Sunday, October 30, 2011

95 Theses to the Modern Evangelical Church - Greg Gordon

Happy Reformation Day.


95 THESES TO THE MODERN EVANGELICAL CHURCH by Greg Gordon

I believe many need to hear these truths and they are shared in the humility of my weakness and lack in my own Christian Life. May all of these lead people to experiencethe person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and to proclaim His Gospel clearly and accurately. May God in His mercy come and revive, reform and renew North American Christianity for His glory alone. “May the Lamb of God receive the reward of His sufferings in our lives today!” - Greg Gordon (founder of SermonIndex.net / Twitter@sermonindex)

1. The “church” at large has forgotten that the chief end of man is to glorify God. (Rom 16:27; 1Cor 6:20; Mt 6:9; 1Cor 10:31)

2. Christians ignore most of the methods, practices and principles found in the book of Acts. (Acts 2:42,44; Acts 2:46; Acts 2:38)

3. Many treat “church” like any other social club or sports event that they might attend. (Acts 2:46; Heb 10:25; Acts 1:14)

4. We’ve made Christianity about the individual rather than the community of believers. (Rom 12:5; 1Cor 12:12; 2Tim 4:16)

5. In most “churches” the priesthood of all believers isn’t acknowledged and the role of pastor is abused. (1Pt 2:9; 1Cor 12:12; Eph 4:11-13)

6. The “church” as a whole has lost the concept of their being grafted into the promises given to Israel. (Rom 11:15, 17-18, 20, 25)

7. There needs to be a recovery of teaching the whole counsel of God, especially in expository form. (Acts 20:27; 1Tim 4:6, 2Tim 2:15)

8. We take it too lightly that we have the blessing and honor of having God’s Scriptures in our possession. (Ps 119:16; Acts 13:44; Neh 8:9)

9. There has never been more access to the Word of God, yet so little reading of it. (1Tim 4:13; Neh 8:1-3; Ps 119:59)

10. Some read the Scriptures to attain knowledge, but do not practice what they read. (Jam 1:22; Mt 7:21; 3Jn 4)

11. Worship has become an idol in many “churches.” The music often resembles that of the world. (Amos 5:23; Phil 4:8; 1Jn 5:21)

12. The world is shaping the views of the “church” more than the “church” shaping the world. (Rom 12:2; Mt 5:13; 1Cor 1:22-23)

13. The “church” spends more money on dog food than on missions. (2Cor 9:6; Lk 21:2; Acts 4:34-35)

14. We take lightly the cost of discipleship laid out by Jesus Christ and do not deny our lives. (Lk 14:33; Lk 14:26-27; Mt 8:19-20)

15. There is a lack of true discipleship and making others to be obedient disciples. (Mt 28:20; 2Tim 2:2; 2Tim 2:14)

16. Many subscribe to the error that parts of life are to be spiritual while others are to be secular. (1Pt 4:2; Col 3:3; 1Jn 2:6)

17. Modern Christians often find Jesus’ command to sacrifice and serve abhorrent. (Phil 2:21; Jam 3:16; Rom 12:1-2)

18. Self disciplines in the Christian life such as fasting and praying are considered legalistic. (2Tim 2:21; 2Tim 1:8; Mt 6:17)

19. Little thought and contemplation is put towards the lostness of men, the seriousness of the Gospel. (Phil 3:8; Gal 2:20; Heb 10:34)

20. We are living with an epidemic of cheap grace with flippant confession and shallow consecration. (Lk 14:28-30; Lk 14:26; Jam 4:8)

21. Since the inception of the Church, the Gospel had the requirements of repentance and discipleship. (Acts 2:38; Lk 14:26; Jn 8:31)

22. Now forgiveness is offered without repentance, discipleship without obedience, salvation without sanctity. (Heb 10:29; 4:11; Lk 13:24)

23. Introspection, counting the cost, godly sorrow over sin, are all foreign to many in the “church.”(Acts 2:37; Ps 119:9; Heb 6:1-2)

24. The modern church loves itself more than its neighbor. (1Cor 3:3; Gal 5:13; Phil 2:3)

25. The church must repent of its idolization of personality, and of business principles. (2Cor 2:17; 1Cor 3:5; 1Cor 12:23)

26. Many elders and pastors of the “church” sadly are fleecing the flock to supply their own wants. (Jn 10:12-13; 1Pt 5:2-3; Rev 2:15)

27. The qualities most in demand in today’s pastorate are frequently foreign to the Scriptures. (1Tim 3:2-3; 1Tim 3:5; 1Tim 1:5-7)

