31 December 2012


Ah, December 31. The day when myriads of people make promises to themselves that they will never keep past January 15. Personally, I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions, but to each his own.

The great theologian Jonathan Edwards once made a few resolutions himself. How do these measure up with the world's lists?
1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
And that's just the first ten! Kind of makes the stereotypical New Year's resolution, "I will go to the gym everyday" seem a little trivial, doesn't it? Read the rest of Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions here.

28 December 2012

Replacing the 'Violent' Cross

Christians worldwide just celebrated the birth of the Christ child. The baby would not remain in the manger forever, though. The God-man would grow, and would end His life stretched on a cross, broken, bleeding and willing. In obedience to His Father, He would bear the wrath of a holy God, taking upon Himself the punishment of sin for all who would believe. Death by crucifixion was violent, shameful and public. Yet it was the means by which God determined long ago that Christ must die.

The wages of man's sin was death (Rom. 6:23), and without the shedding of blood, there could be no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22). Thus God, in His great goodness, ordained that Christ would come, live the sinless life that man could not, and would die the perfect and acceptable sacrifice for the sins of men. Psalm 22 predicted the crucifixion long before the practice had been invented:
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22:14-18)
In spite of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, there was not a Jew alive at the time of Christ who would have fathomed that their promised Messiah would arrive as anything other than a victorious King. The Savior they had anticipated would never hang beaten and bloodied, cursed on a cross.

Yet that is precisely what our Lord did. He died, willingly and lovingly, so that those whom the Father had chosen could be saved. Contrary to the worldly ideas of victory, Christ was victorious and He is the King. One day when He returns, all finally will know and understand.

Christ had to die, else there would be no salvation available to man. How must one respond, then, when the argument is set forth that the crucifixion is too violent, too unpleasant, to truly display God's love? In a 2008 article appearing in The Christian Century entitled, "God's Love, Mother's Milk," Margaret R. Miles, emerita professor of Historical Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, California, argued that the use of a cross to symbolize God's love was a newer phenomenon in Christianity and that a "more persuasive symbol of God’s love was the virgin’s breast."

The Layman Online would briefly detail Miles' position again in 2010, prior to her appearance at Union Theological Seminary’s 2010 Sprunt Lectures:
"Although theologians may have claimed that crucifixion scenes exhibited the extremity of God’s love for humans, it was scenes of the child sucking at the breast that spoke to people on the basis of their earliest experience,” she said. This symbol was replaced by the cross, argued Miles, when patriarchal Western Europeans “secularized the breast.” 
Miles suggested that the cross is inappropriate as a symbol of God’s love because “it presents a violent act as salvific.” 
“The equation of love with heroic violence and suffering is typically a male-centered perspective,” she argued, leading to her conclusion that “the value of the nursing breast as a symbol of God’s provision might need to be reconsidered in our own time … In societies in which violence is rampant on the street and in the media, the nursing virgin can perhaps communicate God’s love to people in a way that a violent image, the image of one more sacrificial victim, cannot.”
Is there validity to Miles' statements? Is the image of a crucified Savior too violent to properly communicate the love of God? Is the image of "one more sacrificial victim" too gory to truly display this great gift?

True Christians know the answers before the questions even are asked. Christ was not merely "one more sacrificial victim," He was the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of men.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11–14)
But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:26–28)
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12–14)
If not for the blood of Christ, man could never approach a pure, holy and perfect God. How, then, is the reality of a crucified Savior incapable of demonstrating the love of God? It must further be remembered that this bloodied Messiah did not remain in the grave. No, He is alive, thereby promising believers an inheritance of eternal life!

Further, Christ Himself declared the loving reality of a sacrificial death:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Of this verse, Dr. John MacArthur states,
The world over, for all of history, the world has always acknowledged the supreme evidence of love, is when a person would die for the one he loved. And that's exactly what Jesus is about to do. He loves these disciples. If he doesn't die, they'll spend forever in hell, and so would you and so would I and so would everybody else, who ever lived, because there would be no sacrifice for sin. Jesus knows his death is only a few hours away. He's not dying for himself. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. He became sin‑for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. He was dying a substitutionary death, and we are the beneficiaries. We're not just witnesses of Calvary. We're the recipients of what was accomplished there. (Source)
J.C. Ryle similarly reminds:
There is no greater love than willingness to lay down life for those we love. Christ did this, and Christians should be willing to do the same. Let us note here that our Lord clearly speaks of His own death as a sacrificial and propitiatory death. Even His friends need a substitute to die for them. (Expository Thoughts on John, vol. 3, 127.) 
The Apostle John, who first recorded these words of our Savior, would later write,
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16)
The sacrificial death of Christ is how fallen man may come to realize the love of Christ for those whom He came to save! To strip this from Christians is a crime that ought not be committed.

