Daily Archives: July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017: Verse of the day

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37:3 can these bones live? The many dry bones (v. 2) picture the nation Israel (v. 11) as apparently dead in their dispersion, and waiting for national resurrection. The people knew about the doctrine of individual resurrection, otherwise this prophecy would have had no meaning (cf. 1Ki 17; 2Ki 4; 13:21; Is 25:8; 26:19; Da 12:2; Hos 13:14).[1]

37:3 The question can these bones live? anticipates the exiles’ own self-perception (v. 11): total hopelessness. It also introduces one of the key words in the passage: the verb “to live” appears in vv. 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 14. Ezekiel’s response leaves the outcome to God’s sovereignty.[2]

37:3 these bones live Yahweh is not asking Ezekiel for his opinion on whether people can be brought back to life. The prophet would have been familiar with that possibility based on the experiences of the prophets Elijah (1 Kgs 17:17–24) and Elisha (2 Kgs 4:32–37), and perhaps Isa 53:10–11. Ezekiel’s response indicates his understanding that the possibility depended entirely on Yahweh’s actions.

The prophetic stories of resurrection focus on the recently dead, not those long dead. Ezekiel may have had no expectation of any resurrection for those whose corpses had decayed to such a state. Ezekiel’s response reflects his faith in Yahweh’s power, but he likely did not have a well-developed sense of physical resurrection at the end of days such as that seen in Dan 12:1–2. Several ot passages hint at physical resurrection, including Isa 26:19 and Hos 6:2. The concept also exists in ancient Zoroastrian beliefs about a physical resurrection.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Eze 37:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1559). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Eze 37:3). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

These are 8 of the Most Controversial Topics in the Church Today

Christians take very different opinions on these issues and both sides refer to Scripture to support their views. Discernment is certainly necessary, even among a group of believers in today’s culture. Whatever your views on each of these topics, hopefully reading this list of the areas where the church often experiences division will encourage us as Christ-followers to strive for unity within our own churches and even across denominations, because although there is much division and controversy among the broader church, there are also core doctrines that unite us.

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Seeing the Unseen: The Nature of Spiritual Warfare

Did the Lord Jesus teach his followers to “bind” the powers of darkness?  Should the emphasis on spiritual warfare be on prayer-infused power encounters? What exactly does the Bible teach on the nature of spiritual warfare? Well, according to Christian apologist Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason (STR), the Bible has a lot to say about how we are to defend ourselves against other worldly forces in the unseen realm. We must be armed to the teeth!

What does a Christian’s armor look like? “The very first step in arming ourselves for battle against the devil is to gird our loins with truth (Eph. 6:14).” In this piece from STR’s Solid Ground magazine, Koukl tells us what the Bible teaches about the armor of God. Some who read this will be surprised by his teaching for the reason that the way in which charismatics go about dealing with the demonic is highly unbiblical, only they don’t know it. To make matters worse, attempting to “bind Satan” is a ridiculous and foolish practice.  Taking on powerful, lying, deceptive demons is dangerous!

So with this background in mind, we urge you to open up your Bible and follow along as Greg Koukl explains what it means to “gird your loins with truth.” He writes:

Sometimes, if you know what to look for, you can “see” something that is invisible; you can see the unseen. It’s not a parlor trick, but a valuable spiritual skill. And it’s not that difficult if you know what clues to look for. I’d like to show you what those clues are.

First, though, a foundational matter. I am convinced that most Christians do not understand spiritual warfare. Either they are unaware of the unseen battle or, if they do recognize its importance, they do not focus on the central issue but instead are distracted by a secondary concern. In military terms, they have been taken in by a feint. Here is the feint.

