Friday, March 30, 2007

Showered with Stones or Grace?

by JoyWagner @

As the crowd watched, she was dragged into the center court of the temple. The scribes and Pharisees had the stones in their hands, and they were prepared to kill her. They told Jesus her crime. “She was caught in the act of adultery.” Then they tried to trap Him into an answer by saying that Moses had commanded them to stone an adulterer and by asking Jesus what He would do. Jesus, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), gave a beautiful and wise statement. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NASB). No one fit that criteria, so they dropped their stones and walked away. I’m afraid that too often we are the stone throwers instead of the grace givers. Our brothers and sisters in Christ fall, and we leave them lying in the ditch of their sin instead of lifting them up and helping to set their feet on the right path again.

The Bible has much to say about sin and its devastating consequences. We know verses like “the way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 13:15) and “be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). We see examples of people like Achan, whose sin affected the whole nation of Israel. So I don’t ever want to minimize the serious results of sin.

My contention is that, in addition to the consequences the person is already suffering, we throw a stone of rejection or a stone of criticism. We justify our actions by thinking, Well, that’s what happens when you sin. We take on the Lord’s job of creating the punishment for sin instead of working at restoring the sinning person back to a position of conformity to Christ and usefulness in the body of Christ. Many of the hasty, judgmental statements we give people are simply because of self-righteous pride. Somehow, we get the idea that we could never do whatever it is the fallen person has committed. We might not admit it, but sometimes we think, Well, I’m not as bad as that person. In God’s eyes, any sin is great enough to put Christ on the cross, and we do people a major injustice when we treat them as if their particular sin is beyond the reach of God’s boundless grace.

A lady I’ll call “Ann” was involved in adultery. She told me that the people in her church were kind to her when she first repented of her sin; but then as months went by, Ann felt the stones of rejection and loneliness as she lost friends, encouragers, and prayer partners. Then a teenager who had sinned in several different ways was justifiably expelled from her Christian school. But after her repentance, neither her youth pastor nor principal spoke to her for months. Other young people in her youth group shunned her and criticized her behavior. Their stones hurt her to the point that she said she never wants to be like them.

Instead of focusing on the stone throwers, let’s look at a Christlike ministry to fallen individuals. First, Christ never justified the woman’s sin. Notice that He said, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Excusing sin or softening its reality does nothing to help the person change. Christ honestly confronted the immoral lifestyle of the woman at the well (cf. John 4:18). Paul left no question regarding the Corinthians’ sin (cf. 1 Cor. 5, 11). Especially in our post-modern, post-absolute society, many preachers and counselors shy away from honestly addressing the real depth of the person’s sinful choices.

Another building moment we should learn from Christ’s grace talk is that He offered unconditional forgiveness. He sent the scribes and Pharisees away and assured her that He also would not condemn her (8:11). The adulterous woman knew she had done nothing to grant Christ’s forgiveness. None of us merits God’s grace and forgiveness. That’s the definition of grace—it’s a gift of kindness when we deserve punishment. Assuring the fallen believer of God’s promise of forgiveness can be a healing ointment to his soul.

Jesus not only offered honest confrontation of her sin and the encouraging reminder of His forgiveness but also gave the woman hope for the future. People who feel like they are trapped in their sin pattern desperately need hope that they can change through the power of the Redeemer. Notice that Christ’s simple yet transforming words, “from now on, sin no more,” indicate that He believed in her for her future.

Do we see our brothers and sisters in Christ as useless after their sin, or do we lovingly meet them where they are and help them take the next step in their spiritual journey? So if we were standing in that crowd, ready to stone the adulterer, would we throw stones or minister grace?
Joy Wagner taught classes and was the ladies’ dorm supervisor at Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI) for 10 years. For the last year, Joy has been working as a counselor at Red Rocks Baptist

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Karaoke worship

by Phil Johnson @

I once remarked that if the trends in "contemporary worship" were carried to their logical conclusion, church services would soon feature karaoke contests.

That remark prompted an outpouring of replies from people who informed me that karaoke was already being used "quite successfully" in their churches. It also sparked the following exchange with a contemporary "worship leader," whose words appear below in brown italics. My replies are in normal typeface:

What verse of scripture forbids the use of karaoke in worship?

My opposition to such methods is not based only on a single proof-text, but on the totality of what Scripture teaches about the principle of worship. Genuine worship aims to please God, not the worshiper. "Worship" designed primarily to entertain or amuse people is not even true worship of God.

In the words of the Westminster Confession, "The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture."

Biblical support? Sure:

Deuteronomy 12:31-32: "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way [like the pagans do]. . . . Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it" [NKJV].

Psalm 29:2: "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."

Psalm 115:1: "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."

Matthew 15:9: "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

2 Timothy 4:2-5: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."

Want more? I recommend John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel.

And shall we let Spurgeon weigh in?

For us to give ourselves to getting up entertainments, to become competitors with theatres and music-halls, is a great degradation of our holy office.

"A Call to Prayer and Testimony"

The Lord our God is holy, and he cannot compromise his own glorious name by working with persons whose groveling tastes lead them to go to Egypt?—we had almost said to Sodom—?for their recreations. Is this walking with God? Is this the manner in which Enochs are produced?

It is a heart-sorrow to have to mention such things, but the work of the Lord must be done faithfully, and this evil must be laid bare. There can be no doubt that all sorts of entertainments, as nearly as possible approximating to stage-plays, have been carried on in connection with places of worship, and are, at this present time, in high favor. Can these things promote holiness, or help in communion with God? Can men come away from such things and plead with God for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of believers? We loathe to touch the unhallowed subject; it seems so far removed from the walk of faith, and the way of heavenly fellowship. In some cases the follies complained of are even beneath the dignity of manhood, and fitter for the region of the imbecile than for thoughtful men.

"Restoration of Truth and Revival"

In the great day, when the muster-roll shall be read, of all those who are converted through fine music, and church decoration, and religious exhibitions and entertainments, they will amount to the tenth part of nothing; but it will always please God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Keep to your preaching; and if you do anything beside, do not let it throw your preaching into the background. In the first place preach, and in the second place preach, and in the third place preach.

"How to Win Souls for Christ"

"For the sake of argument (leaving off the Spurgeon quotes), does a karaoke sing-along contradict 2 Timothy 4:2-5, if—and this is a big if, perhaps—if the karaoke songs are later tied in to a theme of Biblical exposition? Why or why not?"

If someone wants to sing biblical songs, let him sing them as unto the Lord (Psalm 29:2).

Karaoke is a populist form of burlesque. Taking turns singing for others' amusement (usually badly and without adequate rehearsal) is a cheap amusement—the kind of frivolity that (in effect) has turned churches into cabarets. It's not worship. And doing it with biblically-based songs or hymns only demeans the message.

I also don't get the opposition to pre-recorded accompaniments. In churches where musicianship is limited, recorded music seems like a good idea.

It is not pre-recorded accompaniments per se that I am objecting to. It's the tendency to think of church music as a performance or an entertainment for the benefit of an earthly audience, rather than worship offered to the Lord.

Karaoke as liturgy, like virtually every novelty that has been introduced into our worship services over the past 75 years or so, violates the central principle of all true worship and authentic ministry: "As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God" (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

I confess, I have a private prayer language

By Tom Ascol @

One of the controversies bubbling up in the Southern Baptist Convention has to do with "private prayer language." Steve McCoy recently revealed that NAMB is now asking about this in their applications for scholarships:

"Do you speak in an unknown tongue (glosolalia) or have a private prayer language?"
Well, I have a confession to make. I have a private prayer language. I didn't seek it. It didn't come in any kind of ecstatic jolt. I have had it for as long as I can remember. My private prayer language is the language I use when, well, praying in private.

Though all prayer ought to be authentic, there are appropriate differences that should characterize the way we pray in different settings. Our public prayer should employ different language than that offered in more intimate groups, and prayers offered in private should be different from both of these. Spurgeon recognized the difference between public and private prayer and devoted separate chapters to each in his Lectures to My Students.

