Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Color of Money

Al Gore knows a good deal when he sees one. He has parlayed his environmental activism into a multi-million (billion?) dollar enterprise. Now the hapless Church of England is giving him over 150 million dollars. The former Vice President is flush in green.

The Church of England’s Church Commissioners have gone green, investing £150 million with former US Vice-President Al Gore’s environmentally minded investment firm, Generation Investment Management.

On Nov 18 the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith reported that in late September the Commissioners had placed the funds with Gore’s boutique management firm which follows an “environmentally sustainable global equities mandate.” Funding for the investment came from “cash and Treasury bills”, he said, and not from the sale of UK equities as initially planned.

In Oct 2007 Mr Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in raising awareness of the potential threats from climate change. Generation Investment Management was founded in 2004 by Mr Gore and David Blood, former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and had almost £5 billion under management before the market collapse.
Kids, sometimes junk science truly pays.

Read the whole story HERE.

An important test for an important law

The Associated Press reports on a New Mexico man who beat to death his pregnant girlfriend which resulted in the death of her unborn son.

The report reads:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal prosecutors in New Mexico believe they may be the first to use a 2004 law to charge someone with killing a fetus while causing the death or injury of the mother.

Charges against Frederick Beach, accused of beating his pregnant girlfriend to death, include one under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt said his office's research found "no other case in the country in which that section (of law) has been charged," the Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday.

Attorneys for Beach, 37, said they expect to pursue any available legal challenges.
"We may be breaking ground on a new area of law," said defense attorney Amy Sirignano. "We're not sure where that will lead us."

Beach pleaded not guilty last week to killing a fetus and to first-degree murder and child abuse charges.

He is accused of beating to death Verlinda Kinsel, 29, in September and killing the fetus she had said was his. Authorities say the victim's 9-year-old son witnessed the assault.If convicted, Beach faces life in prison.

The case is being prosecuted in federal court because Kinsel was killed on the Navajo reservation.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act stemmed from the abduction and murder of a pregnant woman, Laci Peterson, in California in 2003. The law makes it a crime to kill a fetus in utero at any stage of development while committing another federal crime; it does not require the perpetrator to know the woman was pregnant.

This is an important law. But be sure that many powerful forces in Washington will fight against it. The pro-abortion lobby, senators, congressmen, and even the White House will not want this law to be successful because it clearly establishes the personhood of the unborn.

Take and Read

There are some history books that are important but not very readable. Others are quite readable but not very important. When a book comes along that provides both an important contribution to our understanding of the world and is also a page-turner then something special has come our way. Such is the case with Tim Tzouliadis' The Forsaken. It is what historical reportage ought to be. Tzouliadis tackles what is perhaps the greatest human rights tragedy of the 20th century and writes in such a way that the reader becomes absorbed in the stories of individuals whose lives were snuffed out and forgotten.

The broad topic of The Forsaken is the systematic murder of tens of millions under Stalin's USSR in the 1930's and 40's. Some estimates have the number of lives taken exceeding 100 million. The primary focus of the book is on the Americans who fled the U.S. during the depression to find work in the still young Soviet Union. The book also sheds light upon a little known fact that during World War II an unkown number of U.S. servicemen held captive in Axis prison camps were taken captive by the Soviets. When the Red Army would liberate a German POW camp they would take the American soldiers and ship them to distant Gulags in order to extract whatever useful information they could about the U.S. They would be tortured and later executed. There is now evidence that individuals within the U.S. State Department knew about this situation but refused to do anything about it in order to avoid a confrontation with the Soviets.

The Bulk of The Forsaken, however, focuses on those desperate families who emigrated to Russia in the 1930's seeking a better life. Initially welcomed as celebrities the Americans were used as Soviet propaganda. But as Soviet citizens grew increasingly interested in their new American comrades (they wore nice shoes and coats despite the depression back home) Stalin responded by systematically arresting the new arrivals and sending them to the gulags. Many of these camps were located above the Arctic Circle and, for all intents and purposes, were invisible to the rest of the world. There the Americans starved, froze to death, or were sumarily executed and dumped in mass graves along with the millions of Soviet citizens who died with them.

One of the most disturbing facts illuminated in The Forsaken is the complicity in "the big lie" of so many Americans. The American Communist Party, for instance, steadfastly denied the Terror taking place in Stalin's Russia. Journalists like the Pulitzer Prize winning Walter Duranty wrote glowing reports of the new workers paradise in the Soviet Union. It was Duranty's reports that encouraged so many of the hapless American to journey to the Soviet Union in the first place. Even after the evidence was clear that something was desperately wrong in the new socialist promised land Duranty still wrote glowing reports.

Paul Robeson an American socialist and one of the world's most famous singers became a chief means of Soviet propaganda. Even after some of Robeson's own friends were arrested and quickly disappeared into the endless night of the gulags the singer and actor continued to hail the Soviet Union generally and Stalin specifically. Unfortunately Robeson never recanted of his very public adulations for and encouragements to the greatest murderer of the 20th century.

Most disappointing however is the complicity of the State Department and even President Roosevelt in the loss of thousands of American lives to the murderous thirst of Soviet Communism. It has been known for some time that FDR's socialistic sympathies allowed the State Department to be infiltrated not only by Soviet sympathizers but spies as well (e.g. Alger Hiss). Joseph Davies, Roosevelt's completely incompetent ambassador to the Soviet Union turned a willingly blind eye to the many Americans being arrested right under his nose. It was a poorly kept secret that Soviet agents would be stationed outside the American embassy in Moscow. The many Americans turned away from the embassy doors on Davies' orders would be picked up by Soviet secret police within a block of the building never to be seen again. Davies even voiced his approval for the show trials taking place in Moscow. The combination of Joseph Davies' disinterest in being an effective Ambassador and his pro-Communist idealogies cost perhaps thousands of American lives.

