31 March 2011

The Elephant Room, Follow-up

I was able to listen to about 15 minutes of The Elephant Room conference today over lunch. I heard some good things, and I heard some not-so-good things. I heard Perry Noble defend his decision to open his 2010 Easter service with the worship band playing AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." I heard James MacDonald and others say, in essence, "No, we disagree. It shouldn't have been done." (Note, that's not an exact quote). I heard Perry Noble say, and this I do quote, "We redeemed 'Highway to Hell,'" and again, I heard the others disagree. I also heard Perry Noble use a cuss word with ease, and I heard nothing from the others--nobody rebuked him for his filthy language.

Let me back up for a moment. Perry Noble believes that his church "redeemed" a disrespectful (to say the least) secular song. Huh? Does playing filthy, secular music in church suddenly "redeem" that music? Let me ask it this way: does praying to Satan inside of a church suddenly "redeem" the prayer for God instead? NO. Why do purpose-driven "pastors" feel such a need to "redeem" the culture? We are not called to look like the culture, we are called to be set apart. We are not called to redeem the culture, we are called to preach the Gospel so that individuals may be saved and redeemed by the power of the Holy Spirit! But a misunderstanding of this concept is to be expected when one has a poor interpretation of Scripture, which Noble clearly does. This was evident when he said something to the effect that Jesus became like the culture because he ate with sinners. Um, he ate with them, Perry, he didn't act like them and talk like them and cuss like them and sin like them!

As you can imagine, since I was only able to listen for such a short time, Perry Noble and this controversy were kind of at center stage during that time, so I can't provide much more insight. This website provides some notes and quotes from the conference, but unfortunately they are without the greater context of the conversation, so it's difficult sometimes to determine the true tone with which the line was delivered.

After about 15 minutes of viewing, the speakers paused for a short break, and the live feed ended, showing this message:
This wasn't before they reminded those attending live, though, that books by each of the speakers were for sale in the bookstore (which is of course to be expected at a conference). The two they recommended were James MacDonald's Downpour and...Steven Furtick's Sun Stand Still. Ugh. It was so disappointing and disheartening to hear that endorsement. By the way, did you know that Steven Furtick is slated to speak at Bill Hybels' Global Leadership Summit later this year? I'll let you draw your own conclusion...

In short, I don't think this conference was a complete waste of time. I also don't think that it ultimately will prove to be fruitful. It's good that certain controversies were put on the table (regardless of whether or not we agree with how Driscoll and MacDonald handled them as the moderators. I do have to give credit where credit is due, though, and they did push back at the very least on the Perry Noble issue). In the end, though, what is going to become of these "conversations?" Is anything going to change? I doubt it. So what is our response? Same as always...keep preaching the Gospel, because fewer and fewer pastors are proclaiming it without compromise these days!
[P]reach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

The Elephant Room **Update**

**UPDATE #2**
After viewing the live stream for approximately 10 minutes, the conference took a 15 minute break. At that time, the following message was broadcast on the live stream:
So I guess this conference really isn't available to anyone for free...

**UPDATE**
I did not realize that the Elephant Room "conversation" was being streamed live online for free. I still think that admission price is ridiculous, but if you'd like to watch online, click here.

Today, in the suburbs of Chicago, the Elephant Room conference will finally take place and everyone will, I guess, talk about "the elephant in the middle of the room." What is this elephant? I still really have no idea, but let's look at this conference a little more closely.

The first thing that has me slightly irked is the price for this conference. As you can see from the screenshot below, taken directly from the conference website, even if you are only attending a simulcast of the event, you still must pay upwards $129! I understand that conferences cost money to put on, but these prices are absolutely ridiculous.

But this conference really gets interesting when we look at the lineup of speakers. You see, I connected to this website via the site of Harvest Bible Chapel (and just a note, it seems that registration to attend at Harvest is cheaper if you go through the church website). Harvest Bible Chapel is the church of  James MacDonald, who is a favorite of many conservative Christians. MacDonald is actually hosting this little conversation at his church, and the following "pastors" will be present:

Most of you know I'm not a fan of James MacDonald, but I was still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one...at first, anyway. I was inclined to hope that maybe MacDonald was going to take this opportunity to push false teachers Furtick and Noble into a corner, that maybe this would be an ideal time to confront these men for their seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven drivel. But then I remembered MacDonald's close friendship with Greg Laurie, who, though he tends to preach and teach conservatively, has seemingly in the past promoted the work of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. And I recalled MacDonald's team-up with foul-mouthed Mark Driscoll during the crisis in Haiti and, most recently, following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, though these endeavors are not bad things in and of themselves. It is the alliance that worries me. Driscoll has been invited to Harvest Bible Chapel to host a "Love Life" seminar, and we all know how much Mark Driscoll likes to talk about sex. In fact, it looks as though Driscoll has built this particular seminar off of his smutty Song of Solomon sermon series. And yet James MacDonald is welcoming it into his huge multi-campus kingdom.

So after these reminders and realizations, I lost much of my hope that anything constructive or good might come out of these Elephant Room conversations. Then I awoke one morning to hear James MacDonald advertising this event on the radio. I do not have a transcript of the commercial, so you'll have to trust my paraphrase. In essence, MacDonald said something to the effect of, "We shouldn't judge a pastor just because they don't preach or teach like we do or like we think they should. I've invited some of my pastor friends--men who love God and who teach the Gospel--to come and have a conversation..."