When leading in public or corporate prayer one should remember that he is praying in behalf of those gathered. Corporate praise, corporate confession and petitions that are appropriate for the body in general should punctuate such praying. When leading a church in pastoral prayer, the minister, Spurgeon suggests, should consider the general needs and concerns that mark the congregation. "He should bring the joys and sorrows of his people alike before the throne of grace, and ask that the divine benediction may rest upon his flock...and that the forgiveness of God may be extended to their shortcomings and innumerable sins." Such prayers must seek to carry to the throne of grace all of those who are gathered for worship. Anything that would hinder spiritually minded people from following should be avoided.

In small groups, prayers can be more appropriately intimate and less formal than in larger gatherings. More personal needs can be specifically brought before the Lord and, given the nature of the relationships of those present, sins can be more specifically confessed and lamented. When families or spouses pray together, those issues that uniquely concern them are proper subjects of prayer. It is appropriate for four friends to pray together specifically about personal struggles and decisions in ways that would be inappropriate in a larger gathering.

When praying privately prayer can be completely intimate because it is completely private. This does not mean that it can be "cheeky" or flippant. God is still in heaven and we are still frail creatures of dust. But as children coming alone to a dearly loved and infinitely loving father, we may go to our God without regard of what others may think of our words or expressions. Our Lord prayed privately with words that were often not recorded and only partially recorded in Gethsemane. So it is with our own private prayers. They are characterized by expressions and language that is intimate and private. This is what D. M. M'Intyre means by the title of his book, The Hidden Life of Prayer.

Every Christian must pray this way, behind closed doors, if you will. Our Lord specifically instructs us to engage in private prayer. "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matthew 6:6). That is what I mean when I say that I have a "private prayer language." My prayers "behind the door" are intimate, personal and transparent. I confess specific sinful attitudes and thoughts that plague my heart. I say things that would be completely inappropriate for me to say in corporate or even small group prayer. Sometimes, I don't even know what to say and find myself wordless in the presence of God as I pour my heart out to Him. At such moments I take great comfort in knowing that "the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).

Now, for the record, my "private prayer language" is not any kind of ecstatic utterance. But it most definitely is private and intimate. It is not nearly as warm, consistent or vibrant as I want it to be and hope that it may yet become, but it is real. I am not a proponent of praying in a language that is unknown--which is typically what is meant by "private prayer language." But I would sooner rejoice that a brother is praying in private than to castigate him for doing so in a way that is unintelligible. Private, personal prayer is one of the chief means whereby our hearts are cultivated for godliness.

In this sense, every Christian should have a private prayer language. In fact, in my opinion anyone who doesn't should be disqualified from serving in any capacity in the SBC. Now there's a policy that surely every Southern Baptist can support!

Ascol on Family Worship

Dr. Tom Ascol pastors Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL and is the Executive Director of Founders Ministries. Most of my readers probably know this about him. Some of you may know him more for his blogging. As we have become friends I have been very encouraged by his love for God, his church and his family. I thought an interview would be an interesting way to talk about family worship on the blog, and Tom was the person who I most wanted to share his thoughts and experiences.

Is family worship something God expects of each family, and why is it so important?

I do believe that God expects everyone and every family to worship Him daily. The Psalms are certainly filled with expressions that indicate that. “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (5:3). David resolved to sing of God’s power and mercy “in the morning” (59:16; cf. 88:13, 119:147) and to sing praise and pay his vows to the Lord daily (61:8). Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!” Being loaded daily with blessings from above should provoke daily expressions of praise and blessing from below.

One thing that has helped Donna and me to see the importance of this practice is recognizing that the the whole earth is, as Calvin put it, the theater of God’s glory. In Proverbs you sense that Solomon understood this as he treats the world as a classroom in which to teach wisdom to his son. God’s fingerprints are everywhere and we must cultivate eyes to see them and hearts to respond to Him with praise and gratitude.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7, of course, is one of the better known passages in Scripture that sets before parents the responsibility to train our children in the ways of God.This is to be done not in a perfunctory way but out of a heart that cherishes God’s commands. And it is to be done formally and informally. “When you sit in your house” certainly suggests a specific time of concerted effort for parents to teach their children God’s law.

Making this a priority helps remind us that we are here for God and that He deserves to be worshiped all the time in the ways that we conduct our affairs and relate to people.

I think it’s fair to say this is not something most Christian families practice today. Do you agree? Why is it this way?

Yes, from my observation that is sadly and undeniably true. Family worship has been lost to large segments of the Christian church over the last 100 years. Much of it has to do with the dissolution of the family due to various social and cultural forces. Just like family meals have become increasingly rare, so has family worship. But I think there is more to it than just those pressures. I think that the loss of a Gospel-driven, Christ-centered understanding of the Christian faith has made many beliefs and practices that were once common and prized among believers almost obsolete. American Christianity has become much more American than Christian. The message of salvation has been efficiently reduced to a “Jesus-fix” or a “get-out-of-jail-free” card that has virtually no implications for how one lives. Christian belief and experience are relegated to the periphery of life rather than the center. Where this approach to Christianity predominates, regular corporate worship is often treated as a matter of convenience and regular family worship is completely foreign. That is where most of our American evangelical culture is, I am afraid.

Most of the second generation Christians in our church (including me) did not grow up in homes where Christ was worshiped as a family. In my case, that was true despite the fact that our family was very active in our Baptist church. I do not recall ever hearing of the concept until I was an adult.

What is the fallout from the absence of family worship in our homes?

One great one is that it contributes to the tendency to divide life up into “sacred” and “secular.” Worship is what we do on Sundays. Life is what we do the other six days of the week. That perspective is contrary to a biblical worldview and tends to relegate our corporate worship experiences to the ethereal.

In addition to this, children do not receive the kind of training that they could and ought. Children who are taught to worship in their homes learn much more readily what is involved in worshiping with the larger family of the church on the Lord’s Day. It is much easier to instruct and correct your child in your own home than it is in a church service. Corporate gatherings of worship are not as spiritually intense as they would be if every individual and family came from a week of regularly worshiping the Lord in their homes.

What have you found to be the biggest hindrances in maintaining this discipline?

Early on, when I first began to attempt it, the greatest hindrance was unrealistic ideas of what ought to happen. I read about “family worship” and “family altars” and “family devotions,” but, to my knowledge, I had never experienced one. So I envisioned a full-fledged Lord’s Day liturgy conducted in my living room, complete with a robed choir, pipe-organ accompaniment of hymns and a 45 minute sermon! It wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t far off. With a new mom and barely crawling baby, I would schedule a “family worship service” in the evening and come fully armed with an in-depth Bible study that required at least an hour. That seemed like a minimal amount of time to devote to the God of the Universe who created time and from whose hand we had received every good and perfect gift we enjoyed (my theological reasoning trumped my wife’s practical wisdom every time). Of course, my infant child rarely cooperated and when she became a toddler it only got worse. When her sister arrived I viewed it as reinforcements to undermine my righteous efforts to lead my family in worship! They wouldn’t sit still or quiet for the scheduled hour. I would usually get frustrated and quit, sometimes with a prayer whose tone and spirit betrayed my wounded pride at having a family that simply would not follow my leadership to worship God. We would go weeks without attempting it again until the guilt overruled the sense of futility and I would plan another “service,” usually bigger and better in order to make up for all the days we had missed. No matter how strong my resolve, we never seemed to make it through my whole agenda. It was pretty pitiful.

It wasn’t until our family visited in the home of a fellow pastor that the Lord delivered me from my terribly misguided attempts to lead in family worship. After supper, this man pulled out Leading Little Ones to God and read a chapter (about a page), asked the suggested questions, and then led in prayer. It was simple and effective. And it lasted only 5 to 10 minutes. The three toddlers and one baby who were present did just fine. So did the four adults. It was a liberating moment for me.

I tell that story to illustrate one huge hindrance to attempting family worship, namely, unrealistic expectations born of inexperience. I have seen many families effectively begin this practice as a result of seeing it modeled in the homes of fellow believers who wisely know how to plan and structure the time so as not to be wearisome.

