Monday, August 13, 2018

Book Review: 12 Faithful Men

Pastoral ministry, or any kind of ministry, is a joyous thing. Seeing people coming to Christ in faith and having their lives changed for the glory of God is amazing. Pastoral ministry can also be a hard one as well. Often at times there is discouragement and even persecution. There are many in church history who have endured hardships in their ministry.

Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson have edited a book with a collection of pastors and theologians to address pastors in the past, who have had some difficulties in ministry. The book is titled, 12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry. Some of the authors in this book include Robert Godfrey and Zack Eswine. Some of the pastors that are mentioned in the book include John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Newton, and Charles Spurgeon.

Each chapter addresses the suffering of each pastor and how God used those experiences to shape and mold them. This serves as a good reminder to us that God does use our suffering in many ways to conform us to the likeness of Christ. For those in ministry, this book will serve as a great reminder that suffering will come and God has not abandoned us. For those not in ministry, this should give you encouragement as well as you go through suffering.

As one who has experienced a lot of hardships in ministry, I was encouraged by this book and recommend to everyone in any form of ministry.

Thanks Baker Publishing for letting me review this book.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Rebuke Turned Into A Joke

I have loved hanging out on Twitter and Facebook over the years. There are people I have followed from a quite some time and have even talked a personal level. There have been a few times when someone comes to the city I live in, we would connect. I also love sharing Bible verses, quotes, thoughts I have, and even what the Lord is doing at our church. Yes, if you know me by now, I have been posting a lot about my favorite sports team especially a certain baseball team that won the World Series last year.

I have been involved with a few theological discussions on social media over the years which most of them we agree to disagree and even learn from one another. There are at times where I along with other believers confront the false teachings that have plagued the church. Even got blocked by a couple of those who I have confronted with what they were teaching as a false gospel.

Recently, Gabriel Hughes, the host of When We Understand The Text, tweeted the following:

4 major fronts attacking the sufficiency of Scripture

1) Charismatic movement

2) "Gay Christian" movement

3) Social justice/gospel movement

4) Egalitarianism (often cloaked in complimentarian lingo, or enticing with a promise to "empower" women in ministry)

Nothing wrong with what Hughes said and I even added another one, Andy Stanley. My reason is because Stanley claims to be reaching people with Christ which all he is doing is making people confused. Andy Stanley has been the subject of debate for quite some time when he has stated expositional preaching is cheating, we have to stop saying, "the Bible says," and more recently, Christians need to unhitched the Old Testament from the faith. He has claimed to love the Bible yet he does not believe in the sufficiency of scripture, which is why I said he is a major front, along with what Hughes tweeted (I think he was quoting Justin Peters), in the attach on the sufficiency of scripture and the fact he is confusing a lot of people.

To my surprise, Stanley replied to the tweet, but how he responded showed me he did not take my rebuke seriously. His reply was, "It's a gift." Really? I just called you out for confusing people and attacking the sufficiency of scripture. It clearly shows me that Stanley took it as a joke. What's sad is there are a few on Twitter who thought it was funny. I did not.

Why was this a rebuke and not a joke, as I said, he is clearly misleading people to embrace teaching that they want to hear which Paul did warn us would happen in 1 Timothy 4:3-4. James 3:1 says that teachers will be judged more strictly. I cannot imagine what waits for Stanley and all who misuse the Word of God on the day of judgment. Stanley may think he is doing a great service to the people of God, but he is really not.

Of course, after he preached on unhitching the Old Testament, he had a number of interviews doing some damage control showing he is not a heretic. I remember him apologizing for telling people if they are in a small church, you are selfish, which, to be honest, I did not buy into it. Stanley's so-called "gift" is not a gift from God. I am not sure what kind of "gift" I would call this, but not one where people are being led astray.

When we rebuke someone, we hope that it will lead them to repentance. Rebuke can be ugly at times but it also can be a time where God is honored because of one's repentance. I am not sure where Stanley's heart is or even if he was condemned by what I said, which based on his tweet, I highly doubt. I do pray that Stanley will come to repentance and renounce the false teaching he has embraced over the years.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Every Christian Should Be A Theologian

When it comes to theology, most Christians do not want to speak of it. Some churches refuse to address doctrine because it divides. How are Christians going to be equipped to stand for the Christian faith whether it is sharing the gospel or confronting a false teaching in the church. Of course the pastor should be equipping the saints in corporate worship, but what if the pastor starts preaching false doctrine.

