31 January 2014

This 'n' That

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I've decided that today I would use this space to address a few administrative issues. Yes, I know that's not very exciting or humorous or controversial. The fact remains, though, that with the occasional exception, Friday's "This 'n' That" is this blog's most widely read post every week, so it seems the most natural place to mention those things that may affect the widest audience.

First, let's talk about email. If you have emailed me through the Contact page on this blog anytime in the recent past (say, the past two months or so), and I have not responded, let me first offer my most sincere apologies! Despite my efforts, many of these emails have been landing in my spam folder and as such, I've found that I have a significant backlog of messages through which to wade. So, please give me a week or two to respond to all of these because I do greatly appreciate all of the wonderful and challenging things you have shared! A response is forthcoming, then, if you are patient with me. A response is coming, that is, unless your message said something to the effect of, "You are a mean, unloving, unsaved icky head," in which case my reply will consist of a quiet smirk as I marvel at your apologetic prowess and hit 'delete'.

While we're on the subject of email, if you emailed me personally anytime between Friday, January 24 and, say, Monday, January 27, and you're wondering why I suddenly decided to ignore you, well, I didn't. Because I use those wonderfully annoying free email services, when they stop working, so does my life. As such, I've found that not only were many of my outgoing messages not received during this time, but neither was I receiving any incoming emails. So I haven't been ignoring you. In fact, I probably have been thinking you were ignoring me! Send the email again and I'll answer this time (with the exception of the aforementioned 'icky head' thing).

Finally, let's discuss comments, specifically what I like to call 'drive-by commenters'. These are those who are full of blustery, condemning thoughts (that usually have nothing to do with the topic at hand), yet who at the same time do not have the nerve to leave those comments even under a fake name. They simply choose to remain 'Anonymous'. A word of advice if one of you happens to be reading today: please stop. You are wasting your time and mine and, no matter how many big words you use (and misspell), I am not going to post your comment. And for those of you who post anonymously but share coherent, thoughtful comments (whether they are in agreement or disagreement with what has been written), I thank you very much for your contribution but I do ask, if it's not too much trouble, that you begin to post under some sort of a name. It makes 'conversation' within the comment string so much simpler!

Whew! Okay, that took longer than I'd anticipated. Thanks for indulging me and I hope that, in spite of the boring nature of this post's opening paragraphs, you still are anxious to relax for a few moments while you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

29 January 2014

Dedicated Pastors Produce Discerning Sheep

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Every believer is commanded by God to exercise discernment:
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess 5:21–22)
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
Discernment, then, is a requirement of the Christian life. As Dr. John MacArthur has said,
The key to living an uncompromising life lies in one's ability to exercise discernment in every area of his or her life. For example, failure to distinguish between truth and error leaves the Christian subject to all manner of false teaching. False teaching then leads to an unbiblical mindset, which results in unfruitful and disobedient living-a certain recipe for compromise. (Source)
How, then, does one cultivate this necessary ability to discern? Through a true and thorough knowledge of the Lord. And how does one obtain this? By prayerfully, diligently and carefully studying and reading the Word of God. This Word is, after all, God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16, 17). But there is another means beyond just personal Bible study by which one hones his discernment, and that is by hearing God's Word preached rightly by faithful men of God.

25 January 2014

Let All the World Stand in Awe of Him

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Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones;
Praise is becoming to the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.
Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.
For the word of the Lord is upright,
And all His work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the lovingkindess of the Lord.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And by the breath of His mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.

(Psalm 33:1–9)

24 January 2014

This 'n' That

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I realize that ministries need money to function. I realize that, though they are not technically a "business," the faces behind those ministries or blogs need to eat and pay bills. Thus I am not opposed to these same ministries having some means by which a donation or contribution may be made by those who benefit from the ministry's resources. It is okay to have a "donate" button on your site. It is not okay if it is the first thing I see, or is the first thing that pops up when I visit your site. It is not okay for you to attempt to shame or guilt me into donating, and it is not okay to beg for "year end donations" twice a year, at both the end of your fiscal and the calendar year.

It also is not okay to harass me via email, "snail mail," or phone (I'm looking at you, Ligonier, whose resources I love but whose fundraising tactics I loathe). If you are that desperate for money, perhaps you ought to reconsider who it is that you are trusting for the continued existence of your ministry: man or God. And while we're on the topic of desperation, it is never, never okay to use chintzy and cheesy gimmicks to entice people to send you money. Unless you are Rod Parsley and are going to send me an anointed prayer cloth prayed over by modern-day "apostles," then don't even bother. If I want your T-shirt, then I'll go to your online store and buy one for $15. Don't insult me by offering it to me "free" for a minimum gift of $50.

