Saturday, 30 April 2011

Keller fluffs it on the Gospel

Last year some controversy erupted among UK evangelicals because of a somewhat negative review of Tim Keller's The Reason for God in the popular evangelical monthly The Briefing (The particular issue in question can be sourced here). The issue then was the purported distortion of penal substitutionary atonement and the underplaying of God's wrath by Keller. I think on initial reflection that criticism of Keller was accurate although not that easy to demonstrate (as the ensuing letters and riposte from the Briefing demonstrated). 

Last month though Keller was giving a public interview, and his answers then patently demonstrated a distinct lack of clarity on a key Gospel issue. He was asked:

As a church, how should we as Christians and how should the church view gay rights and gay marriage?

His answer (not for the first time) was very much like Manuel's in Faulty Towers "I know nothing" (listen from about 79'00)


Friday, 29 April 2011

The pulpit leads the world

Over the past few weeks I've been listening to Moby Dick as I do the washing up after dinner - what an epic tale! I'm sure Melville intended to communicate something of the Gospel and God's triumph over man's rebellion through his scintillating story but I need to listen to it again and inwardly digest before pontificating on that. For now though, how about the quote below showing how highly Melville regarded preaching:
"What could be more full of meaning? -- for the pulpit is ever this earth's foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God's quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow" (Moby Dickconcluding passage of The Pulpit, chapter 8)
If ever I was to be involved in theological training, I would insist that every man considering the pastorate, memorise this passage and etch it deep in their heart... and how I yearn myself to grow in the conviction of this truth every time I prepare to preach... the conviction that:

1) All of scripture is inspired and originates from the Triune Creator of our cosmos - each individual word, each epistolary greeting, every selah, each Psalm heading, the Bible's table of contents, the 153 mentioned in John 21 - absolutely everything in Scripture is from our Loving Heavenly Father and is given to us for our good and for His glory.

2) That it is far better and infinitely safer to speak the truth in love than to earn the adoration and commendation of one's congregation or friends. Rather than pander to the Spirit of the age and follow the World's concerns ("global warming" "social justice" "fair trade" "organic food") the preacher should diligently pursue a ministry of teaching the world everything Jesus commanded e.g. that abortion is murder, homosexuality is a wicked evil, that hell is real, that marital sex is bliss, that the new creation will be a proper feast and so on)

Anything else one might want to add?

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Don't expect the giant hat

Watch the vid below to the end and the heading above will make sense. And if you know anyone who ever trotted the claim that the resurrection is a "myth" (as do many Muslims and crazy folk like Thomas Jefferson) this is the thing for them... Presenting, Super True Stories. Best. Conspiracy. Ever...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

It's the porn, stupid!

The couple will typically tell me first about how stressful their lives are. Maybe he’s lost his job. Perhaps she’s working two. Maybe their children are rowdy or the house is chaotic. But usually, if we talk long enough about their fracturing marriage, there is a sense that something else is afoot. The couple will tell me about how their sex life is near extinction. The man, she’ll tell me, is an emotional wraith, dead to intimacy with his wife. The woman will be frustrated, with what seems to him to be a wild mixture of rage and humiliation. They just don’t know what’s wrong, but they know a Christian marriage isn’t supposed to feel like this. 
It’s at this point that I interrupt the discussion, look at the man, and ask, “So how long has the porn been going on?” The couple will look at each other, and then look at me, with a kind of fearful incredulity that communicates the question, “How do you know?” For a few minutes, they seek to reorient themselves to this exposure, wondering, I suppose, if I’m an Old Testament prophet or a New Age psychic. But I’m not either. One doesn’t have to be to sense the spirit of this age. In our time, pornography is the destroying angel of (especially male) Eros, and it’s time the Church faced the horror of this truth.

Read the rest here

Monday, 25 April 2011

For the Mormon missionary...

With the kipling's imminent arrival...

Thanks to my dear wife's prep and hard work, everything is set and ready for the imminent arrival of our first child. All that's left now is to meet the little munchkin and introduce them properly to our world. As we await his/her arrival, the darling wife and I have been considering creative ways that we can teach this littl'un of the covenant what it means to have the Risen Lord as our God. Today I came across a brilliant resource which I commend to any of you who are discipling little children. Here are the first few questions:

Question 1. Who are you?  
I am a child of God

Question 2. What does it mean to be a child of God?
It means that I belong to him and he loves me.

Question 3. What makes you a child of God? 
Grace -- God's free gift of love that I do not deserve and cannot earn.

Question 4. How do you know you are a child of God? 
Because I am baptized in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  God made me his child in baptism, just as his Word promises.
Question 5. Don't you have to be good for God to love you? 
No. God loves me in spite of all I do wrong because of what Jesus has done for me. 

Read the rest here and don't skip the challenging and thought-provoking introduction.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Even Obama is not "Cross-centred"

This year saw Obama host the second Easter prayer breakfast at the White House. Now I have my issues with Obama and I seriously hope he doesn't get elected for the second term (although the options for who would replace him don't look promising). I have to say though that after reading his speech at the prayer breakfast on Tuesday, I thought to myself why don't our Prime Minister or Queen speak this clearly of Christ's death and resurrection? Read the full speech below and if any of you know HM (Liz) or the PM please pass on it to them will you?