28. The professionalization of the pastorate is a sin and needs to be repented of. (2Cor 11:13; Gal 3:1; Gal 2:6)

29. There must be repentance for the ambitious desire and idolization of the celebrity pastorate. (3Jn 9; Jer 17:5; 1Cor 12:22)

30. Pastors must trust the Spirit, not statistics. (2Sam 24:1; 1Cor 1:25; Rom 8:14)

31. Modern day prophets are being stoned by criticism and neglect. (2Tim 4:3-4; Gal 1:10; Jer 1:7-8)

32. God’s prophets are ill-treated and shunned by most “christians” who consider them too extreme. (Jer 6:10; Isa 6:9-10; Gal 4:16)

33. The prophets prophesy falsely, priests rule by their own power; and my people love to have it so. (Mt 24:4, 11-12; 1Cor 1:19, Jude 8 )

34. There are many false gospels being preached from pulpits in our day. (2Cor 11:4; Gal 1:8-9; Jude 16)

35. There is an epidemic of a “mock” salvation message. It is correct in doctrine, but false in reality. (2Cor 3:6; 1Jn 5:11-12; Rom 8:9)

36. A salvation that does not make men holy is trusted in by a deceived multitude. (Jude 4; Rom 8:1; Rom 6:17-18)

37. There is a needed perseverance in the truths of the Gospel without unbelief. (Eph 1:1; Heb 6:11-12; Heb 10:26-27)

38. A great need is to see “christians” become saints in actual experience. (1Jn 2:29; Col 3:5-8; Tit 3:8)

39. Many professors of religion are forbidding people to be a part of the holy body of Christ. (Mt 23:13; Ps 119:1-2; 2Pt 1:3-4)

40. Preaching has become all about the happiness of man and not the glory of God. (Jn 6:26; Rom 4:20; 1Pt 4:11)

41. Preachers give smooth words to entice men, yet very few give any words of correction or rebuke. (Jer 6:14; Pro 1:23; 1Tim 5:20)

42. Run from gospels that focus on our success and prosperity in the name of Jesus Christ. (Jn 2:16; Acts 20:33; Jer 6:13)

43. Run from gospels that focus on self-improvement. (1Tim 6:5; Heb 12:14; Jam 4:14)

44. Run from churches where men, and not Christ, are glorified. (Col 1:18; Jude 25; Jn 16:14)

45. Run from churches where there is no Bible, no cross, no mention of the blood of Christ. (1Pt 1:18-19; Eph 3:13; Rev 1:5)

46. Run from churches where the worship leaves you cold, where there’s no sense of God’s presence. (1Cor 5:4; Ps 80:14-15; Jer 12:11)

47. Run from churches where you’re comfortable in your sin. (1Cor 14:25; Heb 10:30-31; Heb 4:13)

48. Run from churches that use the pulpit of God for a personal agenda. (Jude 10-11,19; 3Jn 9)

49. Run from those who preach division between races and cultures. (Jam 2:4, Gal 3:28, Rev 5:9)

50. Run from ungodly, spasmodic movements and endless empty prophesying. (Jer 5:13; 1Cor 14:33, 1Jn 2:16)

51. Run from preachers who tell mostly stories and jokes. (Eph 5:4; Tit 1:8; 2:12)

52. Run from those that are only after money, who use one gimmick after another to get your money. (2Pt 2:3; 2Cor 12:14; 1Cor 9:18)

53. The phrase “accept Jesus as your personal Saviour” is not found in the Scriptures. (Rom 10:9-10; Col 1:13; Acts 26:20)

54. Evidence of true conversion does not seem important to modern day Christians. (1Jn 2:6; 1Jn 4:17; Mt 7:20)

55. Thousands of sinners think of God as having only one attribute: Love! But they continue in sin. (Rom 1:18; Acts 5:11; Ps 2:12)

56. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” has hindered true evangelism. (Rom 3:19; Acts 26:18; Phil 3:18-21)

57. A Gospel of love and grace only, without the law of God being preached. This is a doctrine of Satan. (2Tim 4:3-4; Rom 2:4-5; 3:19)

58. There has clearly arisen a careless mixture of 20th century reasoning with God’s revelation. (Col 2:8; Rom 1:25; Gal 1:6)

59. Decisionism and the “sinner’s prayer” has been a major cause of false conversions in the “church.” (2Pt 2:1-2; Eph 2:4-5; 2Cor 5:17-18)

60. Many will be surprised to hear Jesus say, “I never knew you, depart from me.” (Mt 7:22-23; 1Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21)

61. Men have taken the place of the Holy Spirit in confirming men in their supposed salvation. (1Jn 2:3-5; 2Ths 1:8; Gal 6:12-15)

