31 December 2012

Resolutions

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.”
(Source)
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

This 'n' That

Well, it's no secret that it's been quiet around here. That's because we here at Escalator Church have been busy making this the most sensational Christmas season EVER. And I am so PUMPED to be able to give you an update on what we, I mean God, is doing!

As you know, we audaciously decided not to have services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We knew that you'd be too preoccupied with your new iPad to want to bother coming to a worship experience. That's why we began our Christmas services on 10 December, and ran them through 23 December. In all, we held 4,787 Christmas worship experiences and saw 1,109,035 people give their lives to Jesus! But then, how could they refuse? After all, this year at Escalator Church, we took Christmas to a whole 'nutha level—a level not even reachable by private jet!

That's right, if you missed the experience (and if you did, you better make sure you're up to date on your tithe before God's curses rain down on you), then you missed a retelling of the nativity story never before seen. Thanks to the brilliance of Pastor Bobby, who was voted in last August by tithing members, our rendition of the Christmas story was so far off the hook, you couldn't even see the hook (if you know what I mean)!

How many megachurches hired a Charlton Heston impersonator to retell the Christmas story? Answer: one, and it was us. And we didn't stop there. Mary rode in on a jet-propelled donkey because, let's face it, that's way more fun than the old way. And those wise men? They didn't just stroll down the aisle. Oh no, they danced in, Gangnam style! Take that, audacious Charlotte boy! As for the angels, well, they may have sung, 'Glory to God in the highest,' but they did so to the tune of 'Call Me Maybe.' There's no point in being coy, the truth is that the unchurched people in the audience loved it.

For the big finale, we reenacted that famous scene of Santa Claus kneeling beside the Christ child. We didn't linger there, though. It wasn't long before Santa jumped up to distribute gifts, while 50 elves repelled from the ceiling singing 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.'

What did I tell you? A whole 'nutha level never before attained by a megachurch. We truly did create a move of God, and we're not done yet. Stay tuned in the new year. I hate to give anything away, but rumor has it that we've booked the Holy Spirit for an upcoming Red Alert Revival. You won't want to miss it.

Okay, okay. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of Escalator Church, before you get yourself in a tizzy, please see hereherehere and here. Oh, and here and here. As for the rest of you, sit back and enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Imprisoned cult leader Warren Jeffs said the world would end this past Sunday. Well, you can't win 'em all I guess.
  • Some days you just don't want to work out, but you know you should. Thankfully, there are a couple of things that can make an unwanted morning run bearable, and one of those is listening to a good sermon. This morning I enjoyed learning about "The Christmas Hymn You Must Sing."
  • Speaking of reading plans, if you've purchased A Puritan Theology and are a bit overwhelmed by it, here's a suggested plan of reading through that body of work.
  • This Baptist church seems to be pretty excited that there supposedly is an image of Jesus on their door. You know, I once saw what looked like an image of a reindeer on a door at the veterinarian's office, and I never once felt compelled to alert the media.
  • A new Chinese law requires adult children to visit their parents. Because nothing says love like forced visitation.
  • Some archaeologist says Jesus was born in a different Bethlehem. I'm not sure if he realizes that he's not the first one to make this ridiculous claim.
  • The question of God's gender has "sparked a row" in the German government.
  • Surely you heard about the depraved actions of a man in New York, who set a fire simply in order to lure firefighters there to murder them. Apparently he left a note stating that he wanted to do "what I like doing best, killing people." Utter depravity.
  • Christianity is "close to extinction" in the Middle East. The same study that declares this also says that "Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group." No kidding. Welcome to reality.
  • Listen to what are believed to be the first recordings available of one family celebrating Christmas Day. These are 110 years old!
  • Don Green preaches through 1 John 2:19–21 about when 'Christians' walk away:
"Escalator" photo credit: Wunkai via photopin cc

Joel Osteen Shares the Secret to Ensuring that God Will 'Take Care' of Critics

Source
Book, chapter and verse please, Joel.

