Jacob Hantla's Attempt to "Think about these things"

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I'm Currently Reading

Reading a book does not imply that I agree with the books, condone it, like it, or recommend it. Keep visiting the site, as I hope to publish reviews of my readings along with select quotes from each book as I finish it and digest its contents.

Gospel and Mission in th Writings of Paul

Spiritual Reformation

A Practical Grammar For Classical Hebrew

Whiter Than Snow

Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept

Toward an Exegetical Theology

Spiritual Depression: It's Causes and Cure

A Theology of the New Testament

New Testament Introduction

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Why I blog

I need to write. If I dont write, I dont think that I think--at least not thoroughly. Thus this blog is simply an outlet for me to think. My goal is to be thinking about those things and only those things that are in line with Philippians 4:8.

Biblical Productivity by CJ Mahaney

C.J. Mahaney's complete Biblical Productivity series is all indexed and available at his blog. This series benefited me greatly as it was being written, and I look forward to reviewing it.

Free CD: Lampmode Grassroots

 

This morning, I was reminded of God's consuming holiness before which I could never hope to stand...apart from the cross. In an excellent devotional, I had the holiness of God expounded to me, making my heart feel the "horror of his splendor" and holiness. When I look at myself in the light of his holiness, I saw only sin, and then the devotional went on to teach me how I would be immediately destroyed like Nadab and Abihu or Uzzah if I came into contact with that holiness. "My eyes have seen the king and I'm an evil thing; woe is me for I am undone!" I cried out with the authors of this lesson. As they went on to describe God's holy attributes I wanted nothing but to be near that God, but because I'm not perfect I could never hope to stand in his presence. But then they taught, "Sin is odious; he deals severely with the lost. But friend his holiness [was] most clearly revealed at the cross. When He displayed Christ as a propitiation, to vindicate his name and show that He hates sin. His love is holy, no justice dismissed. Because His Son was crushed and suffered for this. So God can forgive sin because He finally punished it...Such an amazing display of love and grace, so we trust and praise Him who was raised for our justification."

For almost 6 minutes, Shai Linne and Timothy Brindle proclaim the holiness of God in just one of 7 amazing tracks on Lamp Mode recording's free cd: Grassroots EP. You need to head over to Lampmode and download the free tracks (or alternatively you can pay for higher quality tracks at Amazon, which I sorta recommend since these are only 96kbps mp3s). These guys continually serve me in ways that I formally knew only great books could, but in many ways it is done better, more memorably, and more engagingly than the books I have grown to love ever could. God has used these guys and many others within Lamp Mode and holy hip hop in general to stir my affections and passion for God.

Keywords: free_lampmode_shailinee_rap_hiphop

Defending a Baby's Murder. Will You Be Consistent?

A story of the callous murder of a newborn baby  should rightfully make you angry. An 18-year-old mother, Sycloria Williams, went into an clinic for an abortion; only she gave birth too early. While her cervix was dilating, the baby fetus came out before it could be killed aborted. So they snipped the umbilical cord, and threw it in a biohazard bag.

Even people who think of abortion as a right of mothers to be defended at all costs are horrified. "It really disturbed me," said the president of Broward County NOW. The mother's attorney states, "The baby was treated like a piece of garbage." 

We should be disturbed, angry, and we should resolve to stop this kind of murder.

But let me attempt a defense for the abortion clinic:

  1. The baby was not viable anyway. This argument rings hollow now, doesn't it? Yet it is this same argument that is used to justify millions of 1st and 2nd trimester abortions anually. Nevertheless, there is no substantial difference between this murder and an abortion.
  2. The mother chose: The mother did not want the baby. An 18-year-old would have a very difficult time caring for this child. The mother went into the clinic wanting the baby fetus killed aborted. She had a choice to make and she made it. Isn't this what we defend and use to justify millions of abortions anually? Yet, it somehow doesn't seem like a valid defense when the clinic worker is on the stand asking how he/she could toss a living child into a biohazard bag to die. Nevertheless, there is no substantial difference between this murder and an abortion.
  3. What's the difference?: There is no substantial difference between this murder and an abortion. There was almost no difference between what would have been legal abortion and then what would be deemed murder and grounds for imprisonment and loss of medical license.
    • The baby changed location. It was inside the mother and then outside the mother. Should this affect personhood? No, location should not affect personhoood.
    • The baby's source of oxygen. One moment, the baby received oxygen in the blood from the mother, the next through its lungs. Should this affect personhood? No, source of gas exchange should not affect personhood.
    • Status under the law. One moment the killing was legal as abortion. The next moment, the killing would be called murder. Should this affect personhood? No, legal status should not affect personhood.
    • Our ability to perceive life. One moment the baby's movements, facial expressions, and very being was concealed inside the mother's body. The next, it was out for all to see. Personhood is hard to admit when it stares you in the face. Yet, out-of-sight-out-of-mind affects many moral decisions that we make. Should this affect personhood? No, others' ability to see should not affect personhood.