62. The doctrine of hell and eternal suffering is something little grasped by most professing “christians.” (Mt 13:42; Jam 5:1; Ps 9:17)

63. The judgment seat of Christ is perhaps one of the most neglected topics in the modern pulpit. (2Cor 5:10; Rom 14:10; 1Cor 3:13)

64. The second coming of Christ needs to be re-instated as the church’s general thrust and burden. (1Jn 3:2-3; Col 3:4-6; 1Ths 4:14-17)

65. The church has lost the fear of God and has over emphasized the love of God. (Heb 12:28-29; Lk 12:5; Heb 10:31)

66. The church has left evangelism to a few trained professionals. (Acts 8:1,4; Acts 4:29; Rom 10:14)

67. Repentance is considered a one-time act in modern evangelism rather than a way of life. (Rev 3:19; Heb 12:17; 2Pt 3:9)

68. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is something that is not taught in many pulpits. (Acts 2:36; 1Cor 12:3; Rom 6:18)

69. Many in “churches” are not open to correction, church discipline or rebuke. (1Cor 5:5; 1Cor 11:31-32; Heb 12:7-9)

70. Some preach salvation as a theory instead of persuading men to come to Christ. (Jn 5:40; Col 1:28; 2Cor 4:5)

71. There has been a loss of the fullness and majesty of the gospel. (1Tim 1:11; Jude 25; Rom 15:29)

72. There is little mention of sin or the depravity of man from “church” pulpits. (Jn 3:20; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5)

73. Covetousness, consumerism, and coddling of the world’s goods does not appear wrong. (Jer 22:17; 1Jn 2:15-16; 1Tim 3:3)

74. Little is made of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in churches or in evangelism. (1Cor 15:14-15; Acts 4:10, 33)

75. The “church” has relied more on technology than God. (Zech 4:6; 1Cor 1:21; 2:4)

76. The prayer meeting is considered one of the least important meetings in the “church.” (1Tim 2:1; Acts 4:31; Phil 4:6)

77. Pastors have never prayed less than they do in the “church” today. (Jer 10:21; Phil 2:21; Eph 6:18-19)

78. Very few are waiting on God for His direction and purpose for His Church. (Eph 1:11; Ps 37:7; Isa 40:31)

79. The “church” has many organizers, but few agonizers. (Phil 3:18-19; Rom 9:1-3; Jer 9:1)

80. We need to have the gifts of the Spirit restored again to the “church.” (2Tim 4:2; 1Cor 14:39; 1Cor 12:31)

81. A serious, sober, self-controlled Christianity is very seldom found or preached. (2Pt 3:11; 1Pt 4:7; Jude 3)

82. The “church” at large has forgotten how to pray. (1Jn 3:22; Acts 6:4; 1Ths 5:17)

83. Many “churches” are more dependent on tradition than the leading of the Holy Spirit. (Mk 7:13; Acts 16:6; Acts 13:2)

84. Multitudes of professors preach and teach: that you cannot be freed from sin. (Rom 16:18; Rom 6:1-2; 2Pt 2:1)

85. The Apostles and Christ always preached the possibility to walk free from the bondage of sin. (Tit 2:11-12; 1Pt 1:14-16; Rom 6:19)

86. Sinners are not saved to sin, but rather, saved to holiness and good works. (Rom 6:13; Eph 2:10; 2Pt 3:14)

87. Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. (2Tim 2:19; 1Pt 4:17-18; 2Tim 3:12)

88. A baptism of holiness, a demonstration of godly living, is the crying need of our day. (1Tim 6:3; 2Ths 3:6; 2Ths 2:13)

89. Many are confused about obedience and the good works that are readily mentioned in the Scriptures. (Tit 3:8; Jn 10:32; Rev 3:15)

90. Little emphasis is put on the plan of God to make us like Jesus Christ in “churches.” (1Pt 1:14-16; 1Jn 2:6; 1Pt 4:1)

91. Christ did not die on the cross to obtain a worldly “church” but for a “glorious Church.” (Eph 5:27; Tit 2:14; Col 4:12)

92. Christ does not come into an unregenerate and impure heart as many contemporary theologians say. (2Cor 5:17; Mt 5:8; Eze 18:31)

93. A holy Church is God’s blessing to the world; an unholy “church” is God’s judgment upon the world. (Mt 5:14,16; Eph 4:1; 1Ths 2:12)

94. If Christianity is to make any headway in the present time, it must be proved to be more than a theory. (2Ths 3:6-7; 1Ths 4:1,11-12)