As our family has grown and our children’s lives have become more complicated it has been increasingly difficult to maintain regular times of family devotions. Our home has 3 children who are in college and 3 under the age of 17. Just recently we recognized that we had fallen into a pattern of sporadic family worship, due in part to the fact that we rarely have all of the children home in the evenings anymore. We unwittingly developed a habit of waiting until everyone was home for the night before we would gather for worship, in part because we read through books of the Bible together and no one wants to miss a section. As those times got later and later it became easier and easier to simply declare that it was “too late” for family worship. We are now resolved to carry on whether or not we are all present, regretting when that is not the case but recognizing that this is simply the season of life we have entered.

What exactly happens during this time for your family and how many days a week do you all have it?

We plan to gather every evening except Wednesday and Sunday–days when we meet with our larger church family. Most weeks we are able to have 4 or 5 nights of family worship. On Sundays around the lunch table we discuss the morning lessons from church.

Our times together are very simple. We have read through various books together (Leading Little Ones to God, Big Thoughts for Little People, Children’s Story Bible, Dangerous Journey, sections of Mortification of Sin and Pilgrim’s Progress, etc., depending on the ages of the children). We always read Scripture, usually a chapter. Each child gets to choose a book from the Bible that we will read and we will stay with that one until we finish it. I usually read aloud and will offer some explanatory or devotional or applicatory comments and ask questions.

Sometimes this leads to extended discussions and sometimes only brief answers. We often sing a song that one of the children selects. Right now we are memorizing 1 Peter together, so we will, if time allows, occasionally work on that some. Then we pray. Usually I lead us in prayer, though sometimes I call on others to pray aloud. If we have guests who are believers I will often ask one of them to lead us also. If there are particular things or people that need to be mentioned we pray for them. On Saturdays we name and pray for missionaries and “preacher friends” that we know or know of, asking the Lord to bless their labors on the Lord’s Day. For the last few years we have been kneeling as we pray and have found this to be a healthy reminder of our rightful place before the Lord.

Years ago we incorporated catechism training into our family worship. We are not as regular with that in recent years as the children have spread out on so many various levels of learning.
How long does family worship typically last in your home?

It varies. I try to plan for about 20 minutes. Sometimes that will stretch into an hour, which is not burdensome for the ages of our children (our youngest is 9). Usually we spend from 15 to 30 minutes together.

What benefit/fruit do you see coming from this time spent with God and family?
It has provided a natural way for us to talk about spiritual things as a family. Communication is so important in family life and it often gets stifled by knots in the relationships. Even where good communication is cultivated it can be hard to talk about the most important things in the world. Regular times of reading God’s Word together help cultivate healthy, spiritual communication.
These times have also afforded us many opportunities to confess sin or struggles to each other. Repentance and forgiveness are expressed and often modeled in front of us. Our times of worship have alerted Donna and me to things going on in the lives of our older children on occasion, allowing us to follow up with further conversation. On more than a few occasions, one of our children has come to us after a time of family worship seeking counsel or with a deep spiritual burden. The Lord used our time together as a family to encourage them to come to us.
Our children have learned to discuss theology, to respond to hard questions, to sit quietly as the Word of God is read and to pray. They have also learned to be patient and forgiving toward their parents. Donna and I have learned that God can and does give grace to do what He has called us to do.

What advice would you give to those who have/are starting young families?
Make family worship a priority. Don’t let pride keep you from asking for help. Ask men and women who are doing it to give you suggestions. Get Don Whitney’s booklet on the subject (now available as a message on CD, as well) and read it together. Don’t be intimidated with unrealistic goals or visions of what family worship ought to be. Start simple. Read the Bible, sing a song or a chorus or a verse of a song, and pray. Then do it again the next day. Recognize that there will be days that you are not able to worship together as you like. Recognize that there wiil be days that you are able and you simply choose not to due to laziness, neglect or blatant sin. When that happens, repent, believe the Gospel, and start over, and do that the rest of your life. Once you incorporate family worship into the regular pattern of your life, don’t let house guests divert you from your schedule. Include them, or at least invite them to join you. Evangelism happens during such times. So does discipleship. Your example and testimony can be powerfully used by God in the lives of others who witness it.

Here is a great gift to give to your children–a memory of always worshiping God in their home. What a blessing to bring a child into a worshipping family! His or her earliest memories will be framed by this God-honoring practice. Children blessed with this gift will never have a memory of a time where this was not a regular part of your family’s life.

If your children are older and you are just now beginning this practice, turn it into a marker of God’s grace in leading your family. Let this start be the beginning of deeper faith, deeper hope and renewed repentance in your lives and interpret it that way for your children. Don’t live in regret for the years of neglect, but trust the Lord to use your fruits of repentance and faith to strengthen your family.

I would encourage husbands and dads to resist with all of their strength every tendency to justify not leading their family in regular times of worship. No excuse is acceptable. If you have God’s Word and God’s Spirit, then no matter how inadequate you feel, you have what it takes to go forward in this area. Every thought that would suggest you are not qualified or that you are exempt is from the pit of hell. Declare war on your pride, humble yourself, and make a serious attempt for one month to lead your family in this way. Don’t be afraid to seek counsel and encouragement from other men. The opportunity is too great and the stakes are too high to neglect this responsibility.

Finally, I would encourage single moms to lead their children in family worship. It is hard, but everything that you are doing in trying to care for your family without a dad around is hard. Ask your church leaders for help in knowing what to do and how to begin. The Lord has particularly declared His concern for the widow and fatherless and though you and your children may not technically be classified as such, you can be sure that the Lord has compassion for those in your situation. He honors those who honor Him. So make it a priority to worship the Lord in your home with your children.

Family Worship

by Joe Thorn @

As a college student one of my favorite professors warned our Greek class that it will take us up to 5 years to fall into a comfortable and profitable habit of “devotions” with our spouses. I thought he was crazy since Jen and I were frequently reading the Bible together and praying while dating. As it turns out his words proved prophetic once we were married. Though we were regular in our personal quiet time, doing this together proved difficult. So we started reading on the topic of family worship - when the household gathers to worship God led by the head of the house. One of the books we read early on was Thoughts on Family Worship by J.W. Alexander. It was a great read and really helped to establish what we wanted to do as a family.

Unfortunately it did not establish our actual practice. When we transitioned from a dating couple who would spontaneously break out the Bible and pray to a married couple trying to establish a routine for this sort of thing we found it to feel awkward, unnatural and forced. We continued to read and work at it but our family worship was very irregular. We eventually gave up, but were not too alarmed since we remained disciplined on our own and had no children.

When we began to have children we took this much more seriously, but getting to the place where it was a natural part of our lives took some time. There were two things we learned along the way that were of particular help to us.

1. Don’t overdo it.Most people I know who try to start family worship have unrealistic expectations about what it should look like. I know I did. Back in seminary my primary source for instruction in this was no one I knew personally, but the puritans. They spoke of reading the bible with simple explanation, prayer and singing. In my mind, this must have meant 1 to 2 hours for each gathering (and they often did it both in the morning and the evening). Then I came across “The Family Altar,” a compilation of the writings of Doddridge, Bickersteth, Watts, Hamilton, and Barnes and found relief through a more realistic expectation of how much time we should spend in family worship.

But some, in excuse for the neglect of this duty, urge the want of time: - their families are too large - their business presses them - it is of such a nature that they cannot control their hours. This they plead that they have not time for a duty which they confess to be all-important. On this point permit me to remark, that good people do sometimes err in spending an unreasonable length of time in the performance of this service. We may be so long as to become tedious in our prayers; and whenever this is the case, it creates a weariness, especially in the minds of the young, that is too apt to end in disgust or aversion. But when we urge the duty of allowing no day, in ordinary circumstances, to pass by without, as a family, spending ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes, in the solemn worship of our Maker, and when the objection made against it is the want of time, we ask, Can men be serious when they say so?pg. 44

This was very liberating for us. The warning of potential spiritual damage done to children by well-intentioned and over-zealous parents was helpful and reading that meaningful family worship can happen in the span of 10-20 minutes was exciting.