So my defense rests. The abortion clinic was simply being consistent with what it always does. Its job is to kill unwanted babies. They know that there is no significant deference between a fetus and a baby. So the clinic was simply being consistent.

Prolifers who are angered by this murder are being consistent. We are outraged and grieved by abortions; we are outraged and grieved by murder.

Will you be consistent? When you read the story you should rightly be saddened for a mother whose child was killed, grieved at the loss of an innocent life, and angered at those who could so callously throw a baby out like a piece of trash. But will you be consistent? If these things concerned you, are you concerned about abortion? If not, I ask you, why?

Keywords: abortion

An Excellent Wife...I Found Her!

My Excellent Wife

"An excellent wife, who can find?" asks King Lemuel in the inspired words of Proverbs 31:10-31.

By God's grace I have found an excellent wife. Many of the descriptions of the "Proverbs 31 woman" include wise use and earning of money while she manages the household. My wife is a genius at maximizing the money that we have, enabling me to work less and devote more of the money we have to Kingdom business. We must be very careful with our use of money. Money is not a neutral item; we cannot serve God and money (Luke 16:13). Yet we must be faithful in our use of this unrighteous thing, not lovers of it (See the parable and accompanying interpretation in Luke 16:1-13). 

My wife, Kiki is well known among our family and friends as one who always knows how to find a bargain and is always saving money. She is offering a great service to all of her blog readers as she begins what will most certainly turn into an excellent series on Frugality: A Matter of the Heart at her blog, Kiki's Korner.

Kill Off Everybody Who Doesn't Match the Correct Genetic Profile

Basically, because we can, people think it is right to make tons of embryos (very little undeveloped people: the definition of helpless) and then kill off all of the ones that don't fit the genetic profile.

Might does not make right.

B.B.C. reports today that another genetically handpicked-baby was born.

Review: Warchild by Emmanuel Jal; And How You Can Help

Born in Tonj, South Sudan in approximately 1980, all that Jal Jok (later renamed Emmanuel Jal) knew was civil war. By the time that most children around the world are learning to swing on monkey bars and play sports, he had seen family members raped and murdered, lost his father to an army position, survived a waterless & foodless trek across the desert, lived through life in a refugee camp, and entered war as gun-toting jenajesh. Short on manpower and wanting to equip and train the next generation, the SPLA army in Sudan trained children to fight in a brutal war that has ravaged Sudan for decades and claimed an entire generation. Warchild is the autobiography of one of those jenajesh, one of the lost boys of Sudan. It is the story of a boy trained to hate and kill, who found his way out of hatred to the God of his mother, Jesus, and learned to love. This transformation began Jal down a path of music culminating in international renown, as a hiphop artist pleading with his people and the world to help bring peace to his homeland in Sudan.

I could not put the book down, reading the entire thing in just three days, despite being a slow reader. The horrific reality of the day-to-day life and mostly death of Sudanese civil war and its effects on both the armies and civilians is clearly portrayed, not inappropriately or even for shock value, just clearly stated through the memory of a young child who lived it. It is probably too much for children to handle so be discerning; it is too much for adults to even get their arms around and you will find your emotions regularly overwhelmed. Genocide, war, statistics are all horribly abstract terms that don't affect my mind and don't affect my prayers and efforts as they should. Stories affect us. This story is one that should be told and it should affect us. This story is especially important to be told because it is one that represents millions whose stories we won't read. 

I highly recommend Warchild. You will not go away unaffected. I pray that Sudan would not be unaffected.
 
If you would like to help Sudan, I recommend directing your support to Sabet & Suzy Kuj and their clinic that they are running in same city where Jal was born. They work tirelessly to help the helpless along with Sabet's passion to train pastors to lead churches. You can find out more at their website, In Deed And Truth.

Keywords: review,sudan

Free New Sovereign Grace Album: How Sweet the Sound

Covenant Life Church (of Sovereign Grace Churches) recently had a hymn-sing night which was recorded. They have released it into an album called How Sweet the Sound and are giving it away free at noisetrade if you tell 5 friends about it. Use the widget below to get the album.

 

Keywords: free,music

Free Audiobook! Calvin: Of Prayer and the Christian Life

John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is replete with teaching on prayer, and HovelAudio has excerpted many of these sections and recorded them into a four-and-a-half hour audiobook entitled Calvin: Of Prayer & the Christian Life. Listening to Calvin write about prayer will help you to pray and to understand and treasure prayer. It may also whet your appetite to read more of Calvin's Institutes, which is very readable. Best of all, IT'S FREE for the month of November. As you check out, enter the code NOV2008, and you can download it at no cost.

 

Keywords: audiobook,free

New Book: Job by John Piper

Job by John Piper

Keywords: job,piper

FREE! Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards

For a limited time, in celebration of Jonathan Edwards' 305th birthday, Logos is giving away the Libronix version of A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections for free. When you checkout, use the coupon code: EDWARDS to get it free.

While you're at it, you can pre-order the 2-Volume Works of Jonathan Edwards. You'll save money ordering it now rather than after it's available. Piper's God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards and A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards are available for 40% off with the coupon code: PIPER-EDWARDS.

