Saturday, January 31, 2009

Islam's Trojan Horse

In an article for World Magazine Cal Thomas comments on the continued naive attempts by American politicians to offer olive branches to radical islamists.

He writes:

"In an exquisite example of self-delusion, nine “alumni” of a Saudi rehabilitation program that is supposed to change the minds of “ex-jihadists” have been arrested for rejoining terrorist groups. The idea of Saudi re-education camps for “ex-jihadists” is something like expecting the Ku Klux Klan to change the minds of white supremacists. Saudi Arabia fuels jihadism by exporting the most radical brand of Islam, Wahabism. Why would Westerners believe that a country responsible for radicalizing increasing numbers of Muslims could suddenly reverse itself and start teaching the opposite? A Saudi kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.

"Instead of listening to the sound of our own voices, we should be listening more to the sound of their voices, like that of deputy emir of al-Qaida and former Guantanamo prisoner Abu Sufyan Al-Azdi Sa’id Al-Shihri, who can be seen in a video ( promising to continue jihad until “we set up an Islamic state and establish a caliphate.” In another video, the emir of al-Qaida, Abu Basir Nasir al-Wahishi, says, “We must cut off the aid to the Zionist crusader military campaign and kill every crusader in our lands"...

"In the forthcoming book Al-Hijra: The Islamic Doctrine of Immigration: Accepting Freedom or Imposing Islam? (Pilcrow Press), written by two former Muslims, Sam Solomon and Elias Al Maqdisi, “The Hijra was enshrined by Muhammad from the outset within Islam as the ‘Doctrine of Immigration,’ or the ‘peaceful’ means of extending the Islamic political state garbed and girded in religious terminology. Hijra and military conquest are two components of Islamic expansion.” The cover art is of a Trojan horse."

Read the entire article HERE.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Erosion of Inerrancy

Check out this forum with Carl Trueman and Greg Beale. Great stuff.

Also, if you would like to challenge yourself with a little deep reading you may want to get Dr. Beale's new book The Erosion of Inerrancy or J.I. Packer's classic Fundamentalism and the Word of God.

"A Polemic Book"

"Men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error. But if we follow that advice we shall have to close our Bible and desert its teachings. The New Testament is a polemic book almost from beginning to end.

"Some years ago I was in a company of teachers of the Bible in the colleges and other educational institutions of America. One of the most eminent theological professors in the country made an address. In in he admitted that there are unfortunate controversies about doctrine in the Epistles of Paul; but, said he in effect, the real essence of Paul's teaching is found in the hymn to Christian love in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians; and we can avoid controversy today, if we will only devote the chief attention to that inspiring hymn.

"In reply, I am bound to say that the example was singularly ill-chosen. That hymn to Christian love is in the midst of a great polemic passage; it would never have been written if Paul had been opposed to controversy with error in the church. It was because his soul was stirred within him by a wrong use of the spiritual gifts that he was able to write that glorious hymn. So it is always in the church. Every really great Christian utterance, it may almost be said, is born in controversy. It is when men have felt compelled to take a stand against error that they have risen to the really great heights in the celebration of truth."

- J. Gresham Machen

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why So Serious?

"We meet it most [a general ecumenical outlook] in the form of an all-pervasive climate of opinion which dislikes anything that is really distinctive in doctrine or in life, which demands, indeed, ever less emphasis on doctrine, on definition, or on ethical principle.

"Never was a time when polemics in any form was at such a discount. There have been periods in history when the preservation of the very life of the church depended upon the capacity and readiness of certain great leaders to differentiate truth from error and boldly to hold fast to the good and to reject the false; but our generation does not like anything of the kind. It is against any clear and precise demarcation of truth and error."

- D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

Revival and Controversy

"Every true revival is born in controversy, and leads to more controversy. That has been true ever since our Lord said that he came not to bring peace upon the earth but a sword. And do you know what I think will happen when God sends a new reformation upon the church? We cannot tell when that blessed day will come. But when the blessed day does come, I think we can say at least one result that it will bring. We shall hear nothing on that day about the evils of controversy in the church. All that will be swept away as with a mighty flood. A man who is on fire with a message never talks in that wretched, feeble way, but proclaims the truth joyously and fearlessly, in the presence of every high thing that is lifted up against the gospel of Christ."
- J. Gresham Machen

Sometimes it's how you say it

That's a lesson I still find myself learning.

I know that I can be sarcastic at times. I also know that some folks hate sarcasm and often times for good reason. As someone who has a gift for gab it is not that unusual for me to sin with my tongue (or keyboard). Anyway, I just wanted you all to know that I am going to be working on my tone. It's not because I have been flooded with criticisms. Rather, I had a good talk with someone about this issue and I felt convicted that sometimes I can communicate a truth in a way that is not very helpful for some (particularly for those who don't really know me).

That is not to say that there is not a biblical category for satire, polemic, and even open mockery of error. However, I don't want to be perceived as a jerk because I'm pretty sure I'm not one. I will not stop speaking up on issues that matter but I will be more mindful of how I say certain things.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Truth is never in fashion

I like Mark Driscoll even though some of his words and methods drive me a bit crazy. Nevertheless I rejoice in his commitment to Scripture and sound doctrine. I am also reminded of the fact that as much as I would like to be liked by everyone, as preacher I know this is not possible. I know what it is to be on the receiving end of some pretty vicious words. The challenge is how to remain sensative and at the same time have very thick skin. It ain't easy.

