Daily Archives: January 6, 2014

Building Up the Body: Evangelicalism’s Failure

From Voice, Nov/Dec 2013. Used by permission.

One of the most insightful of recent books concerning the church is actually written by an unbeliever. Alan Wolfe, a social scientist, has been observing the changing American religious scene for years. A few years ago he shared his research in The Transformation of American Religion (New York: Free Press, 2003). The message of his book is that “religion in the United States is being transformed in radically new directions” (3). Wolfe claims,

Talk of Hell, damnation, and even sin has been replaced by a nonjudgmental language of understanding and empathy. Gone are the arguments over doctrine and theology… More Americans than ever proclaim themselves born again in Christ, but the Lord to whom they turn rarely gets angry and frequently strengthens self-esteem. [As a result] the faithful in the United States are remarkably like everyone else. (3)

If Wolfe’s assessments are on target, what would be the catalyst for this transformation (or better, degeneration)? Wolfe’s thesis is that in an effort to win over American culture, Evangelicalism has stooped so low that it can no longer be distinguished from that culture. Take doctrine for example. Small-group Bible studies avoid theology like the plague, lest it prove divisive. Sermons are no better. Read more about Building Up the Body: Evangelicalism’s Failure

Missing the Point by John MacArthur

The dean of the seminary I attended was Dr. Charles Feinberg, one of the most brilliant and respected men I have ever known. He was Jewish, and after studying for fourteen years to be a rabbi, he was converted to Christ. He knew more than thirty languages. He even told me once that he taught himself Dutch because he wanted to read Dutch Reformed theology. He also read through the Bible four times every year. Needless to say, he was exceptional and intense. We were all rightfully in awe of him, and I loved him at the same time.

In those days, every seminary student had to preach in chapel. When my turn came, I was assigned to preach on 2 Samuel 7, the great text on the Davidic Covenant. My sermon was probably a fine example of structural craftsmanship. It had a zinger for a beginning and a zapper at the end. It would have been a great success, too—if it hadn’t been for my lack of biblical content in the middle section. I preached a “practical” message that was only superficially related to the biblical text. In that passage, Nathan encourages David to build a house for the Lord. And God says, “Wait a minute, you didn’t check in. That’s not the plan.” So I preached about how important it is to not presume on God.

When I finished, I felt pretty good. The chapel audience seemed to have followed with interest, and I even thought I heard some murmurs of approval. But I really only cared about the opinion of one man—my mentor, Dr. Feinberg. The faculty sat behind us when we preached in chapel, and they had legal-sized criticism sheets, which they filled out during our sermons. After we were done preaching, we would stand at the door, and the faculty would hand us their sheets as they left the room. I just wanted Dr. Feinberg’s.

He was at the end of the line, and I could see that he had folded his sheet up very small and very tightly. When he handed it to me, he did not even look up at me. He kept his eyes straight down and walked firmly past. That was not a good sign. So at my first opportunity, I unfolded his paper. I was eager to read his feedback, hoping desperately that he would be impressed with my sermon.

To be sure, I expected some constructive criticism. But the few bold red words that stared back at me were much worse than anything I had prepared myself for. He had completely ignored all the suggested categories and scoring helps that were printed on the sheet. Instead, he wrote across the page a one-line critique that hit me like a hard punch to the solar plexus: “You missed the whole point of the passage.”

That is the worst possible mistake any preacher can make—but especially in front of someone like Dr. Feinberg. Like many young preachers, I had naively concerned myself with just about everything except getting the meaning of the text right. My preparation was focused on delivery, gestures, anecdotes, the right mix of humor and illustrative material, and the alliteration of my main points. I had actually approached the biblical passage itself almost as an afterthought.

Later that day, I received a message instructing me to go to Dr. Feinberg’s office. When I got there, he was sitting at his desk, shaking his head in disappointment. “How could you? How could you? That passage presents the Davidic Covenant culminating in the Messiah and His glorious kingdom—and you talked about ‘not presuming on God’ in our personal day-to-day choices. That would have been a fine admonition to preach from Numbers 15:30-31 or Psalm 19:13, but you can’t reduce 2 Samuel 7 to that! You missed the entire point of the passage, and it’s one of the greatest of all Old Testament passages. Don’t ever do that again.”

He never said another word about it to me, but that incident hit me like a sledgehammer. In fact, it was the deepest single impression I ever received in seminary. Never miss the point of the passage. To this day, when I come to the text each week and begin to study its richness and depth, I can still hear Dr. Feinberg’s heartfelt admonition ringing in my ears. If you don’t have the meaning of Scripture, you do not have the Word of God at all. If you miss the true sense of what God has said, you are not actually preaching God’s Word! That reality has compelled me for more than forty years of preaching.