The evil of Soviet Russia litterally dwarfs that of Hitler's Third Reich. Yet how many Americans have even the slightest idea how many millions were killed in the vast frozen reaches of the Soviet Union? Are American school children warned against Communism as they are against Fascism? We know the names of Nazi concentration camps (and we should!) but how familiar are the names Rybak or Kolyma? We know about Hitler's S.S. but why do we not know about Russia's NKVD? I am convinced that the left-leaning media and universtiy heirarchy have something of a code of silence regarding the terror of the Soviet Union. It is acknowleged but not really researched. It is given a nod but not a spotlight. It seems that the same idealogies that kept the secret in the 1930's and 40's are still in operation today.

"I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of man. Harry says he's not and that he doesn't want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace."

- Franklin Roosevelt to William Bullit who tried to warn him of Stalin's imperialistic ambitions.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Messiah in Philly

Pretty cool:
From the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, WHYY and NPR present Handel's holiday masterpiece performed by the "Fabulous Philadelphians" — one of the world's great orchestras, joined by the nationally-renowned Philadelphia Singers Chorale. Acclaimed British choral master Richard Hickox conducts.
Read (and listen to) the whole thing HERE.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Good Conversation 3

Good Conversation 2

Good Conversation 1

Be Home Soon

I trust your Christmas was a joyous one. We spent time at both sets of grandparents (Pattonsburg, MO & Springfield, MO). The kids seemed to have a good time playing with cousins, etc. On the way out we ran into some nasty weather in Illinois. But the forcasts for Tomorrow and Tuesday call for sunny skies from Springfield to Philly. Thankful for that.

I received an IPod from my wife for Christmas. You are probably thinking that I am woefully behind the technological curve and you are right. But I am catching up. Anyway, I am loving it. There are so many free sermons and lectures for download. Covenant Seminary, Monergism mp3s, Desiring God, Al Mohler and others have great resources. You can link to all of those and more in the "audio" section of this blog. Check it out!

Can't wait to be back at COS and the pulpit in a few days. I will be preaching from Psalm one on January fourth. The next Sunday I will be preaching a message on prayer to kick off Prayer Week 09. Phil Ryken will be our special guest on Monday evening of that week. It will be a blessing to have Dr. Ryken in the pulpit. On January 11th I will begin a series of messages called "The Gospel-Driven Church." I am excited about the vision that God is going to form in us during those days.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Recent Sermons

You can listen to or download my first four sermons at Church of the Saviour HERE.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Carl Truman on the Obama/Warren Flap

Westminster Seminary's Carl Truman has weighed in on the controversy surrounding President-elect Obama's decision to invite Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration.
For many years, on many issues, I have seen myself as a man of the centre left; I am embarrassed at the inability of those whom I have admired on so many issues to hold to any kind of moral hierarchy onwhich issues really count. Even if I were not an evangelical Christian, I'd like to think I could see which is the more important matter: stopping the international child sex trade or getting Melissa Etheridge a marriage certificate.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that the day is probably not far off when those who regard homosexual practice as wrong will be consistently presented as the moral, cultural and intellectual equivalents of white supremacists. Al Mohler
(who seems to have spent the whole week writing or speaking on the issues of Lisa Miller and Rick Warren) has pointed out that this issue is set to shatter any possibility of traditional, biblical Christians being considered cool. You can have the hippest soul patch in town, and quote Coldplay lyrics till the cows come home; but oppose homosexuality and the only television program interested in having you appear will soon be The Jerry Springer Show when the audience has become bored of baiting the Klan crazies. Indeed, evangelicals will be the new freaks.
Read the entire post HERE.

Out of Pocket

The posting is going to be pretty spotty over the next week. We are traveling during the holidays. We drove across Pennsylvania today. What a beautiful state!

We're staying in Dayton, Ohio tonight. By the way, if you're ever in Dayton during meal time don't eat at Tumbleweed. Let's just say that the good folks of Ohio should steer clear of trying to cook Southwestern cuisine.

I hope to get access to wireless once or twice over the next week. If so I will check in. But if I don't get a chance then everyone have a great Christmas.

Behold the Lamb of God

Friday, December 19, 2008

A bit of wisdom from an atheist

Who took Christ out of Christmas?

USA Today goes to Michael Horton for some answers. Dr. Horton, professor at Westminster Seminary California is a J. Gresham Machen of our time.

In her article Where Is Christ in Christmas, Cathy Lynn Grossman writes:

A vocal faction of believers, grumpy about Christmas gone wild, insist that Christians should get a theological grip.

"Christmas is being marginalized every day of the year, when pastors fail to preach who Christ really was," says Michael Horton, who blasts these trends in his new book, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church.

Christmas without the specter of the cross, without awareness that this is a baby born to die for mankind's sins, is a fancied-up fraud, says Horton, professor of theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, and associate pastor at Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, Calif.

Read the entire article HERE.

Which is it? Gay unions or gay marriage?

Al Mohler has a typically brilliant response to the fury over President-elect Obama's decision to have Rick Warren pray at his inauguration. In the process he asks some important questions concerning Mr. Obama's real position on the issue.