HT: Gons

Keywords: edwards,free,libronix,logos

Apologetics for the Glory of God by John Frame (Review)

I have read almost a dozen apologetics texts over the last year, and in my estimation, Apologetics for the Glory of God by John Frame should be the first book you read on the subject. Let John Frame guide you as you learn the particulars of apologetic argument from other apologists. John Frame describes what principles should be guiding the use of any evidence or line of reasoning as the apologist seeks to reason with the nonbelieving skeptic. Frame's apologetics would rightly be characterized as presuppositional in nature; he is not shy to be aligned with Cornelius Van Til. However, for those who think that a presuppositional apologetic eschews evidence, you will be pleasantly surprised. I recommend that any reader of Apologetics for the Glory of God get a copy of Frame's masterpiece Doctrine of the Knowledge of God as frequent reference is made to it and you will find ideas hinted at fully expounded in that larger volume. All of Frame's thinking is influenced by his tri-perspectival way of looking at things (which DKG goes into much detail), where he realizes the helpfulness of considering truth from different angles. His apologetics is no different; the perspectives into which he breaks the apologetic task (and the chapters of the book) are:

  1. Apologetics as Proof
  2. Apologetics as Defense
  3. Apologetics as Offense

Classical apologists seek to find commonground between the believer and the nonbeliever and work from there to convince the skeptic of the plausibility of existence of the God of the Bible; therefore, the classical apologist argues, the Bible is not the appropriate place to start in apologetic encounters. The presuppositionalist argues on the other hand, that the unbeliever is acting in rebellion to God as manifested by his desire to think autonomously and place himself as the ultimate criterion of truth. The apologist should not encourage this thinking; neither should the apologist adopt it. The skeptics basic heart commitment is that Jesus is not Lord; the apologists basic heart commitment is that Jesus is Lord. "Our argument must be an exhibit of that knowledge, that wisdom, which is based on the 'fear of the Lord,' not an exhibition of unbelieving foolishness. Therefore apologetic argument is no more neutral than any other human activity. In apologetic argument, as in everything else we do, we must presuppose the truth of God's Word....Even if neutrality were possible, that route would be forbidden to us" (p. 9).

There is no common ground apart from mutual knowledge of God of which Romans 1:19ff way. The thing that the apologist is most sure is true is that which God has told him in the Bible. Therefore, the apologists argument will be based on Scripture. Frame writes, "The preacher-apologist is to present the word...to expound it, to apply it to his hearers, to display its beauty, its truth, its rationality. [He] seeks to combat the unbeliever's false impressions and present to him the word as it really is. It is to this testimony that the Spirit also bears witness" (p. 17). This does not mean, however, that natural evidences or rational argumentation are out of line, just that they must be submitted to Scripture, "The obedient Christian apologist will show the unbeliever the various ways in which nature reveals God, without claiming neutrality and without allowing the use of non-Christian criteria of truth" (p. 25). The main attack against this line of reasoning is that it is circular; the teachings of the Bible are true because the Bible is true. We must recognize the truth of this statement but recognize that every system of thought is circular when it seeks to defend its ultimate presupposition: the Bible, reason/logic, sense-experience, relativism, or otherwise.

Frame spends the rest of the book working his presuppositional line of reasoning out as it relates to proving Christianity to be true, defending Christianity's truth, and attacking the irrationality of all other belief systems. Frame includes very little actual argumentation, with the exception of the problem of evil in the world. He admits this. His goal in this book is to provide the framework into which all other arguments or lines of reasoning will fit, and he does so masterfully. It is for this reason that I recommend that you read Frame before any other apologists, because fit into this framework the apologist can use any true line of reasoning or evidences (whether it comes from a presuppositionalist or not) and use it in a way that recognizes Jesus and not man as Lord.

Finally, the book ends with an exceptional transcript from a faux dialogue between Frame and a man on an airplane where Frame demonstrates how each item he has discussed throughout the book might work itself out in actual apologetic discussion with a real life person.

I do not recommend that Apologetics to the Glory of God is the only apologetics book you read, but I do recommend that it is the first. When you are finished, I recommend you move on to Busenitz's Reasons We Believe and/or Pratt's Every Thought Captive.

Keywords: apologetics,frame

Review: Financial Shock by Mark Zandi

Financial Shock is a timely read in in light of today's economic crisis. It has served me well in educating me as to the behind-the-scenes causes of the financial shock that we are all feeling. Dr. Mark Zandi, chief economist and cofounder of Moody's economy.com, gives simple and helpful advice on how to avoid/mitigate the damages of the next bursting bubbles. He ably identified time and time again that "Americans aren't as smart about money as we should be. Financial illiteracy was a fundamental cause of the subprime financial shock" (p. 236). This book, which is imminently readable, will go far to help educate any member of the public who spends the time to read it.