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Comfort on the Deathbed (Or: A Pastor’s Most Important Resource)

“In this spiritual drama, Satan is especially active. Goulart’s discourse ‘Remedies Against Satan’s Temptations in our Final Hour’ enumerates the stinging accusations and doubts that Satan launches against God’s children as they struggle on their deathbeds. The voice of Satan accuses: ‘You are a miserable sinner, worthy of damnation.’ ‘Your sins are too great to be forgiven.’ ‘How do you know that the promise of the gospel pertains to you?’ ‘Are you certain that your repentance and faith are genuine?’ ‘How do you know that you are among God’s elect?’ In response to each of these attacks, Goulart provides the faithful Christian a ready answer, drawn from the pages of Scripture.”

Simon Goulart was a Reformed theologian and pastor from France who served in Geneva in the middle of the 16th century.  His preaching and teaching were solidly biblical, clearly doctrinal, and very applicable.  One example of this is his biblical comfort he gave to Christians on their deathbed.  Scott Manetsch gives a good summary of Goulart’s pastoral care:

As Christians approach death, Goulart recognizes, they are frequently tempted to doubt God’s promised salvation and despair of their future hope.  In this spiritual drama, Satan is especially active.  Goulart’s discourse ‘Remedies Against Satan’s Temptations in our Final Hour’ enumerates the stinging accusations and doubts that Satan launches against God’s children as they struggle on their deathbeds.  The voice of Satan accuses: ‘You are a miserable sinner, worthy of damnation.’  ‘Your sins are too great to be forgiven.’  ‘How do you know that the promise of the gospel pertains to you?’  ‘Are you certain that your repentance and faith are genuine?’  ‘How do you know that you are among God’s elect?’  In response to each of these attacks, Goulart provides the faithful Christian a ready answer, drawn from the pages of Scripture.

For example, when Satan questions the believer’s election, the Christian responds: ‘All true believers are sheep of Jesus Christ, elected in him to eternal life.  Psalm 23 says that ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’  And Psalm 100 says ‘Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.’  So too, Jesus Christ says in John 10, ‘My sheep hear my voice.’  I have heard this voice and heeded it.  Thus, I am one of the sheep of this Great Shepherd, who has given his life to bring me into his sheepfold, having rescued me from your jaws, O roaring lion.’

Clearly, Goulart believed that God’s Word was to serve as the pastor’s most important resource in caring for Christians on their deathbeds.  Scripture is like a ‘pharmacy’ for wounded souls, he asserted.  It offers a ‘secure harbor for agitated consciences.’

The above quotes were taken from Scott Matnetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors, p 297-298.

Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.

The post Comfort on the Deathbed (Or: A Pastor’s Most Important Resource) appeared first on The Aquila Report.

5 Passages Your Pastor Wishes You’d Stop Taking Out of Context

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2 NASB). Sometimes misinterpreting a passage boils down to decontextualizing a single word—in this case prosper. “This passage has typically been used as a proof text that God is mandated to bless in a very specific way—usually financially and materially,” says Ernest Gray, senior pastor of Keystone Baptist Church in Chicago and assistant professor of Bible at Moody. “Human beings misunderstand the place of suffering, and Christianity in the West tends to idolize success. We struggle with viewing the Christian life from a triumphalist perspective: ‘I’m a Christian; therefore I’m entitled to victory in every way.’

Chris Maxwell, director of spiritual life and campus pastor at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia, recalls a troubling episode during his pastoral tenure in Orlando: “In March 1996 I almost died of encephalitis. A group of people came to visit me and read Matthew 7:17–18: ‘Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.’ For them, admitting I had brain damage and needed medicine was lack of faith. This was the reason I became sick and wasn’t being healed. I told them, ‘If that caused my sickness I would’ve been sick long before.’”

John Koessler, professor and chair of pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute, is all too familiar with scenarios like this. “I find that people tend to be one-sided in their handling of the Bible. They ‘lean into’ certain texts or truths to the exclusion of others. Some focus only on a portion of a verse. Others use one text to cancel out another.”