Dr. Mohler writes:
Now here is an interesting point. The protest against Rick Warren is that he is an opponent of same-sex marriage. But when Candidate Obama was asked to define marriage during the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, he appeared to leave no room for same-sex marriage: "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian -- for me -- for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union." When asked follow-up questions by Warren, Obama endorsed civil unions and opposed a constitutional amendment protecting marriage as a heterosexual institution.

So, what's the difference? Well, as Obama indicated, he is "a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans." Even as he defined marriage in a way that apparently excluded same-sex marriage, he steadfastly refused to do anything to prevent same-sex marriage. Most pointedly, he opposed California's Proposition 8 whereas Warren publicly endorsed it. Before the election, the Obama campaign also provided a message from Michelle Obama expressing hope for the eventual acceptance of same-sex marriage.

In other words, the gay rights community knows that the President-elect will be a reliable friend when it comes to policy. The President-elect virtually promised to do nothing to prevent or slow down the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Read the entire post HERE.

Any thoughts?

The Politics of Prayer

It seems there is quite a bit of controversy over President-elect Obama's choice of Rick Warren to offer the inauguration prayer. You see, pastor Warren made the oh so indelicate decision to oppose gay marriage. But with all the fury over this you would have thought that Mr. Obama had selected some nut case, racist, Farakhan praising pastor who boldly declares "God****** America!" Oh wait...

Read the story HERE.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Manmade global warming theory is arrogant

So says another CNN meteorologist.

Check out the story HERE.

Tony Reinke - Books of the Year

Check out Tony's picks for books of the year. His #1 pick is mine as well. I am currently walking through his #2 pick.

Curse This Global Warming! (2)

Pictures speak louder than a thousand bad scientists.

The moral anarchy of abortion

Thanks to Justin Taylor for reporting on a recent document posted on President-elect Obama's website.

Gina Dalfonzo at Breakpoint's The Point blog:
A coalition of pro-choice organizations has sent Barack Obama and his transition team a document titled “Advancing Reproductive Rights and Health in a New Administration,” which has been posted on the president-elect’s website.

The document “urge[s] the next President to articulate and implement a vision for a new, commonsense approach to the nation’s and the world’s pressing reproductive health needs,” and outlines the actions they would like to see him take toward that end — including improving access to abortion worldwide, increasing funding for comprehensive sex education and defunding abstinence-only programs, pushing for the Freedom of Choice Act, and appointing pro-choice judges and government officials.

The Obama website is accepting comments on this document. Click here to read it and to give your opinion.

He goes on to offer these powerful words from John Piper:

. . . in a world without God, the will of the strong creates (or nullifies) the personhood of the weak. . . . And the awesome thing is that we endow her will not just with sovereignty over her unborn baby, but with the authority to define it: If she wants it, it is a baby, a person. If she does not want it, it is not a baby, not a person. In other words, in our laws we have now made room for some killing to be justified not on the basis of the rights or crimes of the one killed, but decisively on the basis of the will, the desire, of a stronger person. The decisive criterion of personhood and non-personhood, what is right and wrong, what is legal and what is illegal, is the will of the strong. Might makes right. Might makes personhood. Might makes legal. This is the ultimate statement of anarchy. It is the essence of the original insurrection against God, and against objective truth and right and beauty.

No culture can survive this kind of anarchical thinking indefinitely. Part of the remedy is to spread the truth: Might does not make right. Desire does not define duty. Wanting does not create worth. All of us know intuitively that if someone desires our destruction, that desire does not justify our murder. We know this. We should say it over and over again.

Read the entire post HERE.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Incarnation and God's Eternal Purpose

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
- John 1:1-5

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit the four gospel writers begin their accounts at different places in time. Matthew and Luke take us back to the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus. Mark waits to begin his gospel account with the launching of Jesus’ public ministry. John, on the other hand, begins before the foundations of the earth. In this way John immediately offers us an eternal perspective on Jesus. It is not as if the other gospel writers do not give us an eternal perspective. However, John’s interest is to introduce us to Jesus from above.

He begins by explaining that the One whom we would come to know as Jesus is, in a wonderfully mysterious way, a part of the eternal godhead. In fact the doctrine of incarnation presupposes the prior existence of Christ and His divine status. As Donald Macleod writes, “the New Testament presentation of the incarnation always starts from above, with the pre-existence and deity of Christ. Only then does it go on to tell us that this specific Person, God the Word, became flesh.”

John’s very first words, “In the beginning”, would have been a widely known phrase among the Jews of that day. They are, after all, the first words in the Bible; the first words of the books of Moses. As we will be revealed, John is writing about a new beginning so he uses words which recall the first beginning. He goes on to use other words that are prominent in Genesis 1 such as “light” and “life” and “darkness”. These verses form, in a way, the account of the new creation that is dawning in the Lord Jesus. And like the first creation this new creation is brought about not by some subordinate being. It is brought about through the agency of the very Son of God.

God the Son is referred to by John as “The Word.” It is a curious title to us. But to Jews of that day it would have resonated. “In the Old Testament God’s Word is his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation, and salvation” (Carson, 116). That is, through the power of His Word God creates, He reveals Himself, and He saves His people.

By taking on the title “the Word” God is demonstrating that it is in His very nature to reveal Himself. We reveal what we are thinking largely by what we say. And in Jesus God is speaking a living Word to us. God is not to be thought of as aloof or indifferent. He reveals Himself. He makes himself knowable. But He reveals himself as he chooses. God is sovereign in revelation as in all else.