As I said, the above is not an exact quote, it is my paraphrase of the commercial. What I took away from it, though, was that James MacDonald believes all of these men to be orthodox, evangelical, Bible-teaching men who do not compromise on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think many of us would agree though, that at the very least, Perry Noble and Steven Furtick have both allowed themselves to fall into the Purpose-Driven pit of a me-centered gospel, and it is that same weak, watered-down gospel that they deliver to their church week after week. But let's see what the website has to say about this event:
The Elephant Room will feature blunt conversations between seven influential pastors who share a common love for the Gospel but take differing approaches to ministry. No keynotes. No canned messages. These are "the conversations you never thought you'd hear."
Okay, so they are asking attendees to pay over $100 per ticket and the speakers won't even have spent time preparing their messages? And I'm sorry, but it's more than a "differing approach to ministry" that has some of us warning about some of these pastors. It's their willingness to compromise the Gospel in order to draw crowds. It's their focus on the "unchurched" and their failure to share the full truth of the Gospel with that unchurched crowd. I admit, I still have some hopes for this conference. I would love to see Matt Chandler stand up and deliver a one-two punch to the "Purpose Driven Popes of the Carolinas." I pray that God's Word is proclaimed fully and without compromise. Of course, unless I'm willing to pay the outlandish registration fee, I guess I'll never know...

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from Spurgeon's Words of Warning for Daily Life:
Coming to Christ is so obnoxious to human nature that, although, so far as physical and mental forces are concerned (and these have but a very narrow sphere in salvation), men could come if they would: it is strictly correct to say that they cannot and will not unless the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them.


Man is by nature blind within. The Cross of Christ, so laden with glories, and glittering with attractions, never attracts him, because he is blind and cannot see its beauties. Talk to him of the wonders of the creation, show to him the many-coloured arch that spans the sky, let him behold the glories of a landscape, he is well able to see all these things; but talk to him of the wonders of the covenant of grace, speak to him of the security of the believer in Christ, tell him of the beauties of the Person of the Redeemer, he is quite deaf to all your description; you are as one that playeth a goodly tune, it is true; but he regards not, he is deaf, he has no comprehension. I ask, do you find your power equal to your will. You could say, even at the bar of God Himself, that you are sure you are not mistaken in your willingness; you are willing to be wrapt up in devotion, it is your will that your soul should not wander from a pure contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ, but you find that you cannot do that, even when you are willing, without the help of the Spirit. Now, if the quickened child of God finds a spiritual inability, how much more the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sin? If even the advanced Christian, after thirty or forty years, finds himself sometimes willing and yet powerless—if such be his experience,—does it not seem more than likely that the poor sinner who has not yet believed, should find a need of strength as well as a want of will?
[...]
“Well then, if I cannot save myself, and cannot come to Christ, I must sit still and do nothing.” If men do say so, on their own heads shall be their doom. There are many things you can do. To be found continually in the house of God is in your power; to study the Word of God with diligence is in your power; to renounce your outward sin, to forsake the vices in which you indulge, to make your life honest, sober, and righteous, is in your power. For this you need no help from the Holy Spirit; all this you can do yourself; but to come to Christ truly is not in your power, until you are renewed by the Holy Ghost. But mark you, your want of power is no excuse, seeing that you have no desire to come, and are living in wilful rebellion against God. Your want of power lies mainly in the obstinacy of nature. Suppose a liar says that it is not in his power to speak the truth, that he has been a liar so long that he cannot leave it off; is that an excuse for him? Suppose a man who has long indulged in lust should tell you that he finds his lusts have so girt about him like a great iron net that he cannot get rid of them, would you take that as an excuse? Truly it is none at all. If a drunkard has become so foully a drunkard, that he finds it impossible to pass a public-house without stepping in, do you therefore excuse him? No, because his inability to reform lies in his nature, which he has no desire to restrain or conquer. The thing that is done, and the thing that causes the thing that is done, being both from the root of sin, are two evils which cannot excuse each other. What though the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots? It is because you have learned to do evil that you cannot now learn to do well; and instead, therefore, of letting you sit down to excuse yourselves, let me put a thunderbolt beneath the seat of your sloth, that you may be startled by it and aroused. Remember, that to sit still is to be damned to all eternity
 [...]
[T]hou liest as much in His hand as the summer’s moth beneath thine own finger. He is the God whom thou art grieving every day. Doth it not make thee tremble to think that thy eternal destiny now hangs upon the will of Him whom thou hast angered and incensed? Dost not this make thy knees knock together, and thy blood curdle? If it does so, I rejoice, inasmuch as this may be the first effect of the Spirit’s drawing in thy soul. Oh, tremble to think that the God whom thou hast angered, is the God upon whom thy salvation or thy condemnation entirely depends! Tremble, and “kiss the Son lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way while His wrath is kindled but a little.”

29 March 2011

The Animal Lover's Bible

Oh, PETA, will you never cease to amaze me? Surely you are all aware that the new NIV translation of the Bible is, much like it's failed cousin the TNIV, a more "gender inclusive" translation of God's Word. No, I'm not going to get into that here. I think by now most of my regular readers can probably guess how I feel about that issue. But now that the NIV translators have swung wide the door of inclusivity, PETA is barging their way in. CNN reports:
PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is calling for a more animal-friendly update to the Bible. 

