Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Theology Matters"

Here is a clip from the Dividing Line in which Dr. White deals with a Roman Catholic’s critique of the Evanjellycal doctrine of Once Saved, Always Saved. Although I believe that a Christian that is joined to Christ by faith must by necessity always be joined to Christ, most Evanjellycals do not have the solid foundation for believing such a teaching.

If a man may of his own libertarian free will believe in Christ, why is he not able to not believe? As Protestant apologist Norman Geisler has stated that a human is only truly human if he is truly free to choose and love of his own free will. Yet this foundation is simply not able to withstand the Roman Catholic apologist’s argument.

All the religions of men are man centered. Much of what passes, as sound teaching in Evangelicalism is simply man centered. I actually heard that men ought to do good because it is good for them preached recently.

The Law and Gospel is God centered. When a man comes to understand that God is glorifying Himself by redeeming a people in union with Christ to the praise of the glory of His grace, he will see the whole world in a radically new way.

Doctrine matters. Biblical theology matters. The Creeds and Confessions of the Reformation have stated what Protestants used to believe. They are a summary of what the Bible teaches and offer Protestants a tool with which to teach and understand. Perhaps we need to go back and understand why the Reformation happened to begin with.

Anyway, the clip is just that, a clip.

A "Do Not"

I learned another valuable "Do Not" last night after midnight. After 6 weeks of caring for a newborn and total exhaustion, after eating a bowl if icecream, DO NOT fall asleep helping your wife while watching Montey Python's Flying Circus.

Be warned. Strange dreams may occur.


Mohler and Preaching

Albert Mohler also blogged yesterday on the subject of preaching. It is worth the read.

Link here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

How Long?

I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend. The discussion was about something that every church faces sooner or later. The question of who gets time in the service and how much. If the preacher prays for 10 minutes, will that cause the service to go "over-time" if we have the choir sing? If the preacher preaches for 35 minutes instead of 25-30, will the special music have to go? How many songs do we sing?

These discussions are by no means new. I am always amazed at how simple the New Testament addresses these issues. Preaching and prayer are the duties of the Elders. Everything else is secondary. Yet somehow, when services become exceptionally long, and people are used to lots of music, what should be cut out?

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones answered this question years ago in his book Preaching and Preachers. I thought a quote from him would be very helpful at this point from page 154-155:

"Or take another aspect of the same subject. I hear from many sources in many countries that there is an increasing tendency among congregations to dictate to the preacher as to the length of his sermon. I have been told by many young preachers that when they have arrived at a church to preach, they have been handed an Order of Service paper on which everything has been put down in detail and timed: ‘Eleven o’clock, Call to worship—Twelve Noon, Benediction’. And as they demand one or two Scripture readings, several prayers, three or four hymns, a children’s address, an anthem or solo, and time for the announcements and the receiving of an offering the sermon of necessity must be very brief.

Now why is this? Is there not something seriously wrong with such people? This is not their attitude to a play or some other programme on the television. The trouble there is that it ends too soon. It is the same with a football match or a baseball match, or whatever else interests them—the pity is that these things come to an end soon. But why the difference here? This is a most serious question. In those other realms they do not object to the length because they enjoy it, they like it, and they want more of it. Why then is it not the same with the Christian? I am again raising the question of assuming that these people are Christians simply because they come to the service at all. I am suggesting that if they put these time limits on sermons they are more or less confessing that they are not Christians, that they are lacking in spiritual life. Why is it also that so often they are listless in their listening? They often give the preacher the impression that he is allowed to preach by their leave, and only on condition that it will be brief. There are even some people who in a literal physical sense settle down to endure the sermon.”

(For those interested, I have uploaded an 8 minute audio clip with that quote in the context. Link here.)

Jones obviously has much more to say, but I think that quote hits home hard enough. He may be a little drastic in his wording that people are not Christian if they do not want to hear a sermon. However, John Piper is right on when he stated that it is by preaching men are saved, and it is by preaching that men are preserved. It is the duty and should be the desire of the Christian to hear God’s Word expounded upon at least Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day. I would suggest even more often.

Jones further argues that it is the duty of the preacher to determine the length of the sermon. Is he not the man called by God to proclaim his Word? However a service may be arranged and scheduled, it should always allow for the freedom of the Preacher.

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Horn Creek Family Vacation

Now this post may be a little long. For the last three days my family has had to live at my in-laws due to my house getting skunked. It was very smelly around here. The odor seems to have gone away now. Anyway, I thought I'd share our family vacation. First here is a picture from where the Kasselman's lived. I should have taken more. I didn’t realize my stitch software worked so well.

Tuesday morning I was able to sit in on a seminary class on missions. What a great experience. The class encouraged me to participate. I was able to interact with the professor, who was a missionary to Mexico for many years. After the class several of the Pastors/Students stuck around to chat with me. What a great time!