Two things that we are told about the Word is that the Word was with God and was God from the very beginning, or arche which means origin. The context demands that we see this use of arche as referring to eternity. And so this Word, which became flesh in the person of Jesus, had existed in the embrace of the Father from all eternity.

Only Jesus can adequately reveal God to us because Jesus is the living Word of God who has been with God from all eternity. But we’re also told, just so that there is no confusion, that the Word “was God.” That is not to say that at some point he ceased to be God. It is merely emphasizing the fact that the Word has been God for as long as He has been with God: from all eternity.

The Word was not merely invested with divinity. The Word was, is, and ever shall be very God of very God. Keep in mind that John, a faithful Jew, would never have departed from strict monotheism; the belief in one God. So the Spirit is saying something very profound about God. Notice the strange literary structure. How can the Word be with God and be God at the very same time? Only the Trinity answers that question.

In practical terms what it means for Jesus to be the eternal Word of God is that only Jesus is capable of telling us the full truth about God’s character, God’s works, God’s decrees, and God’s plans. Siddhartha Gautama cannot tell us the truth about God. Muhammad cannot tell us the truth about God. Zoroaster cannot tell us the truth about God. Neither Joseph Smith, David Hume, Depak Chopra, or Christopher Hitchens can tell us the truth about God.

At twelve years old he was conscious of his mission. At that young age he lingered at the temple, his Father’s house, for three days, instructing the teachers of Israel and astonishing them with the depth and breadth of his knowledge. When his parents finally found him they rebuked him. His reply was stunning: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Lk 2:43-49).

Jesus understood that he had been sent to be the living Word of God to men who had never seen God. As humanity was groaning under the weight of sin and guilt, God was sending his Son on a voyage. The timeless entered time. The living Word laid aside his glory to be conceived in a womb. The creator and owner of the universe became poor. The God who is Spirit took on flesh and blood. And this was essential to God’s eternal purposes. God did not come in human flesh for the purpose of being a good teacher or moral exemplar, although he certainly was those things.

Verse 5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is a reference to God’s salvation in Christ. It carries with it the idea of conflict and warfare. But notice also that the darkness is no match for the light. God’s eternal redemptive purpose is never at the mercy of the plans and purposes of Satan or sinful man.

Ironically the ultimate victory of the light over the darkness happened through what initially looked like the darkest moment in human history – the crucifixion of the Son of God. But in reality the cross was God’s greatest triumph over the darkness. And this was the eternal purpose for the incarnation. Ultimately, God came in flesh and blood so that he could bleed and die; so that he could carry the punishment for the sins of God’s people; for all those who believe. Jesus’ death was not incidental to his mission. It was His mission! It was decreed before the very creation of the world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lord, why was I a guest?

’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice, and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?"

- Isaac Watts

Single Issue Voting

One of my favorite magazines is Touchstone. In the December 08 issue James Hitchcock writes a spot-on editorial addressing abortion and single issue voting.

He writes:

If 2008 is remembered as the year of the “bailout,” when the federal government spent billions to rescue the nation’s financial system, it should also be recalled for another kind of bailout—Christians with impeccably pro-life records who suddenly abandoned what they declared to be a sinking ship.

Abortion seemed to be one of the few issues on which Senator Barack Obama had an unambiguous and unchangeable position during the campaign, as he promised that “the first thing I’d do as president is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” something that would nullify all existing laws restricting abortion...

The role of “pro-lifers” in the Obama campaign was not to persuade the candidate to moderate his stand on abortion (there is no evidence that they even tried to do so) but to persuade pro-lifers to forget about the issue.

But if social conservatives follow this advice over the next four years and beyond, they will be required to overcome their “narrow” outlook on more than just the issue of whether abortion should be legal. The Obama administration can be counted on to initiate systematic government funding of abortions and embryonic stem-cell research, to support efforts by international agencies to promote (and sometimes require) abortion in Third World countries, and to endorse efforts in the United Nations to define abortion as a “right” that must be recognized by all nations.
Read the entire article HERE.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christianity OR Liberalism

"It is not surprising then that it [Liberalism] differs from Christianity in its account of the gospel itself; it is not surprising that it presents an entirely different account of the way of salvation. Liberalism finds salvation (so far as it is willing to speak at all of “salvation”) in man; Christianity finds it in an act of God.

"The difference with regard to the way of salvation concerns, in the first place, the basis of salvation in the redeeming work of Christ. According to Christian belief, Jesus is our Saviour, not by virtue of what He said, not even by virtue of what He was, but by what He did. He is our Saviour, not because He has inspired us to live the same kind of life that He lived, but because He took upon Himself the dreadful guilt of our sins and bore it instead of us on the cross. Such is the Christian conception of the Cross of Christ. It is ridiculed as being a “subtle theory of the atonement.” In reality, it is the plain teaching of the word of God; we know absolutely nothing about an atonement that is not a vicarious atonement, for that is the only atonement of which the New Testament speaks. And this Bible doctrine is not intricate or subtle. On the contrary, though it involves mysteries, it is itself so simple that a child can understand it. ”We deserved eternal death, but the Lord Jesus, because He loved us, died instead of us on the cross” - surely there is nothing so very intricate about that. It is not the Bible doctrine of the atonement which is difficult to understand - what are really incomprehensible are the elaborate modern efforts to get rid of the Bible doctrine in the interests of human pride.