The group is asking translators of the New International Version (NIV) to remove what it calls "speciesist" language and refer to animals as "he" or "she" instead of "it."
"Speciesist language?" Are you kidding me? Now, I love animals probably more than most people do, but this is absolutely ridiculous. Where does it stop?
Friedrich, a practicing Roman Catholic, said, "Language matters. Calling an animal 'it' denies them something. They are beloved by God. They glorify God."
“God’s covenant is with humans and animals. God cares about animals," Friedrich said. "I would think that’s a rather unanimous opinion among biblical scholars today, where that might not have been the case 200 years ago.” 
Okay, God cares about animals. I'm certainly not going to deny that. They are, after all, a part of His creation. I look at my two cats and I can clearly see God's amazing handiwork, as well as His goodness and His love simply in allowing me to care for them! But animals are hardly at the same level as man (yes I said man meaning "mankind" and no, I am not going to apologize for my lack of gender inclusivity!). Man was made in God's own image. Animals were not. I think we can safely assume that animals, for all intents and purposes, may be called "it" without any offense being taken by God. Oh, sure, you probably refer to your cat or dog as "he" or "she" or Max or Fluffy, but when you go to the zoo and watch the elephants, do you make every effort to refer to them by their proper gender?

Just because God cares about all of His creation doesn't mean that we need to scour the Bible and replace every neutral pronoun with a male or female equivalent. Perhaps the PETA people would do better to pay attention to the true message of the Bible, the Gospel. All the grammatical changes in the world won't save you, PETA, and when you face God on judgment day, I don't think He's going to care about your efforts to have a lion referred to as "he" instead of "it." God is God of the universe, but He didn't die to save animals, He died to save sinful men.

God's Final Word

"His word was not completely uttered until Christ came; but when Christ came, the word spoken in him was indeed God's final word. In him all the promises of God meet with the answering 'Yes!' which seals their fulfillment to his people and evokes from them an answering 'Amen!' The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond him." (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 46).

28 March 2011

Heaven is For Real

Heaven is for real. I know that for certain. And not because some kid told me, but because Jesus Christ said so.

It seems like well over a year now since I first heard about Colton, the boy who supposedly visited Heaven at the age of 4 while undergoing an operation, and whose father decided to put the story into print. I dismissed it at the time because, well, I'm a Christian. I don't need some random child to come along and prove Heaven to me. I have the Bible, and that is more than enough for me. If Paul wasn't allowed to detail his visit to Heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-3), why would I choose to listen to this child's story (or the stories of others who make the same false claims)? And if I choose to put my hope into the story of a mere human, a child no less, then I have some serious issues with my faith, and I better be on my knees repenting rather than reading light-hearted tales of people walking around as perpetual 30 year olds with wings.

Lately, though, this story has seen a resurgence. Todd Burpo, Colton's father and author of the book Heaven is Real has been making the publicity circuits and self-professed Christians, true to form, are latching onto this thing like they do with every new rage that comes along. Whether its bold beauty queens, child pop stars, or the latest trip to the great beyond, "Christians" today will promote just about anything. They did it with Don Piper and his supposed trip to Heaven as detailed in his farce book 90 Minutes in Heaven, and they're doing it again. Honestly, would it hurt us to exercise even one iota of discernment? But I digress...

I've been a little surprised, and extremely disappointed, in the response of many self-professed believers to this latest claim. "But it's so biblical," I hear. Really? If that's true, then why do you need this book? If this book matches up with the holy Word of God, then why isn't Scripture enough for you? Where did God go wrong in writing His book that makes this story so much better? Why would you rather build your idea of Heaven on the claims of a child than on the words of Jesus Christ? And while you're at it, could you please show me the Bible verse that says that we will all have wings in Heaven? Because I can't find it.

Admittedly, I've largely ignored this latest fascination, but I was still glad to see Tim Challies, Mr. Book Reviewer himself, post a review today about Heaven is For Real. Below are just a few excerpts.
Now, what do I do with a book like this one? It seems to me that there are only a couple of options available to me. I can accept it, agreeing that this little boy is legitimate—he went to heaven and is now telling the tale for our edification. Or I can reject what this boy is saying—he did not go to heaven and this book is fictitious. If I go with this second option (which is exactly what I am doing) I now have two choices before me: either the boy (and/or his parents) is a liar or he genuinely believes he experienced something that he did not actually experience. I know which way I would lean, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there.
[T]he Bible gives us no indication whatsoever that God will work in this way and that he will call one of us to heaven and then cause us to return. It is for man to die once and then the resurrection. To allow a man (or a boy) to experience heaven and then to bring him back would not be grace but cruelty. The only biblical example we have of a man being caught up to heaven is Paul and it’s very interesting that he was forbidden to tell anything about it. And the reason he even mentioned this experience was not to offer encouragement that heaven exists, but to serve as a part of his “gospel boasting.” He saw heaven and was told to say nothing about it. This was a unique experience in a unique time and for a unique reason. 
If hope is to be found in any person, it will be found in the person of Christ. It is the Spirit working through the Word who will give us confidence in our faith. And what is faith? It is simply believing that what God says in his Word is true. We do not need tales of heaven or stories of those who claim to be there.
Read Challies' entire review here
I think Challies hits a bullseye in his brief review of this book, and I encourage you to visit his site and read the rest of it. The bottom line is, in whom does your confidence lie, God or man? With that, I'll leave you the final words of Challies' review:
If you struggle believing what the Bible says, but learn to find security in the testimony of a toddler, well, I feel sorry for you. And I do not mean this in a condescending way. If God’s Word is not sufficient for you, if the testimony of his Spirit, given to believers, is not enough for you, you will not find any true hope in the unproven tales of a child. This hope may last for a moment, but it will not sustain you, it will not bless you, in those times when hope is waning and times are hard.
So reject this book. Do not read it. Do not believe it. And do not feel guilty doing so.

27 March 2011

Sunday Morning Praise

This is a video of The Master's College Chorale singing The King of Love My Shepherd Is at Christ Church in Jerusalem. The lyrics are below, but you'll notice that this arrangement is just a bit different, and it is beautiful!