30 Days of Nothing

My wife pointed out this site to me this evening. I started reading it and was deeply challenged.

Let me know what you think.

Anyone up for it?

Total Church

One of the most significant book I have read on the church is Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. It has helped shaped my thinking about how the Gospel functions as the center of the church. It truly is an important book by two men who are not only theologians but church planters as well (what a great combination!). The COS staff is currently reading Total Church together.

Mike McKinley who pastors in Virginia and blogs over at Church Matters has posted three interviews with Steve Timmis. I encourage you to read the interviews and the book. Incidentally, Mike grew up at Church of the Saviour.

John Updike

John Updike, one the most acclaimed American novelists of the 20th century died yesterday at the age of 76. Updike was a fascinating man. He was a lifelong church member. Having grown up Lutheran, he later became an Episcopalian. It seems to me that Updike was a pretty good embodiment of a Christian engaged in the arts. Most his novels dealt with matters of faith and Christian orthodoxy. What kept many Christians from embracing him was the fact that he wrote very frankly about sex. Nevertheless, when Updike was good, he was great. His Rabbit novels are appropriately considered classics. I also highly recommend "In The Beauty of The Lillies" which is one of my favorite novels.

Check out this excellent article on John Updike and religion.

Good Movies

Now for something a little less controversial.

Justin Taylor links to a list of "The Ten Most Redeeming Films of 2008." You can check out the list HERE.

Any thoughts?

Any you would add to or take off the list?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How to speak truth to power

I know that some will not like that I posted this video. But everything Dr. Piper says here is true. I know that some want me to shut up about abortion, particularly the political connections. I have been asked to stop. But I trust you will understand that I cannot do this. We as a people must not be silent. We must be loving. But we must not send any conflicting signals that abortion is anything less than an abomination.

I am posting a lot on abortion these days because it is back in the news and last week saw the anniversary of Roe V. Wade. I am also posting a lot about this these days because too many evangelicals are dimming in their holy zeal against this great evil.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Take and Read

I love this book. "The Great Work of the Gospel" by John Ensor is one of the best explanations and celebrations of the Gospel I have ever read. Ensor first establishes the need for the cross then goes on to discuss what the cross accomplished. It is readable, biblically faithful, devotional, and doxological. Add it to your "must read" list.

These People Scare Me

When Nancy Pelosi (or any pro-abortion politician) says "family planning" they really mean abortion.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday's Sermon

Click HERE to listen to part two in the current series The Gospel-Driven Church. The name of the message is "The Centrality of the Gospel."

Friday, January 23, 2009

You are now paying for abortions

“America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters.”

- Mother Teresa

Now consider that President Barack Obama has signed an executive order that ensures that our tax dollars will go to fund abortion. That's right. In the midst of all that is going on in our country and our world our new President found time to make sure you and I will help pay for abortions. Elections have consequences and President Obama is keeping his promises to the pro-abortion left.

Check out this story from ABC News:

President Obama signed an executive order today reversing the ban that prohibits funding to international family planning groups that provide abortions, as first reported by ABC News.

Under the hotly debated "Mexico City Policy," the U.S. government could not provide funding for family planning services to clinics or groups that offered abortion-related services overseas, even if funding for those activities came from non-government sources. It essentially barred recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a method of family planning.

If organizations received government funding, they would "agree as a condition of their receipt of federal funds that such organizations would neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."
Read the entire story HERE.

The Tragic Legacy of Roe Vs. Wade

Dr. Robert George of Princeton has written an important article for Public Discourse on the moral implications of Roe Vs. Wade.

Dr. George writes:

‘The Roe justices were also wrong to imagine that legal abortion would prove to be enlightened or in the slightest respect humane. On the contrary, the policy imposed by the Court has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. In the thirty-six years since Roe and Doe, abortion has taken the lives of more than fifty million unborn victims—each a distinct, unique, precious human being. It has done immeasurable moral, psychological, and sometimes physical harm to women who are so very often, and in so many respects, truly abortion’s “secondary victims.” It has corrupted physicians and nurses by turning healers into killers. It has undermined the moral authority of the law by its injustice. It has abetted irresponsible—even predatory—male sexual behavior. Far from reducing the rate of out-of-wedlock births, particularly to poor women, illegitimacy has skyrocketed in the age of abortion. Now the abortion license has metastasized into widespread elite support for deadly embryo experimentation and even, in my home state of New Jersey, to the express legalization of the horrific and grisly practice of fetal farming—the creation of human beings by cloning or other processes for the purpose of harvesting their tissues and organs at any point up to birth for experimentation and transplantation...

The Republican Party’s support for the unborn has brought into its ranks many disaffected rank-and-file Democrats, including a large number of Catholics and Evangelicals. I am one. Indeed, it overstates the matter only a bit to say that, as a result of the conflict of worldviews that began with abortion, the Republicans have become the party of the religiously engaged, while the Democrats have become the party of liberal secularists. Barack Obama is trying to win over religiously serious Catholics and Evangelicals, without altering in the slightest his support for abortion, including late-term and partial-birth abortions, the funding of abortion and embryo-destructive research with taxpayer dollars, the elimination of informed consent and parental notification laws, and the revocation of conscience and religious liberty protections for pro-life doctors and other healthcare workers and pharmacists. He will ultimately fail. We must see to it that he fails.