Since Osteen himself continues to have his share of critics, this tweet leads me to conclude one of three things:

1. Joel Osteen has not yet fully attained being the best that he can be.

2. Joel is offering a veiled threat that one day God will exact His revenge on all critics everywhere.

3. Joel Osteen and the person running his Twitter account both are full of poppycock.

Further Reading
Seek the Glory that Comes Only from God
The King Is Born
Familiar Names Rick Warren, James MacDonald & Others to Headline at Mark Driscoll's 2013 Resurgence Conference

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...


____________________
Footnotes:
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

22 December 2012

A Man Impenitent Is a Man Unforgiven

Photo: Wikimedia
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)
Let us observe...what were the first truths which the Lord Jesus bade His disciples preach after he left the world. We read that "repentance and remission of sins" were to be preached inHis name among all nations.
"Repentance and remission of sins" are the first things which ought to be pressed on the attention of every man, woman and child throughout the world. All ought to be told the necessity of repentance. All are by nature desperately wicked. Without repentance and conversion, none can enter the kingdom of God. All ought to be told God's readiness to forgive every one who believes on Christ. All are by nature guilty and condemned. But anyone may obtain by faith in Jesus free, full and immediate pardon. All, not least, ought to be continually reminded that repentance and remission of sins are inseparably linked together. Not that our repentance can purchase our pardon. Pardon is the free gift of God to the believer in Christ. But still it remains true, that a man impenitent is a man unforgiven.  
He that desires to be a true Christian, must be experimentally acquainted with repentance and remission of sins. These are the principal things in saving religion....[A]re we converted? Are we justified? If not, we are dead before God. Happy is that Christian who keeps these two points continually before his eyes! Repentance and remission are not mere elementary truths and milk for babes. The highest standard of sanctity is nothing more than a continual growth in practical knowledge of these two points. The brightest saint is the man who has the most heart-searching sense of his own sinfulness, and the liveliest sense of his own complete acceptance in Christ.
– J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, vol. 2, Banner of Truth Trust: 1998, 518–519. 
Further Reading
So You Call Yourself a Christian
Familiar Names Rick Warren, James MacDonald & Others to Headline at Mark Driscoll's 2013 Resurgence Conference
Responding to an Invasion of Evil

21 December 2012

This 'n' That

HT: Alpha & Omega Ministries
Well, as I write this, it is officially 21 December 2012 everywhere across the globe and, to my knowledge, the world has not yet ended. It's probably for the best. There are quite a few people enjoying Christmas vacation right now, whether from work or school, and it would be such a bummer if the world met its fiery death right in the middle of that. On the flip side, there likely are also a lot of people who have stupidly gone into debt buying Christmas presents, and perhaps they would have welcomed the world's demise. Ah, well, life's not fair.

This date does have quite a bit of significance for me personally, though. December 21, 2012, marks the 10th anniversary of the death of my grandfather. Today, in his memory, I will do silly things like wear his dog tags from WWII and enjoy a chocolate doughnut from his favorite bakery. Gestures like this are only meaningful to me and to a few members of my family, but they bring back fond memories of a man I dearly loved (and those doughnuts are downright delicious).

My grandpa was the one person on this earth who thought that I could do no wrong. Of course, that's not the reason I loved him, but it didn't hurt! On December 21, 2002, at 12:21 pm (yes, really), I thought that my world had ended. I vividly remember exactly what I was doing when we got the phone call, and I recall with even more intensity, and shame, how I reacted. I remember quietly screaming at God for taking my grandfather away from me, and for doing so at Christmas, no less. I remember realizing, in the midst of my rebellious response, that my grandpa would have been deeply disappointed in my reaction. And I remember healing, and finally coming to a place where I could go to my grandfather's funeral and, rather than mourning his death, celebrate the eternal life that had become his new reality. I will see my grandfather again, thanks to the merciful grace and salvation granted to him and to me by Christ Jesus.