The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And O what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.

26 March 2011

Five Short Reads

I've recently read through some shorter books (meaning, less than 200 pages) that were very much worth sharing and recommending. If you have an afternoon or two, pick up one of these to be blessed, educated, and maybe even convicted...

  • Faith: What it is and What it Leads To by C.H. Spurgeon: This little book will take you less than an hour to read, but I guarantee you'll keep coming back to it again and again for edification and reminder. Even though Spurgeon was writing specifically to believers, I think this small work would also be a great gift for an unbelieving friend.
    • "We are now--even now pardoned; even now are our sins put away; even now we stand in the sight of God as though we had never been guilty; innocent as Father Adam when he stood in integrity, ere he had eaten of the fruit of the forbidden tree; pure as though we had never received the taint of depravity in our veins. 'There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.' There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now, against one of his people. There is nothing laid to their charge. There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing remaining upon any one believer in the matter of justification in the sight of the Judge of all the earth." (page 44)

  • A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent: This book is loaded with footnotes, and all of them are quoted Scriptures that verify the glorious truths of the Gospel that Vincent is explaining. Reading this made me excited to hear Milton Vincent speak at the Psalm 119 conference in Minneapolis next month! The best lesson taught by this book? Preach the Gospel to yourself daily!
    • "The essence of eternal life is not found in having my sins forgiven, in possessing a mansion in heaven, or in having streets of gold on which to walk forever. Rather, the essence of eternal life is intimately knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Everything else that God gives to me in the gospel serves merely to bring me to Himself so that this great end might be achieved. Christ died for the forgiveness of my sins so that I might be brought 'to God.' Christ is preparing a place for me in heaven so that He might receive me 'to Himself' and have me forever with Him where He is. And yes, there is a great street of gold in heaven, but is there any doubt where the street leads? Unquestionably, it leads straight to the throne of God Himself, as do all of God's gifts to me in the gospel." (page 49-50)
  • Apostasy from the Gospel by John Owen: This was written by John Owen, do I really need to say more? I think I have Post-it tabs marking about 3/4 of the pages in this small book because it is so good. Granted, some of his comments are directed specifically toward the Roman Catholic Church, because that was the greatest enemy of the Gospel in Owen's day. The truths he writes, however, are so applicable today! Just a warning that you may drain a highlighter with this book!
    • "A wicked indifference and unconcern for the defence of the gospel leads many into apostasy. 'All religions are the same.' 'We all worship the same God.' 'What is truth? Who is able to say what truth is and what error is?' Those who stand up for the gospel in such times are persecuted. Christians need to be warned (Gal. 5:2-6; 2 Thess. 3:12; 2 Peter 2:1, 2)." (page 85).

  • Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns by T. David Gordon: I found this book to be more of a "skimmer," personally. Gordon clearly knows his stuff and has thought through his subject thoroughly, but at times he delves into more detail than I had the patience to read. I wholeheartedly agree with his premise, though, that worship music is not, as many like to claim, merely "a matter of taste." There is so much more to it than that.
    • "What has happened is that the church has followed (rather than led) its trivial, ironic, and banal culture. It has adopted the forms of a culture that rarely regards human life to be significant, and that therefore dispenses with those sociological customs and rituals by which cultures invest certain events or achievements with significance. But the question is not whether this is our 'natural' culture (it is today); the question is whether we wish to communicate that nothing in life deserves to be ritualized--and more specifically whether we wish to communicate that meeting with God doesn't deserve ritual." (page 143-144).

  • A Puritan Golden Treasury: This is not really a book that you sit down and read straight through. It is instead a collection of pithy, sometimes bitingly true, quotations from some of the great Puritans. When I received this in the mail, I opened it up and, no matter what page I opened to, I found something wonderful. This book is organized according to topic, so it is a good reference when you need just the right short, to-the-point saying. Yes, I think it's fair to say that you will be seeing a pithy Puritan quotation or two up on this site in the future!
    • "Let them fear death who do not fear sin." - Thomas Watson
    • "The hypocrite, certainly, is a secret atheist; for if he did believe there was a God, he durst not be so bold as to deceive Him to His face." - Thomas Adams
    • "God examineth with trials, the devil examineth with temptations, the world examineth with persecutions." - Henry Smith
    • "There are three things in providence: God's foreknowing, God's determining, and God's directing all things to their periods and events." - Thomas Watson

24 March 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is the March 23 entry of Faith's Checkbook:
A Sure Guide
"I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not"   (Isaiah 42:16).
Think of the infinitely glorious Jehovah acting as a Guide to the blind! What boundless condescension does this imply! A blind man cannot find a way which he does not know. Even when he knows the road, it is hard for him to traverse it; but a road which he has not known is quite out of the question for his unguided feet. Now, we are by nature blind as to the way of salvation, and yet the LORD leads us into it and brings us to Himself, and then opens our eyes. As to the future, we are all of us blind and cannot see an hour before us; but the LORD Jesus will lead us even to our journey's end. Blessed be His name!

We cannot guess in which way deliverance can possibly come to us, but the LORD knows, and He will lead us till we shall have escaped every danger. Happy are those who place their hand in that of the great Guide and leave their way and themselves entirely with Him. He will bring them all the way; and when He has brought them home to glory and has opened their eyes to see the way by which He has led them, what a song of gratitude will they sing unto their great Benefactor! LORD, lead Thy poor blind child this day, for I know not my way!

