Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Q&A on Post-tribulational Rapture w/ Dr. Albert Mohler

On the Wednesday, March 31, 2010 "Ask Anything Wednesday" radio show, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded to the question of whether he is a "post-tribulationist" with the following:

You have so many warnings about the church continuing through tribulation, you have assurances that the Lord will protect His church through tribulation.

And actually the biblical evidence for a Rapture before the Tribulation is very scant; you have, basically, one kind of chosen way of reading the passage from 2 Thessalonians, and then- of course- you just are kind of assuming that the Lord would remove His church and claim it before the Great Tribulation. The problem with that is you have Christ coming and then Christ coming again and, to tell you the truth Robert [the name of the caller], the biggest problem I have with that understanding [is that] when it comes to understanding the distinctive understanding of the Rapture of the premillennial dispensationalists: that's a VERY recent phenomenon in the Church. Basically, there's very little evidence that ANYONE in the Church EVER believed that until, say, the last 200 years or so. And so when you look at that- I'll just say that the most natural reading of the text (and I'm obligated to the most natural reading of the text) is to assume that the Church will be, indeed, on this earth during that time of Tribulation, that the Church is told to endure and to continue in faithfulness, and the Church is promised that the Lord will protect and preserve His church during that. I would find it very difficult to know what to do with all those passages unless, indeed, the Church is there [during the Great Tribulation].


Monday, April 26, 2010

Video Timelines of the Various Millennial Views

The following videos were posted on "Vimeo" by someone referring to himself as "Puirtan Reformed." The videos are lightly animated diagrams of the various millennial positions: amillennialism, premillennialism, and postmillennialism. The videos are helpful for a quick overview of the various positions, but they unfortunately include very few references to the Scriptures used by proponents of the different positions (thus making them nearly useless in terms of evaluating which position may be the most biblical).

Amillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

Premillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

Postmillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Note on Gospel Summaries in the New Testament

Both anti-intellectualism and hyper-intellectualism threaten to undermine the proper simplicity of gospel proclamation in Christian communities.

The anti-intellectual, without careful thought about Scripture, summarizes the gospel wrongly: What is the gospel? 'That God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, and that you need to repeat this prayer after me and believe it with all your heart and then never doubt that you are saved.'

-When one begins to study the Bible and thereby comes to realize that the above method of evangelism- and the specific prayer that is prayed- is nowhere to be found, then one comes to be confused as to the very definition of the gospel.

The hyper-intellectual, through much studying without proper focus on the gospel, loses the ability to summarize the gospel at all: What is the gospel? 'It's this vast body of doctrine' or 'it's an entire life lived out before God, including a wide array of social issues,' or 'it depends on whom you are addressing.'

-Answers like those above seek to be helpful, but they actually help no one; non-Christians will never be converted to Christ by such vague or laborious gospel definitions.

The Apostles, in striving to make Jesus known and in addressing gospel truths to a whole host of issues, are yet able to give summaries of the gospel and the proper response to the gospel.

To give two examples:

1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 NIV)
the word of faith that we preach: 9 That if you shall confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and shall believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation. 11 For Scripture says, “Everyone believing in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:8b-11, my translation)

Brothers and sisters: If we find that we have been summarizing the gospel in an unbiblical way, or if we find ourselves unable to summarize it at all, we must repent and follow the examples of the New Testament.


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Consequences of Neglecting Biblical Church Discipline

A girl who is a leader in the church youth group is found to be pregnant. A deacon in the church is sued for tax evasion. A Sunday school teacher decides to divorce his wife due to "irreconcilable differences." A musician who has led the church in praising God ceases attending church at all.

Each of the above situations would, of course, become topics for conversation and perhaps gossip within virtually every church member's home. In many churches, however, these kinds of situations- involving sins known to all- would NEVER be addressed from the pulpit due to the pastors' fear of both offending the parties directly involved and making other members uncomfortable.

When the leadership in a church fails to call the congregation to biblical church discipline- church discipline that both (1) honors God by taking the authority of His Word seriously and (2) loves people by seeking to restore church members to full, unashamed fellowship- public discourse is separated from private discourse, and the unity of the church is corroded.

The pastor who fails to lead his church in practicing biblical church discipline ensures that controversial subjects discussed in each church member's home- the subjects that church members find most interesting- are never addressed before the congregation as a whole; church members are thus left without guidance in learning to discern a biblical framework for understanding how to respond to controversial interpersonal matters [such as those described at the beginning of this post].

The pastor who fails to lead his church in practicing biblical church discipline undermines the power of his preaching as he urges his congregation to sacrificially submit to the will of God, yet he himself refuses to submit to the authority of Scripture in regards to how a church should function.

The pastor who fails to lead his church in practicing biblical church discipline may do so in order to preserve [a superficial] unity within the church, but a church without biblical church discipline is highly susceptible to a church split, for in such a church specific members at strife with one another will not be urged (sometimes publicly) to live in harmony with one another.

The pastor who fails to lead his church in practicing biblical church discipline places his own job in danger, for if a pastor has not led his church to submit to the authority of God's Word regarding church discipline in general, how can he expect his church to respect the limits that the New Testament places upon bringing charges against pastors (see 1 Timothy 5:19)?

The church that does not practice biblical church discipline invites its members to feel shame whenever they are in the congregation, without providing them with the Scriptural mechanism by which that shame can be alleviated.

The church that does not practice biblical church discipline invites corruption among church leadership, as the character of church leaders is not properly tested and safeguarded.