After already living through my own December 21 nightmare, I can do little except laugh at those who take the silliness of this so-called Mayan prophecy seriously. Oh yes, God will one day end this world as we know it. For those who have not been saved by Christ, it will be a fearsome day of judgment and eternal regret. But those of us who have been graciously saved by a merciful and loving Savior have nothing to fear. In fact, as we happily and humbly serve our Lord in this life, let us at the same time remember that He is returning one day so that we may be with Him for eternity. Amen, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Okay, before you trot off to enjoy whatever end-of-days activity you have planned, take a quick moment to enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut has unsurprisingly dominated the media this week. Reformation 21 offers a worthy Christian perspective.
  • It will cost you at least $1,000 to party like it's the end of the world in Russia.
  • Have you been putting off buying Christmas presents in the hope that the rumors of the Mayan Apocalypse were true? Here's a great last minute gift idea for just such an occasion.
  • Rick Warren sure knows how to select his guest speakers. Word Faith preacher Brian Houston of Hillsong Church will be preaching at Saddleback next weekend.
  • "People are no longer celebrating the truth of Christmas, but rather they are celebrating the truth they have attached to Christmas. Thus, in effect, people are celebrating themselves. It’s not about God becoming man, but about man becoming his own 'god.' Welcome to the era of the postmodern Christmas."
  • I don't watch a lot of television, but the other night I did hunker down and flip on a cheesy Christmas movie when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a creepy "Christian dating" commercial illustrating my worst fears. (Bad rhyming attempt, I know. Sorry.) ChristianMingle.com has ickily demonstrated the problem with contemporary Christian pop music by taking the popular Jars of Clay song, "Love Song for a Savior," and turning it into a "won't you pretty please be my boyfriend?" song. Friends, if references to Jesus can easily be replaced in a song by references to your significant other, then it's not worship and it's not praise. In my opinion, it's not even Christian. It's just plain icky. 
  • *Sigh* What's with all the so-called Christian reality shows coming up next season? Watch out for 'Divas for Jesus'!
  • Ligonier shares some seasonal devotional thoughts based upon the favorite Christmas carol, "Joy to the World."
  • Russell Moore says we should rethink our holly-jolly Christmas songs.
  • I had no idea there was a gummy bear battle raging in Europe. Now that I do know, I kind of want some gummy bears.
  • A documentary is being made to "correct" the West's view of Islam. Great...
  • The flagship church of C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries is leaving the organization. 
  • Steven Furtick's Elevation Church is planning a $20 million facility to house administrative offices and a *measly* 1,500 seat auditorium. $20 million for administration, huh? I guess Furtick needs a lot of space to achieve his full, creative, narcigetical potential.
  • Tim Challies reviews James MacDonald's Vertical Church.
  • Some parents are going to sue their school district for introducing yoga into their children's classrooms. 
  • Yes, we all know that, as an infant, the Lord Jesus Christ most assuredly did cry when necessary, but I still love "Away in a Manger." It's always been a song that brings me sweet memories, even more so in recent years since we sang it at my grandfather's funeral a decade ago. Enjoy.
  • Hope Through the Curse:

20 December 2012

Familiar Names Rick Warren, James MacDonald & Others to Headline at Mark Driscoll's 2013 Resurgence Conference

*This article originally appears here at Christian Research Network.

Photo: The Resurgence
The Resurgence, a ministry of Mark Driscoll that seeks to "train the head, heart and hands of leaders," has announced the speaker lineup for its 2013 conference. The gathering, which will not take place until November of 2013, boasts many familiar names, including Driscoll himself, James MacDonald, Rick Warren, Greg Laurie, Matt Chandler and Crawford Loritts. These are the faces and speakers that often headline the larger conferences within American seeker-driven evangelicalism, appearing together again and again, year after year. As CRN has noted previously, there appears to be a new, ecumenical, evangelical magisterium forming, and with each conference that is held, it is becoming evident just who are the members of this emerging coalition.

