Daily Archives: November 1, 2013

“Why Does Evil Exist? (Part #5)”

Settled In Heaven Blog

SIH STSTA ICON

That they may know[there is] none beside me. I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else

 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].(Isaiah 45:7)

 [Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:…”(Habakkuk 1:13) 

 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:  (James 1:13)

In above set of Scriptures, we find one of the supposedly contradictory texts of the Scriptures.  On one hand, from the lips of the Lord Himself, He clearly states that “I create evil”.  Then later in the Scriptures we find Habakkuk, as he speaks concerning the Lord, says

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New Article: Why Shouldn’t We Trust the Non-Canonical Gospels Attributed to Peter?

When I first started investigating the reliability of the New Testament Gospels, I was fascinated by the ancient non-Canonical stories and legends related to Jesus. While they were written too late to be legitimate eyewitness accounts, they were built on the core truths of Gospels (albeit altered and embellished by authors with specific motivations). There are good reasons to reject these texts, but there is much we can learn about Jesus as well. I’ll be examining a number of non-canonical documents over the next several weeks in an effort to discover how they differ from the reliable accounts, why they were rejected by the Church, and what we can learn about Jesus, in spite of their unreliability. We’ll begin with the work of ancient authors who attempted to legitimize their stories by attributing them to Apostle Peter: – See more at: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/why-shouldnt-we-trust-the-non-canonical-gospels-attributed-to-peter/

New Article: 5 Questions to Ask to See If Your Church Is Dying

Please forgive me for the morbid and depressing title and content. I don’t think posts such as these encourage many of you.

I guess the impetus for writing such an article is the work I am doing to finish my next book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church. I have dealt a lot with the death of churches in my research and writing for that book.

The Research

Before I go further, let me define a dying church. A dying church is a congregation that will close its doors within 20 years if it continues its current trajectory. “Trajectory” includes many variables such as attendance, financial giving, demographic trends, and age of members.

Why would I include such a long period of 20 years in the definition? Simply put, churches hang on to life tenaciously. The members, despite how few remain, are highly reticent to close the doors of the church.

According to my estimates, about one in four American churches, or around 100,000 churches, fit the definition of a dying church. My estimates seem to have been confirmed with a recent study by LifeWay Research. The research team conducted telephone interviews with 1,007 Protestant pastors.* One of the response statements the team asked the pastors was: “I am concerned that the church where I am serving is dying.” Here are the responses:

Read More Here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/5-questions-to-ask-to-see-if-your-church-is-dying-107889/

New Article: Editorial: Remember persecuted Christian children as part of action week

By Dr  Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid

Persecutors of Christians show no mercy towards children. In  fact Christian youngsters are often the most vulnerable when their communities  come under attack or suffer discrimination.

Barnabas Aid is this week holding our Suffering Church  Action Week, with the theme “Children of Courage”, to highlight how Christian  children are affected by persecution and urge our supporters to take action on  their behalf.

Read More Here: http://www.barnabasfund.org/US/News/News-analysis/Editorial-Remember-persecuted-Christian-children-as-part-of-action-week.html

New Post: Persecuted Christian children need sponsors; will you support one?

 

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, South and East Asia, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh

Robbed of their childhood by the terrors of war, the  hardship of poverty and the cruelty of discrimination. Could you be a lifeline for  a suffering Christian child in Syria, Pakistan or Bethlehem?

Christian girls in Syria are particularly vulnerable to kidnap and sexual abuse
Christian girls in Syria are particularly vulnerable to kidnap and sexual abuse

As part of “Children of Courage”, Suffering Church Action  Week (27 October- 3 November), Barnabas Aid is seeking sponsors for thousands  of stricken Christian children.

Read More Here: http://www.barnabasfund.org/US/Free-magazine/Facebook-Latest-need/Persecuted-Christian-children-need-sponsors-will-you-support-one.html

Muslim Dreams and Visions of Jesus

hipandthigh

During the Strange Fire conference, folks were asked to fill out some note cards with questions they wanted us to answer concerning spiritual gifts, charismatics, and other Strange Fiery stuff. We received a ton of questions; I think something like 150 cards with good, thoughtful questions inquiring into various subjects regarding charismatics.

Todd Friel committed us publicly to answering every one, and I am a part of the team slowly responding to them. An official place on the GTY website should pop up soon.

Anyhow, with the group of questions I received, at least 10 or so were asking about the phenomena of Muslims allegedly seeing visions of Jesus, or perhaps having a dream about Him that ultimately brings that Muslim to faith in Christ and the Christian faith.

There is a book about it, there’s a website dedicated to the subject, and Joel Rosenberg is one of…

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New Post: The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon—Free eBook

During the month of November, Reformation Trust is giving away the eBook edition of Steven Lawson’s The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon.

Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of nineteenth-century London, is remembered today as “the prince of preachers.” However, the strength of Spurgeon’s ministry went far beyond simple rhetorical skill.

Read More Here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/gospel-focus-charles-spurgeon-free-ebook/

New Post: Charles Spurgeon: The Heart of a Soul-Winner

Hailed as the greatest preacher of nineteenth-century England, Charles Haddon Spurgeon is arguably the preeminent preacher of any century. Regarded as the most widely successful expositor of modern times, Spurgeon heads virtually every list of renowned preachers. If John Calvin was the greatest theologian of the church, Jonathan Edwards the greatest philosopher, and George Whitefield the greatest evangelist, Spurgeon surely ranks as its greatest preacher. Never has one man stood in one pulpit, week after week, year after year, for almost four decades, and preached the gospel with greater worldwide success and lasting impact than Spurgeon. To this day, he remains “the Prince of Preachers.”

Through the centuries, expositors such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Calvin, and countless others have committed themselves to preaching in a verse-by-verse style through entire books of the Bible. But this was not Spurgeon’s approach. Though he was “an expository preacher par excellence,” Spurgeon drew his message each week from a different book in the Bible. This free style distinguished Spurgeon from these other great preachers, positioning him, first and foremost, as an evangelistic expositor.

Read More Here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/charles-spurgeon-heart-soul-winner/

New Post: One Vital Lesson from Doug Phillips’ Resignation

Does Satan attack our strengths or our weaknesses? Does he try to destroy us where we’re strong or where we’re weak? For most Christians, it’s usually our weaknesses that the devil targets. But for Christian leaders it’s usually their strengths, the areas they’ve built ministries upon, the moral and spiritual qualities they are best known for promoting.

Why? Why does the devil go for the citadel rather than for the little cracks in the wall?

Because the damage is so much greater, the fallout is more horrendous, the church is more discouraged, and the world is most delighted when a Christian leader falls in the one place he really planted his flag and made a stand.

No surprise That’s why when I heard that Doug Phillips had resigned from Vision Forum Ministries, it was no surprise that it involved an “inappropriately romantic and affectionate” relationship with a woman not his wife.

Here’s a Christian man who built a much-loved ministry out of promoting Christian marriage, Christian leadership, Christian family, etc. He was a strong leader with strong views, courageously taking a public stand against the weakening of Christian marriage and parenting, producing lots of valuable resources to strengthen Christian marriages, to instruct children, to call men to bold leadership of their families, and to promote virtuous behavior through quality Christian films.

And this morning so much of what he built now lies in ruins, with many Christians he helped (and I include myself and my family in this) demoralized and depressed at the fall of a man in the one area that he went to war with our culture on.

Serious warning What a warning to us all, especially to those of us who have leadership roles in the church, and especially in the areas we are strongest and most vocal on.

Read More Here: http://headhearthand.org/blog/2013/11/01/one-vital-lesson-from-doug-phillips-resignation/

A Basic Guide to Defenses of the Charismatic Movement…

Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

In the last 2 weeks I’ve received a fair amount of e-mails and messages asking for my take on various articles, comments and defenses mounted by spokespeople in the Charismatic Movement against, well, mostly John MacArthur and Phil Johnson.  I cannot respond to each request individually, but I thought I would write a short guide to some of the common defense tactics used by Charismatic defenders, I’ve glanced at a bunch of blogs, articles and I’ve even listened to a few podcasts.  Through all that, here’s some of the common defense strategies that I find repeated often:

1.  Denial 

When someone is challenged with a critical examination of some outlandish or unbiblical idea/action that they won’t admit to being part of their circle of activity/contact, they may take the whole Denial defense, otherwise known as thePatrick Star defense:

A common manifestation of this is when you point…

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New Post: The Complex Problem of the Persecuted Church

November 3 has been set aside to pray for the persecuted church, and it prompts a good question in many minds: How exactly should the American church help our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world? A recent spate of articles has accused U.S. churches of not speaking out or sufficiently expressing concern. But the real problem is not silence, either in the United States or around the world. The problem is a lack of workable solutions.

609683This is a complicated issue, made even more difficult by our failure to adequately define just what constitutes persecution. I would argue for three broad, general categories we have in mind when we use the term: suffering, marginalization, and martyrdom.

Read More Here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/11/01/the-complex-problem-of-the-persecuted-church/

New Post: Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Resigns, Cites Moral Failure


Doug Phillips has resigned as president of Vision Forum following his announcement of a moral failure, which according to his resignation letter, involved an “inappropriate relationship with a woman.” Phillips has long been the face of a particular branch of Reformed Christianity which models very rigid family structures (led by the “Federal Head,” the husband), promotes the Quiverfull lifestyle, enforces strictly supervised courtship dating for youth, and also teaches a form of Dominionism (got to have lots of babies, you see, through embracing the “quiverfull” teachings, if you’re going to have any shot at taking Dominion of the world). I have personally counseled several women who have come out of this movement, and who didn’t quite fit the mold for whatever reason, and whose experiences with Vision Forum leadership ranged from neglect to outright spiritual abuse.