18 March 2011

Video Friday

MSNBC's Martin Bashir does a surprisingly good job of making Rob Bell squirm. Don't worry, as usual, Bell brought his dancing shoes:


John MacArthur talks about the personal power of Jesus:


Here's your Friday Funny...some things never fail to make you laugh:

17 March 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

 From the December 1888 Sword and the Trowel article, "Attempts at the Impossible:"

STAND FAST

Failure at a crucial moment may mar the entire outcome of a life. A man who has enjoyed special light is made bold to follow in the way of the Lord, and is anointed to guide others therein. He rises into a place of love and esteem among the godly, and this promotes his advancement among men. What then? The temptation comes to be careful of the position he has gained, and to do nothing to endanger it. The man, so lately a faithful man of God, compromises with worldlings, and to quiet his own conscience invents a theory by which such compromises are justified, and even commended. He receives the praises of "the judicious"; he has, in truth, gone over to the enemy. The whole force of his former life now tells upon the wrong side. If the Lord loves him well enough, he will be scourged back to his place; but if not, he will grow more and more perverse, till he becomes a ring-leader among the opposers of the gospel. To avoid such an end it becomes us ever to stand fast.

14 March 2011

Kevin DeYoung Reviews "Love Wins"

Kevin DeYoung has written a wonderfully thorough review of Rob Bell's Love Wins. You can access it at the link below. It's lengthy, but worth the read. I'm not going to quote any of it because I want you to visit DeYoung's site, but here is one sentence that I think is important and telling, not just for Bell's book, but for all false teaching: "Bad theology usually sneaks in under the guise of familiar language."


God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True: A Review of “Love Wins”

13 March 2011

Sunday Morning Praise

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name!


All hail the power of Jesus' Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let highborn seraphs tune the lyre, and as they tune it, fall
Before His face Who tunes their choir, and crown Him Lord of all.
Before His face Who tunes their choir, and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye morning stars of light, who fixed this floating ball;
Now hail the strength of Israel's might, and crown Him Lord of all.
Now hail the strength of Israel's might, and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye martyrs of your God, who from His altar call;
Extol the Stem of Jesse's Rod, and crown Him Lord of all.
Extol the Stem of Jesse's Rod, and crown Him Lord of all.

Ye seed of Israel's chosen race, ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.

Hail Him, ye heirs of David's line, whom David Lord did call,
The God incarnate, Man divine, and crown Him Lord of all,
The God incarnate, Man divine, and crown Him Lord of all.

Sinners, whose love can ne'er forget the wormwood and the gall,
Go spread your trophies at His feet, and crown Him Lord of all.
Go spread your trophies at His feet, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let every tribe and every tongue before Him prostrate fall
And shout in universal song the crownèd Lord of all.
And shout in universal song the crownèd Lord of all.

12 March 2011

Printer-Friendly

Printing a blog post can be maddening and paper consuming. You hit print and next thing you know you have 20 pages coming out, what with the header and the sidebars. Since we are incredibly environmentally conscious here at Do Not Be Surprised, it is our goal to help you conserve printer ink and paper (in case you're wondering, yes, you should have read that with a large dose of sarcasm). So this morning I added some code to this blog to change this printing problem. If you now choose to print the page, it should print only the content of the blog posts, not the sidebar and headers. And if you are viewing an individual entry (not the home page that displays multiple posts), then you will see  a "Print this Page" button (see example below) at the bottom of the post that will allow you to print the post and any comments that may be available. I hope this helps make this blog more user-friendly!


An Admission of Envy

I have to admit...I'm envious. I am envious of all of the men who were in attendance at this week's Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church! If you didn't have a chance to watch the general sessions broadcast live, then keep watching the website, because they will eventually post video for each one. But I also wish that I could have listened in on some of the seminar sessions that were available. In particular, I would have loved to have heard Dr. William Varner's session on Band of Brothers: Tracing Jesus' Influence on James and Jude. Dr. Varner just completed a commentary on the book of James and is a captivating teacher, so I'm sure this session did not disappoint! For those of us on the outside, though, we'll have to settle for some insights provided by Dr. Varner on his blog. The following is today's post entitled How to Contend for the Faith about verses 20-23 of Jude:
Jude 20-23 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And show mercy on those who doubting; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
There are two sets of imperatives in these verses. Each set has a different focus. In 20-21, the imperative is keep yourselves, with three supporting present participles (building yourselves up, praying, waiting). The focus in these verses is on ourselves.
Verses 22-23 contain three imperatives, very similar to each other (show mercy, save, show mercy). These imperatives are also supported by three present participles (doubting, snatching, hating). The focus in these two verses is on others (the doubters, those in danger of fire, those stained).
In accordance with the discourse structure of the book, (see previous study) to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3), we must 1. Keep ourselves, and 2. Reach out to others. We do the first by edifying ourselves, praying in the Spirit, and waiting for the Lord. We do the second by rescuing others with urgency because of their dangerous situation.
A Suggested Sermon Outline on Jude 20-23: “Keeping What God is Keeping”
Jude addresses his readers as those who are “being kept” by God (Jude 1). As it is true that God is keeping us, we are also to “keep” ourselves (Jude 20-21). How do we do that?
1. By Building Ourselves Up in the Faith
2. By Praying in the Holy Spirit
3. By Waiting for the Coming of the Lord
But we are not to be so focused inwardly that we forget others (Jude 22-23). Therefore, we are:
1. To Have Mercy on Doubters
2. To Save Those in Danger
3. To Show Mercy to the Defiled
The paradox is that we keep what God is keeping and we also recognize that He is the one who finally “keeps” us from falling (Jude 24). 
SEE ALSO: Contending for the Faith in Jude

11 March 2011

Obligatory Rob Bell Update

In case you haven't been keeping up with the Rob Bell Love Wins debacle, I'll try to summarize. Several people have obtained a copy of the book and have provided reviews. Their conclusions are no suprise: Rob Bell's book does indeed present an unbiblical view of Hell, reconciliation, justification and ultimately, salvation. Bell, it seems, is embracing a form of universalism called universal reconciliation (for a good explanation of universal reconciliation, see the link below to the article at Sola Sisters).