2. Find the right time.Even after having a better understanding of what needs to be happening, finding time to be regular in this proved difficult for me as a pastor. Our attempts at family worship in the evening were often interrupted by church activities, counseling, associational meetings, etc. So we decided to move it to the mornings, and this changed everything for us. We get up, eat breakfast and then gather in the living room to read the Bible, pray and sing a song. Our 3 year old and 5 year old really enjoy this time, as do Jen and I. Family worship is now a regular and natural part of our lives. I would love to hear what you do for family worship, and/or what books and material you have found to be helpful.

Instead of making a biblical case for family worship here, I will recommend an interview and a few books. Tomorrow I will post an interview on the subject with Dr. Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL, Executive Director of Founders Ministries and Editor of the Founders Journal. Be sure to check that out, he has some great things to say.

For foundational material on the subject be sure to pick up one or more of the following:
Family Worship by Donald WhitneyThoughts on Family Worship by J.W. AlexanderThe Godly Family by various authorsThe Bible and the Closet by Thomas Watson and Samuel Lee (see the very back for “The Family Altar”).

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why Does Evil Exist?

From William Dudding @

This was one of the topics in a round table discussion at the Shepherds Conference between John MacArthur, Al Mohler, J.Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and Steve Lawson. It was not spoken of in great detail, but it got me thinking and here's what I came up with....

Why does evil exist? If God is good, then why is evil permitted to exist?There are only three conclusions to why God allowed evil to exist.
1. When God created the world, He was able to foresee the sin and evil, yet he created man as a free agent knowing evil was going to happen apart from His control. He would set a plan in motion that would potentially save the world, but held no guarantees. However, since He is all knowing, He knew that although he would not be able to save all, he would be able to save some, and from the beginning made the decision to create the world knowing the consequences that would come. In this, God still takes responsibility for evil since He is the initiator of creation with the full knowledge of all the atrocities that would follow. Although, God does not create evil, or cause it, he still ordains that it should eventually come into being, because he would have been able to stop it by never creating man. This view is the usual and most popular view of how God allowed evil to come into being. The problem with this theory is that it leaves God impotent against circumstances that would follow once He put things into motion. He would be able to influence the creation in His favor, but not ultimately have full control over all things. Many believe that this is what gets God off the hook: He’s not responsible, because He is not in control over it, He can’t look at it or touch it. But this view still makes God responsible, because He could have prevented it.

2. God did not know that evil would happen, and with the best of intentions, He created the world and all there is in it. He was aware of the possible risk, since he was going to make man a free agent, and went along with it hoping that it would turn out right. Eventually sin did occur and God had to adjust His plans to plan B: The cross. As time goes by and God gains more information about His creation and the choices they make, He is able to improve upon Himself and the choices He makes until He is able to make all things come to pass as He promised. This is called “Open-Theism”. It is a desperate attempt to make God innocent of all the evil that occurs in the world by limiting his sovereignty, immutability, omnipotence, and omniscience. Both of these views are attempts to rescue Christianity from God.

3. The Third and final answer to why evil is allowed to co-exist with a good God is illustrated for us in Romans 11. This chapter talks about the Jewish nation finding mercy in God’s sight, and then turning against God in unbelief. God then turns to the Gentiles and shows mercy on them and judgment on the Jews. His Grace is shown in 11:5, His goodness and wrath are shown in verse 22, His mercy is shown in verse 30, and the conclusion to the totality of His glory is seen as the chief end of this whole redemptive story in verses 33-35.11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.Therefore, we find that God not only allowed evil to come into being but ordained it to be. He was not the creator or the cause of the evil, but evil was created by disobedience and disloyalty first from Satan to the angels and from Adam to all men. The reason that evil must exist by necessity is for God to display His attributes and receive glory for them. This could not happen any other way. How can God display goodness without there being an evil to compare it to? How could God fully express His infinite goodness without infinite “badness” to contrast it?

How else could God have displayed mercy without wrath? Love without hate? And how can He display wrath without an object worthy of holy wrath? What would one need to do to merit God’s wrath? To disobey and be disloyal to Him, If there be objects worthy of holy wrath, they must by necessity be only those things that are infinitely wicked for God to utterly detest them. They must be something that have fallen short of His glory. Do we know of any objects that match this description?

That brings us to the attribute of His mercy. How could God ever manifest mercy if there be no object that is in need of it? What doth consist of an object to bear necessity of mercy? Well, it would need to be worthy of wrath because of its un-holiness and failure to meet the standard of God’s glory. Such objects would be and could only be qualified for need of mercy if they are guilty of having set themselves up for Divine wrath. For this reason, God could only express mercy to those deserving of His wrath and must need evil to accomplish this end.

The description of this is the same as wrath. God has a holy hatred for that which is unholy. How can God express that hatred if there be none that are unholy? Think of it like this: What good is it to close your eyes when you are already in a completely dark room? The shutting of your eyes to shut out light is vain if there be no light to shut out. Therefore, God hates all that is unholy, and evil must exist and be permitted to exercise its vices so that God’s full measure of holy wrath may be manifested against all that are worthy of it.

Again, how can God express such deep, unconditional, passionate love to someone and transfer the knowledge of the intensity of his love if that object of love has no way to measure the immensity of that love? He will come expect that love to be normal and nothing of any special value since there is no understanding of hatred in contrast to love. The capacity of love to a thing is only measured by the hatred of the opposite of that thing. God the Father loves His Son, but only as much as He hates all that is completely opposite of what His Son is. That is why God detests, repudiates and utterly hates sin that he was willing to create a place of eternal damnation and fiery torture against the objects of his hate. By that, you can begin to understand the measure of His love. What is so amazing about our salvation, is that God would pour out wrath on the One He loves in order to save those Whom deserved his hatred and wrath because of His love for them. The only way they could be worthy of God’s love is if they could measure up to His glory and holiness. The only way that could be possible is if they were made holy by someone else who is holy and bear the wrath of the unholy upon Himself.

This takes us to God’s righteousness. To be righteous is to be perfect and complete in regards to an obligation. How can God prove his righteousness if there be no obligation for him to meet with full and perfect completion? For this reason, evil must exist to create un-holiness in men, so that they will be worthy of wrath, so that God may meet His own obligation to punish those worthy of His wrath. But it doesn’t end there. In God’s unsearchable wisdom, He puts Himself under obligation to save those who are under His wrath when He is under obligation to destroy them. How could God get Himself out of this impossible obligation that He has placed Himself under? That’s where the cross comes in, He sacrifices the Just for the unjust, the Worthy for the unworthy as a Divine substitution so that He must fulfill the obligation of loving, showing mercy and saving those vessels of wrath whom He has chosen to become vessels of His mercy.
This is similar to righteousness. God is perfectly just. How can He exercise justice if there be something that has no need of it? Justice is giving what is deserved to someone who has earned it. If there be only a God of infinite good and holiness, then who will give Him what he deserves? Glory Honor and Praise! There must be someone else who will give Him this glory honor and praise so that justice can be served to Him! Since He is the only One Who is worthy of this kind of justice, there would be nobody to serve Him with it. Therefore, God had to create something that would be able to give Him this glory. This was the purpose of creating man: so they may glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. God must exercise justice against the unjust if He is to fully manifest His holy justice, therefore, there needs be an object worthy of Divine judgment. For this reason also, evil must exist so that someone who may come short of His glory, may be deserving of His wrath because they have done what He hates, and they finally are worthy of His Divine justice.

Finally, when God has demonstrated His attributes to all Whom He has created and will have created all those who are the recipients of His love, mercy, wrath, righteousness and justice will acknowledge with their own mouths that God’s choice to serve them with the results of His attributes was good and just, and God will thereby receive the glory due to His name.

A Practical Guide to Prayer


Many Christians find prayer difficult. I do. Often my prayers seem rudderless and fairly quickly my thoughts wander off in other directions. So I've found this practical program for prayer helpful.

Martin Luther's barber asked him for some guidelines on prayer, so Luther wrote him a short booklet offering specific suggestions and exhortations. The entire guide is called A Simple Way to Pray. Here is a summary of Luther's pastoral advice to improve our prayer.