During those years, I’ve seen numerous evangelical trends come and go. Whether it’s a new way of doing church or the latest self-help book, contemporary Christian fads are transient by their very nature. Pastors who embrace these fads, usually in an attempt to be culturally relevant, inevitably find themselves neglecting the preaching of God’s Word, looking for something else, desperately trying to keep up with whatever is supposedly cutting edge. Many preachers in the current generation seem to find it hard to resist the temptation to approach ministry that way. After all, the endless parade of fads is going the same direction the mainstream of the evangelical movement is flowing. Adapting your ministry to keep up with cultural and ecclesiastical fads is precisely what most books on pastoral ministry advocate. It’s the pattern many of evangelicalism’s best-known pastors have followed. It’s even what most seminaries teach their students.

But for more than four decades now, I have resisted and opposed all those trends. And one of the main things that still constrains me is Dr. Feinberg’s admonition to a second-year seminary student—which continually echoes in my head as I prepare my sermons—reminding me to keep focused on the main thing, to concentrate on getting the meaning of Scripture right, and to consume my energies preaching the Word of God as accurately and as faithfully as possible.

 

(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B140106     COPYRIGHT ©2014 Grace to You

“Hey Preacher, You Suck and Nobody Likes You!”

During a recent trip to Virginia I was reading Wesley’s journals on the airplane, and I stumbled across the entry below. It really impacted me. In fact, I handed the book to my wife and asked her to read the underlined part. As she read, her eyes grew wide, and she looked at me and said, “WOW!”  Why? Because when we imagine guys like John Wesley, we imagine (because they are so effective, popular, and almost saintly) that they never experienced the pain of harsh criticism from parishioners. We might also imagine that if they did, they simply dismissed it or had some profound spiritual correction for the critic. Not so in this entry. It is actually very “human” and written differently from most everything I have read in Wesley’s journal up to this point. Read on…

Read More: http://thinktheology.org/people-harshly-criticize-preaching-ministry/

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Abuse?

 

The word abuse has taken many meanings over time. Immediately, most assume abuse involves anger or some form of physical violence. This is a simplistic and often misleading view of abuse. Anger is an emotion God gave us to alert us to problems. Righteous anger is not sinful and should not be associated with abuse. Anger mishandled can certainly lead to a sinful, abusive response, but it is a sinful heart, not the emotion of anger, that is the root cause of abuse.

The word abuse is used to describe the mistreatment or misuse of virtually anything. We speak of abuse of trust, drugs, institutions, and objects. These forms of abuse are sinful for the same reason that abuse directed at people is sinful. Such mistreatment is motivated by selfishness and results in damage and destruction. People abuse others for a variety of reasons, but selfishness underlies all abuse. We tend to lash out when things do not go our way.

Some abuse can be subtle. Emotional abuse can be difficult to detect because, on the surface, there is no observable evidence of the abuse, but that doesn’t mean the effects are any less painful or destructive. Examples of emotional abuse include verbal attacks, criticism, favoritism, manipulation, deceit, threats, and withheld expressions of love.

Anyone can be an abuser, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or background. Victims of abuse can be ensnared in a cycle that is very difficult to break. Children have no responsibility for abuse suffered in childhood but often carry its effects into adulthood by repeating the patterns. Children need to be protected from abuse. Abusive parents are cursing their children rather than blessing them as they ought (Psalm 112:2; Proverbs 20:7).

The Bible regards abuse as sin because we are called to love one another (John 13:34). Abuse disregards others and is the opposite of this command. An abuser desires to satisfy his natural selfishness regardless of the consequences to himself or others. Several passages in the Bible strongly condemn taking advantage of or abusing others (Exodus 22:22; Isaiah 10:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).

Everyone is guilty of abuse at some level, because everyone falls short of God’s command to love others sacrificially. Only the love of Jesus in us can truly love others; therefore, real love only exists in those who have accepted Jesus as their savior (Romans 8:10).

Only Jesus can heal the wounds left by abuse (Psalm 147:3). Sadly, many hurting people are waiting for the abuser to come repair the damage he caused. While it is good for the abuser to take responsibility and make amends to those he hurt, it is Jesus who grants peace to those in pain. He is neither unaware nor apathetic to those who suffer, especially children (Mark 10:14–16). That should give us pause, knowing we are accountable for the suffering we cause to others. The Lord Jesus cares for His followers and has laid down His life to demonstrate His love for them (1 Peter 5:7). He will most assuredly comfort, vindicate, and heal them (John 10:11–15).

Believers need to own their abuse of others in order to break the cycle while receiving help to recover from past hurts. A safe place to do that is in pastoral or biblical counseling or in a small group of believers where people can help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1–10). The Lord will enable us to do what He called us to do, which is love one another as He loves us.[1]

 


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

Bible Translations: What Is the Geneva Bible?