As Christ loved us, so we too are commanded to love the brethren. Indeed, without the cross of Christ to look to as the supreme demonstration of love, Christians cannot seek to obediently show love to one another in the same sacrificial manner (not that Christians can love in the same saving, substitutionary act as did Christ, but that they may strive to sacrificially love one another as Christ has loved His own). Did not the Apostle John remind us of this?
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:10–12)
Without the substitutionary death of Christ, one cannot know what is love. Assuming that she has not changed her position, it would be logical to presume that Margaret Miles and those who would agree with her have very little eternal hope. It seems nearly impossible that a person could declare the sacrificial death of Christ to be insufficient to communicate the love of God and yet still possess a glimmer of the hope offered in Jesus Christ. For these people, trapped in a skewed worldview and lost, we pray.

The Christian must take such ridiculous statements as those made above by Miles and see them as an opportunity to rejoice in his salvation, and to strengthen the defense of his faith. What greater expression of love can there be than that of the sinless Son of God suffering the wrath of the Father and dying for sinners? Oh, dear Christian, there is no greater demonstration of love than this! How utterly sad it is to realize that many will never know this great truth.

HT: No Compromise Radio
photo credit: 
riccardodivirgilio via photopin cc 
Lawrence OP via photopin cc

Further Reading
The World's Propitiation
Doctrine Matters
The Grandest Fact Under Heaven

25 December 2012

The King Is Born

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Our King is born. He reigns. He is coming again. Rejoice!

Merry Christmas!

24 December 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

O Holy Night

Silent Night

May you and your family have a blessed holiday, remembering and celebrating the great incarnation of our Lord, and looking forward with eager anticipation to His return.

23 December 2012

Ring, Christmas Bells

Many no doubt are familiar with the Christmas tune known as the "Carol of the Bells." Upbeat and light, it seems to exude the anticipation of the season. The song has an interesting history, though, of which most likely are unaware.

Also known as the Ukranian Bell Carol, this song originally was written in 1916 by Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych and was entitled "Shchedryk." The song in its original form had nothing to do with Christmas. Written to celebrate the coming new year (which at that time in the Ukraine was celebrated on 13 January), the original lyrics tell "a story of a swallow flying into a household to sing of wealth that will come with the following spring."1 In the 1930s, Peter Wilhousky altered the lyrics to what commonly is heard today when "Carol of the Bells" is sung during the Christmas season. In 1947, Minna Louise Hohman composed more "nativity-based" lyrics, and that version of the song (which happens to be this writer's favorite) is commonly known as "Ring, Christmas Bells."2 Enjoy.

And just for fun...

1. http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/carol_of_the_bells_notes.htm, accessed 22 December 2012.

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_of_the_Bells, accessed 22 December 2012.

Sunday Morning Praise – Fourth Sunday of Advent

*Please click on the title of each hymn to be taken to its lyrics.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14)

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16)

Angels from the Realms of Glory

And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:17-19)

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:20)

Angels We Have Heard on High

16 December 2012

Sunday Morning Praise – Third Sunday of Advent

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:8–10)

The First Noel
The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay tending their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,

Born is the King of Israel.

And by the light of that same star

Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,

Born is the King of Israel.

This star drew nigh to the northwest,

Over Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right over the place where Jesus lay.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,

Born is the King of Israel.

Then entered in those Wise Men three,

Full reverently upon the knee,
And offered there, in His presence,
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,

Born is the King of Israel.

Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made Heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11–12)

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God, Light of Light,
Lo, He abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God, begotten, not created;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

15 December 2012

Responding to an Invasion of Evil

Yesterday, evil invaded the quintessential 'American dream.' A seemingly safe small town, Newtown, Connecticut, was visited by a most unimaginable horror when a lone man, after murdering his own mother, walked into an elementary school and took the lives of 26 of God's creations, 20 of them young children between the ages of 5 and 10. On an otherwise typical Friday morning, one man, driven by a power and influence that many cannot fathom, forever changed the lives of 26 families.

One can scarcely think about this tragedy without the proverbial lump rising in one's throat and tears threatening to sting the eyes. How long, O Lord, must we endure the grip that the evil one has on this world?

In the midst of tragedy such as this, men search for a reason. Beyond that, men search for something to blame—something other than the obvious true culprit. The shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School cannot be blamed on guns, society or a 'personality disorder.' No, yesterday's tragedy was a grievous and gross demonstration of the fallen, sinful, depraved condition of mankind. This was about sin.

Every man and woman—even those precious young ones who lost their lives—is a sinner. Every person finds himself born dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1), totally depraved. By the grace of God, not every man or woman lives out his depravity to the utmost, or to the extent that can be seen in yesterday's shooting.
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18, emphasis added)
This is human depravity, and this is the explanation for the events of yesterday. It will do the Christian well to remember this.

How, then, do we react? We grieve, we mourn, we shudder as we shed tears. But we do not lose sight of the sovereignty of God. Our Lord, the King and Creator of the universe, was not surprised when 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and pulled the trigger of his gun. God was not absent, and He is not indifferent. He is on His throne and He has never left it. Vengeance ultimately is His and, one day, evil will fully and finally be eradicated at His hand.
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. 
(Revelation 20:7-15)
What, then? Does the Christian sit back and wait for God to deal out His retribution? No, dear Christian, respond to this in urgency and fervor. Twenty-seven lives ended yesterday in an instant. No warning, no second chance. Oh, how it must be remembered that today is the day of salvation (Heb. 3:15; 2 Cor. 6:2)! The Christian must be about the Lord's business, not merely 'extending' an invitation of the gospel to others, but proclaiming the great salvation that is found in Christ Jesus, and proclaiming it with an urgency and zeal that is as if the very life of the hearer depends upon it...because it does. The eternal life, the soul of those who now are lost depends upon them hearing the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tell them, Christian, that their good works can never pay the insurmountable sin debt that they owe to God. Tell them, Christian, that it is only the work of Jesus Christ that can save them. Jesus, Who lived the sinless life that man cannot. Jesus, Who though innocent, suffered the wrath of God and died as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of men. Tell them, Christian, that unless they repent of their sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation, they will not see Heaven, but rather will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity. Tell them, Christian, that they are sinners, but that God is merciful and just and righteous and gracious. Tell them the Good News, for you do not know if today may be their last.

Oh, Lord, may this tragic incident not leave us sitting frozen, shaking our heads and mumbling empty words of comfort. May the events of yesterday incite us to proclaim the Good News of salvation found in Jesus Christ. May we remember that tomorrow may never come, and thus today alone is the day of salvation.

14 December 2012

This 'n' That

It's been a quiet week here at Do Not Be Surprised. Every other realm of my life, however, has been extremely hectic, and so keeping up with posts here became the last priority. No need to worry — things hopefully should begin to settle down next week. *Hopefully.* For today, though, your This 'n' That may be a bit abbreviated.

With that then, a couple of announcements. First, it likely will continue to be a bit quiet for a few more days. While you're waiting, you can visit any one of my favorite blogs listed in the sidebar, or go to my Vimeo channel and catch up on all of the wonderful sermons preached by Pastor Don Green that are posted there.

On a note related to my unavailability, some of you may have noticed that I've turned off comments for recent posts. This is something that I've been considering doing for awhile, and now seemed like a good time to give it a try. With all that is going on right now, I have neither the time nor, quite honestly, the desire, to moderate and review comments. It is unlikely that this will be a permanent change, because I know that many people enjoy either participating in, or simply reading, the dialogue that takes place on some of these posts. Also, as of now, I will not turn off comments on the Friday 'This 'n' That.'  And don't forget to read the Comment Policy before leaving a comment on any post, especially those posts that have been archived for quite some time.

