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August 23, 2012

Strengthening Your Marriage in Ministry - (That link will go live very soon) Today, from 8:30 - 5:30 EST, Southern Seminary is live streaming an event called “Strengthening Your Marriage in Ministry.” It features Albert Mohler, CJ Mahaney, Russell Moore, and Dennis Rainey. For those preparing for ministry or serving in ministry now, this could be a great resource to find help as you protect yourself from one of the most vulnerable places Satan uses to attack gospel ministers—Christian marriages.

The Reputation Economy - Further proof that the online world is becoming as real as the real world. “Imagine a world where banks take into account your online reputation alongside traditional credit ratings to determine your loan; where headhunters hire you based on the expertise you’ve demonstrated on online forums such as Quora…”

Righteous Anger - Here are three criteria for righteous anger.

The Lord’s Negative Prodding - John MacArthur follows up an article about God’s positive prodding with one on the Lord’s negative prodding. Both are worth a read.

Tearing People Down - Here is something worth thinking about.Tearing People Down

August 22, 2012

A few years ago I read Paul Chamberlain’s Talking About Good and Bad Without Getting Ugly, a book that proposes ways that Christians can talk about difficult issues—issues like abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia—in a pluralistic society. The final chapter is a case study that features William Wilberforce as an example of a man who used his Christian convictions to bring about widespread cultural change. Wilberforce was a driving force behind the abolition of slavery within the British Empire. The results of his efforts are seen and celebrated in Western society to this day.

There was one aspect of his strategy to abolish slavery that I found both a challenge and encouragement. Wilberforce was a realistic man; he knew that the kind of change he longed for required the British people to adopt a whole new mindset and would therefore take time and patience. They had to be led to see that slavery was an afront to the God-given value of human beings. They had to see that the conditions of slavery were an abomination to a nation that claimed to be Christian. They had a lot to learn and such lessons would take time.

Because of the distance the people had to come, Wilberforce was willing to accept incremental improvements. For example, at one point he supported a bill, passed on a trial basis, that would regulate the number of slaves that were permitted to be transported on a single ship. Slaves had previously been laid in rows on benches, chained on their sides with the front of one pressed against the back of the next. This proposed legislation demanded immediate improvements but implictly and explicitly supported the continuance of slavery. Still, Wilberforce saw it as a step in the right direction and for that reason he was willing to support it. Another time he voted for a bill that required plantation owners to register all of their slaves. While this bill also supported slavery, Wilberforce understood that a slave registry would keep plantation owners from adding to their number of slaves by buying them from illegal smugglers.

Wilberforce saw these incremental changes as accomplishing two goals. First, they improved the living and working conditions of slaves. While slavery continued, at least the slaves were afforded a greater amount of dignity, even if it had to be measured in small increments. Second, he believed that affording slaves greater rights set the Empire on a slippery slope. Having acknowledged the humanness of the slaves, people had to admit that slaves were something more than animals. The British Parliament had given approval to bills that Wilberforce knew would eventually but inevitably lead to nothing short of abolition. And of course his beliefs proved to be correct. The incremental changes he lobbied for proved to be the starting point for the eventual abolition of slavery.

August 22, 2012

The Internet a Decade Later - “A decade — 10 years. Doesn’t sound like much, right? But a decade ago, the big social networking story was Friendster with a whopping 3 million users. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had 95 percent market share. And less than 600 million people were online globally … fewer than Facebook users alone in 2012.”

The Acts of the Holy Spirit - Here’s a nice new infographic from The Good Book Company. It offers a timeline of Acts and the epistles.

Modesty Glasses - “In Israel, new modesty glasses for Orthodox Jewish men blur women out of their line of sight.” It’s the most obvious solution, I guess.

God’s Amazing Grace - This article represents my sister’s first article for LifeSiteNews. She writes about a former Planned Parenthood manager who is celebrating one year as a pro-life activist.

The Threefold Use of the Law - Ligonier has a quick, helpful look at the threefold use of the law.

The weakness of man sets the stage for the display of God’s strength. —Janice Wise

August 21, 2012

Are We TogetherR.C. Sproul has a long history of making a stand for truth. He has an equal history of standing firm against error, using his ministry platform to refute errors that are seeping into the Evangelical church. On several occasions he has reacted to those who have sought to minimize the differences between Protestant theology and Roman Catholic theology. Faith Alone and Getting the Gospel Right are both insightful looks at the critical importance of affirming and protecting the Reformation gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone. These books were largely a response to “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” and “The Gift of Salvation” (ECT 2). 