"Modern liberal preachers do indeed sometimes speak of the “atonement.” But they speak of it just as seldom as they possibly can, and one can see plainly that their hears are elsewhere than at the foot of the Cross. Indeed, at this point, as at many others, one has the feeling that traditional language is being strained to become the expression of totally alien ideas. And when the traditional phraseology has been stripped away, the essence of the modern conception of the death of Christ, though that conception appears in many forms, is fairly plain. The essence of it is that the death of Christ had an effect not upon God but only upon man. Sometimes the effect upon man is conceived of in a very simple way, Christ’s death being regarded merely as an example of self-sacrifice for us to emulate. The uniqueness of this particular example, then, can be found only in the fact that Christian sentiment, gathering around it, has made it a convenient symbol for all self-sacrifice; it puts in concrete form what would otherwise have to be expressed in colder general terms."
J. Gresham Machen from Christianity And Liberalism

Why I Love John MacArthur

Here is John MacArthur on TBN. That's right, on TBN! Notice how this crowd used to the usual pap offered on TBN responds to the true Gospel.

Part 1

Part 2

Heaven Came Down

D.A. Carson calls John’s prologue (vv. 1-18) “the foyer to the rest of the Fourth Gospel simultaneously drawing the reader in and introducing the major themes.” The major theological theme of the opening verses of John’s gospel is the incarnation. The incarnation is that miracle whereby the unapproachable, terrifyingly holy God who is perfect and who is spirit became a man. He did not simply disguise himself with skin. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who is there truly became a man. And this, mysteriously, without sacrificing His deity. The incarnation means that God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son.

Here in the opening words John summarizes how the eternal “Word” was sent into the world to become the Jesus of history, “so that the glory and grace of God might be uniquely and perfectly disclosed” (Carson, 111). The rest of John’s Gospel is an expansion and interpretation of that theme.

Verse 14 says, “The Word became flesh and (literally) ‘tabernacled’ among us.” This is what we celebrate at Christmas. It is all about God miraculously tabernacling among His people. That’s why I don’t get upset when lost people, the government, or corporate entities do not wish me a “merry Christmas.” They most certainly do not mean, “May you be filled with joy due to the fact that in the person of Jesus God entered humanity that he might bear away the guilt and burden of our sin and bring us into fellowship with Himself.” Only my brothers and sisters in Christ can properly wish me a merry Christmas.

The incarnation is a profound mystery. It is God come to humanity through humanity. Christmas, the incarnation, is God with us. We contemporary Christians don’t much realize just how impossible this thought would have been to Old Covenant Jews. They understood that you did not survive a face-to-face with God. His glory is too great and His holiness too intense.

In Wichita where I previously served there is a local church that, in a radio add offered a “face-to-face encounter with God” at their Saturday evening service. Of course, they had better hope there is not a face-to-face encounter with God. But as ludicrous as that advertisement sounds, it would have sounded downright deadly to the Old Covenant people of God.

This is what the incarnation did: it made it possible for man to see God in a way that would bless instead of destroy. God told Moses, “No one may see me and live.” But something wonderful happens through the Lord Jesus. In verse 14 John says that he and the apostles “beheld His glory…” In the opening words of his first epistle John writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (I John 1:1).

This God who was unapproachable became, in the person of Jesus, One that could be seen, heard, and touched. The God who once said, “Stay away or die!” has now come down to us. Only God could bridge that gap. It had to happen on His terms. All attempts by man to bring God down or to ascend to where God is are met with frustration or destruction. God would come in a way that he could be seen and heard and touched. But it would be in the person of Jesus and only in the person of Jesus – the Word become flesh.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

VDH on Blagojevich

If you are not familiar with the writings of Professor Victor Davis Hanson then I encourage you to read him. His books and articles offer outstanding commentary. You can access his writings in the "Current Events and Culture" section of this blog. Dr. Hanson offers the following thoughts on the scandal involving the governor of Illinois.

Here in the 21st-century are we back to the 1860s of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, or the cesspool Chicago of Mayor Big Bill Thompson in the 1920s? All our moral claims about cleaning up government, all our postmodern sophisticated ethics, our vaunted notions of ‘transparency’ are reduced to a two-bit thug in the governorship of a large state like Illinois? For all our high-tech gadgetry, or our angst about situational morality, or self-help pop therapy, we revert to a foul-mouthed, profanity-spouting wretch, trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat the way a corrupt 4th-century AD emperor auctioned off proconsulships in the twilight of the Empire? . . . .
And then there is the Mafioso braggadocio of pure, unadulterated crudity: four-letter words, pomposity, no inhibition about admitting lust for money, gratuitous slurs about everything and everybody, constant threats, an entire family to dine at the table of greed. Blagojevich is something out of Dante’s Eighth Circle of Hell, a modern-day Malacoda in the 5th bolgia. One must resort either to Al Capone’s Chicago or the villains of classical literature to match these transcripts.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

J.I. Packer on the Incarnation

"The Incarnation, this mysterious miracle at the heart of historic Christianity, is central in the New Testament witness. That Jews should ever have come to such a belief is amazing. Eight of the nine New Testament writers, like Jesus’ original disciples, were Jews, drilled in the Jewish axiom that there is only one God and that no human is divine. They all teach, however, that Jesus is God’s Messiah, the Spirit-anointed son of David promised in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa. 11:1-5; Christos, “Christ,” is Greek for Messiah). They all present him in a threefold role as teacher, sin-bearer, and ruler—prophet, priest, and king. And in other words, they all insist that Jesus the Messiah should be personally worshiped and trusted—which is to say that he is God no less than he is man. Observe how the four most masterful New Testament theologians (John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and Peter) speak to this."