The simple solution is that every Christian must be engaged in theology. I am not saying they need to go to seminary, but every Christian must be a student of the Word of God. Jared C Wilson shares three primary reasons why every Christian ought to be a theologian:

First, theological study of God is commanded.

Having a mind lovingly dedicated to God is required most notably in the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Loving God with all of our minds certainly means more than theological study, but it certainly does not mean less.

Second, theological study of God is vital to salvation.

Now, of course, I do not mean that intellectual pursuit merits salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8) totally apart from any works of our own (Rom. 3:28), which includes any intellectual exertion. At the same time, the faith by which we are justified, the faith that receives the completeness of Christ’s finished work and thus his perfect righteousness, is a reasonable faith. Faith may not be the same as rationality, but this does not mean that faith in God is irrational.

Saving faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 12:3), but it is not some amorphous, information-free spiritual vacuum. The exercise of faith is predicated on information—initially, the historical announcement of the good news of what Jesus has done—and the strengthening of faith is built on information, as well.

Our continued growth in the grace of God, our perseverance as saints, is vitally connected to our pursuit of the knowledge of God’s character and God’s works as revealed in God’s Word. Contrary to the way some idolaters of doubt would have you believe, the Christian faith is founded on facts. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that for the Christian, faith is not some leap into the dark. Instead, it is inextricably connected to assurance and conviction. It stands to reason that the more theological facts we feast on in the Word, the more assurance and conviction—and thus the more faith—we will cultivate.

Paul tells his young protégé Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). He is reminding Timothy that the sanctification resulting in continual discipleship to Christ necessarily includes intense study of God’s Word.

Third, the study of God authenticates and fuels worship.

True Christians are not those who believe in some vague God nor trust in vague spiritual platitudes. True Christians are those who believe in the triune God of the holy Scriptures and have placed their trust by the real Spirit in the real Savior—Jesus—as proclaimed in the specific words of the historical gospel.

Knowing the right information about God is just one way we authenticate our Christianity. Intentionally or consistently err in the vital facts about God, and you jeopardize the veracity of your claim truly to know God. This is why we must pursue theological robustness not just in our pastor’s preaching but in our church’s music and in our church’s prayers, both corporate and private.

But theological study goes deeper than simply authenticating our worship as true and godly—it also fuels this worship. We must remember what Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:

True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)

We are changed deeply in heart and, therefore, our behavior when we seek deeply after the things of God with our brains. The Bible says so: “Do not be conformed to this world,” Paul writes. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The transformation begins with a renewing of our minds. As John Piper has said, “The theological mind exists to throw logs into the furnace of our affections for Christ.”

Purposeful theological study of God, as an expression of love for God, cannot help but deepen our love for God. The more we read, study, meditate on, and prayerfully apply the Word of God, the more we will grow in awe of him. Like a great ship on the horizon, the closer we get, the larger he looms.

Recommended Reading:

Everyone's a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology by R.C. Sproul

Monday, August 6, 2018

No Longer Condemned

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Christians are truly humble when they genuinely feel their sin and recognize that they are worthy of the wrath and judgment of God and eternal death. So in this life, Christians will be humbled. At the same time, however, they possess a pure and holy pride, which makes them turn to Christ. By turning to Christ, they can pull themselves out from under this feeling of God’s wrath and judgment. Christians believe that any remaining sin is not counted against them. They also believe that they are loved by the Father. Christians are loved, not for their own sake, but for the sake of Christ—the one whom God loves. From this it becomes clear how faith justifies us without works. It becomes clear why we still need Christ’s righteousness credited to us.

The sin, which God thoroughly hates, remains in us. Because this sin still remains in us, Christ’s righteousness must be credited to us. God gives us that righteousness for the sake of Christ—the one given to us, the one we grasp by faith. Meanwhile on this earth, we still have sin and godless people. Even believers continue to sin. That’s why Paul, in Romans 7:23, complains about how believers still have sin within them. Yet Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Who can reconcile these diametrically opposed statements: that the sin in us is not sinful, that those worthy of condemnation will not be condemned, that the wicked will not be rejected, that those worthy of wrath and eternal death will not be punished?