Read the entire article HERE.

You might be aborted if...

Check out THIS post from The Confabulum.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Take and Read

Check out this new book on offering biblical counsel to teens. If you are the parent of a teen or will be the parent of the teen then this promises to be a very helpful resource.

Also, right now you can get a copy from Westminster Bookstore for only $4.88 (65% off).

* Update - The copies of "Get Outa My Face" that were available at 65% off are sold out. It is however still available through Westminster Bookstore at 35% off.

Presidential Promises

President Barack Obama has kept his promise to put an end to the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. Today he signed an executive order that the prison for terrorist combatants be closed within a year. Naive? Certainly. The men held at Gitmo are not nice fellas and no country in the world wants them. Perhaps we can put them into a job training program. Perhaps that can be established in Berkeley, California.

President Obama also promised Planned Parenthood that his first act as president would be to sign the "Freedom of Choice Act" which will put an end to all restrictions on abortion. It is a truly evil piece of legislation. At this point he has not kept his promise. His first act was to allow for the release of enemy terrorists. We must pray that God changes the heart of our President so that he will come to embrace the preciousness of life within the womb.

Here is a blog post from John Piper that I found quite appropriate:

On January 12, 2009 Samantha Heiges, age 23, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for drowning her newborn in Burnsville, Minnesota. If she had arranged for a doctor to kill the child a few weeks earlier she would be a free woman.

What are the differences between this child before and after birth that would justify it’s protection just after birth but not just before? There are none. This is why Abraham Lincoln’s reasoning about slavery is relevant in ways he could not foresee. He wrote:

You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.

You do not mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own.

But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest; you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you. (“Fragments: On Slavery")

There are no morally relevant differences between white and black or between child-in-the-womb and child-outside-the-womb that would give a right to either to enslave or kill the other.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What happens to rich preachers in a recession?

"First of all, we don't have two Rolls-Royces. And secondly, the one Rolls-Royce that was purchased was purchased by the donors, or the members of the church, and it was a surprise to me. I had no idea they were doing it."
- Creflo Dollar

Christianity Today reports on a real tear jerker: Prosperity preachers are facing the possibility of scaling back on their lavish lifestyles during these hard financial times. Kenneth Copeland, for example has learned that he will have to pay taxes on one of his jets. Oh the humanity! What's next? Fewer diamonds for Gloria?! Will TBN have to do with fewer pieces of gilded furniture? Will Benny Hinn be able to continue paying for his gravity-defying comb-over?

Craig Blomberg, author of a 2001 study of prosperity theology, said he expects the movement to "take a small hit among those who recognize that it can't deliver on what it promises."

But many followers could view the financial difficulties as consequences for sin and personal failings—from Weeks's assault conviction to the Whites' divorce—and determine to try that much harder to please God and prosper themselves, he suggested.

"Some may well interpret this as judgment on the leaders who have abused their positions or proved immoral in other respects," said Blomberg, a New Testament professor at Denver Seminary. "And many may simply assume this is the time to call others and themselves to an even truer faith so that the 'system will work' as it is supposed to in their minds."

Read the entire article HERE.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sunday's Sermon

Click HERE to listen to the first message ("The Matter of First Importance") in our new series of messages The Gospel-Driven Church.

Take and Read

One of my favorite books on the cross is Cross Words by Paul Wells. Dr. Wells is a professor of systematic theology and a pastor. As a result his book is theologically rigorous and highly accessible.

The doctrine of the atonement is under constant threat. The church is never in short supply of those who call for us to redefine Christianity or re-imagine the Gospel. In our own day influential evangelicals call the biblical doctrine of the atonement "cosmic child abuse" (Steve Chalk, Brian McLaren). Others are saying that the cross was God's attempt to gain "moral authority" and to learn to understand us (Clark Pinnock). What is at stake is the church's most precious treasure and God's powerful means by which He brings sinners to salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-5).

Cross Words is a gracious but clear refutation of these attempts as well as a moving reaffirmation of the biblical doctrine of Christ's substitutionary atonement.
The cross was a sacrifice for sin. It turned away God's legitimate anger at man's rebellion. It abolished sin and established righteousness. It satisfied God's conditions for redemption. It made perfect peace between God and sinners. It laid the foundation for a new creation. Whenever the glory of the cross is fully appreciated it inspires faith, hope, and love.
- Paul Wells

A Prayer for President Obama

Check out this prayer offered by Al Mohler for our new President. Don't simply read it but make it your prayer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

Andrew Wyeth, the greatest American Artist of the 20th century (along with Edward Hopper) died on January 16 at the age of 91. His watercolors are peerless. He captured the beautiful landscapes of the northeast, particularly near his home in Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania. His realism was a refreshing reminder of what art ought to be in contrast to charlatans like Andy Warhol.

A Heretic Chatters to the Wind

Bishop Gene Robinson offers his blasphemous "prayer" to his own personal god.

Total Church

Beginning this week the pastoral leadership of COS will be discussing the book Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. I have found Total Church to be one of the most helpful and challenging books I have read on the church. The authors are not reinventing the church. Rather they are seeking to align our practice of "doing church" with what the Bible teaches. The thesis of the book is that the church is designed by God to be centered on the Gospel and community.