Read Dr. Packer's entire article HERE.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Gospel and the Local Congregation

After the Christmas and New Year's holidays I plan on preaching a series of messages concerning the centrality of the Gospel in the life of the church. I was challenged, therefore, when I read the following post from Ligon Duncan.

One of the things I had the pleasure of chatting with Al Mohler about when I was in Louisville Friday last week was the evangel, the Gospel itself. I think that all the particpants in T4G share a passion that local congregations of Christians would be characterized by a Gospel culture, a Gospel-sharing culture, a culture of evangelism.

By that I mean: [1] that your whole congregation would be able to articulate the Gospel, personally, in a compelling and understandable way; [2] that your whole congregation would understand the importance and necessity of their lives, their prayers and their participation in Gospel witness; [3] that your whole congregation would deeply care about conversions (and I would lay stress here, that we are talking about real conversions, not numbers; disciples, not decisions; changed lives, not merely prayed prayers); [4] that your whole congregation would earnestly and regularly pray for conversions, talks about their own conversions and the conversions of others, and put a priority on people coming to know God; and [5] that your whole congregation would be excited about the Gospel itself, and not simply about a method of sharing the Gospel, or a training program.

To this end in my own congregation, it was my joy this last autumn to spend thirteen weeks of Wednesday nights, meeting with about 115 of our members, in what we called "The Gospel Course." The aim of our study in the Gospel Course was (among other things), to provide participants with: (1) a fuller understanding of the Gospel; (2) an opportunity to hone and articulate their Christian testimony; (3) an opportunity to be instructed in, observe and engage in Gospel conversations; (4) a simple, biblical, outline of the Gospel; (5) encouragements and helps to share (or more effectively share) the Gospel; (6) an opportunity to help better the evangelism equipping of our congregation; (7) the opportunity to see how all pastors of the church are involved in gospel witness; and (8) encouragement and instruction on how to engage others in the church in this Gospel culture.

Celebrating Festivus in Washington

Just when you think government beaurocrats couldn't get more ridiculous Washington State comes along and ups the ante.

In an effort to include every obscure group in the state the good folks at the Capital in Olympia have raised a glorious steel pole to celebrate "Festivus."

Here's the story from

OLYMPIA, Wash. - State officials, besieged by requests for more seasonal displays at the state Capitol, have approved several more - including a "Festivus" display honoring a faux holiday popularized by TV comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

The new display requests come on top of an anti-religion placard, a Christmas tree and a Christian nativity scene erected earlier this week and a pro-religion sign added Friday.

The state General Administration, which runs the state Capitol building, have OK'd four of the requests so far:

- On Saturday, Dec. 6: A balloon nativity shelter from a private citizen.

- On Sunday, Dec. 7: A demonstration by a group called "Private Citizens of Federal Way" against the atheistic sign will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on the front steps.

- On Monday, Dec 8: A display will go up in the capitol from the Washington Values Alliance.

- On Wednesday, Dec 10: A Festivus display from a private citizen.

According to the online reference Wikipedia, Festivus is an annual holiday invented by writer Dan O'Keefe and introduced into popular culture by his son Daniel, a scriptwriter for the TV show Seinfeld.

Most people now celebrate the holiday on Dec. 23, as depicted on the December 18, 1997, Seinfeld episode "The Strike.

"The holiday includes novel practices such as the "Airing of Grievances", in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over
the past year.

I can't wait for the airing of grievances!

Curse This Global Warming!

It's snowing in Houston and New Orleans! Over a million homes from New York to Vermont are frozen and without power!
How cold does it have to get before we realize it's getting warmer?
When will we learn that the earth's temperature never fluctuated until the invention of the internal combustion engine and the election of Republican politicians?

Press on Al Gore! We need you now more than ever.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Derek Kidner (1913-2008)

Evangelical Scholoarship suffered a loss with the passing of Derek Kidner. Kidner was a servant of the church through the careful study and teaching of the Old Testament.

During his life he served in the following positions:

Curate of St. Nicholas, Sevenoaks (1941-1947)
Vicar of Felsted (1947-1951)
Senior Tutor at Oak Hill Theological College (1951-1964)
Warden of Tyndale House in Cambridge (1964-1978)

The thing I love about Kidner's work is that it is both scholarly and accessable. He wrote with the intelligence of an academic and the warmth of a pastor for he was both. I commend his work to you. His commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms, and Proverbs have been particularly helpful to me.

Of Psalm 121 Kidner wrote,
To be kept from all evil does not imply a cushioned life, but a well-armed one. The psalm ends with a pledge which could hardly be stronger or more sweeping. Your going out and your coming in is not only a way of saying 'everything'; it draws attention to one’s ventures and enterprises and the home which remains one’s base; to pilgrimage and return; to the dawn and sunset of one’s days. But the last line takes good care of this journey. It would be hard to decide which half of it is the more encouraging: the fact that it starts from now, or that it runs on, not to the end of time but to time without end; like God Himself who is my portion for ever.

Stay out of the doghouse

A Biblical Response to Newsweek

Dr. Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has written a thorough response to Newsweek's recent cover story/endorsement of homosexual marriage (and homosexuality).

Gagnon writes:
As its cover story for the Dec. 15, 2008 issue, the editors of Newsweek offer readers a hopelessly distorted and one-sided propaganda piece on “gay marriage” entitled “Our Mutual Joy.” The 2800-word article is by Lisa Miller, religion editor and author of the “Belief Watch” column for the magazine (her academic credential is a B.A. in English at Oberlin College). She claims that Scripture actually provides strong support for validating homosexual unions and no valid opposition to “committed” homosexual practice. She quotes from scholars such as Neil Elliott and “the great Bible scholar” Walter Brueggemann, who are strongly supportive of “gay marriage.”