The only one who can reconcile these is the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). As Paul says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Adapted from Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Couple of Podcasts Addressing Baptist Covenant Theology

Sam Renihan has a been a busy fellow as of late. He has been on two podcasts discussing Baptist Covenant Theology. Some of you may still not have a idea as to what Reformed Baptists believe and what makes their understanding of Covenant Theology different than Presbyterians. I hope these two interviews will equip you in a better understanding of Baptist Covenant Theology:

1689 Finally Explained from the Regular Reformed Guys

The Importance of Baptist Covenant Theology from Theology Driven

Friday, July 27, 2018

Listen To Christ

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear (Matthew 13:16).

Some people listen to what Jesus says but don’t believe that the Father is speaking. They don’t believe that his words are the words of the Father. That’s why God must draw them further along. When they hear the Word, God impresses it on their hearts. Then they’re able to believe that they’re hearing the Father’s words when they hear Christ speaking.

I plead with you to learn what it means for the Father to draw you. This means you must listen to the words from Christ’s mouth. You must learn from him. You must not stray from his words. It’s not reason that brings you to faith. Christ overthrows your own self-deceit and reason. He condemns people who reject his spoken word and want to wait for something special to happen. They hope the Father will speak personally to them from heaven and give them the Spirit directly. They want to hear an audible voice from heaven, but it won’t happen.

The only way to hear the Father speak is through the Son. You will hear the words of Christ, but these aren’t enough to draw you. Your reason says that Christ is only a man, and his words are only the words of a man. But if you delight in reflecting on the Word—reading it, listening to it being preached, and loving it—soon you will come to the point where you say, “Truly this is God’s Word!” In this way, faith comes alongside reason.

Adapted from Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Book Review: Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell

Expository preaching is simply preaching through the Bible by exposing what the text says in its context and how it applies to us today. Many pastors are divided over whether or not they should do expository preaching. One well-known pastor said expository preaching was cheating because that is not how people grow. From my own personal experience sitting through expository preaching is how people grow not only in their fellowship with Christ, but also in their knowledge of the Bible. Topical preaching is okay as long as it is lined up with Scripture.

There are some preachers who don't know how to put an expository sermon together let alone why it matters. Bryan Chapell has written a book for those who want to know more about expository preaching and how to prepare one. His book is titles, Christ-Centered Preaching.

To start off, Chapell talks about the principles for expository preaching. We see the primary purpose of expository preaching is to exalt God through the pages of scripture as we preach the whole council of God. All scripture is inspired by God, so pastors and teachers must do their best to prepare these sermons. Preaching is a redemptive act, as Chapell puts it, as the people are engaged with the Word for the purpose of transformation, not just information. Every preacher needs to remember that God is the audience, not the congregation.

Chapell goes on to address the preparation of an expository sermon, which is something that does not take place over night unless you are a gifted theologian. Chapell gives assistance with drawing applications and when illustrations are important, which I know for some pastors that can be a struggle. Chapell also says that expository preaching is not edifying to the believer, but evangelistic to the lost who are in attendance, which is a good reason why pastors need to have proper understanding and preparation in preaching.

For those who want to know more about expository preaching and it is put together, I recommend this book.

Thanks Baker Publishing for letting me review this book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

We Hope Because God Loves Us in Christ

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:1-8).

Our claim that Christ will rescue us from God’s wrath will some day be vindicated. God will do what he promised.

How can we be sure? In Romans 5:5b–10, Paul gives two basic reasons: God’s love for us in Christ (vv. 5b–8) and God’s work for us in Christ (vv. 9–10). God does not mete out his love for us in tiny measures; he “has poured” (ekcheo) it into our hearts. This verb is used to describe the “pouring out” of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17–18). Paul therefore cleverly alludes to the Spirit here. It is the Spirit, dwelling in the heart of believers, who communicates God’s love to us (cf. Rom. 5:5). Paul says much more about this ministry of the Holy Spirit and about God’s love for us in chapter 8.