Having not read the book myself, it really  isn't my place to state much further in the way of either facts or speculation. What I will say, as I have said before, is that this is not a surprise. It's not like Bell has been preaching sound doctrine and faithfully expositing the Scriptures week after week on the stage at Mars Hill Church. It is not as if he has never before made any similar statements that implied some sort of doctrine of universal reconciliation. Quite honestly, I am shocked that Christians are just now getting their ire up over Rob Bell. If we had been paying attention earlier, rather than being impressed by his smooth talk and groovy glasses, this wouldn't be happening. If Christians had been discerning from the start, Bell wouldn't be the dangerous threat that he is now because he wouldn't have been allowed to gain the influence that he has! But instead we sat back and let the poisonous lie of "relevance" infiltrate our youth groups and now here we are. Bell is like the Pied Piper of youth groups and he's leading the lemmings off of a cliff. Sometimes we can't just sit back and blame the wolves, because we, in our selective ignorance, have practically rolled out the welcome mat for them. Don't wait for people to be discerning for you. Get in God's Word and pray that He would grow and strengthen your own discernment.



SEE ALSO:

Love Wins: A Review of Rob Bell's New Book (Tim Challies)
Rob Bell's New Book: Don't Call it Universalism (Sola Sisters)
Wretched Radio Interview with Tim Challies

Video Friday

  • John MacArthur answers some questions sent in by Grace to You listeners:


  • Art Azurdia reminds us that "we have the Gospel!"


  • And for a little humor:


  • The best for last:

10 March 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from an article entitle The Need of Decision for the Truth and was published in the March 1874 issue of The Sword & the Trowel.
Some things are true and some things are false. I regard that as an axiom; but there are many persons who evidently do not believe it. The current principle of the present age seems to be, “Some things are either true or false, according to the point of view from which you look at them. Black is white, and white is black according to circumstances; and it does not particularly matter which you call it. Truth of course is true, but it would be rude to say that the opposite is a lie; we must not be bigoted, but remember the motto, ‘So many men, so many minds.’ ” Our forefathers were particular about maintaining landmarks; they had strong notions about fixed points of revealed doctrine, and were very tenacious of what they believed to be scriptural; their fields were protected by hedges and ditches, but their sons have grubbed up the hedges, filled up the ditches, laid all level, and played at leap-frog with the boundary stones. The school of modern thought laughs at the ridiculous positiveness of Reformers and Puritans; it is advancing in glorious liberality, and before long will publish a grand alliance between heaven and hell, or, rather, an amalgamation of the two establishments upon terms of mutual concession, allowing falsehood and truth to lie side by side, like the lion with the lamb. Still, for all that, my firm old fashioned belief is that some doctrines are true, and that statements which are diametrically opposite to them are not true,—that when “No” is the fact, “Yes” is out of court, and that when “Yes” can be justified, “No” must be abandoned. [...]


We have a faith to preach, my brethren, and we are sent forth with a message from God. We are not left to fabricate the message as we go along. We are not sent forth by our Master with this kind of general commission—“As you shall think in your heart and invent in your head as you march on, so preach. Keep abreast of the times. Whatever the people want to hear, tell them that, and they shall be saved.” Verily, we read not so. There is something definite in the Bible. It is not quite a lump of wax to be shaped at our will, or a roll of cloth to be cut according to the prevailing fashion. Your great thinkers evidently look upon the Scriptures as a box of letters for them to play with, and make what they like of, or a wizard’s bottle, out of which they may pour anything they choose from atheism up to spiritualism. I am too old-fashioned to fall down and worship this theory. There is something told me in the Bible—told me for certain—not put before me with a “but” and a “perhaps,” and an “if,” and a “may be,” and fifty thousand suspicions behind it, so that really the long and the short of it is, that it may not be so at all; but revealed to me as infallible fact, which must be believed, the opposite of which is deadly error, and comes from the father of lies.


Believing, therefore, that there is such a thing as truth, and such a thing as falsehood, that there are truths in the Bible, and that the gospel consists in something definite which is to be believed by men, it becomes us to be decided as to what we teach, and to teach it in a decided manner. We have to deal with men who will be either lost or saved, and they certainly will not be saved by erroneous doctrine. We have to deal with God, whose servants we are, and he will not be honoured by our delivering falsehoods; neither will he give us a reward, and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast mangled the gospel as judiciously as any man that ever lived before thee.” We stand in a very solemn position, and ours should be the spirit of old Micaiah, who said, “As the, Lord my God liveth, before whom I stand, whatsoever the Lord saith unto me that will I speak.” Neither less nor more than God’s word are we called to state, but that we are bound to declare in a spirit which lets the sons of men know that, whatever they may think of it, we believe God, and are not to be shaken in our confidence in him. (Emphasis mine, because I think this paragraph is so important!)

09 March 2011

Recommended Reading

Last Fall, as my first term of classes ended, I was looking forward to having a few months with a lighter load so that I could pick up a book that wasn't required reading. Unfortunately, my "time off" flew by and it seems that I did a better job of catching up on naps and reruns of My Three Sons than I did of catching up on my reading list! So a few weeks ago I resolved to read as much as possible before the Spring term begins again. Below is a list of what I've read, what I am currently reading, and what I plan to read next. I've tossed in a few excerpts as well to pique your interest.