I have to apologize. I took my daughter on her first horseback ride, and I didn’t get a picture. I am just terrible. Rachel has a lot to learn about controlling her horse. As she gets older, I hope she enjoys it more.

Rachel also seemed to be the Wall Climber of the week.

Steven was turning into a bowling ball junkie.

Grandpa Steve, Chris, Steven and I all played a round of golf at the...ummm...golf course (if you can call it that).

I also took a couple of seven year old girl on a hike that completely wore out Jessica. A three hour nap was required by that tired girl.

Jacob gave his mother and me a few scares. Perhaps that 9,000 feet may have been to much? For most of the days he was fine. But sleeping at night was a bit rough. Well, I meant that no-sleep was a bit rough.

All-in-all this trip was good. The kids had a great time. I managed to get some study time in. I studied the first chapter of Hebrews for my Sunday Night class. I also managed to get a few chapters of Waldron's dissertation done.

The messages from our guest speaker were very encouraging. My children even learned something.

I also have to mention that my parents(-in-law) and my wife's sister's family stayed with us. So basically they have been forced to hang out with me for a few weeks now. I guess we are just a close family. Breigh and Mom helped take care of Jacob when we were out of gas (I guess that is what happens when you get old).

I think next year will be a little more normal for us. Jacob will be of an age that may make going there a lot more fun. As for my older kids, the count-down has begun. I just hope there will be a camp next year.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Vietnam, Islam and the Left

The Moving Wall, Vietnam's Memorial came to Scott City this past week. On Sunday we were able to take my children over and explain to them its meaning. Memorials are a great thing. A people that know where they come from, will know where they are going. My son Steven was quite moved by the sheer number of names of men that had given their lives in service of the greatest nation the earth has ever seen.

However, our Local New York Times Editor sees things just a little differently. An editorial was written this past week on why the Vietnam War was based on bad policy (sound familiar). Never mind that Communism was spreading eastward to the Pacific Ocean causing nation after nation to fall under its grip. Never mind that millions of people were being slaughtered under such regimes. It was just bad policy.

Let me give an alternate perspective. The Vietnam War, despite the fact that too many politicians ran the war instead of Generals, was a good idea. We actually won the war and lost it ourselves.

We won. Yes, I said we won. The major offensives towards the end of the war had caused the North Vietnamese to be so de-moralised as to be on the verge of giving up. So we won.

We lost. Notice I didn't say they won. I said "we lost". We lost due to a culture war that used the Vietnam War as a political battlefield. Men like John Kerry and actresses like Jane Fonda willfully and purposefully encouraged the enemy. With the "Drive-By Media" (as Rush likes to say) on their side, public opinion about the War began to change. As a result of the actions of the Left in this country, North Vietnam was reinvigorated and began to launch new offensives. As a direct result of the Left in this country, millions of people were slaughtered by the North Vietnamese. Somehow the caring Left didn't seem to care.

In the early 90s, our country was again at war. This time we were fighting a Muslim Nation's dictator. When the War ended, President Bush Sr. said in a press conference he believed he had not gone far enough. I have often wondered if it was a result of the "Drive-By" Media?

President Bush Jr. is now engaged in a war that must be won at all costs. Yet history seems to be repeating itself. Local New York Times Editorialists seem to think everything is America's fault. It is just bad policy. They will do anything to bring America down all the while thinking they are making things better, history and facts notwithstanding.

Can America really trust Left-Wing thought in this country? Can we really allow Iran to have Nukes? Should we stand by and watch Terrorists take over other countries only to have to fight them on another day? Perhaps John Kerry's self-deception that Muslims will somehow just "get along" with the West will come true in his dreams. Reality, however, will soon settle in when he wakes to a 9/12.

You can always argue over particular decisions, but Bush's policy must continue. In fact, I would argue he does not go far enough. Islam is not a morally neutral religion. It is seeking to advance itself via means of immigration and Terrorism. It must be stopped. There are other means for Islam to win than by simply bombing buildings, and they know it. Apparently, Local New York Times Editorialists do not.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Concluding Thoughts on I Corinthians 3