And if you are going to offer me a "free" gift for a minimum donation, please don't make it a gift that is utterly obsolete. Case in point: a semi-popular "discernment" ministry recently sent out its usual newsletter with great excitement. Why all the enthusiasm? For a mere gift of $100, you can be the proud owner of . . . a VHS tape! Oh yes, they were special VHS tapes featuring a prominent apologist who has since gone to be with the Lord, but my question is this: For my $100, could you also please send me a VCR so that I can actually view the VHS tape? Actually, I prefer audio to video, so how much do I need to send for an 8-track or vinyl?

Oh, and while we're on the topic, for a mere gift of $5000 (that's 3 zeroes, just in case your eyesight is fuzzy), Do Not Be Surprised will send you one of our new, original coffee mugs. For a donation of an extra $500 (only 2 zeroes there), we'll even send you a bag of coffee, or something like it.

Yes, I'm kidding. But coffee does sound good right about now, doesn't it? Why not pour yourself a cup, grab a couple of cookies, and treat yourself to your week in review (kind of):

22 January 2014

Christ Is All

"Christ is all." My beloved friends, in what is he all? Christ is all in the entire work of salvation. Let me just take you back to the period before this world was made. There was a time when this great world, the sun, the moon, the stars, and all which now exist throughout the whole of the vast universe, lay in the mind of God, like unborn forests in an acorn cup. There was a time when the Great Creator lived alone, and yet he could foresee that he would make a world, and that men would be born to people it; and in that vast eternity a great scheme was devised, whereby he might save a fallen race. Do you know who devised it? God planned it from first to last. Neither Gabriel nor any of the holy angels had anything to do with it. I question whether they were even told how God might be just, and yet save the transgressors. God was all in the drawing up of the scheme, and Christ was all in carrying it out. There was a dark and doleful night! Jesus was in the garden, sweating great drops of blood, which fell to the ground; nobody then came to bear the load that had been laid upon him. An angel stood there to strengthen him, but not to bear the sentence. The cup was put into his hands, and Jesus said, "Father, must I drink it?" and his Father replied, "If thou dost not drink, sinners cannot be saved"; and he took the cup and drained it to its very dregs. No man helped him. And when he hung upon that accursed tree of Calvary, when his precious hands were pierced, when:—
"From his head, his hands, his feet, Sorrow and love flowed mingled down,"
there was nobody to help him. He was "all" in the work of salvation.

And, my friends, if any of you shall be saved, it must be by Christ alone. There must be no patchwork; Christ did it all, and will not be helped in the matter. Christ will not allow you, as some say, to do what you can, and leave him to make up the rest. What can you do that is not sinful? Christ has done all for us; the work of redemption is all finished. Christ planned it all, and worked out all; and we, therefore, preach a full salvation through Jesus Christ.

– Charles Spurgeon, Christ Is All

Further Reading
For the Sake of Our Salvation
Salvation Is a Work of God
Trusting God in Trying Times

17 January 2014

This 'n' That

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As I contemplated last night what I might write for this week's This 'n' That ponderings, I had what I thought must be a rather clever idea. I decided that I would share with you a conversation I had with the Lord and the word that He gave me during that conversation.

All of this would be in jest, of course, as a means of illustrating the absurdity of today's prevalent claims of direct revelation. So I began to record this fictional conversation and it was, if I do say so myself, mildly amusing. But about halfway through my typing I paused and realized how utterly blasphemous such an endeavor seemed,  and that is why you are reading this introduction instead of my original composition.

If, then, it seemed a sin of blasphemy and disrespect (to say the least) to satirize the claims of direct revelation made by many of today's popular Bible teachers, how much more serious must it be to actually declare, "Thus saith the Lord" when speaking of something that is not revealed in Scripture? Not only are the men and women who make such brazen claims denying the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, they are denigrating and disdaining God Himself. By saying, "thanks but no thanks, I want more" to God's gracious gift of the Word surely must be an insult to the Almighty.

Thank God for His Word. It is treasured; it is precious; it is enough. Through it we learn of our Lord Jesus Christ and His saving gospel. Who could ask for anything more? Who would even dare?

Well, I hope you've already had time to study the Bible today. If you haven't, put the computer away and go do so right now. Then come back later and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

13 January 2014

Why Beth Moore and Not Me? The Danger of Claiming to Receive Direct Revelation

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When God speaks, He does so with authority. He issues no 'lesser' revelation. His words are full and final and they stand for eternity. This is why His Word is so precious. It is unchanging, and it is the sole authority for the Christian. In the Bible, God has revealed all that the Christian needs to know in matters pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). In this Word, He has revealed to us His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the Living Word (John 1:1) and He is the final Word (Heb 1:1–2).