The church that does not practice biblical church discipline invites its members to become vow-breakers, as church members take vows before the congregation [specifically marriage vows], then- when times get really tough- they break those vows [with the majority of the church unaware until their status changes from "married" to "single" on Facebook], with no formal rebuke from the church to match the formal affirmation of the vows that the church had previously given.

The church that does not practice biblical church discipline invites its members to disappear without a formal contact from church leadership (to match the formal welcome that the church had previously given when the member first joined) and without the seriousness of such self-chosen excommunication being impressed upon them.

The Southern Baptist theologian J.L. Dagg noted: "It has been remarked, that when discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it." Such a remark is appropriate not because a church that fails to exercise church discipline has neglected to check a box on a list of some religious leaders' ideas of what a church should look life, but because a church that does not have biblical church discipline will allow members, unchecked, to regularly engage in activities that grieve and quench the Holy Spirit.


Friday, April 09, 2010

Theological Note on a Shoddy Hymn: "In the Garden"

Below are the lyrics from the hymn, "In the Garden:"

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.


And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.


I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.


Theological note:

In his article "Style or Substance?" John MacArthur notes the above hymn as an example of an older church song that is shallow in theology ["besides an oblique reference to 'the Son of God' in the last line of the first stanza, there’s no distinctly Christian content to that song at all"], that focuses on personal feelings, and that is not written by a pastor or theologian [C. Austin Miles, who wrote the hymn, was a pharmacist who abandoned his career in order to make money by writing hymns].

Now, the above hymn is certainly not heretical, and I would never cause a ruckus just because a congregation in which I was worshiping decided to sing it, but I would note that there are much better songs that capture the same depth of feeling, while conveying vital gospel truth [consider again, "The Love of God," which was written within a few years of "In the Garden"]. Isn't our time singing hymns in worship best employed by investing it in those hymns that most clearly communicate the great truths of who Jesus is and what He has done for us on the Cross, rather than just speaking of Him in terms that seem equally appropriate to describe the love between a girlfriend and boyfriend?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Historical Note on a Great Hymn: "The Love of God"

Below are the lyrics to the hymn, "The Love of God:"

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.


O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.


Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.


Historical note:

I knew from the hymnal at church that the song was written in the early 20th century by Frederick Martin Lehman. A note in the hymnal also mentioned that the 3rd verse "had been found pen­ciled on the wall of a pa­tient’s room in an in­sane asy­lum af­ter he had been car­ried to his grave, the gen­er­al opin­ion was that this in­mate had writ­ten the epic in mo­ments of san­ity."

I was surprised to find the following note in Thomas Brooks' The Secret Key to Heaven (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2006), in a brief discussion of 1 Corinthians 7:21:

The Rabbis say of liberty,'If the heavens were parchment, the sea ink, and every pile of grass a pen, the praises of it could not be comprised nor expressed."

The quote above, from Brooks (originally published in 1665), is, of course, nearly identical to the 3rd verse of the hymn "The Love of God."

So, does this verse originate from the room of an asylum or from Rabbis writing sometime previous to 1665?

The situation is made even more complicated as Cyber Hymnal notes:

The lyr­ics [to "The Love of God"] are based on the Jew­ish poem Had­da­mut, writ­ten in Ara­ma­ic in 1050 by Meir Ben Isaac Ne­hor­ai, a can­tor in Worms, Ger­ma­ny;

Cyber Hymnal gives a quote from Lehman in which he mentions his debt to the Jewish poem and also mentions that the 3rd stanza of the poem was written on the wall of an asylum, etc.

Apparently, the words of the 3rd stanza from "The Love of God" were orginally part of the Haddamut (the text of which I've been unable to find), and were subsequently found on an asylum inmate's wall. I take the comment from Brooks' Secret Key to Heaven to reflect the original of the Haddamut, in that the poem was apparently concerned with the liberty of man, rather than the love of God, and either the asylum inmate or Lehman changed to lyric to extol God's love, which is the source of true liberty.

Final note:

In addition to authoring the great hymn "The Love of God," F.M. Lehman also has the dubious distinction of writing one of the corniest attempts at a contemporary hymn ever: "The Royal Telephone."

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Does everything in our lives happen in order to get us to an end result?

The following question and answer are from my friend Justin Brewer's personal blog [I sent him a message letting him know I'd be addressing this here before writing this post]:

Q: I know there is one BIG regret that I wished I would have done different. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?

A: This is a tricky question to answer. Yes everything happens for a reason. It is just as simple as action and reaction, when there is a choice made our situation often changes with it. Do I believe that everything is predetermined and everything happens to get us to an end result? No. Our path is made day by day, decision by decision. The beauty of this is even when we make mistakes or something turns out terrible God can uses this for a purpose to make us better people. So yes things happen for a reason unfortunately that reason is as simple as the laws of physics and not "magical" in any way!

I'd have to give a somewhat different answer than Justin gave because I DO believe that everything is predetermined and everything happens to get us to an end result.

God's sovereign, predestining, providential control extends from those things that are seemingly accidental or insignificant (Prov 16:33; Matt 10:29-30) to encompass His grand plans for history to be realized in Christ (1 Cor 15:20-28; Eph 1:11b); yet not so as to make God the author or approver of sin (1 Cor 14:33; Jas 1:13; 1 John 1:5), nor to destroy the free moral agency and accountability of intelligent creatures (Gen 50:20; Isa 10:5-7, 12; Acts 4:24-28).

In a believer's life everything happens ultimately for our good and God's glory, as we are conformed into the image of Christ by our blessings, our trials, and even our failures, which drive us back to our need for His grace (Rom 8:29-32).