 

The Geneva Bible is an early English translation of the Bible. Its name comes from the fact it was first published in Geneva in 1560. The work of Protestant exiles from England and Scotland, the Geneva Bible is well respected and was an important Bible in Scotland and England before and even after the King James Version was published in 1611. For some forty years after the King James Version was published, the Geneva Bible remained the most popular English Translation of the Bible.

In 1553 Mary Tudor became Queen of England. As Queen she was committed to eliminating Protestant influences in England and restoring Roman Catholicism as the official religion. Under her rule there was a time of intense persecution of Protestants known as the Marian Persecutions which earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” She had over 300 Protestant believers burned at the stake, and many others fled to other countries rather than face certain death for not supporting Roman Catholicism.

During this time period several key English Protestant leaders fled to Geneva, Switzerland, to avoid the persecution in England. Among those were Miles Coverdale, John Foxe, Thomas Sampson, and William Whittingham. With the support of John Calvin and the Scottish Reformer John Knox, these English Reformers decided to publish an English Bible that was not dependent upon the approval of English royalty. Building upon earlier English translations such as those done by William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale, the Geneva Bible was the first English translation in which all of the Old Testament was translated directly from Hebrew manuscripts. Much of the translation work was done by William Whittingham, the brother-in-law of John Calvin.

In 1557 they published an English New Testament. A few years later, in 1560, the first edition of the Geneva Bible was published in Geneva, Switzerland containing both the New and Old Testament along with significant translation notes. This new English Bible was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I who had been crowned Queen of England in 1558 after the death of Queen Mary I. Under Queen Elizabeth, the persecution of Protestants stopped and she began leading England back towards Protestantism. This led to later editions of the Geneva Bible being published in England beginning in 1576. In all, over 150 editions were published with the 1644 version being the latest.

Pre-dating the King James Version by 51 years, the Geneva Bible was one of the earliest mass produced English Bibles commonly available to the public. It was the primary English Bible used by 16th century English Protestant Reformers and was the Bible used by such people as William Shakespeare, John Milton, John Knox and John Bunyan.

Often considered as one of the earliest examples of a study Bible, the Geneva Bible contained detailed notes, verse citations that allowed cross referencing of passages, and also study aids such as book introductions, maps, and woodcut illustrations. It was printed in at least three different sizes and was reasonably affordable, costing less than a week’s wages even for the lowest paid workers.

The annotations or notes in the Geneva Bible were distinctly Calvinist and Puritan in character which made it unpopular with some of the pro-government Church of England leaders as well as King James I. This led King James I to commission the new translation that would become known as the Authorized Version or the King James Bible. Surprisingly, though, some of the Geneva notes were found in a few editions of the King James Bible up to the 1715 version. The Geneva Bible was also seen as a threat to Roman Catholicism as some of its notes, written by Protestant Reformers during a time of intense persecution by the Roman Catholic Church, are distinctly anti-Roman Catholic.

Eventually the King James Version would replace the Geneva Bible as the most popular English translation. The Geneva Bible is a very important English translation and was the primary Bible used by many early settlers in America. In recent years it has gained increasing popularity again, both because it is an excellent translation and because of its well-written study notes.[1]


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

Bible Commentary: What Does It Mean that the Lord Is My Shepherd?

 

The phrase “the Lord is my shepherd” comes from one of the most beloved of all passages of Scripture, the 23rd Psalm. In this passage and throughout the New Testament we learn that the Lord is our Shepherd in two ways. First, as the Good Shepherd, He laid down His life for His sheep and, secondly, His sheep know His voice and follow Him (John 10:11, 14).

In Psalm 23, God is using the analogy of sheep and their nature to describe us. Sheep have a natural tendency to wander off and get lost. As believers, we tend to do the same thing. It’s as Isaiah has said: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). When sheep go astray, they are in danger of getting lost, being attacked, even killing themselves by drowning or falling off cliffs.

Likewise, within our own nature there is a strong tendency to go astray (Romans 7:5, 8:8), following the lusts of our flesh and eyes and pursuing the pride of life (1 John 2:16). As such, we are like sheep wandering away from the Shepherd through our own futile self-remedies and attempts at self-righteousness. It is our nature to drift away (Hebrews 2:1), to reject God and to break His commandments. When we do this, we run the risk of getting lost, even forgetting the way back to God. Furthermore, when we turn away from the Lord we soon find ourselves confronting one enemy after another who will attack us in numerous ways.

Sheep are basically helpless creatures who cannot survive long without a shepherd, upon whose care they are totally dependent. Likewise, like sheep, we are totally dependent upon the Lord to shepherd, protect, and care for us. Sheep are essentially dumb animals that do not learn well and are extremely difficult to train. They do not have good eyesight, nor do they hear well. They are very slow animals who cannot escape predators; they have no camouflage and no weapons for defense such as claws, sharp hooves, or powerful jaws.