East Room
8:39 A.M. EDT 
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, please have a seat. Well, it is absolutely wonderful to be here with all of you today.  I see so many good friends all around the room….. 
To all the faith leaders and the distinguished guests that are here today, welcome to our second annual--I’m going to make it annual, why not? (Laughter and applause.) Our second Easter Prayer Breakfast.… The Prayer Breakfast we started last year, in part because it gave me a good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends. And it gives me a chance to meet and make some new friends here in the White House. 
I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason-–because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection--something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective. 
We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work. And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways.  And I admit that my plate has been full as well. (Laughter.) The inbox keeps on accumulating. (Laughter.) 
But then comes Holy Week.  The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world--past, present and future--and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.In the words of the book Isaiah: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” 

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect.  And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son--his Son and our Savior. 
And that’s why we have this breakfast. Because in the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective. Children help do that. (Laughter.) A strong spouse helps do that. But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal. 
So I’m honored that all of you have come here this Holy Week to join me in a spirit of prayer, and I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us, both individually as believers and as Americans.  And with that, let me introduce my good friend, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, for our opening prayer. (Applause.)

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Don't be Cross centred

With Good Friday approaching I'm certain many Christian ministers will be spending time in the Passion narratives and reflecting on the Via Dolorosa (Jesus' path the cross). The cross no doubt is an amazing saving event. The Scriptures affirm this as it says for example hereherehere and here. The cross is an integral part of the Christian faith. Nevertheless, we Evangelicals ought to be careful in constantly saying we are "cross-centred" largely because the Bible avoids this sort of speak and gives prominence to more than just the cross. Thus for example did you know that we Christians are to extol the resurrection as the basis of our salvation? Consider these verses from Romans:
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (4:25) 
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (5:10)
It's also interesting to observe where the prominence of the Resurrection in the Apostles' preaching in Acts:
greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead (4:2) 
And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all (4:33)
Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection (17:18)

All this to say, this Easter let us not be "Cross-centred" people but Cross and Resurrection people

Monday, 18 April 2011

Feelings are not enough

I know quite well, and wish you, my brethren, never to forget, that feeling is not enough; that it is not enough merely to feel and nothing more; that to feel grief for Christ's sufferings, and yet not to go on to obey him, is not true love, but a mockery. True love both feels right, and acts right; but at the same time as warm feelings without religious conduct are a kind of hypocrisy, so, on the other hand, right conduct, when unattended with deep feelings, is at best a very imperfect sort of religion.

Cardinal Newman, Sermon 10, The Crucifixion

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Being "green" a la Scripture

Did you know that in The Law, God seeks to protect the trees and the birds.?

About trees we read this:

“When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them and you shall not cut them down.  For is the tree of the jeld a man, that it should be besieged  by you? Only the trees which you know are not trees for

food you shall destroy and cut down in order that you may construct siege works
against the city that is making war with you until it falls” (Dt. 20:19, 20).

To which a biblical commentator writes:
Notice that the argument God gives calls attention to the place of trees in His scheme of things, and the value He places on them. Just as God regulated Adam’s use of the trees of the garden of Eden, so He continues to regulate man’s use of trees.

And on birds we read:

“If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well
with you, and that you may prolong your days” (Dt.  22:6, 7).

To which the same commentator writes:
While the ecological benefits of this law would indeed have the effect of prolonging the life of man, in itself such a rule would have only slight effects. The import of this law is that it tells us that God will bestow life on those men who respect the life He has given to other creatures. It is His concern with the birds, as well as with men, which lies behind this legislation.

So to the green lobby we can say PAH! God got there way before you!

Commentary from Jim Jordan's, The Law of the Covenant

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Pro-Abortion = Anti-babies

That abortion is abhorrent to God is clear from the Scriptures. I mentioned one such place where this is clear in my last post here.

When challenged with this, the world tends to respond in one of two ways. One is to embrace the unashamed motto of the atheist zealot which basically says "God is not there and if He is, I don't care". The other route is to retreat into the bunkers of agnosticism and declare that no one really knows if life begins at conception or at birth. Well if that is you, doubt know more. Thanks to the advances of technology, it is easy to get a vivid picture of how wicked and evil an abortion is... as the video below shows it is an act which screams nothing short of "I'm pro-abortion because I'm anti-babies" OR more clearly "Thou shalt not limit a woman's freedom because she wants to kill her babies"

HT: David Baker

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Thought for the day: Why aren't we Brits mad about babies?

These past few weeks, my dear wife and I have been reading Exodus as part of our daily devotions. Yesterday from chapter 21 we read:

22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Apart from the striking observation that the lex talionis is set in the context of feticide and is not some general rule to be banded about, I was struck by the seriousness that the LORD treats the destroying of fetual life. So why is it that Christians/The Church in Britain doesn't seem that fussed about this issue? Why are we BIG on Biblically dubious issues like "fair trade" and "climate change" whilst being quiet on the Biblically abhorrent issues like abortion and homosexuality?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Woodland Bach

This is the kind of thing someone would mention to me at the idea stage and I'd think somewhat impossible or maybe, an utter waste of time and then someone actually does it and you think, huh! I wish I'd helped to make that... Ah well not this time and as you prepare for the Lord's Day tomorrow, please take time to enjoy this beautiful cantata by Bach done in a woodland stylee...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Three locks before opening

The lock on the door of your mouth should have three keys—is it true? is it kind? is it necessary?

HT: Pastor Doug Wilson

Friday, 1 April 2011

ADHD increases as you travel East...

...and other fascinating points about education in the video below.

If you're involved in "public" education or have young children this is well worth watching...