Well, then, that was a boring introduction today, wasn't it? Let's see, while we're being boring, do you know what Beth Moore ate for lunch this past Tuesday? I do. It's tweets (or Facebook updates, etc.) like this that exemplify what is wrong with social media. Do I really need to know what you're eating for lunch? This may shock you, but no, I don't. Personally, I don't care. Just as I doubt that you care one iota what I am eating for lunch! And do I want to see a picture of the lunch in question? Nope. We all have sent our fair share of self-absorbed tweets, to be sure. But this is what social media has done—it has fed the narcissist in all of us, and we've been happy to indulge. Is it any wonder that the same egotistical attitude and approach to life has grossly invaded our churches?

Okay, while I go spread my peanut butter on my toast, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Baby on the way? Still deciding on a name? Try one of these. 'ESPN' is a nice name for a little boy, but only if his middle name is 'Sportscenter.'
  • Whoa, things are getting scandalous in the Mormon church! Some feminist Mormons are arranging a 'wear pants to church day' this coming Sunday. Look out!
  • Newsweek's latest cover story features an article by Bart Ehrman, a scholar known for his belief that the New Testament is largely historical fiction. Al Mohler takes a look.
  • When I was in college, the store Urban Outfitters was the place to shop. Okay, it was one of the places to shop. It was bad then. It's really bad now. But what's worse is the attitude of indifference exhibited by the young people who spend their money (or their parents' money) there.
  • Feeling depressed, guilty, self-absorbed and lost in your own grief? Have we got the 'Blue Christmas' service for you!
  • Some kid wants Hasbro to make 'non-gender specific' Easy Bake ovens so her brother can cook. Really? Seems to me that the successful male chefs of today did just fine without a blue (as opposed to a pink) piece of plastic with a lightbulb inside (which is all those toys really are, anyway). And by the way, I don't think that 13-year old who started the petition is fooling anyone: with the way government education is today, there's no way she came up with those words on her own.
  • Kevin DeYoung has more about 'St. Nick.'
  • We all know the song that is sung so often this time of year, 'Mary, Did You Know?' but what did Mary know?

10 December 2012

It Will Cost You Everything

I'm certain that I've previously posted this sermon by Pastor Steve Lawson entitled, "It Will Cost You Everything," but when a sermon is as excellent as this one and is bursting with truth, it doesn't hurt to share it more than once! I was reminded of it while reading today's post at airĊ, the blog of my friend Justin Edwards. So, go to Justin's blog, read his brief post, "Jesus is Lord of Unbelievers," then either download this sermon from the link Justin provides, or come back here to listen to this message by Steve Lawson.

Further Reading
The World's Propitiation
The Weary Christian Must Rest Upon Christ
Today's Christianity has Emasculated the Message of Salvation

Seek the Glory that Comes from the Only God

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
(John 5:44)
Thomas Manton
There seems to be a secret opposition between our name and the name of God. When we come to pray, we should distinctly remember whose name is to be glorified, so that God may be at the end of every request. We beg of God many times, but we think of ourselves; our hearts run upon our own name, and upon our own esteem. How often do we come to him with a selfish aim, as if we would draw God into our own designs and purposes! None are so unfit to glorify God, and so unwelcome to him, as those that are so wedded and vehemently addicted to their own honour and esteem in the world. Therefore Christ, by way of distinction, by way of opposition to this innate disposition that is in us, taught us to pray; 'Hallowed be your name.' That which gives the most honour to God is believing. Abraham 'grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God' (Rom. 4:19–20). Desire of vain-glory or splendour of our own name is an attitude inconsistent with faith. Faith gives honour to God. When we hunt after respect from men, and make that the chief scope of our actions, God's glory will certainly lie in the dust. The great sin of the old world was this: 'let us make a name for ourselves' (Gen. 11:4). How badly they plan, who make plans without God! Those who are so busy about their own name, how soon will God blast them! When in any action we do not seek glory to God, but ourselves, this is the quickest way to be destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar said: 'Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?' (Dan. 4:30). How did God disappoint him and turn him out among the beasts! Thus we are sure to be disappointed and blasted, when our hearts run altogether upon our own name.