There is not the slightest effort on Miller’s part to think critically about her own line or reasoning. The lone voice that she cites against homosexual practice is not from a scholar but from a certain Rev. Richard Hunter, a United Methodist minister who offered a short comment for a “roundtable” discussion sponsored by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the thousand pages or so that I have written on the subject over the past decade Miller cites not a word, including my critique of Elliott’s untenable claim that Paul in Romans 1:24-27 was thinking only of the exploitative homosexual intercourse practiced by depraved emperors like Nero and Caligula; and my critique (pp. 11-12) of “Brueggemann’s” use of Gal 3:28 (“there is [in Christ] no ‘male and female’”) as support for homosexual unions (my critique is directed at Prof. Stacy Johnson of Princeton Seminary but it applies equally to Brueggemann’s claim).

Miller’s article reminds me of the equally distorted (but thankfully much shorter) op-ed article put out in The New York Times four years ago by Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof (“God and Sex,” Oct. 23, 2004). My response to Kristof, “‘God and Sex’ or ‘Pants on Fire’?”, showed how bad that piece was. My response to Miller will do the same. This essay has three primary components: a discussion of Scripture apart from the witness of Jesus; a discussion of Jesus’ witness; and concluding thoughts, which takes in also Meacham’s “Editor’s Desk” column. This is important folks because it has to do with whether or not we will hold to God's Word as the unfailing standard of truth.

You can read Dr. Gagnon's entire paper HERE.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Modernity of "Post-Modernism"

R. Scott Clark of Westminster California has written an interesting post dealing with the thoroughly modern character of so-called "post-moderns." I have argued for some time that there is nothing new or "post" about post-modernism. Ignorantly, the leaders of the Emergent Church (MacLaren, Paggit, Jones, etc.) dismiss biblically conservatives evangelicals as entrenched in modernity. To the contrary, it was precisely the prophets of modernity during the last few centuries who heaped their strongest rebukes upon evangelicals. We would do well to read J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism.

Dr. Clark writes:
One of the more shocking facets of the EV [Emergent Village] movement his how obliviously yet obviously and deeply indebted they are not only to the Anabaptists but also to the Enlightenment. For all their noise about being “postmodern,” it’s quite obvious to me that they are rather “most modern.” Their religious subjectivism is as modern as Schleiermacher and Romanticism. Their eclecticism is entirely modern. When they, as McLaren does, mashup Anglicanism with the Anabaptists they’re acting as autonomous, reality-creating, sovereign entities.

In contrast, confessional Protestants are not “creators.” We are mere creatures living in a world of divinely created givens, muddling through with a semi-realized eschatology, an epistemology that starts with divine authority, with divine revelation and which reads that revelation with the church. We begin with a ecclesiology that includes real, visible churches (sins and all) with real, visible sacraments, and real preached gospel of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone. We sit on couches and drink coffee before and after our services but during our services we hear the gospel, sing psalms, and eat bread and drink wine with the church catholic.

Read the entire post HERE.

"The worst scientific scandal in history"

The corrupt and politically compromised UN has released a statement claiming that man-made global warming is incontrovertably true and is not longer up for debate.

There are a growing number of scientists however who beg to differ.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reports on recent statements from 650 scientists who challenge the global warming hype:

POZNAN, Poland - The UN global warming conference currently underway in Poland is about to face a serious challenge from over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe who are criticizing the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore. Set for release this week, a newly updated U.S. Senate Minority Report features the dissenting voices of over 650 international scientists, many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN. The report has added about 250 scientists (and growing) in 2008 to the over 400 scientists who spoke out in 2007. The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

The U.S. Senate report is the latest evidence of the growing groundswell of scientific opposition rising to challenge the UN and Gore. Scientific meetings are now being dominated by a growing number of skeptical scientists. The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists' equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Norway in August 2008 and prominently featured the voices and views of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears. [See Full report Here: & See: Skeptical scientists overwhelm conference: '2/3 of presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the UN IPCC' ]

“I am a skeptic…Global warming has become a new religion.”
- Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, Ivar Giaever.

“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly….As a scientist I remain skeptical.”
- Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and formerly of NASA who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.”

Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history…When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.”
- UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD
environmental physical chemist.

Read the entire report HERE.

Gather 'Round Ye Children Come

One of my favorite Christmas albums is Andrew Peterson's "Behold The Lamb of God".

Your favorites?

Take and Read

Here are a few outstanding books on the character of God.

by Peter Lewis

by A.W. Pink

by Donald Macleod

by Sinclair Ferguson

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


"It must be acknowledged...that in much popular Protestantism synergism (salvation through both grace and free will) is even more evident than in Catholicism, and human reason and experience firgure more prominently than Scripture in determining the norms for faith."

- Donald Bloesch from God, Authority, and Salvation


"Alas, most 'evangelistic' preaching I know about is an effort to drag people even deeper into their subjectivity rather than an attempt to rescue them from it."

- William Willimon, United Methodist Bishop


"Christian man was born to be saved. Psychological man is born to be pleased."

Philip Rieff from The Triumph of the Therapeutic

When God's Word collides with my preferences

Check out this post from Pyromaniacs:


Derivation: In the NT, the term νομικός (nomikos) is commonly translated "lawyer." Actually in form it is an adjective meaning "law-related, legal." It is most commonly used as a noun in the Gospels to describe men who are expert in the Law of Moses (semantically overlaps grammateus. "scribe"). In forming the English word, I convert the kappa (κ) to "c," as is common in Greek-derived English words (logikos becomes "logical"; kritērion becomes "criterion," etc.).