95. Unbelief has gagged and bound us as risen Lazarus! We need release in this final hour! (Heb 3:12-14; 1Cor 3:21-23; Heb 11:6)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Deity of Christ - Dr. James White

As a missionary to Muslims I constantly face a world view that does not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ. Muslims desire to believe the Bible as their Qur'an instructs them to, "...you will attain nothing until you observe the Torah and the Gospel..." (V:68), but they resist the Bible's emphatic declaration of Jesus as God. James White performed well in debating Jalal Abualrub on the subject. I've edited his excellent opening statement into a short overview of the Scripture's revelation of Christ as God. View the full debate here.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bible Deism and Knowing Jesus Part 1 - Introduction



In focusing on the Bible and the biblical word, we uplift the objective revelation of God as given by the Apostles and canonized by the church. This blog focuses on inspiring passion for the Word of God and discovering new and interesting ways of interacting with the Bible. As an avid reader and writer, I am built to love books, to love words and to love the revelation God's word. The Book suits me. But the Bible can become an end in of itself. This subtle and deadly form of idolatry can seduce us from loving Christ and place us into a drive for more and more Bible knowledge, leading us into dry, hollow, cold religion.

So often our study of the Bible can be a study of the book without a motivation to really study and know Jesus better. Are we really pursuing Christ in the Word or are we pursuing the word itself and denying the divine revelation of Jesus as a person in our lives? Are we following Jesus or only following His teachings?  We were meant to know and worship and follow a Person. I love the Bible. I love studying it. But above all I love Jesus Christ, and if my time in His Word does not lead me to Him, to know Him and love Him and experience Him in a real way, then I do not really know the scriptures or the power of God. We must come to Jesus for eternal life, not the Bible. It is Jesus who sustains our life in Him, not the Bible:

John 5:39-40

New King James Version (NKJV)
39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

The Scriptures testify to the one who is the Living Word: Jesus our God and King. He is the subject of our worship and attention. His word is a revelation of Him.

Jack Deere's book Surprised by the Voice of God  features a powerful testimony and strong word on the dangers of worshipping the Bible instead of Christ. The next few weeks will feature a number of posts on Bible Deism. They will include excerpts from his chapter, "Confessions of a Bible Deist" followed by thoughts and commentary. I welcome any comments and discussion on the posts, though I will probably not interact in discussions in the comments section as I'll let the series speak for itself and develop it based on reader interaction. These posts will be fairly lengthy and in the future will feature lengthy portions of Jack Deere's work as well as lengthy portions of commentary from my own walk with the Lord and study of His word.

 The following is the opening of "Confessions of a Bible Deist" from Surprised by the Voice of God.
Confessions of a Bible Deist

Augustine had an entire book of confessions. Perhaps you will indulge me for just a single chapter of my own. Here is my confession: Somewhere along the way in my academic study of the Bible, I became a Bible deist. You probably studied deism in one of your high school history classes. The framers of the Constitution of the United States were mostly deists. They believed in a religion of morality based on natural reason, not on divine revelation. They believed in God, but they didn't think he interfered with the natural laws governing the universe. He created the world, and then left it alone--like someone who wound up a giant clock, and then left it to run down on its own. A Bible deist has a lot in common with the natural deist.

They both worship the wrong thing. The deists of the eighteenth century worshiped human reason. The Bible deists of today worship the Bible. Bible deists have great difficulty separating Christ and the Bible. Unconsciously in their minds the Bible and Christ merge into one entity. Christ cannot speak or be known apart from the Bible. At one time, Christ did speak apart from the Bible. He used to speak in an audible voice to people on their way to Damascus, give dreams, appear in dreams, give visions, give impressions, and do miracles through his servants. However, the Bible deist believes the only one who does things Christ used to do. The devil can speak in an audible voice, give dreams and visions, even appear to people and do miracles. Jesus doesn't do these things any more. He used miracles and divine revelation in the first century to wind up the church like a big clock, and then left it alone with only the Bible. The Bible is supposed to keep the clock ticking correctly. That's why a Bible deist reads a passage like Isaiah 28:29:

All this comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom. . .

and in his or her mind, translates it into something like this:

All this also comes from the Bible, which is wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.
Bible deists have a tendency to substitute the Bible for God. They actually deify the Bible. Bible deists read John 10:27 like this: "My sheep listen to the Bible; I know them, and they follow the Bible." They hear Jesus say, "If I go away, I will send you a perfect book" (John 16:7). What God used to do in the first century is now done by the Bible. If the Bible can't do what God used to do--heal, give dreams, visions--then the Bible deist maintains that these things are no longer being done, and that we don't need them anyway.