He counseled using the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, and also the Ten Commandments and the Apostle's Creed as models and guidelines for how to structure our prayers and as a way to connect Christian teaching with our spiritual disciplines. He also gives plenty of examples of how to do this.
1. The Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms were tools which Luther considered most important for any Christian’s prayer life. “A Christian has prayed abundantly who has rightly prayed the Lord’s Prayer.” The Lord’s Prayer is the model prayer of Christianity and it is not essentially a prayer of one individual, but a common prayer that binds all Christians together, uniting us with all believers, past, present and future, whether in Heaven, or on earth, in a Biblical Kingdom focused prayer....
Luther didn't suggest repeating the Lord's Prayer, but using it as a model for petitions to bring before God, an outline of sorts.

2. Luther taught that praying the Psalms brings us: “into joyful harmony” with God’s Word and God’s Will. “Whoever begins to pray the Psalms earnestly and regularly will soon take leave of those other light and personal little devotional prayers and say, ‘Ah, there is not the juice, the strength, the passion, the fire which you find in the Psalms. Anything else tastes too cold and too hard.’”...

3. Luther warned: “I do not want you to recite all these words in your prayer. That would make it nothing but idle chatter and prattle. Rather do I want your heart to be stirred and guided concerning the thoughts, which ought to be comprehended, in The Lord’s Prayer. These thoughts may be expressed, if your heart is rightly warmed and inclined toward prayer, in many different ways than with more words or fewer.

4. Luther taught that in praying through The Ten Commandments “I think of each Command as first, instruction , which is really what it is intended to be and consider what the Lord demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third a confession ; and fourth a prayer .”

5. In his preface to the “Larger Catechism,” Luther wrote: “We know that our defence lies in prayer. We are too weak to resist the devil and his vassels. Let us hold fast to the weapons of the Christian; they enable us to combat the devil… our enemies may mock at us. But we shall oppose both men and the devil if we maintain ourselves in prayer and if we persist in it.”

6. Luther taught the importance of Spiritual disciplines, including solitude, silence, listening, meditation, journaling, praying and obeying.

Monday, March 26, 2007

What excites you with Worship?

Witnessing One on One with Kirk Cameron

Islamic View of Jesus

by Warren Vanhetloo @

Note: See other articles in the Islam series: Islamic Paradise, Islamic Ideology and Islamic Infrastructure.

The typical Muslim estimation of Jesus of Nazareth is similar to the view of liberals or other nonbelievers generally but is also distinctive from most others. Mohammed could neither read nor write and probably had no direct contact with either the Old or the New Testament, only oral desert traditions. Yeshua is the Arabic name for Jesus; Isa is the name used in the727207_islam_temple_13.jpg Koran.

According to Islam, Jesus is listed as one of Allah’s special prophets. The most important prophets are Moses, David, Jesus, and Mohammed, for each was given a holy book to correct departure [1] from Allah: Moses the Pentateuch, David the Psalms, and Jesus the Gospels. The followers of Jesus corrupted the book Allah gave Him. Muslims consider Jesus to be a great prophet (Sura 2:253) but inferior to the other three for two reasons: (1) earlier prophets and Mohammed all had wives and children designated by Allah, and (2) His public ministry lasted only three years (Sura 13:38). Allah also sent many prophets to all the various nations, “And verily we have raised in every nation a messenger [proclaiming], Serve Allah, and shun false gods” (Sura 16:36). There have been no prophets or revelations since Mohammed. Of the prophets prior to Mohammed, “no difference do we make between them” (Sura 2:125-136).

According to Islam, Jesus was only a human, only a man, only a prophet (Sura 5:72-75). Jesus Himself, speaking from the cradle, called Himself a slave, not a son of God. “How can we talk to the one who is in the cradle, a young boy? He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the scriptures and hath appointed me a prophet” (Sura 19:29-30). Jesus’ limited ministry was to announce the messenger to follow: “Jesus son of Mary said . . . I am the messenger of Allah . . . bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name is the Praised One [Ahmad, a variant of Mohammed]” Sura 61:6).

According to Islam, Jesus had an ordinary but unusual physical birth. He was a human born of the virgin Mary by a special miracle. “O Mary! Lo! Allah hath chosen thee . . . She said, My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal has touched me?” (Sura 3:42, 47). One Muslim commentator says the virgin conceived “when the angel Gabriel blew up her garment.” Allah especially created Jesus in the likeness of Adam. “Lo! The likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him [Jesus] of dust, and then he said unto him: Be! And he is” (Sura 3:59). Fables about Jesus’ boyhood are declared to be true (Sura 5:110).

Muslims are confounded by the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Christian Godhead. How can Jesus, a man, be God? They think that Christians consider that somehow Jesus became God rather than that He eternally was God. Many Muslims mistakenly believe that the “Christian Trinity” consists of God, Mary, and Jesus. “And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? He saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right” (Sura 5:116). Teaching of a trinity is declared to be false (Sura 5:73).

Allah is unitary, without persons: “So believe in Allah and his messengers, and say not three – Cease! [it is] better for you! Allah is one God. For it is removed from his transcendent majesty that he should have a son” (Sura 4:171). Allah could never have a son (Sura 19:35, 90). “Say: he is Allah, singular. Allah, the absolute. He begetteth not nor was begotten. And to him have never been one equal” (Sura 112). Allah has no son, either in heaven or on earth. Though Jesus often called God “Father,” no devout Muslim would call Allah “father,” for Muslims consider Allah to be utterly transcendent and unknowable. Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock has an Arabic inscription in the ceramic tiles of the walls: “Allah has no son.”

Muslims recognize that the three-year public ministry of Jesus was unusual. Jesus was said to be faultless: “He [Gabriel] said, I am only a messenger of thy lord, that I may bestow on thee [Mary] a faultless son” (Sura 19:19). Jesus and others were considered righteous. “. . . John and Jesus and Elias. Each one [of them] was of the righteous” (Sura 6:86). Muslims recognize that Jesus was the Messiah, but they believe He was not God (Sura 4:171; 5:75-80). Jesus even performed miracles (which Mohammed never did). He healed the sick, raised the dead, and made a clay pigeon become alive – all done with Allah’s permission. “When Allah saith: O Jesus . . . thou didst shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird . . . Thou didst heal him who was born blind and the leper . . . and didst raise the dead, by my permission” (Sura 5:110).

Traditionally, Muslim interpreters consider that Allah would not allow a devoted prophet like Jesus to suffer and die, for Allah delivers true prophets. “Then shall we save our messengers and the believers, in like manner as of old” (Sura 10:103). “The Messiah Jesus son of Mary . . . They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them” (Sura 4:157). They believe someone else was crucified instead of Jesus, and Allah secretly raised Jesus to himself. Jesus did not actually physically die, they say. Allah took Jesus directly to paradise without experiencing death, as he had done with Enoch and Elijah. “But Allah took him unto himself” (Sura 4:158).

According to Islam, Jesus is unable now nor in the future to function as an intercessor. “Allah’s apostle said, ‘Allah will gather all people on the day of resurrection and they will say, “Let us request someone to intercede for us with our lord” . . . They will go to him [Jesus], and he will say, I am not fit for this undertaking, go to Mohammed’” (Hadith 8:570). Jesus will, however, return to earth and judge people by the law of the Koran and establish Islam as the only religion of the world. He will thereafter die a “normal” death.

Many Muslims believe that Jesus will return from paradise and punish Jews and Christians for their failure to accept Mohammed as the prophet, and He will help establish Islam as the only religion of the world. “By him of whose hands my soul is, son of Mary [Jesus] will shortly descend amongst you people [Muslims] as a just ruler and will break the cross and kill the pig” (Hadith 3:425). “Allah’s apostle said, ‘How will you be when the son of Mary descends amongst you and he will judge people by the law of the Koran and not by the law of the gospels?’” (Hadith 4:658).