He begins the book with a very simply yet insightful summary of the recent history that led to the perfect storm. The remaining chapters go into detail on each one of the players. The book is full of helpful charts that convey simply pertinent information without confusion. Zandi is a master at making the complex understandable, at defining terms, and writing for the layperson (but I have no doubt that this would be helpful for the well-versed as well). Finally, although he misjudged the state of the market writing, "the worst of the crisis appears to be over," (published in July '08), he does give 10 "policy steps" based on all that he's written to help us fix this problem and to avoid or mitigate the damamges of bubble bursts in the future. This list will help you get a flavor for what he writes about in the previous chapters (don't worry if you don't understand the terminology - I didn't either - but if you read the book you will):

  1. Adopt a voluntary mortgage write-down policy
  2. Establish clear mortgage lending rules
  3. 3. License mortgage brokers
  4. 4. Expand data collection
  5. 5. Reform the fractured foreclosure process
  6. 6. Invest in financial literacy
  7. 7. Modify mark-to-market accounting
  8. 8. Raise financial transparency and accountability
  9. 9. Overhaul financial regulation
  10. 10. Pay attention to asset bubbles.

If I could summarize Financial Shock, it would be: Simply Helpful. Simple, but not Simplistic. And although it is writing about a scandal, it is not scandalous. History is used more to help us learn lessons than to point fingers. I have learned much from this book. It has given me the basis to digest most of what I'm reading in the paper and hearing on the news.

On a similar note, I found this roller coaster animation plotting housing prices exceptionally enlightening in regards to the financial state we find ourselves in (HT JT):

All of Grace By Spurgeon for Free

Praise God for ChristianAudio. Each month they give away a free downloadable, high quality audiobook. This month they are giving away Spurgeon's All of Grace. This is actually the second time that they are giving away this book. It was originally made available in November of 2006 and I have listened to it a couple times since and have found it an excellent audio-book type book. It is an excellent book for seasoned Christian, new Christian, or non-Christian as Spurgeon spends the entire book speaking of how all in the life of a Christian must be and is of grace and only of grace. To get the book, simply add it to your cart at ChristianAudio, check out, enter the coupon code OCT2008, download and enjoy.

Keywords: audiobook,free,spurgeon

Review: The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

In The Truth of the Cross, R.C. Sproul effectively communicates the truth of the cross, its significance, its necessity, and its accomplishments. The Truth of the Cross is a short little book packed with doctrine related to the cross (with a focus on substitutionary atonement), a topic that no Christian can spend too much time thinking about rightly. R.C. Sproul's aim throughout the 10 chapters of the book is to ensure that the reader correctly understands what transpired at the cross, why it was necessary, and what God accomplished there. He makes extensive use of church history, historic Christian philosophers and theologians, (Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Luther, & Calvin), philosophy, and logic. Sproul, as usual, is excellent at taking complex statements and whittling them down so that they seem simple. I do wish, however, that the book was more Scripture-packed and that Sproul's appeals were based more explicitly on Scripture than on logic. It seems that Sproul's modus operandi is to demonstrate where his reformed theology logically directs his thinking on an issue. Then he may point to Scripture to show how his position is not at odds with Scripture. This seems backwards to me and is my concern with Sproul and underlies all of the areas of disagreement/caution that I have with this book (On pp 159-161, Sproul's need to teach that Jesus the man and not Jesus God was crucified at the cross seems to be more theologically driven than textually driven and is a good example of this observation as not one verse is cited or interacted with to defend his position, Acts 20:28 & 1 Cor 2:8 would have been nice). Nevertheless, this book is an excellent devotional treatise on cross of Christ that does make frequent use of Scripture. It served me well as I slowly read it, wondering anew at the amazing love of this Holy God who would crush His Son in my place and give me His righteousness to free me from Hell and to reconcile me to Him.

The first few chapters were written to demonstrate to the reader that the atonement was absolutely necessary if man were to have any hope to come to God. Sproul writes, "If we are defective in understanding the character of God or understanding the nature of sin, it is inevitable that we will come to the conclusion that an atonement was not necessary" (p. 15). It is not merely enough to know the facts of the cross, we must know the meaning of the facts, he says, otherwise we will miss the significance of the cross (p. 102). Sproul does a masterful job at simply and understandably laying out this significance. In summarizing what he has taught, at the end of the book, Sproul writes, "[The cross] is not an afterthought or an attempt to correct a mistake. Rather, from all eternity, God determined that He would redeem for himself a people, and that which He determined to do was, in fact, accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ, His atonement on the cross."

In the face of many modern heresies, such as New Perspective on Paul, postmodernism, and Open Theism, that attack the very significance of the cross and are being embraced by many in evangelical circles, Sproul's book is well-timed and well written. We would do well to read it, recognize the truth of the cross, and guard ourselves from believing these gospel-attacking wolf-doctrines dressed in academic sheep's clothing. We would do well to sit at the foot of the cross everyday and recognize the importance of the doctrines that first brought us life and are meant to sustain us through our Christian life. For these ends, you will be served well by Sproul's The Truth of the Cross.