Bible deists preach and teach the Bible rather than Christ. They do not understand how it is possible to preach the Bible without preaching Christ. Their highest goal is the impartation of biblical knowledge. Their highest value is being "biblical." Actually, they use the adjectives "biblical" and "scriptural" more often than the proper noun "Jesus" in their everyday speech.

-Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God p. 251-252


Friday, October 21, 2011

Bible Cross References Visualization



Open Bible blog features some truly mind-blowing infographics and visualizations. The above is just one example. I need a lot of help to understand what I'm looking at, but this represents a huge amount of data, presented for very general analysis in visual form. Click on the image above to view the high definition results.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Cambridge KJV Clarion in Black Goatskin


Cambridge's new KJV Clarion partners classic presentation with modern style and sensibility, pairing an excellent Cambridge binding with a newly designed text block that nears perfection. For many the Clarion will be the most exciting KJV ever produced and for some, that perfect Bible they have been searching for. The combination of tried and true binding and printing techniques with innovation in the style and implementation of the single column setting makes the Clarion a unique success. 


BINDING

The black goatskin binding is a familiar to those acquainted with the Cambridge line. The leather features a fine grain most similar to what I've handled in the KJV Concord (though I hear the Cameo is similar as well). The cover features fine stitching along the edges and a combination of impressive softness, flexibility and durability.


At 7.5 inches tall, 5.5 inches across and 1.75 inches thick the Clarion is an in between size. Not quite small enough to fit in the pocket, but about an inch to a half inch shorter than many mid-size Bibles. The size is something of a mystery; first of all, how they fit a beautifully proportioned text block with an 8.75 size font into such a small Bible, but secondly, why they chose a thicker version of a Pitt Minion size. This in-between size may be the only thing that keeps the Clarion from ultimately pleasing all single column fans. Some will prefer larger Bible, some will prefer smaller. For those who want a Bible that's easy enough to hold up and doesn't have to rest on their lap, but don't want pocket portability, the Clarion's size will be perfect.





The sewn binding and supple leather flex easily into a number of positions, not folding entirely in half, but partnering enough flexibility and strength to keep undue stress off the binding.


The limp, easily rolled quality of the leather means it can be flexed into a number of positions and folded in half for easier viewing, should the reader wish to focus on one page. Notice the crimson ribbons, which seem to be of a higher quality than the two that came in my Cambridge Wide Margin. The red under gold gilding glistens with traditional class.



The size fits nicely in the hand and makes it manageable and flexible without two hands or the need to rest it on the table or on your lap.


The thickness is only slightly smaller than my wide margin, but it's noticeable smaller and features a noticeable finer, narrower grain than my Goatskin ESV Wide Margin. Goatskin is a natural product and will vary, but my guess is that many will prefer the finer-grained Clarion.


A handy Size.



It nearly opens flat from Genesis One. With time it may break in to that level of flexibility.



LAYOUT

The main appeal of the Clarion is going to be the layout. The sheer beauty of the single column text, printed in the Netherlands, partnered with a crisp, redesigned 8.75 font font will woo single column lovers everywhere. It may even persuade a few traditionalists to switch.The layout is exceptionally readable and the side column references have never been so accessible and yet so subtle. While this Bible leaves little room for notes, in its primary function as a reader it is hard to surpass.  


The Clarion does feature some ghosting. The paper seems thinner than most Cambridge editions, though still strong and wrinkle resistant. In the poetry sections there is a distinct shadow of the text which comes through the page. Most will find this slight flaw easily overlooked, but I must say that this is probably the worst ghosting I have seen in a Cambridge edition.



The combination of the single column setting with a large, modern font will please many. The proportions and layout aesthetics in this edition will hopefully set a standard in the industry. More and more Bible publishers should take advantage of the frontier work done in this edition.


FEATURES

The Clarion contains a number of special features. First among them is the Epistle Dedicatory and the often forgotten "The Translators to the Reader." Cambridge has also chosen to include the italics to indicate words not in the original languages, which I find important. The Bible text is followed by a 144 page Reader's Companion instead of a traditional concordance. It provides a number of different king of information:
First, it provides identification of the most significant proper names (of persons, tribes, places etc.) which occur in the Bible, together with lists of the main references to them in the text.
Second, in cases where the Authorized Version uses unfamiliar words, or words which have now changed their meaning, the sense understood by the translators is given together with examples of Bible passages in which the word concerned may be found.
Third, information is given about the background of life in biblical times, in entries about flora and fauna, customs, occupations and artifacts, again with references to contexts where they are mentioned.
Fourth, an attempt is made briefly to clarify some the social, legal, ethical and religious concepts which occur in the Bible, with references especially to passages which throw further light upon them.
Fifth, note on each biblical book is given, as well as information about literary forms, original languages, and related non-biblical literature from ancient times.
Sixth, a small number of entries relates to the history and particular features of the Authorized Version, and to other biblical translations related to or derived from it.
Finally, entries under 'key words' offer select listing of verses where those words may be found in the text, e.g. for the use of readers trying to locate a biblical quotation.
While many will appreciate this information, especially since the edition lacks book introductions or other helps, some will prefer a simple concordance.


