21 December 2014

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
(Luke 2:8–14)

20 December 2014

Equipping Eve Episode #4: The Word Made Flesh

Jesus is…God? Man? Jesus is the God-man. During the Christmas season especially, the doctrine of the incarnation is at the forefront of the minds of most Christians. We sing, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity,” but how can we better understand this central doctrine of Christianity?A study of the incarnation of Christ will deepen your praise, wonder, and worship of the mighty king Jesus.

Equipping Eve is a No Compromise Radio production, and airs every other Saturday via the NoCo podcast feed. The fourth episode of Equipping Eve, "The Incarnation," is now available, and can be accessed here.

Additional Resources
Introducing: Equipping Eve
Equipping Eve: Episode 1, Who, What, Why?
Equipping Eve: Episode 2, How To Hear From God
Equipping Eve: Episode 3, Woe Is Me

19 December 2014

This 'n' That

Santa drives a Chevy. It's true. Everything you've heard about the sleigh and the reindeer…false. All one big lie. I saw it with my own two eyes. My bubble was burst. All those years of peering into the sky on Christmas Eve, trying to discern Rudolph's nose from the flashing lights of airplanes…all of those memories dashed to pieces in an instant.

Truly classic. I was just thankful that I was leaving the restaurant that Santa was about to enter. A child's birthday party was about to be held there and I would guess that Santa was the guest of honor. So…I'm thankful for a well-timed escape.

And speaking of Rudolph…here's a little insight into the gullibility of my child self. I used to believe that I needed to look for a white light in the sky, not a red one, when searching for Rudolph. Why? Because Santa's sleigh flew so high above the earth that Rudolph's bright red nose actually appeared white. Yeah. I believed that. Kind of embarrassing to admit, actually.

So yes, we did the Santa thing at my house growing up. My parents didn't know any differently. If you'd ask my mother today, she'd say if she could do it all over again as a true Christian, the Santa myth
never would have been a part of Christmas. It's amazing how good and gracious God is to change our perspectives on the world so drastically once we're saved. What is the point of Santa for the Christian family? Lying is a lot of work, so parents, why bother? Isn't it easier to be honest with your kids, especially since you expect them to be honest with you? Isn't it more precious to share with them the true story of Christmas?

Amid the hustle and bustle of Christmas, amid the carols and the shopping, the wrapping and the baking, we so easily lose sight of the one Person upon whom our eyes must always be fixed. That is why I love the Christmas season (or try to), in spite of the world's attempts to distort it for its own self-serving purposes. I love pondering the fact that our Savior—indeed, our Lord and King—humbled Himself to take on the form of man so that He might live the life that we cannot, die the death that we deserve, and rise again so that we who are reconciled to God by faith in Him alone might live forever with Him. There is no better story. There is no better reason for celebration. There is no better reason to lift up praise and thanks to our magnificent, loving, holy, forgiving, righteous, triune God.

Okay, let me climb down off of my soapbox so that you can take a few moments in these last days before Christmas to relax with a cup of cocoa and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

17 December 2014

Walk in the Word? On James MacDonald and TBN

James MacDonald
On 3 August 2012, the blog of James MacDonald, who pastors Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) in the Chicagoland area, posted this excerpt from MacDonald's book, Vertical Church:
Nothing cheapens the message of eternal salvation in Christ more than telling people it comes with a new car. We should be deeply offended by anyone who claims to be a minister of the gospel promising people things God doesn’t promise them. Even where “health wealth” has not invaded the church, we can slip into a more subtle version of this error. Jesus Christ promises us a cross to carry, a sword in place of peace, and an exacting accountability for those who claim Him as Lord. Any assuring people of benefits Jesus doesn’t promise or hiding the cost of following Him is a total break with the kind of gospel work revealed in the Gospels themselves. 
Interestingly, this post appeared nearly one year after it was announced that prosperity-preaching Oneness Pentecostal T.D. Jakes would be appearing at the Elephant Room 2 event, hosted by James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll. When MacDonald received pushback from his peers regarding this invitation, the blog post entitled, "Association vs. Discernment and Is James MacDonald Changing?" appeared on MacDonald's blog in defense of his decision. It has since been removed from that website, but has been archived for continued reference. In that blog post, MacDonald stated, almost in passing,
I am also excited to hear him [T.D. Jakes] state his views on money, which may be closer to Scripture than the monasticism currently touring reformed world. (Source)
Yet it cannot be avoided that the ministry of T.D. Jakes is characterized by his shilling of the damnable prosperity gospel heresy. Further, this statement of MacDonald's cannot be reconciled with what he had preached in the past regarding the prosperity gospel:

Then, in May 2014, it was announced that James MacDonald would soon appear in his own Walk in the Word television show on TBN, television's leading petri dish for breeding faux-Christianity. Ironically, the television lineup on TBN is a veritable who's-who of leading prosperity-teaching false teachers.

16 December 2014

Man's Predicament and God's Salvation

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 
(Romans 9:14–16)
God is not responsible for humanity's predicament. Human beings, because of the disobedience in the garden of Eden, are responsible for their condition in sin, disobedience, and coming judgment. Further, it is important to remember that God does exercise mercy with absolute freedom. Therefore, it is not unjust for him to do so, for God is not unjust. In fact, whatever he does is right. God himself is the standard of right and wrong. Election and reprobation are both divine prerogatives.