— Thomas Manton, Works

Further Reading
Doctrine Matters
The Influence of Christian Mystics Morton Kelsey and John Wimber on The Alpha Course
So You Call Yourself a Christian

09 December 2012

Sunday Morning Praise - Second Sunday of Advent

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1–7)

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

What Child Is This?

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

07 December 2012

This 'n' That

Photo: BingCrosby.com
By now it should be evident that I am a fan of Christmas carols. And of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without a little Bing Crosby. It is impossible to dislike this man's voice. What a gift! And no, I've no idea what was the spiritual condition of Crosby, though I fear if I did it would make me quite sad.

Anyway, I found myself thinking this week, "Surely his real name wasn't Bing..." I know, a random and completely useless thought. But, just in case you're wondering, Bing Crosby's full name was Harry Lillis Crosby. There. Now you know.

Then I started thinking about the one annoying secular song that inevitably lands in my head in mid-November and stays there until sometime in January: 'Last Christmas' by Wham. It suddenly occurred to me that this is an ideal song to use as a lead-in at your favorite seeker-driven megachurch. Just think about it:
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart. The very next day, you gave it away. This year, to save me from tears, I'll give it to someone special.
I can almost hear Rick Warren now: "Have you given your heart away to the wrong person in the past? This year, give your heart to Jesus. He'll never give it back to you and He'll never throw it away. Why? Because God is just mad about you! Why, He thinks you're great! So this year, give your heart to someone special: the baby Jesus."

Okay, I'll let you ponder that one as you go about your Friday and as you're humming your favorite Christmas carol, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • I don't know what's worse: this new song from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, the video that accompanies it, or Newton-John's plastic surgery. 
  • The Mormon Church has launched a new website encouraging compassion toward gays and reaching out to those with same-sex attraction.
  • Still shopping for a gift for that special someone? Love pizza? Then buy them Pizza Hut's freshly released perfume. Because everyone wants to smell like "freshly baked, hand-tossed dough."
  • So, one parent of a public school child got mad that the school was going to take a field trip to a church to watch a stage performance of 'Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.' So, instead of the school canceling the trip, the church caved and canceled the performance. 
  • Creflo Dollar's New York satellite has leased an iconic theater. Ah well, at least the place will still just be one of entertainment.
  • Oh, TLC, do you ever produce worthwhile programming? First there was 'Toddlers & Tiaras,' then 'Honey Boo-Boo,' and now, 'The Sisterhood,' where "provocative preachers' wives flaunt it all." No wonder people laugh and scoff at what they think is Christianity.
  • Isaac Hunter, son of the president's spiritual advisor, Joel Hunter, has resigned from his church due to an affair. His wife also claims violence and physical abuse.
  • Dr. William Varner of The Master's College has written a 3-part series on the myths of the Magi. Start with Part 1 before reading Part 2 and Part 3.
  • I realize that I just posted a sermon by Don Green earlier this week, but I don't think anyone will complain if I post another! Here's Pastor Green preaching on 1 John 2:18, 'Winning the Battle Against False Teachers.'

06 December 2012

'InstaChristmas' with Ed Young, Jr.

It's good to see that Ed Young, Jr. is encouraging the people of Fellowship Church to focus on what really matters this holiday season: Immanuel, God with us Instagram.

Taking a bunch of stupid pictures of yourself and being disillusioned enough to think that other people care—no, that's not narcissistic at all. And, if you share your photo on Twitter and Facebook with #MyInstaChristmas and you could even win prizes!
Wow, I can hardly contain my Christmas cheer.

Here's a novel thought for churches and pastors this December: Preach the Word. Preach Christ. Preach not just His birth, but His perfect life and sacrificial death. Preach His triumphant resurrection. Preach His promised, impending return in power and glory. Because, even if there were no cameras or social media in existence when Christ was born, it's still a far better story than the one told by that picture of you in a Santa hat posing by the over-decorated Christmas tree in Macy's.

Further Reading
Church-Going Gimmicks
So You Think You're a Christian
Sunday Morning Praise - First Sunday in Advent

04 December 2012

The Weary Christian Must Rest Upon Christ

"Then Jesus said, "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
J.C. Philpot
The Lord's purpose in laying burdens upon us is to weary us out. We cannot learn our religion in any other way. We cannot learn it from the Bible, nor from the experience of others. It must be a personal work, wrought in the heart of each; and we must be brought, all of us, if ever we are to find rest in Christ, to be absolutely wearied out of sin and self, and to have no righteousness, goodness, or holiness of our own.