Furthermore, sheep are easily frightened and become easily confused. In fact, they have been known to plunge blindly off a cliff following one after another. Shepherds in Bible times faced incredible dangers in caring for their sheep, putting their own lives at risk by battling wild animals such as wolves and lions who threatened the flock. David was just such a shepherd (1 Samuel 17:34–35). In order to be good shepherds, they had to be willing to lay down their lives for the sheep.

Jesus declared that He is our Shepherd and demonstrated it by giving His life for us. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Through His willing sacrifice the Lord made salvation possible for all who come to Him in faith (John 3:16). In proclaiming that He is the good shepherd, Jesus speaks of “laying down” His life for His sheep (John 10:15, 17–18).

Like sheep, we too need a Shepherd. Men are spiritually blind and lost in their sin. This is why Jesus spoke of the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4–6). He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us. He searches for us when we’re lost, to save us and to show us the way to eternal life (Luke 19:10). We tend to be like sheep, consumed with worry and fear, following after one another. By not following or listening to the Shepherd’s voice (John 10:27), we can be easily led astray by others to our own destruction. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, warns those who do not believe and listen to Him: “I did tell you, but you do not believe … you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:25–28).

Psalm 23:1–3 tells us that the shepherd meets the sheep’s every need: food, water, rest, safety and direction. When we as believers follow our Shepherd, we too know that we will have all we need. We will not lack the necessities of life for He knows exactly what we need (Luke 12:22–30).

Sheep will not lie down when they are hungry, nor will they drink from fast-flowing streams. Sometimes the shepherd will temporarily dam up a stream so the sheep can quench their thirst. Psalm 23:2 speaks of leading the sheep “beside the quiet [stilled] waters.” The shepherd must lead his sheep because they cannot be driven. Instead, the sheep hear the voice of their shepherd and follow him—just as we listen to our Shepherd, Jesus Christ—in His Word and follow Him (John 10:3–5, 16, 27). And if a sheep does wander off, the shepherd will leave the flock in charge of his helpers and search for the lost animal (Matthew 9:36, 18:12–14; Luke 15:3–7).

In Psalm 23:3, the Hebrew word translated “paths” means “well-worn paths or ruts.” In other words, when sheep wander onto a new path, they start to explore it, which invariably leads them into trouble. This passage is closely akin to what the Hebrew writer warns us about: “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:9). The apostle Paul also alludes to this idea in Ephesians 4:14.

Finally, the shepherd cares for the sheep because he loves them and wants to maintain his own good reputation as a faithful shepherd. As we’ve seen in Psalm 23, the analogy of the Lord as the Good Shepherd was also applied by Jesus in John chapter 10. In declaring that He is the shepherd of the sheep, Jesus is confirming that He is God. The Eternal God is our Shepherd. And we would not want it any other way.[1]


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

On The Coldest Day In America In 20 Years, Here Are Al Gore’s Stupidest Global Warming Quotes

America could actually use some global warming right about now. It is being projected that low temperatures across the Midwest could be 30 to 50 degrees below average on Monday morning. On Sunday, fans that attempted to tailgate before the playoff game between the 49ers and the Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin were discovering that their beers were actually turning to ice before they could drink them. That is cold. But things are going to get really chilly when nightfall arrives. In fact, it is being projected that much of the nation will experience wind chill temperatures of more than 40 degrees below zero, and wind chill temperatures of more than 50 degrees below zero are expected in parts of North Dakota and Minnesota. The weather is expected to be so cold that the governor of Minnesota has actually decided to close public schools statewide on Monday. The last time that happened was back in 1997. The reason why the governor of Minnesota did this is because when temperatures get this low they can literally be life threatening. When wind chill temperatures get down to about 50 below zero, if your skin is exposed you can literally develop frostbite in about five minutes. This is being called the coldest day in America in 20 years, and these cold temperatures have many Americans wondering what ever happened to all of that “global warming” that Al Gore and other “climate scientists” have been warning us about for so many years. (Read More…..)

The Dangers Of Celebrity Christianity

There is a disease, a viral infection that has swept through the body of Christ. It is no respecter of persons, places, denomination or creed. It is an infection that starts in the body causing paralysis but eventually moves to the head and brings on delusions of grandeur. I am talking about the “Man of God” disease ……. Click here for full story

Is It Possible For Christians To Walk in the Light as He is in the Light?

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 ESV)

The tragic state of the vast majority of professing Christians in these early years of the 21st Century is that only a small minority of them are actually walking their Christian walk before the Lord in the light that is borne from our Saviour’s own life. As a result, most Christians are in bondage to their flesh. They are enslaved to a taskmaster who has an insatiable appetite for self-gratification. Even though they…

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