The authors write:

Our identity as Christians is defined by the gospel and community. Being gospel-centered actually involves two things. First it means being word-centered because the gospel is a word - the gospel is news, a message. Second, it means being mission-centered because the gospel is a word to be proclaimed - the gospel is good news, a missionary message...
So being gospel-centered means being word-centered and being mission-centered. The exists both through the gospel and for the gospel. At one level this is a motherhood-and-apple-pie declaration. Few Christians are going to object to being gospel-centered, just as no one is against mothers and apple pie. The problem is the gap between our rhetoric and the reality of our practice. The continual challenge for us is to apply this principle to church life and ministry without compromise...
The challenge before us it to make the gospel the center of our lives not just on Sunday mornings but on Monday mornings. This means ending distinctions between "full-timers" and "part-timers" and people with secular employment in our team and leadership structures. We need non-full-time leaders who can model whole-life, gospel-centered, missional living. It means thinking of our workplaces, homes, and neighborhoods as the location of mission. We need to plan and pray for gospel relationships. This means creating church cultures in which we see normal, celebrating day-to-day gospel living in a secular world and discussions of how we can use our daily routines for the gospel.

I highly recommend Total Church. If you attend Church of the Saviour and would like to read what the pastors will be reading and discussing in the weeks ahead then I would encourage you to get a copy of Total Church. It is one of those books I would like to see every member of COS read.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Good Day

Thanks to Church of the Saviour for a terrific day. They formally installed me as their Senior Pastor/Teacher. They brought my parents and in-laws out for the occassion. It was a very generous thing to do. The kindness shown by the congregation was encouraging beyond words. I was also happy to recognize once again the hard work of the pastoral search committee. Ron Matthews and our elder leadership did a great job of making the installation a meaningful event.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Exponential Change

I would interested to know how you would answer the closing question of this video.

Prayer Week Sermons

Click HERE for the sermon audio from Prayer Week 2009.

The theme was "The God to Whom We Pray."

Messages in the series:
1a. Praying in Light of Eternity
1b. Praying in Light of Eternity (The Vine)
2. Praying To the Father - (Philip Ryken)
3. Praying Through the Son
4. Praying By the Holy Spirit

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More on Bishop Robinson

Of Bishop Robinson's inclusion in the inaugural festivities Al Mohler writes:

One interesting facet of the controversies over Warren and Robinson is the fact that the inclusion of the one does not placate the critics of the other. Homosexual activists are still angry over the choice of Warren to deliver the invocation on January 20. A host of others will be offended by the choice of Bishop Robinson. These two responses illustrate the depth of the divide over the issue of homosexuality. The question cuts to the heart of issues including biblical authority and the very nature of humanity. Representation is undoubtedly symbolic, but Rick Warren and Gene Robinson represent radically divergent worldviews and incommensurate goals. They are not two very different representatives of one religion. They are instead two very symbolic representatives of two very different

That point is made clear courtesy of Bishop Robinson. Consider this section of the report in The New York Times:

Bishop Robinson said he had been reading inaugural prayers through history and was “horrified” at how “specifically and aggressively Christian they were.”

“I am very clear,” he said, “that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that. The texts that I hold as sacred are not sacred texts for all Americans, and I want all people to feel that this is their prayer.”

Bishop Robinson said he might address the prayer to “the God of our many understandings,” language that he said he learned from the 12-step program he attended for his alcohol addiction.

Keep in mind that this man is the Bishop of New Hampshire for the Episcopal Church. He is "horrified" by the character of previous inaugural prayers as "specifically and aggressively Christian."

We can be fairly sure that, for Bishop Robinson, "specifically" and "aggressively" mean more or less the same thing. A review of most recent inaugural prayers reveals virtually nothing that could be fairly described as "aggressive" and remarkably little that can be described as "specific." The last two inaugurations have included prayers with greater specificity, to be sure.

The bishop's comments reveal just about everything one needs to know about his theology. He pledges that "this will not be a Christian prayer" and he "won't be quoting Scripture or anything like that." No, nothing like that.

Read the entire post HERE.

Heretic to Pray at Inaugural Event

Mike Allen at reports on the invitation to the openly homosexual Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire to pray at an inaugural event.

‘The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who was elected the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop in 2003, will deliver the invocation for Sunday’s kickoff inaugural event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said.

"President-elect Obama is scheduled to attend the afternoon event, which is free and open to the public.

"The president-elect has respect for the Rt. Rev. Robinson, who offered his advice and counsel over the past couple of years,” an inaugural official said. “It also has the benefit of further reinforcing our commitment to an open and inclusive inaugural."

Read the entire post HERE.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Westminster Seminary and Scripture

Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia has recently released a document consisting of affirmations and denials regarding the nature of the Bible and biblical interpretation.

Those familiar with the issues surrounding professor Pete Enns' departure know the controversy that WTS has been dealing with. We should pray that God will continue to watch over and bless this great seminary.

You can read the document "Affirmations and Denials Regarding Recent Issues" HERE.

Prayer Week Message 1

You can listen to or download my first message from Prayer Week (Praying in Light of Eternity) by clicking HERE.

Praying By the Holy Spirit

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life;
who proceedeth from the Father and the Son;
who with the Father and the Son together
is worshipped and glorified;
who spake by the prophets.”