Meaning: I plan to use this of people who have an irrational (or, at any rate, unbiblical) fear of any sort of external authority or law. We saw it some in the recent posts on God's command that we involve ourselves in local assembly, and the Biblical way a Christian sees his relationship to God.

The manifestation of nomicophobia goes something like this:
1. Cite any part of Scripture a professed Christian doesn't want to hear.
2. Tell him/her that you agree with God: Christians really should believingly obey God's Word.
3. The nomicophobe calls you a legalist.
4. That's meant to end the discussion.

It can be an effective argument, because of the elasticicity of the term "legalist."

Read the entire post HERE.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Newsweek's Sloppy Theology

Justin Taylor links to some important responses to Newsweek's latest foray into biblical studies:

Here's the tease for Lisa Miller's new Newsweek cover story on The Religious Case for Gay Marriage: "Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side."

In addition, you can read the editorial note by Newsweek editor Jon Meacham:

No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between —this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.

He goes on to suggest that homosexuality is in the same category as race, and that those opposed to gay marriage will meet the same defeat (logically and legally) as those opposed to segregation.

Al Mohler has a detailed response, and concludes in this way:

Newsweek could have offered its readers a careful and balanced review of the crucial issues related to this question. It chose another path -- and published this cover story. The magazine's readers and this controversial issue deserved better.
Mark Hemingway is more curt:

So should I be surprised that Lisa Miller, Newsweek's religion reporter natch, can't even get through the first paragraph of her story without evincing an understanding of Christianity and its basic texts that is grossly oversimplified and distorted, filtered through an almost exclusively liberal political lens, not to mention catty and downright insulting?

Read the entire post HERE.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Repackaging Old Liberalism

Check out this excellent article by Mike Wittmer entitled "Machen or McLaren: A New Kind of Liberalism?" The paper was originally presented to the Evangelical Theological Society.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dumbing Down Sin

Spencer Burke, author of the aptly titled "A Heretic's Guide to Eternity" writes in characteristic post-modern fashion:

"Although the link between grace and sin has driven Christianity for centuries, it just doesn’t resonate in our culture anymore. It repulses rather than attracts. People are becoming much less inclined to acknowledge themselves as ‘sinners in need of a Savior.’ It’s not that people view themselves as perfect; it’s that the language they use to describe themselves has changed. “Broken,” “fragmented,” and “lacking wholeness”—these are some of the new ways people describe their spiritual need. What resonates is a sense of disconnection."

Burke is not interested in what is true or biblical but in what "attracts" or "resonate[s] in our culture." In this way the typical pomo/emergent types are no different from the mega-church marketers that they criticize.

Notice the difference between Burke and his pomo/emergent fellows and the words of J. Gresham Machen, the great champion of evangelicalism in the early 20th century:
“If sin is so trifling a matter as the liberal Church supposes, then indeed the curse of God’s law can be taken very lightly, and God can easily let by-gones be by-gones.” But “If a man has once come under a true conviction of sin, he will have little difficulty with the doctrine of the Cross.”

Preaching as Ambassadors

Truth and doctrine, are to be preached always, openly, and firmly, and are never to be dissembled or concealed; for there is no offence in them; they are a staff of uprightness.--And who gave you the power, or committed to you the right, of confining the Christian doctrine to persons, places, times, and causes, when Christ wills it to be proclaimed, and to reign freely, throughout the world?

He does not say--preach it to some and not to others.

You see therefore, again, how rashly you run against the Word of God, as though you preferred far before it, your own counsel and cogitations.

Martin Luther from...

"Erasmus' Preface Reviewed, Section XXI," The Bondage of the Will

Still Offensive

It is a blessed and solemn thing to preach Christ and Him crucified. Christ's atoning work is the centerpiece of our faith and ground of our hope. It is simultaneously God's most graphic display of love and excrusiating moment of judgement. The cross is where God's justice and mercy meet. It is the complete vindication of His holiness and the most outrageous expression of His love. The cross is the grand fulfillment of God's redemptive purpose.

But the cross is still offensive. Indeed, the cross is just as weak and foolish and scandalous as it was when Jesus began announcing his intention to go to Jerusalem and die.

What is surprising is to see what a stumbling block the cross is in the church. Too many professing Christians want a helpful Jesus-as-lifecoach. They don't want the bloodied Messiah weighed down under the wrath of God for our sin. They want a guru, a spiritual advisor, or a divine guaranteur of success and health. The crucified Substitute however is still the scandalon.

The words of an email I received yesterday illustrate the point well:
"Must every sermon be about Christ bloodied and dying on the cross as the 'real' meaning of Christmas shared by the 'enlightened' as if we hadn't heard it before? Isn't there enough time during Lent, Easter and the rest of the year to teach that lesson?"

Of course, yesterday was my first sermon as pastor of COS. But so far, everyone of them has dealt with the centrality of Christ and Him crucified. We'll see what the second sermon brings.

The man who sent that email went on to praise the ministry and teaching of Joel Osteen which I believe is very instructive. I will not ridicule the man. That is why I will not print his name or the entire message. Clearly he is someone in pain. I pray that the Lord will change his heart.

I would simply say that too many evangelicals haven't "heard it before." Clearly that lesson has not been taught adequately "during Lent, Easter and the rest of the year."

I suppose if there is something wrong with our preaching of the cross if we never get messages like the one I received yesterday.