While ECT may seem like ancient history, there are many Protestants today who continue to minimize the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, even going so far as to say that the Reformation is over and that it is time to reunite with Rome. Others may not go quite that far, but they still believe that the differences are not significant enough to prohibit a great deal of unity. “The Manhattan Declaration” was just one recent attempt to find common cause on issues such as abortion and traditional marriage. With such efforts in mind, Dr. Sproul returns to the fray with Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism.

He makes his purpose clear in the book’s opening pages: “In this book, I have a simple goal. I want to look at Roman Catholic teaching in several significant areas and compare it with Protestant teaching. I hope to show, often using her own words, that the Roman Catholic Church has not changed from what it believed and taught at the time of the Reformation. That means that the Reformation is not over and we must continue to stand firm in proclaiming the biblical gospel.” He means to show that the gospel itself is at stake and to do this he looks at six core doctrines in which Catholicism varies from the clear teaching of Scripture: Scripture, justification, the Church, sacraments, the papacy and the role of Mary. He closes with a reflection on how Protestants should now relate to Roman Catholics without minimizing theological differences.

What I have long appreciated about Dr. Sproul’s books on Catholicism is that he is charitable and respectful in his tone, always careful to show where Protestants have erred in their understanding of Catholicism and ensuring that he properly represents even those positions that he does not hold to. Thus he looks at Catholic doctrine as it is explained by its foremost theologians and official documents. Having allowed Catholicism to explain itself, he goes to Scripture to show where it has strayed.

When discussing Roman Catholic theology, Protestants have too often been ignorant, careless, or unfair. The power of this book is that R. C. Sproul is fair, precise, and charitable as he proves that the errors of the Roman Catholic Church are both deep and significant, and that the Roman Catholic gospel is not the gospel of the Bible. Even as he calls for us to love our Roman Catholic friends, he warns that we cannot consider them brothers and sisters when the gospel itself is at stake. Are We Together? serves as a helpful primer on Roman Catholic theology and a powerful stand for the gospel. I highly recommend it.

Are We Together? is available at Amazon ($17 hardcover) or Ligonier Ministries ($13.60 hardcover, $7.20 ebook).

August 21, 2012

A Pastor’s Monday - “Mondays are notoriously difficult for pastors. If you are not a pastor, pray for your pastor today as you read through this post. If you are a pastor, listen to the words of pastor Jared Wilson as he describes the structure of his Mondays, along with the personal challenges he faces as another week begins.”

A Plea for Prayer - I loved this article. “For those who do not know Diane [Schreiner] personally, this post is an attempt to allow you to know of this woman of God so that you will be compelled to pray for God’s miraculous and complete healing over her fragile body.  For those who are blessed to know her, nothing below will come as a surprise to you.”

The Next Story - It has been a while since I’ve read a new review of The Next Story. Here’s a kind and encouraging recent one.

Why Waiting Is Torture - This is an interesting article about a boring reality—waiting in line.

Dreams From My Father - I don’t often link to articles by Mark Steyn, and I know that this may be preaching to the choir, so to speak, but this is pretty amazing.

The Greatest Suffering, the Smallest Sin - “You have a choice. Option 1: The tiniest sin imaginable, a sin that would bring you tremendous wealth and other material pleasures. Option 2: The greatest suffering imaginable, for rejecting that one tiny sin. Your selection, please.”

National Geographic Photo Contest - Here are the winners of National Geographic’s Traveler 2012 Photo Contest.

The longer I live, the more faith I have in providence, and the less faith in my interpretation of providence. —Jeremiah Day

August 20, 2012

This is the eighth installment in a series on theological terms. See previous posts on the terms theology, Trinity, creation, man, Fall, common grace, sin, and righteousness.

Unlike some terms such as Trinity and theology, the Bible itself provides a clear and concise definition of faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, faith is a staking of our hearts and minds on a reality that is beyond us, both in time and comprehension. It is ahead of us (“hoped for”) and above us (“not seen”).