The 2012 Resurgence Conference (R12) boasted a very similar lineup, though neither Matt Chandler nor Crawford Loritts were speakers at that event. Chandler, however, was granted the position earlier this year of president of the Acts 29 Network, a group that was begun by and initially led by Mark Driscoll. Chandler's presence at R13, then, does not surprise.

In September of this year, not long before the R12 conference, James MacDonald and Matt Chandler both were speakers at Perry Noble's Newspring Leadership Conference. This is yet another demonstration of the same names appearing alongside of one another at these various events.

Not to be forgotten, however, are the debacles known as the Elephant Room and the Elephant Room 2 (ER2). The latter especially appeared to strengthen this magisterium. Co-hosted by James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll, ER2 greatly aided in the mainstreaming of prosperity preaching, Word Faith mogul T.D. Jakes. By accepting Jakes with open evangelical arms, Driscoll and MacDonald not only opened the door to Jakes' ministry philosophy that "Jesus is the product," as well as his heretical teachings about finances, but they also potentially helped to escort into the professing evangelical church a broader acceptance of Jakes' modalistic view of the Trinity.

Interestingly, R13 speakers Crawford Loritts and Greg Laurie also have participated in the Elephant Room events. In fact, the only speaker scheduled for Driscoll's R13 who has not yet engaged in an Elephant Room conversation is "America's pastor," Rick Warren. In spite of this, Warren clearly is a welcome member of this new magisterium. The Purpose Driven Life author already has demonstrated his influence over Driscoll and The Resurgence.

Like several of the other R13 speakers, Warren participated in the 2012 Resurgence Conference. With this invitation, The Resurgence saw fit to revive Rick Warren's man-centered mythology as, in July of this year, the Resurgence website posted the entirety of Rick Warren's talk at the 2006 TED conference. In a blog post entitled, "You're Created With a Purpose," The Resurgence quoted Warren as saying,
Some people have the misguided idea that God only gets excited when you’re doing “spiritual things,” like going to church or helping the poor, or, you know, confessing or doing something like that. The bottom line is, God gets pleasure watching you be you. (Source)
Of course, the TED talks are not a Christian event, and thus Warren's audience likely would have included people of all religions and faiths. His advice, then, falls hopelessly short of what ought to have been conveyed by a Christian pastor to a large audience that very likely contained many lost individuals. Nevertheless, Warren's words seemingly were lauded by The Resurgence.

In September of this year, in a post entitled, "What does Rick Warren think about doctrinal depth?" The Resurgence directed readers to a 3-minute excerpt from John Piper's 2011 interview with Rick Warren, reminding Christians that New Calvinist pastor Piper has embraced the pragmatic, seeker-driven Warren as being "theological and doctrinal and sound." Indeed, some may be of the opinion that Piper's embrace of Warren as such has contributed to the acceptance of Warren by the New Calvinist, "Reformed" community.

It seems safe to postulate that no coincidences are involved as we witness these same influential leaders uniting with one another at these various events and promoting one another's ministries, books, etc. Yet, what might such an alliance mean for professing Christendom when these men have demonstrated gross errors in judgment and behavior as has been demonstrated by, as one example, the fallout of the Elephant Room 2? One wonders what this new magisterium hopes to achieve once it is acknowledged by the visible church.

With concerns of worldly pragmatism and the preaching of false gospels, Christians ought to be concerned by the influence that groups such as this appear to be acquiring. While fidelity to the Word of God continues to receive lip service, often it seems that such faithfulness is not displayed in practice by many of these leaders. Influence is eternally worthless if exerted wrongly. A dominating personality and a boisterous voice can just as easily proclaim falsehood as it can proclaim truth. Celebrity means nothing to a holy and righteous God. The slope of compromise is a slippery one that has seen the downward slide of far too many professing Christian personalities. Thus, in spite of influence or celebrity, the true Christian must continue to be a good Berean (Acts 17:11), testing all things taught in the name of Christ against the only verifiable measure of truth, holy Scripture.

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.

Source
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 airō, 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.'