The effect, then, of all spiritual labor is to bring us to this point: to be weary of the world, for we feel it, for the most part, to be a valley of tears; to be weary of self, for it is our greatest plague; weary of professors, for we cannot see in them the grace of God, which alone we prize and value; weary of the profane, for their ungodly conversation only hurts our minds; weary of our bodies, for they are often full of sickness and pain, and always clogs to our soul; and weary of life, for we see the emptiness of those things which to most people make life so agreeable.

By this painful experience we come to this point: to be worn out and wearied; and there we must come, before we can rest entirely on Christ.

As long as we can rest in the world, we shall rest in it. As long as the things of time and sense can gratify us, we shall be gratified in them. As long as we can find anything pleasing in self, we shall be pleased with it. As long as anything visible and tangible can satisfy us, we shall be satisfied with them.

But when we get weary of all things visible, tangible, and sensible--weary of ourselves, and of all things here below--then we want to rest upon Christ, and Christ alone.

— J.C. Philpot, "The Laborer's Rest"

Further Reading
Church-Going Gimmicks
Doctrine Matters
If Not for Amazing Grace

03 December 2012

The Grandest Fact Under Heaven

The grandest fact under heaven is this—that Christ by His precious blood does actually put away sin, and that God, for Christ’s sake, dealing with men on terms of divine mercy, forgives the guilty and justifies them, not according to anything that He sees in them, or foresees will be in them, but according to the riches of His mercy which lie in His own heart. This we have preached, do preach, and will preach as long as we live. “It is God that justifieth”—that justifieth the ungodly; He is not ashamed of doing it, nor are we of preaching it.

— Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace. 

Further Reading
The Influence of Christian Mystics Morton Kelsey and John Wimber on The Alpha Course
The Bible Knows of No Such Grotesque Creature as One Who Is Saved but Unrepentant
Jesus Christ Is King

02 December 2012

Sunday Morning Praise: First Sunday of Advent

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21)

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Just as Israel awaited and longed for her Messiah, let us live in anticipation of our Lord's Second Advent and His coming in power and majesty. Let us not miss the King, as Israel did those many years ago, but let us bow the knee to Him now in willing submission and humble worship. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

01 December 2012

The Influence of Christian Mystics Morton Kelsey and John Wimber on The Alpha Course

The Alpha Course can be found in 169 countries with nearly 19 million people having attended over the years. It is advertised as a non-threatening, non-confrontational approach to evangelism. Alpha swept across the UK with great fervor years ago and continues to gain popularity worldwide. It is not without its critics, however, as CRN has demonstrated in the articles, “The Alpha Course Receives Praise from Moody Radio’s Janet Parshall,” and “The Ecumenical Compromise of The Alpha Course.”

In a recent teleconference with leaders of The Alpha Course entitled, “Handling the Healing Night,” Jeff Kirby, who is a Teaching Pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas and who has been involved with Alpha as a leader for 17 years, discussed the nuances of and offered advice for the Alpha Course Healing Night. This event typically occurs during Alpha’s Holy Spirit Weekend, and apparently at times brings with it questions and even anxiety from leaders and participants alike.

Christian Research Network shares a brief clip from this teleconference as a means of providing insight into some of the teachings that are influencing The Alpha Course and its leader, Nicky Gumbel. CRN then examines two authors who, as evidenced by this audio clip, are highly recommended by The Alpha Course. These two authors, Morton Kelsey and John Wimber, espouse unbiblical and mystical teachings. With the influence of The Alpha Course continuing to grow around the world, this ought to raise a great deal of concern with the Christian.  Continue reading →

Further Reading
'Mystic Baptist' Charles Stanley Explains How God Speaks to Him
The Alpha Course Compromise
The Bible Knows of No Such Grotesque Creature as One Who Is Saved but Unrepentant
The World's Propitiation

30 November 2012

Christine Caine Thanks Her 'Spiritual Mother,' Joyce Meyer

We learned back in September that popular speaker Christine Caine of Hillsong considers Word Faith teacher Joyce Meyer to be her 'spiritual mother.' Today she reminds us again of this fact:
Further Reading
Christine Caine Says Word Faith Teacher Joyce Meyer Is Her "Spiritual Mother"
Christine Caine to Preach Weekend Services at Saddleback Church
Caine, Moore and Bevere Teach Thessaloniki Women at "Be the Change" Conference

This 'n' That

Well, Thanksgiving is over. Black Friday is over. Cyber Monday is long gone. And everyone has redeemed the selfishness of last weekend by participating in 'Giving Tuesday,' right?