Read More Here: http://www.solasisters.com/2013/10/doug-phillips-of-vision-forum-resigns.html

Characters in the Bible: What Should We Learn from the Tribe of Manasseh?

Israel’s 12 tribes were named for Jacob’s children or, in the case of Manasseh (and Ephraim), his grandchildren. After Jacob wrestled with Him all night, God renamed Jacob “Israel,” which means “you have struggled with God and men and have overcome” (Genesis 32:22–30). The name Israel represents not only the modern-day country but also, originally, Jacob’s offspring to whom God promised a great nation whose “descendants will be like dust of the earth … spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south” (Genesis 28:14).

Jacob’s grandson, for whom the tribe was named, was born in Egypt to Joseph and his wife, Asenath, daughter of the priest Potiphera. Joseph named his firstborn “Manasseh” because God had made him “forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (Genesis 41:51).

This tribe provides us with many lessons; chief among them are messages about free will, obedience, faith, and the nature of God.

Early on, we learn that Manasseh is frequently referred to as the “half-tribe” of Manasseh. This designation highlights the choice made by some of the tribe to reside east of the River Jordan (Numbers 32:33; Joshua 13:29–31). They believed the Transjordan was the more suitable land to raise their flocks. The rest of the tribe settled west of the Jordan, in Canaan, following Joshua’s command to enter and possess the Promised Land. As is evident throughout Scripture, God endows His children with the freedom to choose.

Exercising free will can lead to undesirable or even disastrous results, especially if we disobey God or make selfish choices. Manasseh learned this lesson—painfully—when they failed to obey God’s command to destroy the Canaanites. Part of this failure was due to a lack of faith that God would give them strength to overcome a seemingly unconquerable foe. Manasseh illustrates other human failings as well, such as greed and covetousness. The (half) tribe of Manasseh desired more land because they were “a numerous people.” They may have had the numbers, but they were unwilling to follow Joshua’s exhortation to clear “the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites” (Joshua 17:12–18).

On the other hand, the tribe of Manasseh at times exhibits faithfulness to God. Gideon, who would later become one of Israel’s best judges, questioned God when called to “save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” One of Gideon’s objections was that his “clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15). Gideon required proof from God—twice—before he acted (Judges 6:36–40). Once convinced of God’s will, Gideon moved forward with 32,000 troops to conquer the Midianites. But then God told Gideon that he had too many troops for the job, and he reduced his corps to a mere 300 men. Following God’s lead, this paltry force routed the enemy. The battle proved God was with Gideon and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Other interesting lessons emerge. One is that God is just. Zelophehad, great-great-grandson of Manasseh, had no sons and died in the desert before entering the Promised Land. His daughters petitioned Moses, asking that the practice of male inheritance be changed so they could receive their deceased father’s property. After consulting with the Lord, Moses agreed and developed rules designed to keep property within a family (Numbers 27:1–11).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Christian Life: Is It Important for a Christian to Have Daily Devotions?

“Daily devotions” is a phrase used to describe the discipline of Bible reading and prayer with which Christians start or end their day. Bible reading can take the form of a structured study using a devotional or simply reading through certain passages or perhaps reading through the Bible in a year. Prayer can include any or all of the different prayers—praise, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and/or intercession. Some people use prayer lists for their daily devotions. Others prefer to pray as they read the Word in an interactive manner, listening for God speaking to them through the Bible passages and responding in prayer. Whatever the format, the important thing is that our daily devotions, as the name implies, be truly devoted to God and occur daily.

Yes, it truly is important to spend time with God daily. Why? Paul explains it clearly: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). The experience of having His light shine in our hearts comes in our times spent in the presence of God. Of course, this light comes only from knowing God through Christ. This marvelous treasure of the Holy Spirit is given to each of us as Christians, and we need faith to believe it and act upon it. In all reality, if we truly yearn to experience the light of our Lord, we will need to be with God … every day.

Someone once said, “The gospel brings man to God; devotions keep him close to God.” It was James the half-brother of Jesus who wrote: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). In essence, James is telling us that the children of God will yearn to seek a closer relationship with God, to draw near to His heart, to understand more and more about Him, to obey His commands, and to hold onto His promises. The impure and double-minded will have no such yearning in their hearts. In fact, they will seek to separate themselves from God as much as possible.

