, but when he finally withered away at an old age, the man was inconsolable.

“I don’t understand,” said one of the officers. “No?” said Heydrich. “The man had been driven all his life by hatred. When the mother died, that was a loss. When the father died—when the hate had lost its object—then the man’s life was empty, over. … That was Kritzinger’s warning.” “What? That we should not hate the Israelites?” “No, that it should not so fill our lives that when they are gone we have nothing left to live for.”

Our politics in America have become hate-driven. But there will be a cost for those who practice it: “Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11).

This is no analogy or metaphor, but the actual condition of the person “in hate.” It robs the sight of him who wields it.

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As I begin reading the sordid history of the kings of Israel and Judah in my yearly Bible read-through, I’m struck by one big thought: We need a king who’s good – one we can count on and one we can follow.

That doesn’t describe the vast majority of kings in the ten northern tribes called Israel or the two southern tribes called Judah. Out of a total of forty kings – twenty in both Israel and Judah – only eight followed the Lord. The history of the divided kingdom is bleak. How that must have disappointed and discouraged a good number of Jews (not all, of course). “Can’t we just have a good king, and not one of these losers?”

But one of God’s purposes, among many, was to teach the Jews not to put their hope, trust, and confidence in earthly kings, rulers, and leaders. (I think there’s a lesson here for us, too!) Human beings, even if they know the Lord and follow Him, are fallen and sinful. They’ll disappoint us. The kings were also used by God to whet the appetite for a perfect king – one who would rule with perfect justice and righteousness.

If you understand the overall flow of the Bible, you know that there is a King who fits the description of the perfect King – One who came once and will someday return. That King is Jesus Christ! He’s the King we’ve been waiting for. He’s the King we need! He’s the King who is God, can be counted on, and followed. All of the kings of Israel and Judah, whether good or bad, look forward to Jesus Christ – the King of kings and Lord of lords!

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Pauls-Life-for-Christ-Philippians-1.19-26

This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Philippians 1:18b-26. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The gospel advances whether we live or die, and when we live, Jesus Christ is the hub around which everything else revolves.

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