Alongside this subjective evidence of God’s love, we also have objective proof of that love in the cross of Christ. At the time God determined, at just the right point in salvation history, “Christ died for the ungodly” (v. 6; cf. also, for this sense of time, 3:26; 8:18; 13:11). Sending his Son to die for people who refused to worship him (the basic connotation of “ungodly”) reveals the magnitude of God’s love for us.

To make sure we do not miss this point, Paul reinforces it in verse 7 with an analogy: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.” Though the issue is disputed, a difference between “a good man” and “a righteous man” seems to be the key to the interpretation. A “righteous” person is one we might respect, but a “good” person is one we might love. Rarely will a person give his or her life for someone they merely respect; but occasionally a person dies for the sake of someone they love—a soldier for his buddies, a parent for her children. The awesome quality of God’s love for us is seen in that Christ died for us while we were “still sinners”—hating God, in rebellion against him (v. 8).

Adapted from Romans (NIV Application Commentary) by Douglas Moo

Monday, July 16, 2018

Key Themes in the Gospel of Luke

1. God’s sovereign rule over history. The promises God made through the prophets are already being fulfilled. 13:33; 22:22, 42; Acts 1:16–17; 2:23; 4:28; etc.

2. The arrival and actual presence of the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, the consummation of the kingdom is still a future event, a blessed hope for which the church prays. 11:2, 20; 16:16; 17:20–21; 18:1–8; 21:27–28, 34–36; cf. Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 16:22; Rev. 22:20

3. The coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus and his followers. The Spirit is present in the Gospel of Luke, from the births of John the Baptist and Jesus to the end. The Spirit is present at Jesus’ dedication in the temple, his baptism, temptation, early ministry, and first sermon. The Holy Spirit is central to the message of John the Baptist, and Jesus at his ascension promises the Spirit’s future coming in power. 1:15–17, 35; 2:25–27; 3:16, 22; 4:1, 14, 18; 5:17; 24:49

4. The great reversal taking place in the world, in which the first are becoming last and the last are becoming first, the proud are being brought low and the humble are being exalted. Luke places great emphasis on God’s love for the poor, tax collectors, outcasts, sinners, women, Samaritans, and Gentiles. In keeping with this concern, many of the episodes that appear only in Luke’s Gospel feature the welcome of an outcast (the Christmas shepherds, the Prodigal Son, the persistent widow, Zacchaeus, etc.). 1:48, 52–53; 6:20–26; 13:30; 14:11; 18:14

5. Believers are to live a life of prayer and practice good stewardship with their possessions. In Luke’s narrative, prayer occurs at every major point in Jesus’ life: at his baptism; at his selection of the Twelve; at Peter’s confession; at Jesus’ transfiguration; in his teaching the Lord’s Prayer; before Peter’s denial; etc. 3:21; 6:12; 9:18, 28–29; 11:1–4; 12:33–34; 16:9; 18:1; 22:32, 40, 46

6. The danger of riches is constantly emphasized in Luke, for the love of riches chokes out the seed of the gospel and keeps it from becoming fruitful. This danger is so great that Jesus often warns his readers not to set their hearts upon riches and to give generously to the poor. The woes pronounced upon haughty rich people stand in sharp contrast to the blessings pronounced upon the humble poor. 6:20–26; 8:14; 12:13–21; 16:10–13, 19–31; 18:22 (cf. 5:11; 14:33; Acts 2:44–45; 4:32); Luke 21:3–4

Adapted from the ESV Study Bible

Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Review: Christianity At The Crossroads by Michael J Kruger

History is a very important subject because it shows us who we once were. Hopefully, people will learn not to make the same mistakes as people did in ages past. Church History is very important to the body of Christ because it shows how the church became what it is today. Many think Christianity was a huge phenomenon as it is today, but that wasn't the case in the second century as Michael J Kruger points out in his book, Christianity At The Crossroads.

According to Kruger, Christianity was still in its infancy during the second century. It was still considered a new thing. It did not have any cultural influence. It was weak and even finding itself fighting for life, which does sound like a lot of new things that start off in our day and age.