According to Islam, Jesus has not and cannot die for the sins of another. Each person is born good but weak. “Allah would make the burden light for you, for man was created weak” (Sura 4:28). Sin is an offense against a deity, but Allah has no attributes, no moral character to offend. None can have fellowship with Allah; no human error hinders a relationship to him, for none is possible. Muslims can make mistakes, but they do not sin.

According to Islam, each person is fully responsible for his acts. Blame cannot be transferred to another. No one can die to erase the mistakes of another. “Each soul earneth only on its own account, nor doth any laden bear another’s load” (Sura 6:164). Allah can forgive by an act of will; the death of Jesus can have no significance. Allah sends to hell whomever he wishes. Such is solely of his will; neither demons nor men are there because they deserve it. “That I will fill hell with jinn (demons) and mankind together” (Sura 32:13). Only Muslims will ever be released from hell and taken to paradise. Men here can only hope for a shorter time of suffering by performing faithfully the five “pillars” of Islam. Allah alone wills who will be transferred from hell to paradise and when. The One who is the way, the truth, and the life, who alone gives eternal life, is both rejected and opposed.


1. “When the teaching of a prophet is distorted by people, Allah sends another prophet to bring humans back to the straight path. The chain of prophets began with Adam and included Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, David, and Jesus; the final prophet was Muhammad . . . Muslims maintain that Allah wrote the Christian Scriptures, but human writers, such as Luke, John, and Paul, changed and corrupted them. The original Scriptures must be considered lost.” - David Goldmann, Islam and the Bible (Moody, 2004), pp. 61, 65).

Warren VanhetlooWarren Vanhetloo has A.B., B.D., Th.M., Th.D., and D.D. degrees. He served three pastorates in Michigan, taught 20 years at Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN), taught 23 years at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (Lansdale, PA), and is listed as adjunct faculty at Calvary. Retired, he lives in Holland, Michigan. Since the death of his wife a year ago, at the urging of fellow faculty and former students, he sends an email newsletter called “Cogitations” to those who request it.

Persecution in Israel: Does Our Theology Shut Our Ears and Mouths?

Every time we release a story or two on the persecution of Christians in Israel (like we did last week), I am nervous. When we added Israel to our prayer map this year, I also expected to get questions about it (and we did). It seems that evangelicals in Canada just can't grasp the fact that Israel is not nearly as friendly towards evangelicals as we are towards them. Oh sure, they love for us to come and visit as tourists. And Israel understands full well that evangelicals in much of the western world will exert great pressure on their governments to support Israel politically. And so, in the West, Israel makes great overtures to evangelical leaders while, at the very same time, refusing to protect their own Christian population adequately.

The plight of the Messianic believers in Arad is a case in point. For the past three years, these believers have experienced almost continual harassment and violence against them. Yet, little has been reported in the Christian media concerning this. I wonder why. I suspect that it has a large part to do with a theology that is bandied about that suggests that to criticize Israel is to not bless her. Christians are admonished to have almost a blind loyalty to Israel.

And so my nervousness every time we fulfill our calling and report on persecution in Israel. If we report on the persecution of Christians by Muslim Palestinians, there is no problem, of course. But to suggest that Israel might be less than angelic in their treatment of Israeli Christians (to say nothing of Palestinian ones) is something many would rather not accept or hear about.

Different By Design Audio

You can download some significant addresses on biblical manhood and womanhood from Russ Moore, Lig Duncan, Wayne Grudem, and C. J. Mahaney here.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Desiring His Word 1 Pt. 2:1-3

Everton Community Church

March 25, 2007

John 8:31-32

Job 23:12

Ps. 1:2

Jer. 15:16

Psalm 119:97-104

1) Remembering Our Life Source 1 Peter 2:1a

1 Pt 1:23-25

2 Tim. 3:15

Isa. 55:10-11

2) Eliminate Sins 1 Pt. 2:1

Col. 3:8-9

3) Admit Need 1 Peter 2:2a

Matt. 4:4

4) Pursue Spiritual Growth 1 Pt 2:2b

Phil. 2:12-13

Phil. 3:7-14

5) Survey Blessings 1 Peter 2:3

Ps. 34:8

Jer. 15:16

Ps. 119:140-142

Saturday, March 24, 2007

‘Tell them that again’

By Tony Reinke @

Frequently, I like to close out the week with some encouragements for preachers. Recently I came across this interesting story from the life of Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892). In the sermon “All of Grace” on Ephesians 2:8 (#3479) he recounts an early preaching experience with his grandfather and reminds us to “tell them that again.”

I am led to remember this by the fact that a somewhat singular circumstance, recorded in my memory, connects this text [Eph. 2:8] with myself and my grandfather. It is now long years ago. I was announced to preach in a certain country town in the Eastern Counties. It does not often happen to me to be behind time, for I feel that punctuality is one of those little virtues which may prevent great sins. But we have no control over railway delays, and breakdowns; and so it happened that I reached the appointed place considerably behind the time.

Like sensible people, they had begun their worship, and had proceeded as far as the sermon. As I neared the chapel, I perceived that someone was in the pulpit preaching, and who should the preacher be but my dear and venerable grandfather! He saw me as I came in at the front door and made my way up the aisle, and at once he said, ‘Here comes my grandson! He may preach the gospel better than I can, but he cannot preach a better gospel; can you, Charles?’

As I made my way through the throng, I answered, ‘You can preach better than I can. Pray go on.’ But he would not agree to that. I must take the sermon, and so I did, going on with the subject there and then, just where he left off. ‘There,’ said he, ‘I was preaching on ‘For by grace are ye saved.’ I have been setting forth the source and fountainhead of salvation; and I am now showing them the channel of it, through faith. Now you take it up, and go on.’

I am so much at home with these glorious truths that I could not feel any difficulty in taking from my grandfather the thread of his discourse, and joining my thread to it, so as to continue without a break. Our agreement in the things of God made it easy for us to be joint-preachers of the same discourse. I went on with ‘through faith,’ and then I proceeded to the next point, ‘and that not of yourselves.’

Upon this I was explaining the weakness and inability of human nature, and the certainty that salvation could not be of ourselves, when I had my coat-tail pulled, and my well-beloved grandsire took his turn again. ‘When I spoke of our depraved human nature,’ the good old man said, ‘I know most about that, dear friends’; and so he took up the parable, and for the next five minutes set forth a solemn and humbling description of our lost estate, the depravity of our nature, and the spiritual death under which we were found.

When he had said his say in a very gracious manner, his grandson was allowed to go on again, to the dear old man’s great delight; for now and then he would say, in a gentle tone, ‘Good! Good!’ Once he said, ‘Tell them that again, Charles.’ and, of course, I did tell them that again. It was a happy exercise to me to take my share in bearing witness to truths of such vital importance, which are so deeply impressed upon my heart.

While announcing this text I seem to hear that dear voice, which has been so long lost to earth, saying to me, “TELL THEM THAT AGAIN.” I am not contradicting the testimony of forefathers who are now with God. If my grandfather could return to earth, he would find me where he left me, steadfast in the faith, and true to that form of doctrine which was once delivered to the saints.

When we preach, the testimony of faithful Gospel preachers stand behind us, pulling our coat-tails and whispering, “Tell them that again.” A great reminder for preachers to stick closely and return frequently to the fundamentals of the Gospel! In reminiscing over the 30-year history of his church, C.J. Mahaney writes, “We never assume that there’s already sufficient understanding, appreciation, and experience of ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified’” [Living the Cross-Centered Life, p. 19].

Take it from C.H. or C.J.: “Tell them that again.”

Discussing the Alpha and the Omega with Jehovah's Witnesses

by Brian Thornton @

If you will recall, I had a great discussion with two Jehovah’s Witnesses who came a knocking on our door exactly two weeks ago yesterday (Thursday, March 24th). I also had a visit from two JW’s last July. Anyway, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the senior Witness wanted to set a day for a return visit, to which we both agreed would be two weeks from that day, which was this past Thursday. I really didn’t know if they would show up or not, and as the morning wore on I forgot about it, but not without first doing some quick verse checking just in case. The topic of discussion - if they were to show - was supposed to be the person and work of Christ. Around eleven o’clock, my daughter called up to me from downstairs by saying, “Dad! The Jehovah’s Witnesses are here!”