In Scripture it is made clear that the Father is the object of our praying. But it is equally clear that we are able to call upon the Father only because of the Spirit of adoption who brings us into the relationship with the Father. Paul writes:

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17).

It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the freedom and confidence to approach the Father’s throne.

The Holy Spirit has been described as “the shy member of the Trinity.” This is not because he is somehow a lesser part of the Godhead. Rather, it seems that the Holy Spirit constantly points us to the Father and the Son rather than Himself. He is the means of regeneration by which we become children of the Father. Also, the Spirit seems to take particular joy in glorifying the Son (Jn 15:26; 16:14).

We also know that the Holy Spirit is our Comforter who is just like Jesus. He dwells within the hearts of God’s people (Jn 14:17). He is the Counselor who leads us into the truth (Jn 16:13). He is the One who convicts of sin (Jn 16:7-11). The Holy Spirit is also the agent of inspiration by which the Word of God was inscripturated (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Additionally, the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in our praying. Paul writes:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

When it comes to knowing how and for what we should pray we must be taught. The Spirit is the agent of the Godhead who teaches us to pray. What is more, like Jesus, the Spirit intercedes for us. Imagine it. In the courts of heaven we have the blessing of both the Son’s and Spirit’s intercession on our behalf. Once again we see the beautiful mystery of God’s Trinitarian nature being revealed through the means of prayer. Tim Chester writes:

“True prayer is thoroughly Trinitarian and can only be Trinitarian. The Father invites us to call upon Him through the Son by the Spirit…The Father is the one to whom we pray and who graciously hears our prayers. The Son is the one who mediates, giving us access to the Father. The Spirit is the one who enables us to pray, disposing us to pray to God where once we were hostile towards him.”

Monday, January 12, 2009

Learning From Our Past

Through the generosity of a friend I am a subcriber to World Magazine. If you do not subscribe I highly recommend that you do.

In the latest issue includes an important article on the history of abortion by Marvin Olasky.

Professor Olasky writes:

To save the lives of more unborn Americans we should see how our pro-life predecessors succeeded in the past—and by the past I don't mean only the past three decades but the past two centuries. It's conventional to think of the abortion horror as a product of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but research I've done at the Library of Congress shows that abortion on the eve of the Civil War was more frequent, in proportion to the U.S. population, than it is now.

You have not just read a misprint. Roughly 160,000 abortions occurred in 1860 in a population of 30 million. Probably about 1.2 million abortions (13 percent of them through RU-486) occurred last year in a population estimated at around 307 million. The horrific current number is obviously no cause for self-congratulation, but reputable forecasters at the time of Roe v. Wade were predicting a butcher's bill of more than 4 million abortions annually by now.

Read the entire articles HERE.

When we pray...

“When we pray we make our request known to God by the help of the Holy Spirit; in the name, authority, and mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ; with faith, fervency, and submission to the will of God; and with sole reference to his honor and glory.”

- Walt Kaiser

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Measuring "NOOMA"

Greg Gilbert over at IV Marks offers three very helpful reviews of Rob Bell's popular video series Nooma.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Theological Cover for Pro-Abortion Politicians

Anne Hendershott at the Wall Street Journal has written a fascinating article on the Kennedy family's transformation from pro-life to pro-abortion. She reports on a meeting at the Kennedy compound in 1964 where several Roman Catholic theologians and leaders provided a theological rationale for their politically necessary support for abortion.

She writes:

Caroline Kennedy knows that any Kennedy desiring higher office in the Democratic Party must now carry the torch of abortion rights throughout any race. But this was not always the case. Despite Ms. Kennedy's description of Barack Obama, in a New York Times op-ed, as a "man like my father," there is no evidence that JFK was pro-choice like Mr. Obama. Abortion-rights issues were in the fledgling stage at the state level in New York and California in the early 1960s. They were not a national concern.

Even Ted Kennedy, who gets a 100% pro-choice rating from the abortion-rights group Naral, was at one time pro-life. In fact, in 1971, a full year after New York had legalized abortion, the Massachusetts senator was still championing the rights of the unborn. In a letter to a constituent dated Aug. 3, 1971, he wrote: "When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception."

But that all changed in the early '70s, when Democratic politicians first figured out that the powerful abortion lobby could fill their campaign coffers (and attract new liberal voters). Politicians also began to realize that, despite the Catholic Church's teachings to the contrary, its bishops and priests had ended their public role of responding negatively to those who promoted a pro-choice agenda.

Read the entire article HERE.

Al Mohler has posted some valuable commentary on Miss Hendershott's article HERE.

Praying Through the Son

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea;
A Great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
- Charitie Lees de Chenez

What does it mean when Christians end their prayer with, “in Jesus’ name”? Too often those words are treated as little more than a postscript or a magic charm invoked to make the prayer more effective. But what is the real significance of praying in Jesus’ name? In the book of Hebrews God reveals to us the role of Jesus in our praying:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).
One of the roles of a priest is that he intercedes for God’s people. That is, he prays for them. He takes their sins, their needs, and their frailties before the throne of God. Every priest under the Old Covenant served merely as a shadow of the substance to come in Christ who would be our great and final High Priest. What an intercessor we have in Christ!

The One who knows us even better than we know ourselves intercedes for us in the courts of heaven. The Lord is on our side. We pray in Jesus’ name because as a member of the Godhead, the dearly loved Son of God, Jesus occupies a place of unique authority and power. We pray in Jesus’ name because, while we are weak, He is strong.