Included is Cambridge's classic maps and map index.


A Cambridge signature is the high gloss, ironed goatskin interior, which provides a luxurious look and feel.



The Clarion is an excellent innovation in Bible publishing and hopefully will appeal to many readers. The single column setting is easy to read and aesthetically well-balanced. While the Clarion is not perfect and may not meet every reader's desires, it is at the top of the Single Column market and the KJV release opens a new line of single column reference Bibles with high quality bindings and high quality design that majors on function.






Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Aggressive Faith (October Newsletter)


Jesus cried out with a call to discipleship that required an extreme rejection of one’s own life: one’s own pleasures and desires, occupation and interests. This call echoed out into the crowd (Mark 8:34) shaking loose the weak and the half devoted, convicting the hearts of those who sought the Lord and disrupting the thoughts and hearts of an entire culture. Jesus was a man of no half measures; He placed His glory aside to take up the Cross and carry out His own death and the atonement for our sin. In the same way He calls out to us for an extreme response that allows no half measures and calls for a complete effort of the whole body, soul and spirit as grace draws us through the narrow gate and into eternity in the Father’s embrace: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). Even as we strive in a supernatural effort drawn forth from the core of our being by God’s grace, we are encouraged further by the God and man who assured His followers, “… from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12). God’s grace and love places the violent fire of zeal within our hearts to apprehend and know and love Christ with all of our being. Christ then challenges us with the knowledge that just as it takes the violence of the death of Christ and our own death to come into true life and gain the kingdom of heaven for ourselves, so it takes a violent, no-holds-barred force in the Spirit to declare the kingdom of heaven here on the earth.

Jesus constantly disrupted the culture of His day by declaring the heart of God, condemning the corrupt, religious system and the professional Scripture interpreters and preaching a forceful repentance of human nature itself. He taught to love our enemies, to flee wealth and to forsake all to follow Him. Those who answer His call can only do so by a violent love and an aggressive faith. To fulfill the call to discipleship we must have such a devotion and belief that we sacrifice ourselves to the death and resurrection of Christ, allowing Him to dethrone the idol of self. To fulfill the call to ministry we must have the courage to violently wage war on the powers of this world, eschewing the world’s values to preach the power of the gospel to a perishing people.

As I spend time in the homes of Muslim men, I am distinctly aware that however tactful I am, my presence as a follower of Christ opposes their beliefs, their culture and their ideals. My task is to take courage and in love and grace disrupt culture and speak the saving truth that Jesus is the only Lord and that Muhammad was never a prophet. The Lord came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and that destruction comes as a result of a war in the spiritual realm between love and hate, truth and lies, the kingdom of heaven and the powers of darkness. Only the aggressive will overcome. Only the violent will take the kingdom by force and enforce it here on the earth. Even as Jesus died, we also must die to ourselves and come to the battlefield as those already martyred, prepared to cling to our sword until the Lord takes us home into eternal triumph.

View the rest of the October 2011 Newsletter
To view other newsletters, view the newsletters page.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bible Storytelling: Gideon and Crossing the Jordan - Cooke

Graham Cooke's humorous retelling of God's battle plan for Gideon and the "Men's Meeting" after crossing the Jordan puts a new spin on the stories and illuminates God's sense of humor, His outlook on warfare and His all-sufficiency.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Convictions on Interpreting Scripture - Zac Poonen

The following thoughts are Zac Poonen's comments before launching into an exposition of 1 Corinthians 11 and teaching on head coverings. His article is surely controversial and opens an issue that I do not have strong enough convictions on to teach either way. My desire is not to draw attention to the controversy. I read Brother Poonen's article in part because I recently received one of Gordon Fee's commentaries and Fee stands clearly on the other side of the issue (for a good article that features Fee's approach see this post from The Prodigal Thought). I thought reading both sides of the issue would be beneficial. The principles laid out by Poonen are an honest approach that flows out of belief in the inerrancy of scripture.

Hopefully we can hold these principles up to our convictions and find ourselves fully obedient to the Lord and to sound exposition.