Howard and I are probably not even close to concluding our thoughts over the Church, but this marks the end of my observations on the third chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians.
As you may or may not recall I started with the question, “What is Church?” From our text we saw that Paul speaks of church as a community, united in their diversity, based on the foundation of Jesus Christ and His gospel. That is the short version anyway.
Paul continues his thoughts, driving the point home with “God’s Spirit.”
I Cor. 3:16, “Do you not know that you are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
Paul purposely uses the term “temple” here in this passage. The term has historical significance to be sure. In the Old Testament it is recorded that the Spirit of God dwelt in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple that Solomon constructed. That is why the Temple was the center of the Jewish worship experience and why Jesus got into so much trouble for saying that he could raise it up again in three days if it was torn down.
It is significant any time Scripture speaks of God’s Spirit – especially since his presence is considered such a terrible and frightening thing. Just look at how fearful the average Israelite was over the prospect of entering the presence of God (they were afraid they would die to go near it).
With the New Testament we see “all the fullness of God in bodily form,” i.e. Jesus Christ. Hebrews talks about this in a way that shows God communicating to his people in the most revealing way. “In these last days he has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1). In Corinthians, Paul says YOU ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD. THE CHURCH is the temple of God, the dwelling place of the God of the Universe.
Church is only THE CHURCH because of God’s Spirit. It is important to remember the Corinthians are being lectured here. They are kind of being scolded. They all have their theological opinions, justifications for sinful behavior and heretical teaching, and they all claim some authority. But Paul basically tells them, “You think this thing has life apart from the Spirit of God? You think you can keep this going on your own steam?” No. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (I Cor. 3:6).
So, I guess we have to ask ourselves some questions as “The Church.” We represent ourselves in weekly worship services all over this world and throughout our daily lives and Paul says that we will have to answer for it (it will be revealed: I Cor. 3:13). We can get formulaic if you want and say that these are the three things that make church, CHURCH, but it’s not that easy. Many churches would be satisfied to leave you all with that answer and let you “work” and gain yourself church “merit” straight into hell. But this goes beyond formula – this is a living breathing organism and it requires the nourishment of God’s Spirit.
The truth is we have to love it. We have to love the God who thought of it. We have to see our sin in the middle of it and in our love for God, God’s Scripture, and God’s children repent of things in religion that belong to us; the things that separate us from one another, the things that don’t resemble the foundation of Jesus Christ, and the things that are void of God’s Spirit.

Friday, August 11, 2006

We're Off

Well, we're off to Horn Creek in the morning. I am looking forward to celebrating the Lord's Day at Family Camp with campers we have come to know over the years. This year will be a little different since we are staying at Lodge instead of Ranch. Nevertheless, the camp "speakers" have always been dynamic and biblically sound.

I plan on preparing next weeks study of Hebrews chapter 1 for FBC's Sunday night service. I am also bringing with me Waldron's Dissertation, Faith, Obedience and Justification and Webster's The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha. If I have time, I hope to even get a little of Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly.

There is also a seminary that usually has classes that campers are allowed to sit in on. Over the years I have listened to some godly teachers being faithful in the study of God's Word.

Whatever I manage to squeeze in, I hope that my family gets a little break from the world and some rest in the study of God's Word and having a little fun while we are there. :-)

God Bless

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Old Became New

Before I leave for my family vacation to Horn Creek, I wanted to go ahead and start some thoughts on the church as well. Cory has made some great points as he dives into Paul's letters in response to current thinking about the church. Since he is doing that, I'd like to approach the topic from another perspective.

To talk about the church and how the New Testament defines it, we must understand the framework that introduces the institution. Jesus just doesn't magically appear in a vaccum and give us commands, but comes to a people chosen by God, who live in a covenantal worldview.

Since Adam's fall, God has been making covenant promises to save a people. In the Old Testament era, we see this climax with Abraham and Moses and David. God comes to Abraham and promises to make a covenant people through his seed. Some four hundred years later, God sends Moses to rescue the physical seed of Abraham (ie: the Israelites) from the bondage of Egypt.

The Israelites are key in our understanding of what the future church of Jesus would be like. First they are a chosen people by God. God did not choose the Philistines nor the Hittites nor anyone else for that matter. This was an action of God's freedom to choose a people. This is one of the greatest actions in "Redemptive History".

God also chooses to enter into a Covenant relationship with His chosen people. This is simply the nature of things. Everything God has created is in some way bound into a covenant relationship. As creatures of the Creator we are obliged to keep whatever creaturely responsibilities we are created for. Since God had created a special people of His choosing, He also entered into a Covenant relationship with the Israelites. Read Deuteronomy 28 for the detailes of this Mosaic Covenant.

God also entered into a Covenant with King David. He promised David that one would always sit upon his throne.

There is much more that needs to be said, but this is a Blog, not a book. It just needs to be noted again, that God creates with a purpose. God's Covenants in the Old Testament are all pointing to something beyond themselves. That also includes His Mosaic Covenant with the Israelites. National Israel is not the Covenant people of God any longer, but instead have been pointing to something much larger all along.

John's Gospel tells us in prologue that "10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent,[a] nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."