The expression “draw near” was originally associated with the priesthood in Israel. Under the regulations of the Old Covenant, the priests represented the people before God. However, prior to coming near God’s presence, the priest had to be washed physically and be ceremonially clean. This meant he had to bathe, wear the proper garments, and offer sacrifices that made his own heart right with God. Then he could “draw near” to God on the people’s behalf. In time, the Hebrew word for “drawing near” meant anyone who approached the presence of God in worship and prayer. The term became synonymous even of those whose hearts were far from God when they “worshiped” Him. For example, Isaiah 29:13 says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

But the sincere believer, the one who has truly humbled himself before God, knows that God wants His people to draw near with true and pure hearts: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). This applies the language of the Old Testament ceremonial system to us today. It tells us that, as those ancient priests prepared themselves to be near God, we also should prepare ourselves spiritually to worship Him, whether in formal worship or in our personal devotional times.

We know that the humble person comes to God for his salvation and submits his life to Him as Lord, but also the truly humble person will see that his relationship to God is inherently more than that. In claiming to be a true follower of Christ through our having a saving relationship with the Father through the Son, we can readily understand the psalmist who wrote, “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (Psalm 73:28).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Sin: What Is a Graven Image?

The phrase “graven image” comes from the King James Version and is first found in Exodus 20:4 in the first of the Ten Commandments. The Hebrew word translated “graven image” means literally an idol. A graven image is an image carved out of stone, wood, or metal. It could be a statue of a person or animal, or a relief carving in a wall or pole. It is differentiated from a molten image which is melted metal poured into a cast. Abstract Asherah poles, carved wooden Ba’als covered in gold leaf, and etchings of gods accompanying Egyptian hieroglyphics are all graven images.

The progression of idolatry in a pagan religion generally starts with the acknowledgement of a power that controls natural forces. The presence of the force is then thought to indwell an object, like a stone, or a place, like a mountain. The next step is altering a naturally-occurring object, like a standing stone, a deliberately planted tree, or a carved Asherah pole, and asking the force to indwell it. When the idolatrous culture has had time to contemplate the personality of the god, they then make corresponding physical images—a statue that looks like a woman or a relief carving that looks like an animal. Graven images can be either of the last two steps.

The spiritual progression is similar. People start with wanting something (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5), often children or prosperity or good crops. They observe the circumstances (circumstances some acknowledge are God-ordained, and others think are independent) that lead to these things and begin to ascribe the causal forces using human characteristics—thus creating gods. Places are set aside to commune with these false gods. For convenience sake, smaller items, thought to hold the power or the communication line of the gods, are brought into homes. Before long, the people are ensnared by the compulsion to give homage to a thing of their own definition instead of the God of the universe.

The second commandment, recorded in Exodus 20:4–5, reads, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them …” Likely, this refers back to the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” and specifically forbids the creation of idols. But it is equally dangerous to create an image of God Himself. God has given us reminders enough of His power and glory (Romans 1:20) without man attempting to use created things to represent the Creator.

Functionally, there is no difference between a “graven” image (Deuteronomy 4:16) and a “molten” image (Exodus 34:17). Both are man’s attempt to define and confine the power of God who works over creation. Both are the result of greed and covetousness, along with the fear that God does not have the worshipers’ best interests at heart. Graven images, whether an idol, a crystal, or a charm, are attempts to limit the power of God and reduce it to a small package which we can control. As with any kind of worship, the object of adoration inevitably controls us.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

New Article: All-Time High Unemployment: The Economic Depression In Europe Just Keeps Getting Deeper

The unemployment rate in the eurozone is higher than it has ever been before. This week we learned that eurozone unemployment came in at an all-time high of 12.2 percent for September. Back in January 2012, it was sitting at just 10.4 percent. So anyone that believes that “things are getting better” in Europe is just being delusional. In fact, the economic depression in Europe just keeps getting deeper. The funny thing is that the mainstream media will barely call what is going on in Europe a “recession” even though the unemployment rates in both Spain and Greece are now much higher than anything that the United States ever experienced during the “Great Depression” of the 1930s. There haven’t been as many headlines about the financial crisis in Europe lately because the ECB has been papering over the debt problems of the periphery (at least for the moment), but the economic conditions on the ground for average Europeans just continue to get even worse. Later on in this article, you will read about a 25-year-old Spanish man with three college degrees that moved to London in a desperate search for a job who is now cleaning up poop for a living. The economic collapse of Europe continues to march on, and there is no end in sight. (Read More….)

New Article: Billy Graham to Mark 95th Birthday with Message to America

In early October, Graham gave an exclusive interview to Newsmax during which he said the sermon he was preparing might be his last. Graham, whose last crusade will be via video, told Newsmax that America is drenched in a “sea of immorality” and suggested that the second coming of Christ is “near.”

Read More Here

New Article: While Obamcare stuns the U.S., ‘leading from behind’ unravels world peace

The U.S. is transfixed by the Obama administration’s massively bungled attempt to nationalize one sixth of the economy, the health welfare system. But the rest of the world watches the slow motion unfolding of another debacle: the loss of post-World War II American leadership of the worldwide alliance for peace and stability.

Read More Here