We begin this study with the conviction that the entire message of the Bible is the Word of God without any error.
There are two fundamental truths that we must bear in mind as we seek to understand God's Word for us today.
On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), God abolished the old covenant and began to deal with man thereafter under the terms of the new covenant (Heb.8).
There are historical and teaching sections in the New Testament. We must find the basis for new covenant doctrines only in the teaching sections. The historical sections merely tell us what the apostles and early Christians did. Many false teachings have developed from doctrines based only on the Acts of the Apostles - two examples being: (i) all believers must speak in tongues (based on Acts 2:4); and (ii) all believers must share a common purse (based on Acts 2:44).
Jesus told His disciples just before He went to the cross, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear (understand) them now. But when the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (Jn.16:12,13). Jesus wanted to teach His disciples many more truths than He did while He was on earth. But they would not have been able to understand them until the Holy Spirit came to dwell within them and renewed their minds and gave them revelation. Some of these truths are what we find written in the New Testament epistles. So the epistles also contain commands from the Lord Jesus - but given through His apostles.
If we reject any command in any of the New Testament epistles, saying it was only for the time and place when it was written and not for us today, then in order to be consistent, we must give equal freedom to other people to reject other commands in the epistles and in the teachings of Jesus as also being only for that time and not for us today. For example, we must, in that case, give freedom to people to teach that forbidding homosexual behavior and same-sex marriages and divorces and premarital sexual intercourse, etc., were only for the first century and not for us today. Otherwise we will be inconsistent.
[. . . .]
(Note: We must distinguish between commands given by God and mere greetings given by the apostles. For example, the apostles give greetings and good wishes such as these in their letters: "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Rom16:16) and "I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 2). These were obviously mere greetings and good wishes - and not commands or promises given by God - for there is no Divine principle taught in those verses, as is the case with head-covering, water-baptism and breaking of bread(Rom.6; 1Cor.11)).
 Poonen summarizes with some thoughts on obedience:

Finally, we must bear in mind that:
- If we ignore any command of God in Scripture (however small) we will suffer some eternal loss (Rev.22:19).
- Those who cancel (or teach against) the smallest command of Scripture will be called "the least in the kingdom of heaven" (as Jesus said in Matt.5:19).
- The truths of Scripture are hidden from the clever and the intelligent and revealed only to the humble ("babes" - Matt.11:25 with Matt.18:4). The teaching of 1 Cor.11:1-16 will be simple and clear to the humble, childlike person. But one who depends on his human cleverness and intelligence will argue against the plain meaning of these verses.
- God tests our honesty in the way in which we deal with such verses of Scripture. He does not see whether we understand everything in His Word, but He does see if we are honest in dealing with His Word. The Lord says, "To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isa.66:2).


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: Jesus Calling Devotional Bible


Thomas Nelson's immensely successful devotional Jesus Calling is now available within the full Bible text of the NKJV in the Jesus Calling Devotional BibleJesus Calling comes from the personal journals of Sarah Young, a missionary who decided to record her impressions of God's voice, journaling the voice of the Lord rather than prayers. The result was a unique and perhaps prophetic perspective on devotion. Jesus Calling presents an intimate look inside a relationship with Jesus and a discovery of his voice and character as filtered through the relationship of one person. While I am not able to read and evaluate all of the content within this volume, the nature of the project  resonates with me. One must be careful to weigh the words of the devotion more carefully, as they are written in the first person as from the Lord and as such should be tested and tried (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). Young's project is dangerously intimate, but promises to pull the reader into discerning the voice of the Lord and finding the power of the loving, kind, good, faithful, joyous, peaceful, patient, gentle, self-controlled voice of Jesus.

SIZE

At 8 and 5/8" by 5 and 1/2" with a 2" spine the Jesus Calling Devotional Bible fits my preference for a well-weighted Bible with a thick spine. The padded hardcover is nicer than a plain hardcover and the graphics are attractive. The spine is obviously glued and the size of the book block makes me fairly sure that the spine would not hold up to constant use; however, this is a devotional Bible and most users probably won't make this a lifetime Bible. It should hold a couple years under average use. There are also leathersoft editions available which may feature a sewn binding.


LAYOUT

This Bible features a nice double column paragraph format in a nice serif font. The print is crisp and black (black letter) and features dark orange chapter numbers and section titles in a bold sans serif font. More popular and notable verses featuring God speaking are sometimes highlighted in an orange text-block and italicized orange print. The font is fair 9pt size. The paper is fairly thin and features some bleed through or ghosting, but seems strong and doesn't crinkle easily.