This isn’t surprising to most church leaders, who often see verses plucked from their homes to serve other purposes. To better understand these tricky situations, I asked several pastors to share the misused passages that make their skin crawl and how people in ministry can model healthy biblical interpretation.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

An entire cottage industry has developed around this decontextualized verse. It adorns t-shirts, knickknacks, and the walls of our churches, written in graceful, soothing script. “Having worked with college students,” says Ben Connelly, who co-leads The City Church in Fort Worth, Texas, “I heard this verse time and time again as discouraged graduates struggled to find jobs. Christian friends and family would pat them on the back, lift their downcast chins, and recite Jeremiah 29:11.”

Yet when it’s lifted from our coffee mugs and placed back into context, we discover a difficult truth about Scripture: the Bible was written for us, but not everything in it was written to us. In an interview with Christianity Today, Eric Bargerhuff, director of the Honors Program at Trinity College in Florida and author of The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, said, “Most people overlook the context of the verse because it speaks to what they want to hear for their life. This was a corporate promise given to the nation of Israel.” Connelly elaborates: “Only after promising to leave his people exiled in a foreign land for seven decades (Jer. 29:10) does God make the declaration we’re familiar with.”

So should we avoid sharing this verse with those in despair? Not necessarily. Abram Kielsmeier-Jones, pastor of Union Congregational Church in Magnolia, Massachusetts, says, “Certainly the God who knew us before we were born desires to give us ‘hope and a future.’ Even if the immediate context is not addressed to individuals, might not the general truth still hold that our God (even ‘my’ God) desires to offer hope and a future to each of his children?” If so, this passage presents a key teaching moment for church leaders. “There is comfort in this verse, and let’s never forget that God does have a plan,” says Connelly. “But we need the context to remind us that God’s goodness is true whether we find a job tomorrow or if his plans include 70 years of trial and oppression.”

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The post 5 Passages Your Pastor Wishes You’d Stop Taking Out of Context appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Motives at Work in Sexual Sin (Powlison)

Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken by [Powlison, David] Last week I mentioned David Powlison’s forthcoming book, Making All Things New.  Today I want to highlight part of it that is quite helpful in thinking of the nuts and bolts of sexual sin, whether it be adultery, pornography, homosexuality, or lust (and so on).  Below are various motives at work in sexual sin, which I’ve edited for length.  These motives are helpful for those who are fighting lust and other sexual sins:

  1. Angry desires for revenge.  Sexual acting out can be a way to express anger.  I once counseled a couple who had committed backlash adulteries.  They had a big fight, and the man angrily went out and hired a prostitute.  In retaliatory anger, the women went out and seduced her husband’s best friend.  The erotic pleasure wasn’t necessarily the driving force; anger was.  Though it’s rarely that dramatic, anger frequently plays a role in immorality.  A teenager finds sex a convenient way to rebel against and to hurt morally upright parents.  A man cruises down the internet after he and his wife exchange words….
  2. Longings to feel loved, approved, affirmed, or valued through romantic attention.  Consider the situation of a lonely and unattractive teenage girl who doesn’t necessarily enjoy sex.  Why does she sleep around?  It’s not because she longs for erotic pleasure.  She sleeps around in order to feed her consuming desire to have someone care for her romantically and pay attention to her.  It makes her feel loved.  She is enslaved by the desire to get attention and affirmation.  This is an extreme case, perhaps, but many people become sexually active at a young age because they feel pressure to be acceptable, they don’t want to be rejected, and they desire attention.  Sexual behavior can be an instrument in the hands of non-sexual cravings.
  3. Thrilling desires for the power and excitement of the chase.  Some people enjoy the sense of power and control over another person’s sexual response.  The flirt, the tease, the seducer are not motivated solely by sexual desires.  Deeper evil desires are at work than just sex – the thrill and rush that comes with being able to manipulate the romantic-erotic arousal of another.
  4. Anxious desire for money to meet basic survival needs.  Sex makes lots of money for lots of people.  The desire for money is greater than the desire for sex in this case.  One difficult example is the case of a single mother who was in desperate need of money.  Her sleazy landlord offered her free rent in return for sexual favors.  (Thankfully, this woman refused and her church family ended up helping her financially.)
  5. Distorted messianic desire to help another person.  Sometimes people play the rescuer-savior and they sleep with someone because they feel sorry for that person’s loneliness, rejection, and abandonment.  It is a sexual sin, but it is fueled by a warped desire to be helpful, admired, and to “save” a person.
  6. Desires for relief and rest amid the pressures of life.  Sexual sin often serves as an escape valve for other problems.  Consider a man who faces extreme pressures in the workplace.  He and his team pull a few all nighters to get an important project done.  They make it and he goes home completely exhausted.  But he finds no relief in having the project done.  So he revels in pornography and forgets his troubles.  Lust is at work, but there’s more to it.  He is looking for rest, and he sinfully finds it in erotic pleasure.
  7. Indifference, cynicism, ‘Who cares?’, ‘What’s the use?‘.  A single student – a Christian – once confessed that she slept with a co-worker.  She was working late and was tired after a long shift.  She had no accountability that night and was somewhat attracted to her co-worker.  He invited her over, and with a “what does it matter?” attitude, she accepted and sinned by sleeping with him.  This is the sin of acedia – sloth, giving up, spiritual laziness, not caring, saying ‘whatever.”