J.I. Packer sums up the doctrine of Christ as our heavenly intercessor with characteristic insight:

The reigning Lord intercedes for his people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). Though requesting from the Father is part of the interceding activity (John 14:16), the essence of Christ’s intercession is intervention in our interest (from his throne) rather than supplication on our behalf (as if his position were one of sympathy without status or authority). In sovereignty he now lavishes upon us the benefits that his suffering won for us. “He pleads [for us]—by his presence on his Father’s throne” (B. F. Westcott). “Our Lord’s life in heaven is his prayer” (H. B. Swete). From his throne he sends the Holy Spirit constantly to enrich his people (Acts 2:33; John 16:7-14) and equip them for service (Eph. 4:8-12).
Prayer, for the people of God, is an act of trust in God’s complete satisfaction in the cross work of Christ. Christians do not pray in order to appease God. Rather we are able to pray precisely because Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath so that we could approach with confidence His throne of grace. Our praying is made possible by the atoning work of Christ.

Graham Goldsworthy writes:

“Problems emerge when the task of praying is urged without the motive and pattern of the unique saving role of Jesus. It then becomes a legalistic burden that cannot promote godliness…Prayer that is not the grateful response of the justified sinner is likely to degenerate into an attempt to gain acceptance.”

John Calvin wrote:
“Since no man is worthy to present himself to God and come into his sight, the Heavenly Father himself, to free us at once from shame and fear, which might well have thrown our hearts into despair, has given us his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to be our advocate and mediator with him, by whose guidance we may confidently come to him, and with such an intercessor, trusting nothing we ask in his name will be denied us, as nothing can be denied to him by the Father.”

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Praying to The Father

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.’”
- Matthew 6:9

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
- Romans 8:15

We generally begin prayers by addressing the Father. This is not by accident or personal preference. There is a profound theological and historical coherence attached to addressing our prayers to God our Father. Long before the baptism of Jesus when God announced from heaven, “This is my beloved Son…” he referred to the people of Israel as His son: “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me’” (Ex. 4:22, 23). In this way God established that His people would be as a son to Him.

Notice that God grants to His people the status of sons as He prepares to deliver them from captivity that they might worship Him. God’s first reference to His people as sons happens as He prepares to perform the greatest act of redemption under the Old Covenant. Tim Chester writes, “To begin prayer by calling on the liberating Father was to recognize in Jesus the beginning a new exodus – a new act of liberation. Calling on God as Father in this way was a way of aligning oneself with this act of liberation."

In this way we understand that the arc of biblical revelation points us to the reality that having God as Father is something granted only through his work of redemption. That is, God is our Father only through Jesus Christ. We are not born children God. Indeed we are born “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath” (Eph 2:1-3). We are God’s children only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Calvin writes, “In calling God ‘Father’ we put forward the name ‘Christ’.”

We must remember that the Fatherhood of God in no way diminishes the full range of His attributes. God is neither indulgent nor capricious. He is not cruel nor is He our pal. He is the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. He is the Sovereign Lord over history. He is the Judge of all the earth. God is a consuming fire. But rather than diminishing His love these truths make God’s tender love all the more profound. The One who told Moses, “No one can see me and live” has, through Christ Jesus made us His sons and daughters.

This ought to give to us a strong sense of freedom in our praying. God would be within His rights to insist that we come before Him as slaves before a frightening master. But in His mercy God insists that we relate to Him as Father. Certainly we come to God our Father in reverence and awe. But we also approach His throne of grace in confidence as dearly loved children approach a loving parent.

“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

- Galatians 4:1-4

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gene Veith on our cult of celebrity

Gene Edward Veith coins a new word: CELEBRITOCRACY

Reports are that Barack Obama is appointing as Surgeon General that doctor guy on CNN, Sanjay Gupta. By that logic, Michelle Malkin suggests Judge Judy for the next Supreme Court opening.

Comedian Al Franken will likely be the Senator from Minnesota. Kennedy princess Carolyn Kennedy may well be the Senator from New York. We already have a body-builder action-movie star as governor of California.

Maybe we should just turn everything over to the celebrities whom we adore. Some societies have had aristocracy (rule of the “best”) and others have had plutocracy (rule of the rich). We used to have democracy (rule of “the people”) until the people found that boring and an interruption of their entertainment. I think we are ready for celebritocracy (rule of the celebrities).

[That is a new word, as far as I know. Use it and make it spread. It would be the pinnacle of my achievements to add a word to the English language and to get a credit in a future edition of The Oxford English Dictionary. UPDATE: Bob Hunter tells me the word is already out there. Foiled again! FURTHER UPDATE: Others of you are piling on. Stop tormenting me for my failure!]

What other celebrities would you suggest for high government office?

OK, I’ll go first:

(1) Kiefer Sullivan for Director of the CIA. (As Jack Bauer, he would surely know more about espionage than Leon Panetta.)

(2) Sen. Fred Thompson for Attorney General. (He did such a good job at that on Law and Order.)

Our Father in Heaven

Next week Church of the Saviour launches Prayer Week 2009. With that in mind I will be posting some essays dealing with prayer, particularly The Lord's Prayer.

Michael Horton, always worth reading, wrote a series of articles on the Lord's Prayer for Modern Reformation.