Books I've Read:
  • The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2 Peter & Jude
    • "To be sure, there are many false teachers outside the church who propagate lies and deceptions and openly proclaim their opposition to Christianity. Jesus warned the apostles, 'But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them' (Mark 13:9; cf. Acts 4:1-3, 13-18; 5:17-18, 26-40; 6:12-14; 7:54, 57-59; 8:1-3; 12:1-4; 14:19; 16:19-24; 17:5-9; 21:26-36; 23:12-24:9). However, the counterfeit pastors, elders, deacons, and teachers within the church are usually far more dangerous. Attacks from outside the church often unite God's people, but attacks from inside--coming from false teachers--usually divide and confuse the flock" (Page 159).
  • The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
    • "The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer. Jesus' message liberated people from the bondage of their sin while it confronted and condemned hypocrisy. It was an offer of eternal life and forgiveness for repentant sinners, but at the same time it was a rebuke to outwardly religious people whose lives were devoid of true righteousness. It put sinners on notice that they must turn from sin and embrace God's righteousness. It was in every sense good news, yet it was anything but easy-believism" (Page 37).
    • "This, then, is the gospel our Lord sends us forth to proclaim: That Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, humbled Himself to die on our behalf. Thus He became the sinless sacrifice to pay the penalty of our guilt. He rose from the dead to declare with power that He is Lord over all, and He offers eternal life freely to sinners who will surrender to Him in humble, repentant faith. This gospel promises nothing to the haughty rebel, but for broken, penitent sinners, it graciously offers everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)" (Page 241).
  • The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
    • "Then I saw in my dream, that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a fire, burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it to quench it, yet did the fire burn higher and hotter. Then said Christian, 'What means this?' The Interpreter answered, 'This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil: but in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, though shalt also see the reason of that:' so he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast (but secretly) into the fire. Then said Christian, 'What means this?' The Interpreter answered, 'This is Christ, who continually with the oil of his grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the Devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest, that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire; this is to teach thee, that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul.'"
  • Drive By Church History
    • Okay, so this one isn't a book, it's a set of CDs with 47, 15 minute long lectures that walk you through Church history. This is a wonderful resource! Todd Friel hosts these lectures along with Pastor R.W. Glenn and Peter Hammond. I'm already working my way through the lectures for the second time because there is so much to learn. If you're looking for something to listen to during your commute that will actually be edifying, then I highly suggest Drive By Church History. You won't be disappointed!


    Books I'm Reading:

    • Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur
      • "Don't be quick to embrace the trends of the high-tech megachurches. And don't sneer at conventional worship and preaching. We don't need clever approaches to get people saved (1 Cor. 1:21). We simply need to get back to preaching the truth and planting the seed. If we're faithful in that, the soil God has prepared will bear fruit" (Page 97).
      • "Human wisdom wants to devise a way of salvation where people get the credit. If they can't have all the credit, they will settle for some of it. But in God's design no one who is saved has anything to boast about. That's because God accomplishes everything on behalf of those He saves. They contribute nothing. He chooses them, calls them, draws them, and enables them to believe. His sovereign will--not human resolve or a human decision--even determines who will be saved. Everything is by His doing. No aspect of salvation hinges on anything good in the believer. But "because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). (Page 127).
    • The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
      • "It is, then, fundamentally necessary and wholesome for Christians to know that God foreknows nothing contingently, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will. This bombshell knocks 'free-will' flat, and utterly shatters it; so that those who want to assert it must either deny my bombshell, or pretend not to notice it, or find some other way of dodging it."

    • The Messiah: Revealed, Rejected, Received by William Varner
      • I just started this book and am only a few pages in, so I cannot provide a favorite quote at this time. However, this book comes highly recommended by some of Dr. Varner's former students, so I am excited to dive into it. If you'd like to read some more of Dr. Varner's writings, visit his blog at Dr. IBEX Ideas.







    Books I Plan to Read Next:

    06 March 2011

    Sunday Morning Praise



    Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above

    Sing praise to God who reigns above, The God of all creation, 
    The God of pow’r, the God of love, The God of our salvation. 
    With healing balm my soul He fills, And ev’ry faithless murmur stills: 
    To God all praise and glory!

    The Lord is never far away, But, through all grief distressing, 
    An ever-present help and stay, Our peace and joy and blessing.
    As with a mother’s tender hand He leads His own, His chosen band: 
    To God all praise and glory!

    Thus all my toilsome way along I sing aloud His praises, 
    That men may hear the grateful song My voice unwearied raises. 
    Be joyful in the Lord, my heart! Both soul and body bear your part: 
    To God all praise and glory!

    05 March 2011

    "God Wants to Talk With You," a Saturday Night Sermon

    Well, you know you're either bored or burned out when you resort to watching Saddleback Church's live service online. Yep, that's what I did tonight. It seemed to be an appropriate way to end a mildly productive, yet overall lazy day. Besides, when Rick Warren tweeted this out, how could I resist?
    Yes, I tuned in to hear Rick talk about how to hear God speak to me. And, ironically enough, early on in the "sermon" he taught that we need to be "tuned in" to hear God. Just like a radio. Yeah... Now, let me clarify: early in his message, Warren acknowledged that he is skeptical of people who claim to audibly hear from God. So I want to squelch that story before it even begins to be concocted. From what I heard, this message didn't really contain mysticism. There are plenty of other places where Warren's propensity toward things mystic has been documented, so that is not the direction that this post will take.

