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Showing posts from September, 2018

the gospel of the prophets

For those of us reading through the Bible in 2018, we are nearing completion of the Old Testament and 3/4 of our way through the Bible! Historical note .  In moving from Zephaniah to Haggai you have jumped seventy years from the beginning of the exile of the Jews (and the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC) to the return of the exiles from Babylon back to Jerusalem.   Hence, the last three books of the Old Testament are called the "post-exilic prophets", which is a phrase you can use at almost any social gathering and people will take notice.   Mountain peaks.  The theme of Zephaniah is "the day of the Lord".   The day of the Lord usually refers to a period of cataclysmic judgment, and in reading the prophets one is not sure whether it is some calamity soon to come, like the fall of Jerusalem, or a great end-time, cosmic event.  Students of the Bible sometimes call this the "mountain peaks of prophecy" or "telescoping" prophecy.  [ See graphic belo

wisdom from will rogers

"It's a good thing we don't get all the government we pay for." "Last year we said, 'Things can't go on like this', and they didn't, they got worse." "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer."   "There is nothing so stupid as the educated man if you get him off the thing he was educated in."    "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."   "We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others."   ~ Will Rogers (1879--1935) 

problems with God's sovereignty

All of us at one time or other have had problems with understanding or accepting the doctrine of God's sovereignty.   J. I. Packer writes that sovereignty means that "God reigns."  He continues, "...we are constantly told in explicit terms that the Lord (Yahweh) reigns as king, exercising dominion over great and tiny things alike."  ( Concise Theology , p. 33)  The Westminster Shorter Catechism speaks of the decrees of God as "His eternal plan based on the purpose of His will, by which, for his own glory, He has foreordained everything that happens." (P&R, 1986) Here's a sampling of passages: "Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps."  (Psalm 135:6 ESV)  "...all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?

a complete salvation

"And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." (John 1:16 ESV) "...who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places..." (Ephesians 1:3 ESV) "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. "  (Colossians 2:9-10 ESV) Your whole conduct through life depends upon the nature of the salvation of which you are a partaker by grace. Is it not a complete salvation—an absolutely perfect work—yes, the greatest work of God, because all the rest comes from it, and leads to it?  Is it not the infinitely wise plan of the eternal Trinity, for which everlasting glory is to be given to every divine attribute? Attend, O my soul, to the Scripture account of this salvation. Review the glory of it. Read again and again the revealed descriptions of it, till your heart be satisfied that this salvation is as perfect and complete as the Lord

before you leave a church

All of us in pastoral ministry have met with people who want to leave our churches.  The precipitating cause, or reasons, may be any one of a number of complaints, hurts, or differences.  Sometimes I've responded to these sessions with grace, gentleness, and compassion.  Sometimes, not so much.   Let me be clear that I'm not speaking about people who move away or people who have a real doctrinal or moral difference, but people who for one reason or another are not satisfied at one evangelical church and would rather go to another church in the same community.    Now, I believe people are free to go anywhere they want, no arguments there.  But here are five things I think should be considered before you leave one church for another:   1)  Remember that your leaving will hurt people.   That's just the nature of relationships in community.  All of us remember those times in our youth when we were romantically interested in someone and that person said to us, "I thin

safe at sea

"And so Noah was safe when the flood came; and was the great type and instance too of the verification of this proposition; he was put into a strange condition, perpetually wandering, shut up in a prison of wood, living upon faith, having never had the experience of being safe in floods. And so have l often seen young and unskilled persons sitting in a little boat, when every little wave sporting about the sides of the vessel, and every motion and dancing of the barge seemed a danger, and made them cling fast upon their fellows; and yet all the while they were as safe as if they sat under a tree, while a gentle wind shook the leaves into a refreshment and a cooling shade: And the unskilled, inexperienced Christian shrieks out whenever his vessel shakes, thinking it always in danger, that the watery pavement is not stable and resident like a rock; and yet all his danger is in himself, none at all from without: for he is indeed moving upon the waters, but fastened to a rock: faith