It's pretty much not a Christmas carol without the costumes.
All of this can mean only one thing—it's finally acceptable to play Christmas music. Of course, no doubt there are some of you who still will refuse to do so until the calendar hits December. Then there are those of us you who began listening over two weeks ago to your favorite jolly tunes.

This is the only time of year that I turn on the radio in my car or in my house, and then only because the local station is playing Christmas music. Of course, they seem to have a playlist of only 12 songs or so, and more than half of those are atrocious. I mean, 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' Really? Even the guy who wrote that song admits that it's terrible! So why do radio stations foist it upon us each and every year, and then as frequently as once an hour? Don't even get me started on 'Dominic the Donkey' or 'Feliz Navidad.' And I hope that whoever suggested that the Beach Boys record a Christmas album was fired the day after it released. 'Little Saint Nick' is not my idea of a Merry Christmas. But then, who doesn't love hearing Wham!'s 'Last Christmas'?

I know, you're wondering why I even bother with the radio then? Yeah, so am I. Perhaps this explains why I've resorted more to my own iTunes Christmas playlist thus far this year. And no, I am not going to tell you how many songs are on that list.

What I do love about Christmas music, though—the good Christmas music, the Christian hymns and carols that we all love—is that the Gospel is proclaimed, even on secular radio or in the middle of the grocery store. Sure, it's doubtful that people are repenting in droves simply because they heard 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' while perusing the cereal shelves, but I don't doubt that, when you and I hear it, we smile. After all, here is a world that loathes Christ, and yet, for the sake of the season, it proclaims Him as King, even if in ignorance. But one day all will bow the knee to Him, and it will not be in ignorance (Phil. 2:9-11). All will acknowledge that Christ is King for all of eternity, whether in Heaven with Him, or whether in agony in Hell. Let us not miss the opportunity to share today with those who are perishing that Christ is Lord.

Oh, and as I'm sure you've guessed, this means that you can prepare for an onslaught of my favorite Christmas carols over the coming weeks. Hey, it's only once a year. And with that, please turn up your favorite Christmas song, sit back, and enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • This year's must-have gift: Godbaby.
  • I hate to break it to everyone who is in a tizzy over the new Starbucks drink, but $7 is nothing for those of us who order soy milk by necessity and extra shots of espresso by, well, necessity.
  • The UN now officially recognizes a Palestinian state. The U.S. objected to this, as did Israel. Of course, America no longer holds the authority she once did among the other nations, and has the UN ever liked Israel? No reason to be surprised by this.
  • Worried about the impending December 21 apocalypse? No worries, NASA is here to put your mind at ease. I mean, what else do they have to do these days?
  • I still think the best cup of hot chocolate is the one that you drink in the comfort of your own home, in your jammies and slippers, while curled up with a good book.
  • This guy wants to open a "gay-friendly" mosque in Paris. So...do you think he actually knows what his religion teaches?
  • Steven Furtick is training the church's future. Help.
  • A village in Serbia thinks an ancient vampire may be on the loose. No, really.
  • So...I'm gathering that a "faitheist" is someone who seeks after common ground. Now, where have I heard that before? *cough*Rick Warren*cough*
  • Still trying to use up that iTunes gift card from last Christmas? Why not download some of Todd Bentley's soaking music? So soothing and tranquil, you can't help but be visited by an angel of light.
  • I try not to post videos that I've not had a chance to watch in entirety, but I'm confident that this one, entitled "Church of Tares," is an important one to watch. 

photo credit: andy castro via photopin cc

29 November 2012

Warren Discusses Homosexuality, Says It's Not a Sin to Love Somebody, "It Might Be a Sin to Have Sex with Them"