Their arrival took me a little off guard since I had figured they were not going to show. But I happily answered the door, stepped outside onto our front porch, and greeted them. The senior Witness (a lady who we will call Judy) was back, and this time she had a gentleman with her, who I figured to be someone even more senior than her. We exchanged quick pleasantries and then Judy started right in.

She confirmed that our topic was to be the person and work of Jesus, and pulled out her New World Translation to show me a couple of passages. She first took me to 2 Tim. 3:16 and reiterated that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, rebuke, correction, etc. I agreed completely. Then she turned to Matt. 16 where Jesus asks the disciples who they say that He is. Her point was to show that Jesus Himself confirmed that He was the Son of God, and not God Himself.

I replied by asking her (and the gentleman, who was quietly taking everything in) this question, “Who is the Alpha and the Omega?”, to which she immediately replied with no hesitation, “Jehovah God!”. “Absolutely.”, I said. And the gentleman also agreed. I then asked, “Well, then how come Jesus also claims to be the Alpha and the Omega?”. Both of them looked rather stunned, a little bewildered, and quite skeptical of what I had just attributed to the claims of Jesus.

As they tried to get a handle on my question, I asked Judy if I could see her Bible (I really don’t like calling it that, but that’s another topic for another day). She handed it to me and I turned to the book of Revelation. If curiosity ever killed the cat…these two were perfect case studies, as they watched and listened intently while I turned to Rev., chapter one, verse eight. Once there I read, ” ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says Jehovah God, “the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.” ‘ - NWT

“That’s Jehovah God talking.”, I said. And they agreed enthusiastically. I got the feeling that they thought that was the only verse I was going to reference to make my first point because I noticed a little smile on Judy’s face. The smile left as I turned to the back of Revelation to chapter 22, starting at verse 12. There I read, “Look! I am coming quickly, and the reward I give is with me, to render to each one as his work is. I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, the beginning and the end.” I kid you not…you could have heard a pin drop at that moment! They agreed that this was indeed Jesus talking, to which I asked, “Why would Jesus claim to be the Alpha and Omega if He was not Jehovah God?”.

They hemmed and hawed (that’s Southern for ‘they couldn’t come up with a good explanation other than the one I had given’), but there was no getting around what they had just read…in their own translation! We discussed several other passages during the next 30-45 minutes, but I repeatedly took them back to the clear claims of Jesus Himself in Revelation each time they tried to redirect me to some other passage to prove that Jesus was not Jehovah (I also addressed whatever verse or passage they would bring up).

During our conversation, we spoke much on the triune nature of God (which JW’s vehemently reject), and toward the end of our time together I asked the gentleman when the Holy Spirit was created since He also was not God in their theology, and since I could not recall any passages that discussed the creation of the Spirit. “Oh”, he said, “the Holy Spirit wasn’t created…He has always been…He is eternal.”. To which I replied, “Well, that’s two outta three! You are almost there!” - referring to his acknowledgment that both the Father and Spirit are eternal with no beginning or end. He laughed, shook my hand, and that was the end of our conversation. We left on good terms, and I told them they were welcomed back any time.

I could tell they were a little shaken by the Revelation passages, and I encouraged them to study the clear claims found there by Jesus. They promised they would. I pray that God would see fit to open their hearts so that they might be able to understand the truth of Jesus, the real Jesus of Scripture, for the very first time.

The Achillies Heel of Islam?

by Kim Riddlebarger @

Two recent news stories illustrate Islam's public relations problem (exposing its dark side) as it spreads into the West.

In the first report (Click here: The Sun Online - News: Judge gives the OK to wife hit), "The terrified partner, a 26-year-old mum of two, filed for a quickie divorce after her husband hit her and even threatened to kill her. But the judge in Frankfurt, Germany, rejected her application — quoting a Koran verse which some have controversially interpreted to mean a man can beat his wife if she acts in an `unchaste' fashion. A divorce court judge ruled a man was right to beat and abuse his wife — because the Muslim holy book allowed it."

Can you imagine what will happen if Sharia law is ever tolerated in the West? And where is the outcry from the supposed champions of women's rights--the political left? Many on the left actually believe that Falwell, Dobson and the Christian right are the true enemies of women. The left's silence about Islam is deafening . . .

In the second news story, (Click here: Woman re-interprets Koran with feminist view | US News | "A new English-language interpretation of the Muslim Holy book the Koran challenges the use of words that feminists say have been used to justify the abuse of Islamic women. The new version, translated by an Iranian-American, will be published in April and comes after Muslim feminists from around the world gathered in New York last November and vowed to create the first women's council to interpret the Koran and make the religion more friendly toward women. In the new book, Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, a former lecturer on Islam at the University of Chicago, challenges the translation of the Arab word `idrib,' traditionally translated as `beat,' which feminists say has been used to justify abuse of women. Why choose to interpret the word as 'to beat' when it can also mean 'to go away'," she writes in the introduction to the new book. The passage is generally translated: `And as for those women whose ill will you have reason to fear, admonish them; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!' Instead, Bakhtiar suggests `Husbands at that point should submit to God, let God handle it -- go away from them and let God work His Will instead of a human being inflicting pain and suffering on another human being in the Name of God.'"

If only feminist theologians do to Islam and the Koran what they've done to the Bible and mainline Protestantism, ironically they'll set Islamic expansion back decades!

Of course, the preaching of the cross is the best means to oppose Islam, but news reports like this along with the rise of feminist scholarship in their midst certainly cannot help the Islamic cause.

3 Systems of Theology

(Click on the Article Title for the full view)

May be Arminian or modified Calvinist. Almost never five-point Calvinist. Always Calvinist.
Usually five-point Calvinist.
Same as CT.
Usually does not accept the idea of the 'Analogy of Faith.' Accepts the idea of the 'Analogy of Faith' (allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture)
The Baptist Confession, Article 1.9: The infallible rule for the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself. Therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any [part of] Scripture (which is not a miscellany, but a unity) it must be understood in the light of other passages that speak more clearly.
Same as CT.
'Israel' always means the literal, physical descendants of Jacob. Depending on the context, 'Israel' may mean either physical descendants of Jacob, or “spiritual Israel” (who are people with faith in Christ like Abraham). Same as CT.
'Israel of God' in Galatians 6:16 means physical Israel alone. 'Israel of God' in Galatians 6:16 means spiritual Israel, parallel to Galatians 3:29; Romans 2:28-29; 9:6; Philippians 3:3. Same as CT.
God has 2 peoples with 2 separate destinies: Israel (earthly) and the Church (heavenly). God always had only one people, the Church who gradually developed through the ages, in accordance with a Covenant worked out in eternity past between the "Three Persons of the Godhead." (The Cov. of Redemption)
NCT doesn't recognize a Church in the OT, such as in the NT. So, the Church is the "New Israel."
The Church was born at Pentecost. The Church began in the OT with the OT covenants and reached fulfillment in the NT with the New Covenant. God has one family, one church, one flock, one baptism, one way of salvation whether before the Cross or after – by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Same as DT.
The Church was not prophesied as such in the OT but was a "mystery", hidden until the NT. There are many OT prophecies of the NT Church. Same as CT.
All OT prophecies for 'Israel' are for the physical nation of Israel, not the Church. Some OT prophecies are for national Israel, others for spiritual Israel based on context. Same as CT.
God's main purpose in history is national physical Israel. God's main purpose is His own glory, which is revealed in Christ and then through the Body of Christ – the New Covenant Church. Same as CT with one exception, seeing the saints of the OT as being added to the church after it's built.
The Church is a parenthesis in God's program for the ages. The Church is the culmination of God's saving purpose for the ages. Same as CT.
The main heir to Abraham's covenant was Isaac and literal Israel. The main heir to Abraham's covenant was Christ, the Seed, and spiritual Israel which is "in Christ" (Galatians 3:16). Same as CT
God's program in history is mainly through separate dispensations. God's program is history is mainly through related covenants, but all those covenants were derived from the eternal covenant that the Trinity made in eternity, the Covenant of Redemption. Same as CT, except believes the NC completely replaces the OC because they were all realized in Christ.
Most teach that men in the OT were saved by faith in a revelation peculiar to their Dispensation. All men who have ever been saved have been saved by faith in Christ as their sin-bearer, which has been progressively revealed in every age. Most are same as CT.
The Holy Spirit indwells only believers in the Dispensation of Grace, not OT and not after the "Secret Rapture." The Holy Spirit has indwelt believers in all ages, and He indwells the Body of Christ in a special way in the present NT era as an anointing upon the Church for ministry from the glorified Head of the Church who is established on the Throne in heaven, and the Spirit will not be withdrawn from God’s people. Various views
Jesus made an offer of the physical Kingdom to Israel; since Israel rejected it, it is postponed. Jesus made only an offer of the spiritual Kingdom, which was rejected by literal Israel but has been accepted by spiritual Israel who are Jews and Gentiles who believe in Christ (Galatians 3:29). Same as CT.
OT believers were not 'in Christ,' nor part of the Body or Bride of Christ even now. Believers in all ages are all 'in Christ' and part of the Body and Bride of Christ now. Same as CT.
OT laws are no longer in effect unless repeated in the NT. OT laws are still in effect unless abrogated in the NT. Same as DT.