In this book, Kruger takes a look at the world of the second century and how the church was living in it during that time. As mentioned earlier, they were still trying to crawl like infant. They were still trying to figure things out as far as what their worship looked like. They did not even have Bibles like we have them in the 21st century. Kruger points out that everything that was taught in the church and what the people believed was only by hearing. They did not follow the preacher with a Bible or an app like we have today. The church of the second century had to listen to the words being preached. This is also true with any writings that Christians did in the second century.

Speaking of writings, we also see the beginning of discussions in the church about what are the appropriate books to be placed in the Canon. Of course, this wasn't finalized until the third century. We also see the rise of false teachers which is nothing new for Christians in the second century or the 21st century. One particular false teacher that Kruger talks about is Marcion. He is the one who does not believe in the authority of the Old Testament and that the God of the Old Testament and New Testament are two different beings. Marcion wanted Christians to unhitch the Old Testament from their faith. Does this sound familiar with a popular pastor's teaching today? I think some of you know who I am speaking of.

Church History is an important topic because we see what the church dealt with in days of long ago and how it affects Christians today. We see that Christianity today may face new challenges which is no different than centuries past. Christianity At The Crossroads is an excellent book to look at crucial time in the history of the Christian church.

Thanks InterVarsity Press for letting me review this book.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Book Review: Spiritual Gifts by Thomas R. Schreiner

Spiritual gifts are one issue that Christians will mostly agree and disagree on. There is one movement that has claimed the Apostolic gifts, such as speaking in tongues and healing, have ceased, which is called cessationism. Then there is the other camp that believes they are still among the believers, which are called continualists. There have been books written from both sides of this argument, two of which I have reviewed. Spiritual Gifts by Thomas Schreiner is another book on the side of cessationism.

Before he dives into spiritual gifts, Schreiner addresses the strengths and weaknesses of the Charismatic movement. I thought it was odd at first to address this issue but Schreiner does indeed mentioned the positives that came out of the Charismatic movement, which most Christians would not deny. He then deals with basic truths about spiritual gifts while addressing the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is one thing, among others, the Charismatic movement and other Christians, have gotten wrong.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not where we ask the Spirit to come on us and gives us tongues to speak or the Spirit comes on a believer who starts speaking in tongues. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is when the Spirit comes into a believer at the moment of conversion. The Spirit also gives us a gift to be used in service in the body of Christ which most believers agree on.

Schreiner answers some basic questions regarding spiritual gifts. Remember he is coming from a cessationalist point of view, so those in the continualist front will disagree with some of Schreiner's conclusions. Speaking of conclusions, Schreiner ends his book with an argument for cessationism which he did say this is what this book was all about. I did appreciate what he said about miracles. Cessationism does not mean that miracles don't happen. Schreiner confesses that he still prays from miracles. It also does not mean that prayers for healing cease as well. The gift of healing is when someone places their hands on someone to be healed. Cessationists believe that gift has ended after the Apostles.

Schreiner is a gifted New Testament scholar is worth the time to read his books and listen to his lectures when you get the chance. This book is another good read for those who want to dive into Spiritual Gifts whether you are a cessationalist or not.

Thanks B&H Publishing Group for letting me review this book.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Don't Forget Your True Freedom

Today in America, we celebrate our independence as a nation. I have to admit, I love this day because of the fireworks and, at times, grilling some meat. Most Americans celebrate this day wear American flag shirts or some form of red, white, and blue. There are some that will even paint themselves to look patriotic.

As great as July 4th is for Americans, as Christians living in America, or any nation, we must remember our true freedom. Our freedom comes from Christ. We have been set free from the law that condemns us. We are set free from the sin that so easily entangles us. We are set free to serve the living God. We are set free to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The freedoms we enjoy in America was bought by the blood our of armed forces. The freedom we have as Christians was bought by the blood Christ as He stood in our place for our sins. We have been forgiven and no longer stand condemned because of the finished work of Christ.

If you live in a nation that does not have the freedoms Americans have, you are have freedom in Christ. You may stand condemned by your government, but you do not stand condemned if you believe in the only Son of God.

So on this day, whether you are an American or not, enjoy the true freedom we have in Jesus:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).