Wow, two Rick Warren posts in a row. Well, he is out on a publicity tour this week, so I'm happy to oblige. The following appears here at Christian Research Network:

Rick Warren, author and pastor of Saddleback Church, has in recent days been making the media rounds in promotion of the 10th anniversary of his popular book, The Purpose Driven Life. In an interview with the Huffington Post yesterday, Warren was approached regarding his views on homosexuality. Some are arguing that the megachurch pastor appeared uncertain as to whether homosexual behavior actually is sinful. Continue reading →

Further Reading
Today's Christianity has Emasculated the Message of Salvation
Kay Warren and Mark Driscoll to Preach Weekend Services at Saddleback Church
Moody Radio's Janet Parshall Praises The Alpha Course

27 November 2012

Rick Warren, Gangnam Style and Missing the Point of a "Kingdom Win"

The Chicago Now website carries a column called "A Daily Miracle." Recently, writer "Sister Christian" blogged there about pastor Rick Warren's Twitter confession that, "Gangnam Style has been my ringtone since July 20."
It would not be out of line to question whether or not this particular tweet of Warren's can even be considered newsworthy. These days, few people really care what someone else has chosen for their ringtone. The novelty of personalized ringtones wore off years ago. What is perhaps of greater interest is the perspective with which Sister Christian views Warren's announcement.
This is big news, as “Gangnam Style,” a song by South Korean artist Psy, recently became the most-viewed YouTube video EVER, with over 826 million views as of this month (overtaking my man, J Biebs', "Baby" video). The “Gangnam Style” dance is now a global phenomenon, with thousands buying, playing, and dancing to it on a weekly basis. 
The fact that a popular evangelical pastor chose to publicly support a trend some more conservative individuals deem "idolatrous" and "unbiblical" intrigues me. "Pastor Rick" has an astonishing 794,000+ Twitter followers who interact with him on a regular basis - even though he claims in his Twitter bio that he "doesn't wear socks." Perhaps it's these quirky statements that make him personable and popular - two things Jesus was (thousands attended his sermons on a regular basis). 
Sister Christian seems to have missed the point, especially with the statement that Jesus was both "personable and popular" based upon the fact that his preaching occasions were so well attended. It's true, thousands did gather to hear Christ. And who could dislike a man who healed the sick, raised the dead and miraculously fed the masses? Yet, in the end, Christ was disliked—no, He was disdained—to the point that the masses called for his bloody and brutal murder.

Yes, a great many came to hear Him preach. Yet when He shared with them the hard truth about what it means to follow Him, what happened?
And He was saying, "for this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. (John 6:65, 66, emphasis added)
Personable and popular so long as "felt needs" were being met. Rejected and abandoned when the truth of the Gospel was proclaimed (read the passage in its broader context, John 6:26—71). The article at "A Daily Miracle" continues:
Even though the song/dance has no Christian themes whatsoever, it's engaging millions of viewers worldwide - and Rick Warren has entered the conversation. Which makes him and his ministry relevant to culture at large.
The bottom line? That even though "Gangnam Style" is an overtly secular song, Pastor Rick's engagement with it is a kingdom win. 
Rick Warren's ringtone is not going to bring anyone to Christ, or even necessarily to church, for that matter. Relevance is nice, but it is not what the church should be seeking. Rather, the church should be striving to proclaim the Truth regardless of how the culture views it. Further, to "engage the culture" to the point that the church cannot be distinguished from the world is not only disobedient to the calls of Scripture to come out of the world, but it also will find the visible church hopelessly irrelevant to the only kingdom that matters—God's.

It is quite disturbing that a "pastor" would boast about his ringtone being that of a secular song whose video and lyrics are worldly and inappropriate. What also is unfortunate is that the author of this article at Chicago Now seems to see this means of engaging the culture as a "kingdom win" with no mention of the proclamation of the Gospel, which is the only thing that can ever be considered a true "kingdom win."

*For those who are completely clueless about 'Gangnam Style,' two things: first, consider yourself blessed. Second, if you must be informed, here's a link to the video, if you dare.

Further Reading
Kay Warren and Mark Driscoll to Preach Weekend Services at Saddleback Church
Caine, Moore and Bevere Teach Thessaloniki Women at "Be the Change" Conference
Church-Going Gimmicks