Friday, March 23, 2007

6 minute Gospel by John Piper

Why Should I Believe in God?

By John @

Suppose someone asks you for some reasons why he or she should believe in God. How would you construct your answer in terms of “arguments” for the existence of God? If that approach is problematic for you, just how would you answer the question?

Suppose someone asked me for some reasons why he should believe in God. How would I respond? I would say, “There is only one reason to believe in God. As your creator, you owe him your love, trust, and submission.” If this individual refuses, then he demonstrates his rebellion against his creator. As the Apostle Paul teaches us in Romans 1:18ff, the reason we do not believe in God is because we suppress the truth in unrighteousness (v. 18). Humanity’s problem is not our ignorance of God but our refusal to honor him as God or to give him thanks (v. 21).

The person asking this question has already made a fundamental mistake. He is trying to sit in judgment of God. He wants to decide whether God exists. To do so, he asks me to give him arguments so that he can judge them through his use of reason. But what is reason? It is thinking logically. How can we know these rules of logic? Ultimately, they come from God. Apart from him, there is no logic or reason. So, God must be known in order to be denied. To state this point differently, someone cannot even evaluate truth claims without already assuming that God exists. In asking for reasons to believe in God, he is questioning the basis upon which he can ask this question in the first place!

Therefore, this individual needs to be confronted with his rebellion against God. Arguments that appeal to his use of reason are all flawed as normally used. They fail because they leave the questioner with the ability to sit in judgment of God. They are built upon the assumption that an individual’s problem is ignorance. If a Christian can share the compelling reasons and evidence to believe in God, then an unbeliever can make the proper decision in light of new information he has been given. The problem with this conclusion is that it begins with an invalid starting point. Those who are not Christians are repressing the truth of the God they already know. No amount of reasons or evidence will ever be compelling because their heart is set against God.

Nevertheless, this fact has not stopped Christians from using various arguments to prove the existence of God. One popular explanation is the cosmological argument. Since every beginning has a cause, there must be an uncaused cause. This cause is God. Applied to the universe, since it had a beginning (commonly known as the Big Bang), something must have caused it to come into existence. God caused the universe to begin. Next, some believers use the teleological argument. Also known as the design argument, they maintain that something is too complex or ordered to have occurred without purpose. Since it cannot be explained as an accident or by randomness, it must have been designed. This intelligent designer is God. Some individuals find the ontological argument persuasive. Anselm originated this argument, saying, “God is that [being] than which nothing greater could be conceived.” Since we can conceive of God, he exists. After all, which is greater, existence or nonexistence? Therefore, the greatest being conceived must have existence. This greatest being is God. Other Christians utilize the moral argument. We live life assuming there are objective morals. These morals assume a giver of ethics, which is God. Lastly, believers have posited the religious argument. Every society and culture has a religious core. How can this be explained? The universality of faith calls for an answer. The answer is found in God.

Obviously, these arguments use different avenues to prove God, but they all fall short of adequately responding to an unbeliever. They assume the unbeliever will be neutral in assessing their case. But as we have seen, people are not neutral. They have rejected God and suppress his truth. Additionally, what do these arguments prove? Do they lead to the God who has revealed himself through creation and in Scripture? Of course not, for the same arguments can be used by Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or any other theistic belief system. Essentially, these arguments try to establish a conception of God which will be acceptable to the reason and judgment of unbelievers.

While these arguments are not satisfactory when defending the faith, unbelievers do ask questions which Christians must answer. As the Apostle Peter says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). With this in mind, how should we respond? Believers need in love to let them know that they are in rebellion against God and to point out their inconsistency in living their lives as if God does not exist. Christians can show them that the ways they understand the world (their worldviews) are not capable of grounding their lives. We must establish that the Christian worldview provides the only true basis for our existence.

Proverbs 26:4-5 gives us a two-fold apologetic procedure when answering the unbeliever: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes.” In the first place, believers should not fall into the trap of reasoning under the rules set by an unbeliever. Christians need to defend their faith by working within the biblical worldview or they will fail. In the second place, believers should answer an unbeliever according to his self-proclaimed worldview. By doing this analysis, Christians reveal the inconsistency and foolishness of an unbeliever as he lives his life opposed to God.

An unbeliever has no basis to ask me for some reasons why he should believe in God. He already knows God. The problem is that he is also running from God, determined to refuse God his rightful lordship over creation. He needs to be confronted with his foolishness and sinfulness. Through the power of the gospel, he can have salvation through Jesus Christ

Modesty and Other Women's Husbands

Before we stray too far from the topic of modesty, let's pause to consider the fact that modesty deals with a lot more than just our clothing. When modesty is discussed, the focus is typically on low necklines and short skirts, but what about modesty of our person? Do we stop to think about the fact that revealing too much about ourselves can be immodest too?

There is a time and place to open up and share our sin struggles and personal concerns, but with the exception of family members, the people to whom we reveal ourselves best not be other women's husbands. What about pastors? Most of our pastors are married; are we being immodest in taking our concerns to them? Certainly not; they are our God-given shepherds. However, there is a way to open up to them without foregoing this modesty of our person. It's one thing to seek our pastor's counsel, perhaps repeatedly. But there is a difference between a genuine need for his wisdom and our desire for his attention and involvement. Countless phone calls and endless emails are probably going too far. This is the point at which most pastors will redirect us elsewhere.

Modesty of our personhood is a must in the workplace. For the first time in history, women and men work side-by-side doing the same jobs, and they do so for the majority of their waking hours. This means that men in the workforce spend more time with their business colleagues than with their wives. Naturally friendships arise. Working together is a bonding experience. But all the more reason why we do well to restrain what we share about ourselves with our coworkers. The same principle applies to church committees or children's sports leagues where men and women are regularly spending time in one another's company.

"Wait a minute," we say. "We're just friends! There's nothing wrong with that." Oh, but there is. Sharing verbal intimacies with a man is the exclusive right of his wife. It takes something away from her when we focus her husband's attention onto ourselves. The best of marriages takes work, and because of that there are certainly seasons where the monotony of daily life can tempt a man (or woman) to be attracted to something or someone novel. The new and different is exciting to almost everyone, so even the most innocuous revelations about ourselves can be distracting.

And, of course, there exists the very real possibility that freindship with another woman's husband, however innocent at first, will quickly (or slowly) morph into something more. Believing in your mind that this can't happen makes the possibility of it happening even greater. "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." Our only safety lies in the humble acknowlegement that it could indeed happen in our case. We're not above it. None of us is. I doubt that many affairs begin because a husband or wife wakes up one morning and decides out of the blue to seek out an adulterous relationship. They typically develop one conversation, one shared laugh, one lunch meeting at a time.

The modesty of personal restraint is glorifying to God and one of the best ways we can love other people.