To guard us against failing to unpack the full meaning in this verse ourselves, the author of Hebrews makes his definition clear by filling the remaining 39 verses of chapter 11 with example after example of what this faith looks like when lived out. He does this to ensure that we understand that “assurance of things hoped for” and “conviction of things not seen” are not merely words. True faith cannot exist as only thoughts or feelings. Instead, it affects all of life, giving birth to works of obedience and endurance.

And it is important to remember that “things hoped for” and “things not seen” do not refer (at least in Christian faith) to things that are imagined or invisible. These phrases refer to those realities that we know of through the Word of God. Christian faith is inseparable from and unfounded apart from God’s Word. Thus Paul writes in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” John Calvin is likewise careful to emphasize,

There is a permanent relationship between faith and the Word. He could not separate one from the other any more than we could separate the rays from the sun from which they come. … The same Word is the basis whereby faith is supported and sustained; if it turns away from the Word, it falls. Therefore, take away the Word and no faith will then remain. (Institutes, 3.2.6)

50 People 1 Question
August 20, 2012

People often ask me how I find so many topics to write about. The answer is simple: Wherever I go, I am looking for something—anything—to think about. Whether I am in sitting in church or listening to music or reading a book or attending a conference, I am keeping an ear open for things I want to think more about. I jot those things down on my phone or on a scrap of paper. Later on I choose one to think about it, and as I think, I write.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference and heard Mike Bullmore speak. There were a couple of things he mentioned in passing that I jotted down so I could think about them later. One of them was this: “The true measure of spiritual growth is not how much knowledge you’ve gained in the past year, but how much you’ve grown in holiness.” Every Christian knows that it is difficult to measure sanctification—to measure progress in the Christian life. It is easy to confuse knowledge with growth, to think that a grasp of facts necessarily translates to growth in sanctification. But, as Bullmore says, this is not the case. The Christian life is not measured in knowledge but in conformity. The purpose of the Christian life is not to accumulate the greatest number of facts, but to be increasingly transformed to the image of Christ.

There’s another thing Bullmore said that I’ve been thinking about. It’s a simple phrase, a tweetable phrase: “Sin doesn’t do well in the light.” The way to put sin to death is to draw it out of the hidden darkness of the human heart and to expose it to the light—the light of visibility and the light of God’s Word.

To summarize, the measure of the Christian life is growth in holiness. We grow in holiness, at least in part, by putting sin to death. We put sin to death by exposing it to the light.

This all helped crystallize something I have been considering for some time now—the corporate nature of holiness. Sanctification is a community project. There are many reasons that the Lord puts us in Christian community in the form of the local church. We are in community for mutual encouragement, mutual labor, mutual support, and so much else. But we are also in community because holiness is a community project.

This has been the challenge for me: I need to grow in holiness not just for my own sake but out of love and concern for those around me. If I love the people in my church, I will grow in holiness for their sake. I am prone to think that holiness is an individual pursuit, but when I see sanctification as a community project, now it is more of a team pursuit. I am growing in holiness so that I can help others grow in holiness, I am putting sin to death so I can help others put sin to death. My church needs me and I need my church, and this is exactly how God has designed it.

August 20, 2012

Trusting Christ through Trauma - Patrick Schreiner (son of theologian Tom Schreiner) writes: “On Friday morning my Mom was involved in a bike accident which was labeled by the doctors as moderate to very severe.” He writes about hope even in the middle of this situation.

Tall Buildings - Is there a limit to how tall buildings can get. Apparently yes and no. It’s an interesting article, even if no one really knows.

The Shelf Life - David Mathis writes about the shelf life of preaching the gospel to yourself. “The clock is ticking. If you’re faithfully preaching the gospel to your own soul, day in and day out, but distancing yourself from regular Bible intake, your freshness is fading. There’s an expiration date on this fruit once it’s off the vine.”

Suggestions for Theologians - Andy Naselli shares John Frame’s thirty suggestions for young seminarians or theologians. Example: “Value your relationship with Christ, your family, and the church above your career ambitions. You will influence more people by your life than by your theology. And deficiencies in your life will negate the influence of your ideas, even if those ideas are true.”

Dimwitted Discourse - This is a little bit overdone, but still instructive and funny.

Oh, if we could not die, it would be indeed horrible! Who wants to be chained to this poor life for a century or longer?C.H. Spurgeon