Any claim that is made, then, that God continues to speak outside of His Word and deliver direct, personal revelation is one that must be considered with great seriousness. After all, if God always speaks with authority, then such revelations must be perceived to be as inspired as Scripture. Any private prophecy, voice, dream or vision that is claimed to be from God must find a place in the back of our Bibles and our Bible 'reading plans' must be extended to include these words. Mustn't they?

For some, the Word of God as revealed in the 66 books of the Bible is not enough. These are those who find themselves on a constant quest for 'more'. A deeper, more meaningful emotional experience coupled with an alleged 'word from the Lord' often offers precisely what the dissatisfied seeker desires. But what of the one who longs for such an experience, but does so in vain? What of the woman who finds herself in despair because 'God' is 'speaking' to her friend or favorite Bible teacher through divine nudges and dreams but is seemingly silent in her own situation? What are the dangers of claiming to be the recipient of direct, personal revelation from God?

12 January 2014

Actively Seeking Holiness

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1–3)
Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The holiness of which the New Testament speaks and the holy life, the life of sanctification which John talks of, is not so much something which we receive as a gift—it is rather something which we work out. Now here again I think this correction is needed. How often is the holiness doctrine presented in that form. We are told that as you have received your justification by faith as a gift, so you must now receive this gift of sanctification and holiness as a gift. So people get the idea that this life of holiness is something which comes to you perhaps in a meeting or a convention. You suddenly get it; you went to the meeting without it and then suddenly you got it.

But surely this is a denial of this very teaching which John is holding before us. No; the position is rather this—not that it suddenly comes to me and I receive some special or exceptional blessing; the position, rather is that I am reminded of the doctrine, I am reminded that I am a child of God, I am told of the inheritance that awaits me. I have been given a glimpse of the vision of the glory that awaits me beyond death and the grave, and having seen it I am told, 'Now then, in the light of that, proceed to work this out, purify yourselves even as he is pure.' It is not a gift received but something which I must work out and put into practice. Consider how the Apostle Paul puts the same thing in Philippians 2:12–13: 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do. . . .' And because of that you work it out. It is not some mystical experience that suddenly comes to us, but the outworking of the doctrine and the truth which we claim to believe. . . .

. . . We ought to be filled with a yearning and a longing to live this glorious, wondrous, life that Christ has made possible for us by His death and resurrection. Should not we all be animated by a desire to please Him if we really believe He came from heaven to earth? If we really believe that He suffered the agony of the cross and shed His holy blood that we might be redeemed and rescued, if we really believe that and love Him, should not our greatest desire be to please Him?

That is the reason for holy living, that is the New Testament appeal for holiness; it is an appeal to our sense of honor, to our sense of love and gratitude. But if you want a final appeal, let me appeal to you in terms of the time element. 'He that hath this hope in him,' those who believe they are going to see Him and be like Him and be with Him, purify themselves even as He is pure, and they feel there is not a moment to be lost. Oh, the unworthiness that is in me! Not only the sins I have committed and still commit, but the evil nature, the unworthiness in me, all these things which I have to mortify. There is so much to be done, and time is uncertain. We do not have a moment to spare or to waste. We may find ourselves with Him, facing Him, at any moment.

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John, (Crossway: 2002), 300, 304–305.

Further Reading
Witnessing to a Blank Stare
Salvation Is a Work of God
So You Call Yourself a Christian?

Sunday Morning Praise

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

10 January 2014

Guest Post: Who Declares?

I'm happy to welcome back Hariton "Harry" Deligiannides as a guest blogger here at Do Not Be Surprised. Harry serves as an elder at Bethlehem Bible Church in West Boylston, MA. He already has blessed us with the articles, "Bible Study in a Morgue?", "Whispers and Campaigns Do Not Preach the Word," "Apostasy and the Perseverance of the Saints," and "Genuine vs. False Assurance." In this latest post, Harry tackles some of the foolishness that is found in Joel Osteen's book, I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life.

This 'n' That

For one reason or another, last night I found myself dwelling on John 6:68:
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.
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Perhaps it was my current study of various religions and cults. To read about the many myriads of people who have placed their hope in a false Christ is a sobering way to spend one's time. To learn about the intricate details of each of these false messiahs that have been woven together by the enemy of men's souls is enough to spur one on in this unceasing truth war in which we as Christians are engaged. My soul grows weary simply reading about these various spins on the false gospel of salvation by works. My soul rests—and I become profoundly grateful for my salvation—when I think upon Christ, who alone has the "words of eternal life."