Purchase at Westminster Books
Purchase at Amazon.com

Reading according to CJ Mahaney, Jeff Purswell, & Josh Harris

I finally got a chance to listen to the third installment of the Sovereign Grace Leadership Interview podcast. The three speak in a pastoral way to pastors to help them to prioritize the practice of reading in their own care of their souls. It is great advice that is applicable for all, not just pastors; in fact, it may be advice that is most overlooked by non-pastors. I highly recommend the Christian reader of this blog, stop reading this blog, and download this installment (and all installments) of the Leadership Interview Podcast.

Most of the books recommended can be found linked here,

Also, while thinking on the topic, you must surf over to T4G blog and read some of the great posts there on reading that are designed to be read in order:

I hope these resources serve you well, convince you of the importance of reading, and motivate you to make the necessary adjustments in your schedule in order to reflect this priority. It certainly has renewed my motivation in this regard.

Keywords: reading

A Baby Preaching: Less Content; Less Error; More Excitement!

In what was described by his brother as a "powerful move of God" a baby, the son of the preacher, takes the mic and begins to "preach". It is far better than what the congregation was used to and better than much of what you'd find on TBN:

Slightly less content
Much less error
Equal or greater emotional rise.

Amen! Sad, huh? This just reinforces how grateful I am for the expository preaching I am blessed with each week.

HT: Thabiti

Keywords: baby,preaching,video

Business for the Glory of God by Wayne Grudem

I had never really thought about it, but I guess--even though it is contrary to my longing and belief that God can be and is glorified through all of the Christian's life--that I had always just assumed that business wasn't good in and of itself. In fact like Grudem asserts of those who are like I was, we believe, "that from a moral perspective [profit, competition, money, and business are] 'neutral' at best." I guess that when I was pursuing a degree in engineering, I thought that I could glorify God through it by sharing the gospel at the work place, earning enough money to free my wife up to be a stay-at-home mom, and being able to give moreo the church. But Grudem's view is so much balanced and biblical than money t these views, exposing my blindness that would have kept me from obeying 1 Corinthians 10:31, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (including business), do all for the glory of God." (On a side not to 1 Cor 10:31, read "How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God," chapter 5 of John Piper's book, Pierced by the Word.)

The topics in which Grudem covers in this book, with a chapter devoted to each one are:
How God is glorified by...
1. Ownership
2. Productivity
3. Employment
4. Commercial Transactions
5. Profit
6. Money
7. Inequality of Possessions
8. Competition
9. Borrowing and Lending

and he then includes two chapters on
10. Attitudes of Heart
11. Effects on World Poverty.

Grudem is not blind to the abuses of business, the ways in which we idolize money and success and become gracious losing sight of the fact that we are operating with God's stuff not ours. He regularly comments throughout the book on concerns to balance the view, but the real wealth of attitude-changing information comes from not-often-talked-about fact that business can in-and-of-itself be glorifying to God. We don't have to feel "vaguely guilty" about business but can use it to both glorify God while we're doing it and advance the Kingdom through it.

My only complaint is the size of the book, and for that I wish I could give it four-and-a-half stars. The book is really small (83 pages of text) and oftentimes when it seems like he is just beginning to develop a thought or when a proposition could use a little more defense, he needs to move on to the next topic of discussion. However, he can be excused because he has let the reader know that he is working on a larger edition saying in the preface, "The Bible says much about these topics, and a thorough treatment deserves a much larger book than this, one that I am still in the process of writing."

In summary, if you are in business or are a student studying or considering studying business, read this book. It should have a profound and God-glorifying effect (if read as it is written and not taken as a license to idolize business or success and withhold God's grace from people) on your life, studies, and career.

Other Purchasing Options:
Libronix Downloadable
Kindle Reader Downloadable
Paper-&-Ink from WTS
Paper-&-Ink from Amazon

Spanish version from Amazon
 

Grudem also gave a series of sermons/lectures on this topic at Covenant Life Church. They are downloadable for free.

Apologetic Method

The following paper can be version with additional footnotes and bibliography. It is may be easier for you to read that document than this:

Most of the discussions relating to the methods of apologetics are centered around how to do apologetics. However, the most important issues surrounding the methods of apologetics are the character of the apologist and the presuppositions of the apologetic. Christian apologetics must do more than convince one of the plausibility or probability of theism; apologetics must point apologist and skeptic alike to a true knowledge of the God of the Bible and the worldview that flows from that knowledge.

(read more...)

Keywords: apologetics,evangelism,gospel,rts

Never Once Has He Pardoned An Unpunished Sin

God “will not acquit the wicked;” how prove I this? I prove it thus. Never once has he pardoned an unpunished sin; not in all the years of the Most High, not in all the days of his right hand, has he once blotted out sin without punishment. What! say you, were not those in heaven pardoned? Are there not many transgressors pardoned, and do they not escape without punishment? Has be not said, “I have blotted out thy transgressions like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities?” Yes, true, most true, and yet my assertion is true also — not one of all those sins that have been pardoned were pardoned without punishment. Do you ask me why and how such a thing as that can be the truth? I point you to yon dreadful sight on Calvary; the punishment which fell not on the forgiven sinner fell there. The cloud of justice was charged with fiery hail; the sinner deserved it; it fell on him; but, for all that, it fell, and spent its fury; it fell there, in that great reservoir of misery; it fell into the Saviour’s heart. The plagues, which need should light on our ingratitude did not fall on us, but they fell somewhere and who was it that was plagued? Tell me, Gethsemane; tell me, O Calvary’s summit, who was plagued. The doleful answer comes, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!“ “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is Jesus suffering all the plagues of sin. Sin is still punished, though the sinner is delivered.
But, you say, this has scarcely proved that he will not acquit the wicked. I hold it has proved it, and proved it clearly. But do ye want any further proof that God will not acquit the wicked? Need I lead you through a long list of terrible wonders that God has wrought — the wonders of his vengeance?
(read more...)