S. Lewis Johnson;
Photo: The SLJ Institute
Since his audience recognized the authority of Scripture, Paul turned to the Word of God for evidence of the truth of his message. He cites the words that God spoke to Moses in Exodus 33:19, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (cf. v. 15). Even though Israel had failed abysmally before Yahweh, he nevertheless acted in mercy toward them, and he acts in mercy sovereignly.

Thus, the apostle concludes, "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (cf. v. 16). If ever a text indicated the unscriptural nature of "free will," this one does. "It is not of him that wills," the apostle says in the original Greek. The doctrine of free will—that it is in the power of a man to turn to God by himself—is contrary to the grace of God. Salvation becomes, then, the work of God and the work of man, and the purity of the grace of God is compromised. Salvation is only of the Lord.

Man is unable to come to God of and by himself. Jesus put it as strongly as anyone in Scripture: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). We are unable to make a decision of the will for God and salvation until God has first worked in our wills to make us willing. Salvation is first of his willing (cf. James 1:18), and only then, of our response of faith.

— S. Lewis Johnson, Discovering Romans: Spiritual Revival for the Soul, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 158.

Further Reading
A Stronghold for the Oppressed
Nurturing Perversion
We Trust in Jesus for What We Cannot Do Ourselves

14 December 2014

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.
(Micah 5:2)

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1–7)

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

13 December 2014

Scripture Is the Touchstone of Truth

Do not be led away with the error of the wicked but "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).

photo credit: chiptape via photopin cc 
Light is the chariot which carries the influence of the sun. So the knowledge of Christ brings with it the influences of His grace into the heart. And how did Peter expect people to grow in the knowledge of Christ unless they read Scripture, the only book where it can be found? How wrong for teachers to want the people to learn this knowledge solely from their preaching, and not from the Bible! How can a congregation be sure they are hearing truth unless they have Scripture, the only touchstone to try the purity of the doctrine? God Himself directs His Word not to any one honored group—not to a select few—but to every man (Romans 1:7; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Why are laws made if they cannot be declared? And why was Scripture ever written if not to be read and known of all men? By the same authority with which the apostle wrote his epistles, he commanded them to be read in the church. Did ministers of the early church hide God's Word from the people instead of encouraging them to hide it in their heart?

It is true that some men do wrest Scripture to their own destruction, just as occasionally somebody chokes on a piece of bread if he is not careful when he eats. But must everyone starve for fear of getting choked? Some hurt themselves with sharp weapons; must the whole army then be disarmed, and only a few officers be allowed to wear the sword? If this argument were enough to seal up the Bible, we must deny it to intellectuals as well as to common men; for it is a known fact that the grossest heresies have bred in the finest minds. Whenever proud men insist on being wiser than God, their foolish minds get darker and darker until they become so accustomed to the blackness that they can no longer see His sovereignty.

— William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armor

Further Reading
Thinking Rightly About Loving God; Voskamp Gets It Wrong
Beth Moore Wants Scripture + Experience
Craving the Word? Get Fed.

12 December 2014

This 'n' That

Even your cat doesn't want to wear the Santa hat. 
Well, it is difficult to believe that another Friday has arrived! Has your week disappeared as quickly as has mine? Why is it that time seems to flurry past so much more quickly during the holiday season? There's never enough time to really enjoy those Christmas carols. And if you live in my house, so far there hasn't even been enough time to stand up a tree in the corner! Ah well, as long as there manages to be enough time to bake some cookies, right? I hope you are finding some time to linger on the pleasant memories of the season.

And speaking of things I'm hoping...I hope you aren't one of those people who wears a Santa hat everywhere you go for the entire month of December. What is that about? Thankfully I have not seen much of this where I currently live, but in past cities, it seemed to be all the rage. Every year. Santa hats. Everywhere. On everyone. Boy, girl, man, woman…Santa hats. Here's what I want to know: who was the first person who lied to his/her friend and said (with a straight face no doubt), "That Santa hat looks awesome on you. You should wear that all season." Then I want to know who the person was who was stupid enough to believe his/her mean friend. If you like Santa hats, here's a tip: put it on and then look in the mirror. Yeah, that's you. You look ridiculous. Stop it.

This hat is only adorable if
you're under age 4.
And while we're on the subject, what is the deal with those stocking caps that look like animals? Wait, scratch that…What is the deal with those stocking caps that look like animals being worn by grown adults? There is no acceptable excuse for this. You look ridiculous. Stop it.

As we reign in the silliness, however, and as we become more and more immersed in the Christmas season, I do hope that you and your family are joyfully celebrating in a way that honors Christ, not the world. Share with your children the songs of the season that speak of Christ. Teach them the true story of Christmas, and do not stop with the birth of Jesus, but proclaim to them the whole story of His perfect life and atoning death. Tis the season for the gospel!

And, since it is Friday, tis the time for your week in review (kind of):

10 December 2014

Mormons Launch 'He Is the Gift' Initiative

This Christmas, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e., the Mormon Church) has launched a campaign that they are calling the 'He Is the Gift' Initiative. It is being introduced in large part by the following video:

It looks and sounds good, does it not? A call to step back from the busyness of the world's version of Christmas and remember that Christ is the greatest gift of all sounds very…well, Christian. In an age of deception, however, it is important to take a few moments and discover the Jesus who is embraced by Mormons and compare him to the Lord and Savior who is revealed in the Bible.