Ezekiel's temple and the city to come

There is little agreement among Bible scholars regarding interpretation of the last nine chapters of Ezekiel. It is, after all, a vision (40:2). How much of it is symbolic? Is any of it to be taken literally? Bob Utley at gives five possible interpretations of what this temple is: 1. It was never meant to be literally fulfilled, but was a literary way to reverse chapters 8-11. It was written to encourage the exiles. 2. It was conditional prophecy to which the Jews did not respond appropriately (i.e., sin of the post-exilic period, cf. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi). 3. It was to be fulfilled in the return from the Exile under Zerubbabel (prince of Judah, seed of David) and Joshua (seed of the last high priest before the exile). 4. It was fulfilled in Herod’s temple. 5. It will be fulfilled in an eschatological temple. Interpretation #5 might also be subdivided into two further possibilities: a) it is a temple in Israel during the Millennium (Rev. 20), what some

why I disabled comments on facebook

Update 9/14/2018 : imagine my chagrin when I discovered that you can't disable comments on Facebook!  Notifications, yes.  You can block others one at a time, but you can't stop comments wholesale.  In light of this I will either disable or delete the account entirely, or most likely, just use it for family, humor, and non-controversial stuff and post the articles I am reading somewhere else...  "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."  (James 1:19-20 ESV) I'm increasingly convinced that social media is not contributing to a reasoned and civil discourse in our country.  Recently, a popular (popular with some, and unpopular with many others) pastor/theologian posted a number of theological statements about social justice as taught in the Bible.  There was a lot of material to evaluate.  But social media posts came out -- both vehemently for

dogma and the church

Good theology is sound doctrine (teaching) about the truths of God, man, sin, and salvation.  It has almost always been forged in the heat of controversy, usually in the form of movements and teachings which challenge orthodoxy (sound teaching).  So, in response, distinctions must be made, and errors called out.  Below are a few excerpts from G. K. Chesterton's discussion about the early church and why it had an interest in dogma and heresy. ..  "Now that purity was preserved by dogmatic definitions and exclusions. It could not possibly have been preserved by anything else.  If the Church had not renounced the Manicheans it might have become merely Manichean.  If it had not renounced the Gnostics it might have become Gnostic."                  "The creed declared that man was sinful, but it did not declare that life was evil, and it proved it by damning those who did. The condemnation of the early heretics is itself condemned as something crabbed and narrow; but

church not a supermarket

"Many churches became more like voluntary associations: a supermarket of personal spiritual identities." "A church that fails to diagnose its own cultural infections will be absorbed into the bloodstream of this age that is passing away." "The church is neither a central agency with branch offices nor a group of individuals who decide to follow Jesus and therefore decide to start a church. Rather, it is a supernatural and eschatological reality that descends from heaven in the power of the Spirit through the means of grace (see Rev 21:9 – 27)." "Just as each believer’s salvation finds its origin in God’s sovereign grace, so too the church collectively is the result of God’s gracious plan, not ours. It is not simply a voluntary association that exists as the result of people choosing the same preferences." "Its words and actions are always provisional and fallible — ministerial, but not magisterial. The church is the servant, not th

a worthy cause

"To hear the voice of God in Holy Scripture oneself, and to help others to hear it, is a worthy cause to which to devote one’s resources; to be commissioned to devote them to this cause is a sacred trust, not to be undertaken lightly, not to be refused irresponsibly, but to be fulfilled thankfully."  ~F. F. Bruce, concluding sentence from In Retrospect , quoted by Timothy Grass in F. F. Bruce: A Life (Paternoster, 2011).

the nature of grace

"Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit . . . with the princes of his people." (Psalm 113:5–8)  "This psalm is about the nature of grace: the stooping of the Most High. It has been said that if you don’t understand this psalm, you don’t understand any of the psalms. In Psalm 113 God is pictured as the Almighty— El Shaddai —who brings praise to his all-powerful name. God’s name is so great that it requires that even the enemies of God—the nations (you and me)—be brought in. This is the gospel: those who are far off are brought near by the blood of the cross. Praise is a form of sanity where you suspend thoughts of the future and dwell in the eternal now lifting up God as the center. True praise involves paying attention to God with a surrendered heart. Even to glance at us requires God’s condescension. What we might expe