There are, of course, other reasons why people fall into sexual sins.  The point Powlison was making is that “sexual sin is symptomatic.  It expresses that deeper war for the heart’s loyalty.  We’ve looked at a handful of different ways the deeper war operates.  There are other dynamics, too!  But I hope this primes the pump so you learn to recognize more of what’s going on inside when red-letter sins make an appearance.”

The above-edited quotes are found in  David Powlison, Making All Things New, p. 80-87.

Shane Lems

Source: Motives at Work in Sexual Sin (Powlison)

Contentious Contending – Jan Markell

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 NKJV
I have watched as fellow Christians have torn into one another, slandered Christian brothers and sisters, tried to harm successful ministries, and behaved in such a manner that would result in the unbelieving world fleeing from them.
Added to this is a new contention online, particularly on social media. Disagreements over even minor issues often result in name-calling and denigrating one another. Whether the venue is YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, the contentiousness is out of control.
I have watched mean-spiritedness coming from Christian “leaders” that might make the secular world blush. It is “friendly fire” that isn’t so friendly. And if I publicly chastised them and named their names, they would reply with even more vindictive blogs, radio programs, articles, commentaries, and YouTubes. They can dish out the chastisements but they cannot take an ounce of correction.
Yes, there is raging apostasy. The most frequent email to me is, “Can you recommend a church in you-fill-in-the-blank city?” Many churches have caved to the most unsound doctrine. True heresy needs to be called out with the naming names and citing the aberrant theology. 
But some in today’s discernment crowd hide in the bushes, waiting for a Christian leader to make a single misstep. They are then pounced on, labeled a hopeless heretic, and marginalized by others in that community. And if you associate with people they disagree with, feature them, quote them, or publicly show approval of them, you have lost all common sense, discernment, judgment, and more. You are an equal heretic in the guilt by association game.
My radio co-host, Eric Barger, wrote an excellent article titled “When Discernment Turns Ugly.” I’d like to quote a few lines.  
Eric writes, “Both Jan and I have become increasingly uncomfortable, even disturbed, with the tone and lack of civility being portrayed by some within the apologetics and discernment community of speakers, writers, and commentators. We’ve watched, listened, and have tried to intervene as assorted discernment ministries have fired shots at others inside Christianity over issues that fall miserably short of what has always been considered heresy.
“A troubling precedent has been spawned by some, lending validation to the idea that it’s perfectly acceptable to publicly rake anyone over the coals for nearly any theological reason.”
Eric continues, “Jan and I are not alone in our dismay with what is happening. Other leaders have voiced the same concern to us in recent days and mind you, the issue is not concerning any rejection of the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection of Christ. Nor is it related to the pseudo-Christian yet cultic Emergent heresy or the seducing web with which spiritual liberalism ensnares so many.”
Eric writes, “The type of ‘discernment’ that I’m referring to here doesn’t involve someone’s denial of the essential doctrines of the faith. Instead, what these squabbles really amount to are nothing more than disagreements on secondary doctrines, styles of worship, and peripheral practices.”
I am puzzled as to why this ministry has been the brunt of constant attack for years. I previously reported that Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, called Olive Tree Ministries a “blight on our times” and “reprehensible.” This and more was stated on his national radio program. He could have called me and said, “Jan, here’s where we disagree. Let’s talk about it.”  Instead Hank spent at least three minutes shredding my theology and character. At the root of the issue is his Preterism cannot tolerate Dispensationalism. 