Keywords: gospel,sin,spurgeon

426 Years to Study the Bible? How About 3?

I am so glad that I was taught, and many in my church were taught, very early on the importance of understanding what a passage meant in its original context before trying to apply it. In this day of KLove Power Verses where life is brought to us in 15 second soundbites, it is tempting in our study of the word to want a quick pick-me-up, emotionally stimulating experience from the Bible...in no more than 5 minutes.  This tends can tend to make the 21st century reader of the Bible assign the emotions or thoughts that first come from reading the text to the text as the meaning of the text. We have unwittingly adopted the post-modern assumption that the text's meaning is that which the reader gives it (therefore it is not improper or impossible for a text to have as many "meanings" as it has readers).  The tendency in modern Bible readers puts us in danger of seeing only in the Bible what we thought was already there; the passages which don't line up with what we understand and like about Christianity are in danger of being skipped altogether since they don't produce the emotional high for which we are longing or simply misinterpreted to fit in with our system.

 

I praise God, therefore, that early on in my Christian faith I was taught (and had modeled for me by both of my early spiritual mentors, Daryl and Walter) the importance of understanding what the original authors were communicating to the original audience. Without this information I do not understand the text and can't even begin to apply it to my life and heart accurately. I was taught the importance of observation and interpretation (what it meant to them in their time) before application. I was taught to see the importance of sitting long and thinking deeply about a single sentence in Scripture, to read it in context, to analyze each word and how it functioned in sentences, to probe the historical setting for information that would be helpful to proper understanding...in short, I was taught the benefits of spending hours and hours in a single passage. The Scriptures opened up to me because I saw what was there and gave the Spirit time to drive it into my heart; the application flowed naturally from what I saw was there and was more profound and God glorifying than what I would have found in a five minute quickie Bible read and respond.


There was a problem here, however. I spent almost two years in daily study on the book of Galatians. I can say with confidence that I understand Galatians better than any other book of the Bible. Galatians has owned me. However, I will probably only have 40-50 years of life to study the Bible. Galatians is a relatively short book: 149 verses, 0.2 verses per day. The Bible has 31,102 verses in it. At that rate it would take me 426 years to study the whole Bible. So maybe in heaven, I can do that but not here. I am conflicted. How am I to use all that God has said in His Word and still use it responsibly?

 

Read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans are great. In one year you get to see all that God has said in His Word. But here is a danger. Reading approximately 85 verses per day, usually in a time limited to 30-60 minutes per day (some try 15 minutes), puts us in danger of grasping onto what we like or what is emotionally appealing and skipping the rest. My mind can only grasp usually one concept at a time and can't hold a thought for long, so in a reading plan that I did for 4 years (M'Cheyne's). What I found myself often doing as I read through the Bible was focusing on passages that talked about my favorite theological topics or those topics that were easy to respond to (and I think I did this appropriately, and it was right), but I just didn't give thought to the passages that were harder to be affected by. I was letting the ease with which my emotions were gripped by a text define the texts relative importance and instructive weight to me. I was learning, and I was learning from God's Word, but I was not learning all that God's Word said, thus falling short of my initial goal in reading the whole Bible.


As I talked to others about what their read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year readings looked like, many were similar, but I found many would use stories to springboard into lessons for themselves that were nowhere to be found in the story (i.e. using David & Goliath as a call to be a braverisk-taker ; while a good thing to do and maybe a proper response to understanding the theme of the story, this conclusion can be made devoid of understanding why that story is in the Scriptures, really devoid of even understanding where it is in the Scriptures and why God did what He did in David and Goliath, there are many other examples, but that is for a different blog post on a different day).


It was all of the above and more that led me to change the method of my whole-Bible reading and lead my smallgroup to do the same. Starting at the beginning of 2007, we began a study of the whole Bible: One book every two weeks (with some exceptions). We started in Genesis and over the period of just under 3 years, we will read all of the books of the Bible ending in Revelation. This week we are in Nahum. We use Dever's Message of the Old Testament & Message of the New Testament as pastoral guides in our reading.