Here is a portion of an essay he wrote on Jesus' words "Our Father in Heaven."
St. Augustine spoke of the essence of original sin as being "curved in"on ourselves, much as an older person might be bent over, unable to see more than a few feet ahead. Such a person's world is often tragically limited and joyless, as he or she is unable to take in the beauty of the world beyond his or her own two feet.

It cannot be denied that in our worship, we may as well pray, "Our Audience, which art on earth"; in our religion, "...hallowed (or at least greatly esteemed) be our name"; in our lifestyles, "...our kingdom come, our will be done in heaven as it is on earth. Give us today our daily indulgences and help us to love and forgive ourselves just as we love and forgive others. Lead us not into difficulty, suffering, or unhappiness, but deliver us from unmet needs. For ours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, at least here and now, which is what really counts anyway." We suffer from the disease Augustine described as incurvitas, we are "curved in"on ourselves. Or, to reverse Nebuchadnezzar's confession, we have not raised our eyes to heaven and have thus caved in to the culture's Siren song of insanity.
Read the entire essay HERE.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Scott McKnight gets a little snotty

N.T. Wright needs to be a little more discerning about who endorses his books.

The following is Scott McKnight's endorsement of Wright's latest offering which is a response to John Piper's book on the doctrine of justification.
"Tom Wright has out-Reformed America's newest religious zealots--the neo-Reformed--by taking them back to Scripture and to its meaning in its historical context. Wright reveals that the neo-Reformed are more committed to tradition than to the sacred text. This irony is palpable on every page of this judicious, hard-hitting, respectful study."
- Scott McKnight

R. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California offers an appropriate response to McKnight's endorsement/insult:

That would be Tom Wright’s latest. Check out the eclectic endorsements. The emergent/-ing guys really like NTW/the NPP (HT: Justin Taylor). Mike Bird loves it. No surprise there. It’s a little bizarre to see endorsement from Rob Bell and Brian McLaren. When I think of Pauline studies, I don’t think of Brian and Rob, at least not right away. Have they been doing serious work in Paul under pseudonyms?

What might surprise some is the rhetoric of the nice, sweet, gentle, pietist, emerging Scot McKnight who calls some of NTW’s critics “neo-Reformed” (I’m not sure what that’s about; is he suggesting that, were Calvin alive he would side with NTW) and “zealots.” I guess coffee, couches, and candles doesn’t do much to lower the ol’ BP. Perhaps Scot needs to step away from the Starbucks and try a little (communion) wine.

I wonder if any of these folk bothered to read Mike Horton’s Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ?

Monday, January 5, 2009

The God to Whom We Pray

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”
- Jeremiah 24:7

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
- John 17:3

“You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee.”
- Augustine

There is nothing more important for us than to know God. There is no more precious knowledge than the knowledge of God. He is the object of our worship, the author of our salvation, and the hearer of our prayers. God’s glory is the supreme treasure in the universe and His nearness is our greatest good. He is the appropriate object of our earthly pursuits and will be the source of our eternal delights.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us what is the true measure of status in the Lord’s eyes: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’” When Paul explained to the Colossian congregation his prayers for them concerning their spiritual growth he wrote, “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

Much of the spiritual malaise that affects the lives of so many Christians corresponds directly to a superficial knowledge of God. Too many of us simply do not have a knowledge of God that is robust enough to keep us buoyant during life’s trials. Sinclair Ferguson writes, “While man has never had so much knowledge about the world as he possesses today, perhaps he has never had so little knowledge of God…If we really knew Him, it would show in the character of our lives” (p. 2).

The contemporary church has been inundated with a host of books, seminars, and sermons that focus on the latest fad or most trendy “urgency”. What has been conspicuously absent has been a white hot focus on the character of God Himself. The resulting lack of knowledge shows itself in producing a people whose faith is frail, whose worship is shallow, and whose prayers are without power.

Our only hope is for God’s grace to awaken in us a fresh passion to know Him. But that does not mean we sit idly by in some fatalistic fashion. God who is sovereign uses means to accomplish His purposes. God’s primary means to deepen our knowledge of Him is His Word. It is in the Scriptures that we find God’s fullest and surest self-disclosure. We do not intuit knowledge of God. Rather, it is something that must be revealed to us. This knowledge does not come by way of ecstatic experience but through the clear revelation of the Scriptures. There is, therefore, an inseparable link between our knowledge of God and time spent in His Word.

How to gain from God’s Word in 2009:
1. Begin using one of the many good plans for reading the Scriptures regularly.
2. Listen to good preaching. Since the Old Covenant God has used the means of preaching to feed His people.
3. “Reclaim your commute.” Listen to one of the many excellent Bible recordings on CD during your morning or evening commute.
4. Get involved in one of the Small Churches at COS.
5. Read great books that serve as faithful guides to the Scriptures. There are some great books listed in the “Resources” section of this booklet.

Prayer Week 2009

We are looking forward to Prayer Week this year. The theme is "The God to Whom We Pray." Our guest speaker on Monday evening will be Philip Graham Ryken of 10th Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. If you attend Church of the Saviour or live in the Philadelphia area plan on being with us. Each evening following the message there will be opportunity to engage in small group and individual prayer.