Recently another ministry leader who has spent five years denigrating this ministry wrote and said his attitude had softened. He was glad for the areas where we agree. He acknowledged he had not acted Christ-like. He apologized for the damage done and stated that for the issues upon which we agree such as end-time events, he should not have been an adversary.  We are flawed human beings who will never see eye-to-eye on everything. I accepted his apology.
I think Olive Tree Ministries is doctrinally sound. I have sometimes featured guests on air or at conferences with whom I have some minor theological disagreements. I have felt that what they have to say is important enough that I will not let secondary issues stand in the way. I also know that these guests would never push their own agenda.
But I have begun to wonder if the contentious contenders expect a background check of everyone with whom one associates? And if so, has the standard been set so high that no imperfect human being can qualify? 
Do these folks think that they have no flaws, no theological weaknesses, and have attained a level of such perfection that they have become, in essence, a sheriff for the church? They must stamp their seal of approval on everyone?
Recently one online ministry attacked another and so denigrated the other with insults that it was embarrassing. The one who was verbally insulting the other via YouTube suggested the other lacked a proper education even though this particular pastor is loved by thousands. He is cutting-edge with an electronic audience consisting of tens of thousands.
He was then insulted as someone who needed more theological education in Greek and Hebrew. After an hour of insults, any sound believer would be heartsick and an unbeliever would flee from our camp observing that his unbelieving friends would be far more gracious to him should he make a mistake or have a disagreement.
Eric writes, “I think it’s needful for each Christian to be able to express positions or hold beliefs on the so-called secondary issues, but is biblical apologetics about denigrating others and, in effect, besmirching entire ministries based on disagreements about side issues? For some, this is what it’s become, and worse. The field of discernment has, at least in part, become a hotbed of separatism that seems to far exceed biblical standards.”
Eric continues, “From what is sometimes only one pen or keyboard, judgment is meted out against the suspected offender as newsletters are printed, blogs are published, seminars are given, and whole ministries and reputations are possibly done irreversible harm.
“All this takes place no matter how flimsy the evidence presented may be, and often over non-essential theologies! This should disgust the Christian community and I fear for the next generation of apologists (and those they’ll likely influence) who are being schooled by this example.”
I think that God is saddened that elements in the apologetics’ world behave no better than the Pharisees of Jesus day.
As flawed human beings, we make missteps and we certainly make mistakes. As each day dawns, I ask God for sound judgment for the many major decisions I will face that day. I don’t want to mislead anyone or introduce them to unsound doctrine. I likely am not batting 1,000.  In that teachers and leaders have a higher accountability, I would ask you to pray for all of us.
It’s one thing to contend for the faith which we must do (Jude 3). It’s another thing to denigrate character, engage in name calling, and make untrue accusations. A false teacher needs to be called out. Wolves are devouring millions of sheep.  
It’s only the contentious contending we are observing that is troubling.
 II Timothy 2:24-25:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness…..

 

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 9 – The Winsome Heart

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; Matthew 10:16-17 (NASB)

Winsome: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence.

Sometimes I feel like I am walking a tightrope. The Spirit-led walk is truly balanced; however, it is hard work to stay balanced. On one hand we are told we must be wise and discerning because men are evil, but at the same time we must stay harmless, winsome and engaging. Jesus said we must not strike back. Instead, we are to turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39) We are to be that winsome person who reflects Christ’s character to everyone.

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