In each book the goal is consistent with the goal when we study a single verse. We read the entire book with an eye to understand what major themes the God-inspired author of the book wanted to communicate. This is done by observing the flow of thought in the book, repetition of ideas, purpose statements, etc (observation). Once we understand the main point(s) of the book as a literary whole (interpretation), we are able to fit the individual pieces (sections of the book) into this whole, so we are able to be careful that we are understanding them in context. In two weeks, we are able to discern the theme and at least a rough outline of each book. This will guide us in the interpretation of any single verse, as it provides the context in which the verse must be understood. Finally, we state what this book teaches us about God, what this book teaches us about man, and how the truth of this book must affect us. The level of study here is certainly not as thorough as a 2-year study of Galatians, but it has served me and my group well to help us understand what the Bible is about.

 

In summary, as we look at each book, we ask the following big-picture questions:

  1. What would the author of this book say that this book is about?
  2. What is the message/theme/purpose of the smaller sections of this book in light of the purpose of the whole?
  3. What does this book teach you about God?
  4. What does this book teach you about man?
  5. How must this book affect you?

If you are interested in how we do this, would like to try to follow the model in your own study, or hijack the study guides for your own Bible study or smallgroup, feel free. The study guides (treasure sheets) and some other resources that have helped us in our study are available on our church website.

Keywords: bible,reading,smallgroup,study

Repentance Must Be the Goal (Quote: Leahy)

Repentance was a dominant note in apostolic preaching. this has been equally the case in tiems of revival and spiritual awakening. People begin to see sin as god sees it - Rebellion agaisnt God. They become aware of consequences of sin: "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4,20). That note of repentance is no longer struck as it once was...The "easy believism" of our time does not pierce the sinner's heart, nor does the emotionalism that often passes for evangelism. That note must be recaptured as a matter of urgency if our preaching is to be really effective. Men and women must be made to see the cross through their tears, with "a godly grief" that "produces a repentance that leads to salvation" (2 Cor. 7:10).

Frederick S. Leahy
Is It Nothing To You: The Unchanging Significance of the Cross (amazon)
pp. 80-81

Keywords: leahy,preaching,quote,repentance

Why God Doesn't Fully Explain Pain by John Piper

This by John Piper entitled, "Why God Doesn't Fully Explain Pain" is worth reposting here in it's entirety. Very helpful and humbling:

 One of the reasons God rarely gives micro reasons for his painful providences, but regularly gives magnificent macro reasons, is that there are too many micro reasons for us to manage, namely, millions and millions and millions and millions and millions.

God says things like:

  • These bad things happened to you because I intend to work it together for your good (Romans 8).
  • These happened so that you would rely more on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1).
  • This happened so that the gold and silver of your faith would be refined (1 Peter 1).
  • This thorn is so that the power of Christ would be magnified in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12).

But we can always object that there are other easier ways for God to accomplish those things. We want to know more specifics: Why now? Why this much? Why this often? Why this way? Why these people?

The problem is, we would have to be God to grasp all that God is doing in our problems. In fact, pushing too hard for more detailed explanations from God is a kind of demand that we be God.

Think of this, you are a blacksmith making horseshoes. You are hammering on a white hot shoe and it ricochets off and hits you in the leg and burns you. In your haste to tend to your leg you let the shoe alone unfinished. You wonder why God let this happen. You were singing a hymn and doing his will.

Your helper, not knowing the horseshoe was unfinished gathered it up and put it with the others.

Later there was an invasion of your country by a hostile army with a powerful cavalry. They came through your town and demanded that you supply them with food and with shoes for their horses. You comply.

Their commander has his horse shoed by his own smith using the stolen horseshoes, and the unfinished shoe with the thin weak spot is put on the commander’s horse.

In the decisive battle against the loyal troops defending your homeland the enemy commander is leading the final charge. The weak shoe snaps and catches on a root and causes his horse to fall. He crashes to the ground and his own soldiers, galloping at full speed, trample him to death.

This causes such a confusion that the defenders are able to rout the enemy and the country is saved.

Now you might say, well, it would sure help me trust God if he informed me of these events so that I would know why the horseshoe ricocheted and burned my leg. Well maybe it would help you. Maybe not.

God cannot make plain all he is doing, because there are millions and millions and millions and millions of effects of every event in your life, the good and the bad. God guides them all. They all have micro purposes and macro purposes. He cannot tell you all of them because your brain can’t hold all of them.

Trust does not demand more than God has told us. And he has given us immeasurably precious promises that he is in control of all things and only does good to his children. And he has given us a very thick book where we can read story after story after story about how he rules for the good of his people.

Let’s trust him and not ask for what our brains cannot contain.

Keywords: pain,suffering

Our Last Conversation Before He Committed Suicide

Below is my recounting of the dialogue that took place between my friend [friend] and me a few weeks before he committed suicide. The conversation is recreated from notes and my memory, so it isn't word-for-word accurate in all its details, but generally is an accurate recreation of the interaction and reveals the clash of competing masters between a Christian and non-Christian. I was hesitant to post this publicly. My heart aches as I reread it and remember my friend and recognize that He now knows intimately the God he hated and rejected, but he knows him as Judge and not Father. I beg, if you do not know God as your Master, Savior, Father, and Friend, that you read this. Your beliefs do not define reality; God does. Indeed, reality, even you and your thoughts, could not exist apart from the God you are avoiding. But God, in order to overcome your rebellion and still be just when He forgives you, killed His own Son, Jesus, on the cross in the place of those who would repent and trust in Him; then He raised Him from the dead, proving that death's hold on rebels had been broken.