    The main text of this sermon was Luke 8 and the parable of the soils. Yes, you read that correctly. Rick Warren devised a sermon entitled "God Wants to Talk With You" from the parable of the soils. Now, unless I followed his logic incorrectly, I believe that Luke 8:8, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear," is why "Pastor" Rick decided that this passage is teaching about God wanting to talk to us. He then proceeded to rip other verses out of context in order to prove his point. It was classic eisegesis and he should be ashamed of himself. But let's face it, this is how Warren preaches, so we should expect nothing more. I'm not going to rehash the entire sermon here, but if you'd like to see my sermon notes, click here. The black text is provided by Saddleback and the red text is where I filled in the blanks. You'll notice that there are several different Bible translations referenced. I suppose that's why no one ever brings their own Bible to these mega-churches, you can never follow along because you don't know ahead of time which translation will best fit what the pastor wants to make the text say!

    If you look at the notes, you'll see that "how we hear from God" is all about what we must do. It's always about works, even with the seeker-sensitive and purpose-driven crowd. That's because unregenerate people feel better about themselves and their ultimate fate if they're doing something. Rick's main point with all of this was that the parable of the soils doesn't just talk about four different types of people. Nope, you see, the parable of the soils is about four different types of attitudes. And did you know that you, dear Christian, can have all four of these attitudes all in one day? I'll pause here while you sigh in exasperation...

    Here all this time it was thought that the parable of the soils was about salvation through hearing the word of God, about people's receptivity to the Gospel. But Rick never mentioned salvation. Or sin. Or gospel. Instead, I and everyone who listened to Warren walked away feeling like there was more we needed to do before we could ever hear from God. We were told that if we weren't hearing from God everyday, then it must be something we weren't doing right or something that we needed to do more of. Now, to be fair (even though this has nothing to do with this story in Luke 8), even Christians can experience a break in fellowship with God if there is unconfessed and un-mortified sin in our lives. But this isn't what Rick was teaching. As I said, sin wasn't mentioned. No, it was just that we're too distracted, or we aren't involved in a small group, or we just haven't told God "yes" in advance that we'll do whatever He says. It was a very bizarre way to preach through this wonderful parable, but the audience was loving it. How do I know this? Because for awhile, I infiltrated the Saddleback chat room.

    Yes, that's right, there's a chat room that is active during the service. Very cool and relevant, isn't it? And everyone in the room was oohing and aahing and laughing at Warren's silly little stories. I couldn't stay logged in for very long. Others were getting upset when I began to point out some errors and, quite honestly, staying to "chat" would only have caused me to sin out of exasperation and frustration! But I saw just how effective this man's preaching can be. He said all the right things and it made everyone feel good. The sad and slightly scary thing is that some of what Warren said actually may be true in some way, shape or form (of course, he puts a legalistic twist on it). It just wasn't in the slightest related to the text. So not only is he perpetuating works-righteousness, but he's teaching his church some really terrible methods of Biblical interpretation! But then, why should I be surprised by this? 
    For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)
    If you'd like to hear some accurate sermons on this passage in Luke, visit Grace to You:
    Receptivity to the Gospel, Part 1
    Receptivity to the Gospel, Part 2
    Receptivity to the Gospel, Part 3

    One final note, don't forget that Warren is holding his "Civil Forum on Peace in a Globalized Society" with Tony Blair tomorrow, March 6. It will be broadcast live online. This could be interesting...

    04 March 2011

    "My Princess Boy"

    Oh, dear. I wish this was a joke. Unfortunately, it's a real example of how absolutely twisted and upside-down our world really is. I don't know about you, but I get pretty excited when I receive coupons for the bookstore. It means I can go scour the shelves for another book that I don't have time to read. And this is not an easy task, considering the shelves of the Religion section are filled with Joel Osteen and Deepak Chopra! When I saw a coupon in my inbox this morning, though, I knew exactly what book I wanted to get. So I checked the store inventory, reserved a copy, and made a stop on my way home from work.

    When I walked into the store, I decided that I should first check the children's section to see if there were any cute books or games for my nephews. After all, it's more fun to spend money on them than on myself! I wandered over to the shelves marked "Religion" inside of the children's area just to see what passed for religious material for our country's youngest readers. I was shocked when my eyes rested on a book entitled, My Princess Boy. "Surely I am misreading this," I thought, so I pulled one of the books off of the shelf. There were at least 10 copies sitting there together, so it wasn't as if the book was mistakenly placed on the "Religion" shelf--it was there deliberately. Sadly, I did not misread the title. It is indeed a book about a woman's young son who enjoys dressing up in "girly" clothes and shopping for things pink and glittery. Most importantly, it was about tolerance and acceptance of this behavior. With the help of my camera phone, I thought I'd share a few shots with you so you can get an honest picture of what this book is teaching.

    I apologize for the glare--it has a very shiny cover!



    Sad, isn't it? I'm not here to start a discussion on whether homosexuality is a choice or if someone is born with those tendencies. Bottom line, it's a sin. Just like adultery, murder, fornication, idolatry, lying, stealing, etc. And the cure for sin is not tolerance or acceptance of it. The cure for sin is the Gospel. Preach the Gospel to your children, they are never too young!

    (So, no, I didn't end up buying anything for my nephews today. Instead I purchased a book for myself, likely stripping my local bookstore of their one and only copy of Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will. I know, I can hear you marveling at the fact that I haven't read it yet! Truthfully, I just finished reading several excerpts contained in a book of selections of Luther's writings, and I simply had to read the entire book because it is so good)!

    Parents, if your children are in public school, you may want to seriously re-evaluate that decision, because it is lies like this about "tolerance" and "love" that will be indoctrinated into your children from the very first day. But regardless, never stop preaching the Gospel to your young ones, to yourself, and to others.