DEVOTIONS 


The devotional content will be the purchasing point for this Bible, and it is prevalent and poignant. Each devotional page insert features a portion of the text block, a written out prayer from an individual identified by a first name and a section of writing in the first person portraying God's voice selected from Sarah Young's writings. Some will read the content, and it will be like God speaking to them. Some will think, "that sounds just like Jesus." Some will think, "That sounds just like someone trying to sound like Jesus." Those with a critical mind but an open heart will make the most out of this devotional as they scrutinize and weigh the words in the balance of scripture and the witness of the Spirit, ready to receive and recognize the voice of the Lord. At its best, the devotional can lead someone into a dialogue with the Lord and with His Word, teaching them to recognize His voice. At its worst it could lead someone away from what the Lord is actually speaking to them. An example below:
Listening to Him
I am speaking to the depths of your being. Be still, so that you can hear My voice. I speak in the language of Love; My words fill you with Life and Peace, Joy and hope. I desire to talk with all my children, but many are too busy to listen. The "work ethic" has them tied up in knots. They submit wholeheartedly to this taskmaster, wondering why they feel so distant from Me,
Living close to Me requires making Me your First Love--your highest priority. As you seek My presence above all else, you experience Peace and Joy in full measure. I also am blessed when you make Me first in your life. While you journey through life in My presence, My Glory brightens the world around you.
See also Isaiah 50:4; Revelation 2:4; Isaiah 60:2 (From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)




FEATURES

The Jesus Calling Devotional Bible is fairly light on features, but does include a long, gold ribbon marker, a presentation page, an introduction by Sarah Young and a very brief topical index and list of helpful scriptures. There are no maps or concordance.


Fans of Sarah Young's writing will find this Bible a suitable devotional guide, and the presence of the whole Bible text enables one to read without flipping back and forth between a book. It keeps devotional time founded in Scripture. The proximity of the devotions to the text, helps draw themes out of the text for the reader. Others may find this to be a good short-term Bible to read through in a year with the devotional content. This Bible has the potential to give people a thirst for God's voice and tune their ear to hear Him in their own lives and in the Word. The devotions draw out God's character and His love for His bride, but may be lacking depth and variation for others. This Bible definitely has the potential to lead readers into an intimacy with Christ and His Word and for that it deserves praise. Regardless of personal application it is a fascinating and inspiring look at one individual's relationship and perception of the Lord.







Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jots and Tittles October 2011

N.T. Wright's Bible reading plan:


The Blazing Center features an interesting post on The Problem with Taking the Bible Literally

The Biblical World asks Do Bible Readers Really Know What They Want in a Translation? in response to Lifeway's recent poll that revealed that 75% want total accuracy.

N.T. Wright's Reflections on Bible Translation

Five of the Dead Sea Scrolls are now online thanks to Google.

I'm giving away a book over at RawMinistryBlog

Hermeneutics vs. Soaking and Individualism vs. Community

Corrected and Constrained by the Text from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

D.A. Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper have an important discussion on the impact of hermeneutics and returning to basic, thorough Bible knowledge. As a topic within that discussion they highlight the importance of individualism as well as community. These discussions are highly important. I have recently come across the testimonies of three Dallas Theological Seminary graduates (two of whom were professors there) who testify to the creation of a special class of professional Bible interpreters who descend into Pharisaism. The popularity of modern Bible scholarship and the new availability of that scholarship may have negative effects as well as positive. In addition, being a natural loner and individualist living within a tight knit crucible of community ethics allows me to appreciate the side topic of the discussion as well.

We must be careful to let the Bible shape our views. Our constant soaking in the very Word of God will do far more for us than a proper hermeneutical method or a moral observance of the current theological vogue.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 2011 Giveaway

I'm giving away a book over at rawministryblog: a new blog I'll be keeping for journaling my mission work and studies surf over, check it out and enter to win. The following is a quote of the contest rules. You can't enter by commenting on this post. Comment on the post at rawministryblog to enter.

This month's giveaway is a book that has inspired and challenged me in ministry and in life. Its statistics are somewhat outdated now, but the message is just as fresh, relevant and provoking.
Revolution!: The Call to Holy Warby Michael L. Brown




Enter by subscribing and following through Google or Networked Blogs (Facebook), and commenting on this post. Every comment on this post is an entry, so you can enter over 100 times if you wish! If you post the giveaway on a blog, comment with the link and every pingback will be an entry! I will randomly select a winner and send the book out at the end of the month.
Why give away books? It helps spread the messages and works that the Lord has used to inspire me in life and ministry. It helps spread passion and zeal for the work. It helps get the message out about raw ministry, this blog and the needs of Hamtramck. Many of the books will be ones I've received for free or extra copies that I have on hand, or simply books that I feel are important enough that they need to be disseminated to the body of Christ at large.