The reason that I wrote this out and post it here is to demonstrate the rebellious futility of autonomous reason set over and against God's authority revealed in nature, in our hearts, and in His Word. It highlights John Frame's statement "Those who deny God do so, not because they lack evidence, but because their hearts are rebellious." It reinforces the necessity of the fellowship of Hebrews 10:24-25 in light of the warnings of Hebrews 10:26-27 . It reminds me that the only difference between [friend] and me-the skeptic and the apologist-is only God's saving and sustaining grace.

Keep reading. I think this dialogue is the practical outworking of my , which will later be posted on my blog. You may also want to read the letter I wrote to a doubting, believer friend who was asking the question, "Am I Only A Christian Because I'm American?"

I am sobered at shortness of life, the seriousness of sin, the preciousness of grace, the depth of humanity's rebellion apart from grace, the finality of judgment after death, the length of eternity, the goodness of the gospel, and the glory of God in judgment and in grace. I recognize that this is a sensitive post. It likely will offend some. I have thought long and hard before posting it; I am open to correction. Nevertheless, my friend lost his life due to the seriousness of sinfully misplacing authority. The futility, tragically, drove him to suicide. For those who agree with me on the following dialogue, let us not be arrogant. Our belief has nothing to do with us, but is all of grace. If you do not believe what I am saying, or if you are offended by what I say here, please consider thoughtfully my arguments before you comment. This is a change from the triteness and superficiality that has no view on eternity of most of what is on the blogosphere; it is intended to jolt us into awareness of eternity and our finiteness. That said, I invite all comments, and I expect I will get quite a few. Please try to interact with the content as your post, however.

(read more...)

Keywords: apologetics,evangelism,gospel

Memorize Romans 6 (ESV) to Song with Kami Mueller

Kami Mueller, in response to encouragements that our entire church body memorize Romans 6, wrote 5 excellent songs containing only the text of Romans 6 from the English Standard Version. She performed the songs at a recent Grace Bible Church service. Hopefully soon we'll get studio recordings of them (please, Kami :-)). You can download the tracks here:

 

Keywords: esv,memorize,romans_6

Review: Keeping the Heart by John Flavel

Puritan John Flavel (1630-1691) in Keeping the Heart (originally titled: A Saint Indeed or The Great Work of a Christian Opened and Pressed) has proven to be a steady and timely friend to me over the last year. This book has been a near constant companion during that time and I have made my way through it a number of times. I suppose that I am familiar enough with the book now to write a review so that others may be encouraged to spend time with this heart-shepherding work as well; however, I in no way do I feel that I have mastered its contents or the practice of them. I am convinced though that this book will prove to me to be a lifelong companion whose true worth I could only underestimate.

Using Proverbs 4:23 (“Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.”), Flavel creates a treatise designed for all professing Christians. The aim is that the contents of the heart be laid bare, so that sin which is present is seen as sin and dealt with as a believer should and that the heart be guided to be pure in its devotion and affection for God. He does this, not with law, but by constantly pointing the believer to God's grace as the grounds and means for his sanctification. Flavel is not content to merely convey information, rather, with each point he carefully takes aim at your very soul and deftly fires shot after gospel-saturated, God-glorifying shot. Make sure you read this book slowly and prayerfully, allowing each purifying blow to have its full affect on your heart.

The treatise is basically broken down into four sections:

  1. What keeping the heart presupposes” (Six statements describing what is basic in keeping the heart).

  2. Why keeping the heart is a great business” (Six statements and their exposition explaining why the life of a Christian should be described as a life of “keeping their heart”)

  3. Special seasons for keeping the heart” (104 specific pieces of advice particularly tailored for 12 seasons of life in which special diligence is necessary to guard the heart)

  4. Uses” of means in keeping the heart (Examples and guidelines on using information, exhortation, direction, and consolation in the keeping of the heart).

Keeping the Heart is a work that is difficult to navigate without seeing the “big picture” of what Flavel is setting out to do. I therefore recommend you acquire a copy that includes the “Outline” by Maureen Bradley (The Soli Deo Gloria edition includes this). Each of the statements, seasons, or uses alluded to in describing the structure of the work has many subpoints underneath it. I would recommend in your reading that you decide to either read one statement/season/use at a time (roughly 10 pages a piece, although they vary dramatically), or to use it devotionally in much smaller chunks by reading one subpoint at a time. After your first time through the work, you will then be able to quickly navigate to the heart-shepherding help that is particular to your struggle or circumstance.

You will be well-served to read Keeping the Heart, working through the 17th century language (Flavel is not nearly as difficult as many other Puritans and the Soli Deo Gloria edition has helpfully modernized spelling, formatting, and grammar) and work diligently to guard your heart with the help of this proven guide.

Keywords: flavel,review

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