Sunday (8:15, 9:30, 11:00, 6:00) - Praying in light of Eternity
speaker - Todd Pruitt

Monday (7:00) - Praying to the Father
speaker - Philip Graham Ryken

Tuesday (7:00) - Praying Through the Son
speaker - Todd Pruitt

Wednesday (7:00) - Praying By the Holy Spirit
speaker - Todd Pruitt

Cows - The new environmental criminals

Having no idea what it takes to run a business, meet a payroll, or deal with the consequences of their own actions government beuarocrats decide to tax cows for crimes against the environment.

Check out THIS STORY from Business and Media Institute.

Are we next?

Will the EPA ban Mexican food and legumes of all sorts?

Will the UN declare that children must be protected from second hand gas?

Perhaps the good folks in Berkley, CA can show us the way.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

How much is 50 million?

Thanks to Justin Taylor for posting on the Mississippi Baptist Convention's effort to help us better understand the enormity of the 50 million babies aborted in the U.S.

Check out the post at "Between Two Worlds" HERE.

Sunday's Sermon

My sermon from Sunday, The Two Ways, can be downloaded HERE.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Africa needs more God, not more money

So says an atheist in the Times Online:

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution
that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of
secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone
will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity
changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is
real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

Read the entire article HERE.

Africa must be rescued not so much from debt but from a pagan and tribalistic worldview.

The Limits of Politeness

Are Christians too polite?

Perhaps that sounds like a stupid question. Is it possible to be too polite? I'm not talking about saying "Yes sir" and "thank you." I am thinking about our interaction with those in error.

In our pluralistic culture it is not popular to identify error or to say something or someone is wrong. I have been told at various times to not engage in polemic or identify persons or movements that are in error. To be sure, those things can be taken too far. But I wonder if that is our problem.

More than once friends have said to me, "Why can't you just say what you believe instead of criticizing what someone else teaches?" The problem is that we live in a time when people have no problem holding mutually exclusive truth claims. That is why some statements of faith not only state the truth but also the corresponding errors.

Of course the greatest example of this pattern is the Word of God. The creation account in Genesis, for instance, operates on one level as a polemic against the pagan creation accounts. You may recall the prophet Elijah's open mockery of the prophets of Baal. The apostle Paul even employs sarcasm in the book of Galatians to mock the judaizers.

I am not arguing against politeness or respectfulness. But there are limits. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on the subject.

Can you think of any other examples of polemic, criticism (by name), or sarcastic mockery of those in error in Scripture?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Does grace discourage obedience?

Check out this great message by Dominic Smart from Galatians 6.

VDH on the latest in Gaza

Of the latest round of violence in Gaza, Victor Davis Hansen writes:

Hamas with its serial rocket attacks on Israel interprets all of the above not as an opportunity for prosperity, but as a stage one for the great accomplishment of its generation — the absolute destruction of the Jewish state. Its agenda is clear and unambiguous, and apparently shared by millions of elites in the West itself, without whose support Hamas could not exist. The common theme of Western press coverage is the misery of Gaza, never the misery of Gaza as a product of the garrison-state mentality of Hamas’s radical Islamic vows to wage perennial war against Israel.

Read the entire article HERE.

Glory in its infancy

You will never find Jesus so precious as when the world is one vast howling wilderness. Then He is like a rose blooming in the midst of the desolation,--a rock rising above the storm.

- Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Grace tried is better than grace, and it is more than grace; it is glory in its infancy.

- Samuel Rutherford

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Read the Psalms

I love the Psalms in part because they provide us with the images, names, and terminology with which to understand God and how we are to relate to Him. They teach us how to speak to God. The Psalms give us the language of praise, confession, sorrow, complaint, thanksgiving, and ultimately trust. Matthew Henry wrote of the Psalms, “There is no one book of Scripture that is more helpful to the devotions of the saints than this, and it has been so in all ages of the church, ever since it was written.”

The Psalms are in many ways, classic Hebrew poetry. They are often classified as Wisdom Literature. They are beautifully and many times “heart-breakingly” written. I am so thankful that God inspired a variety of literary genres to make up His Word. There is historical narrative, law, proverb, didactic, prophetic, and poetic literature. Perhaps God gave us poetry to express something about His beauty, His love, His terror, and His sovereignty that could only be adequately captured in the language of poetry. Likewise, there is something about good poetry that exposes the interior of the human heart like nothing else can. This is
probably why we turn to the Psalms so often when we are hurting.

I love what the 19th century scholar Alexander MacLaren wrote: “The Psalter may be regarded as the heart’s echo to the speech of God, the manifold music of its wind-swept strings as God’s breath sweeps across them.” Luther called the Psalter a “little Bible.” He wrote, “In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible.”

Athanasius, the fourth century champion of orthodoxy referred to the Psalter as an “epitome of the whole Scriptures.” He went on to write that the Psalms, “embrace the whole life of men, the affections of his mind, and the motions of his soul.” Augustine, understanding the Christ-ward direction of all Scripture wrote, “The voice of Christ and His church is well-nigh the only voice to be heard in the Psalms.”

If you would like to spend more time in the Psalms this year here are a few good resources:

Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon
Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis
More Precious Than Gold by Sam Storms
Whiter Than Snow (Meditations on Psalm 51) by Paul Tripp

The Eternal King

No matter how many strong enemies plot to overthrow the church, they do not have sufficient strength to prevail over God's immutable decree by which he appointed his Son eternal King.

- John Calvin