Perhaps my reflection was instead a result of current trying and confusing circumstances. Disappointment and discouragement are not uncommon to any man, yet each time I am confronted by these I seem to fall victim to a few moments (okay, perhaps more than a few) of dismay and frustration. And then I am reminded that, by God's grace, I have Christ, who alone has the "words of eternal life." No fleeting, earthly, temporal situation can take that away. Further, if I am trusting in Christ for eternal life and salvation, can I not trust Him with my life here on a fallen, broken earth? Indeed I can. I must. He is good and sovereign and He cares for His children. To who else would I dare go?

If you have not yet come to Christ, if you have not repented of your sin and trusted in Him and His work alone for salvation, then let me remind you today that "there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). No other religion offers rest for the weary. No other "savior" has fully and finally accomplished the work of salvation. Only Christ. Why would you seek redemption in anyone or anything else?

If you are a Christian, let me remind you today that no earthly trial is so unbearable and so irredeemable that God cannot and will not work it to His glory and to your good. If Christ has saved you, then you are His and you serve an amazing God. He loves, He disciplines, He provides. To who else would you go?

Well, now that today's devotional thought is complete, take this time to relax and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

08 January 2014

Naomi's Table: Discussing Dangerous Claims of Direct, Personal Revelation from God

I had the privilege once again to speak with Amy Spreeman of the wonderful women's ministry, Naomi's Table. In this conversation, Amy and I discuss the increasingly prevalent claims of some Christians that they are receiving direct, personal revelation from God. Is God really speaking today outside of His Word through a still, small voice or dreams or visions? How can we guard against the dangers of such claims?

Ladies, pull up a chair and listen in here.

Further Reading
Beth Moore's 'Twelfth Month Redemption'
God Speaks, but How?
What God Says about His Word
Ladies, Pull Up a Chair and Join Us at Naomi's Table

07 January 2014

Ignorance Is Not an Option: Justin Peters on Benny Hinn, Dr. Michael Brown and Strange Fire

Justin Peters
At the Grace to You blog, apologist Justin Peters lends his informed voice to the ongoing discussion surrounding the Strange Fire conference and book:
One of the common criticisms of the Strange Fire conference held this past October was that the speakers (this writer included) painted all charismatic Christians with the same broad brush by lumping them in with the extremes of the Word-Faith/N.A.R./Dominion movement. Charismatic theologian, author, and radio host Dr. Michael Brown on the eve of the conference posted an open letter to Dr. John MacArthur stating that he “attributes the extreme errors of a tiny minority to countless hundreds of thousands of godly leaders worldwide.”

From this statement it is apparent that Brown does indeed recognize that there are “extreme errors” in the charismatic movement. Not to worry, however, because those who propagate such error constitute only a “tiny minority” of the mighty charismatic army.

I’m not a social media guy but a few of my more technologically astute friends alerted me to a tweet from Brown dated January 2, 2014 in which he stated that he “just recorded five wonderful TV shows with Benny Hinn.”

Benny Hinn? Really?

With this tweet, Brown unwittingly proved one of the basic points of the Strange Fire conference: false teachers and charlatans are not the “tiny minority” in the charismatic movement. They are the norm.
Continue Reading ➞

05 January 2014

03 January 2014

This 'n' That

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Reading an excerpt this morning from William Gurnall's The Christian in Complete Armour, I was struck and convicted by the following statements:
Some professing Christians have only a passing acquaintance with the Gospel. They can hardly give an account of what they hope for, or whom they hope in. And if they have some principles they take kindly to, they are so unsettled that every wind blows them away, like loose tiles from a housetop.
I read this, and I had to pause and thank God again for His mercy. There was a time when those three sentences were an accurate description of me and of my life. Professing to know and love Christ, I denied Him by the way I lived my life, and I could not have actually verbalized the true Gospel had someone pressured me to do so. Yet I came to be aware and convicted of my lost state of ignorance through the Word of God. Reading this Word after years of claiming to be a Christian, I began to realize that I had never fully understood the weight and gravity of sin. I had never realized how serious it was to sin against a holy God. I had never been taught the concept of repentance. Without an understanding of these, I could not grasp the magnificence of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How grateful I am that God brought me to a place of conviction that led to repentance and true and saving faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. You who profess to know Jesus, do you know the Gospel? Do you proclaim it when God graciously grants you opportunity? Are there those around you who say with their lips that they are Christ's, but who deny Him by the rebellion that is present in their lives? Will you call them to repentance and share with them the salvation that is available to them in Christ? They will bristle and scoff if they profess to already be a Christian, but it is not them you seek to please, but God. May all who claim the name of Christ be ready and eager to give an account for the hope that lies within them (1 Peter 3:15)!

On that reflective note, it is the first Friday of 2014. May this year bring us some of our best weekly roundups yet! And with that, I hope you enjoy your very first 2014 week in review (kind of):