Jesus came to His own. His own did not receive Him. They broke the Covenant relationship under Moses. Instead we will see Jesus instituting a New Covenant, a Covenant that cannot be broken.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Getting Ahead

Let me first thank Howard for inviting me to participate in his blog. He caught me in a week with relatively little to do so I posted before he was even able to introduce me. So, I may be posting too quickly for anyone to read what has been written lately. If so, please feel free to comment on anything below of interest to you or not and we'll check on them. In the meantime, I wanted to continue with my thoughts from I Cor. 3 and the question of "What is Church?"
Paul uses an interesting analogy in I Cor. 3 to describe the church. I find it interesting because in modern preaching most pastors stay as far away as possible from the idea that the Church is simply a building. Sermons are constructed all the time to proclaim that worship must go beyond the walls of the church building. Hence, we tend to stay away from "Building Analogies." Paul, however, does not.
I Cor. 3:10-11, "According to the grace of God, which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Paul is talking about Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ as the foundation of the Church. He says, basically, that he expects them to build something up based on that solid foundation - something eternal, i.e. not a literal building. This all comes from Paul's desire to correct false teaching in the Corinthian Church. Paul doesn't seek to apologize for providing a culturally irrelevant gospel, or compromise the foundation of the gospel. In the errors of the Corinthian Church he sees an opportunity to exhort the same gospel, the same Lord and Savior, wherein the Church at large finds Foundation. To use an analogy, it's like he's almost asking them why they are building a parking lot on a foundation meant for a cathedral.
But that was the Corinthians. What are we like today? What is our foundation for Church? What is our foundation for being involved in the Community of diversity I talked about in my last post?
The problem is that some churches have no foundation and if they do it is pathetic. I suppose, to tell you the truth, I can't speak for the churches that are out there and I will never really know what is going on in all of them. I can tell you, however, how I have behaved in church, and how I have thought about it in my immaturity.
Sometimes, church is nothing more than a concert (with really old music, or new music that is really, really, dumb), then I am guilted into paying for this sub-par musical experience. Next, I get a really brief, extremely unsatisfying snack break before I have to sit through - ugh - a speech that lasts twenty - whole - minutes! But I do leave feeling pretty good about myself. After all, I WENT TO CHURCH! That is just what a good Christian does - that is what church is all about, right?
Ok, so I am being extremely satirical and foolish - but it raises the valid question of the foundation for a bunch of people to get together every week and do what we do.
In 2000 plus years our foundation is the same. Jesus' work on the cross is still sufficient. The Son still sits at the right hand of the Father, ever interceding for those of who, in our sin, stumble, fall, and crawl back to the Lord who loves us so. This won't change.
If you gather every week for any other reason, as a matter of fact, if you live your life during the week for any other reason, you have no foundation.
If you ask me, I think we can all safely say that the Church will be rightly built on the foundation of Jesus Christ when, He is known, loved, and proclaimed as the wisdom from God that is, our righteousness our holiness and our redemption (I Cor. 1:30). Do we all get that I wonder? Is our righteousness our participation in the worship concert, the offering and the brief attention given to the pastor every week? Is it how satisfied we are with ourselves when we walk out those doors on Sunday morning? What is it? Paul doesn’t leave much room for interpretation.

"Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear, for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed with fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is."
I Corinthians 3:12-13.
God Bless, Cory

Two Things

Two things, first, I should have mentioned before he jumped in that Cory Kitch will be co-Blogging. I have had many opportunities of having long discussions with Cory over the years. He has grown in his understanding of the Scriptures, and I have wasted no time in my many hours of conversation with him. I am sure his younger exegetical mind and his ability to understand post-modernism will be a positive contribution to this Blog.

Second, I had the priviledge of preaching to God's people in Shallow Water, KS this past Lord's Day. The text I used was Matthew 13 of the parable of the Wheat and Tares. Here is the link to that sermon.

God Bless

Piper Is Back

For those of you who have benefitted form John Piper's work, his website has been updated. He is now back to his church after a 5 month sabbatical. His open letter linked here.

If you scroll down you will see that he has almost finished two much needed books in evangelicalism. The first he speaks of "How do you handle the Gospels in such a way that the teaching results in obedience?" The book will be titled "What Jesus Demands from the World" by Crossway books.

The second and equally important is a book refuting the great errors of N.T. Wright on the doctrine of Justification.

He also states that he has written a foreword to a book on Penal Substitutionary Atonement written by Andrew Sach, Steve Jeffery, and Michael Ovey. Most of you know my love for that doctrine and Particular Redemption.

Those of you who like getting me books for Christmas and birthdays and ect., make annotations now in your gifts list.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Be Positive

Howard recently invited me to participate on his blog, specifically to weigh in on The Church. I doubt he expected something so soon, but since I had a few things floating in my head I thought I would bust them out while I had the chance. What follows will probably not characterize the majority of what we share on the church but I figured it might be a good place to start.
One of my favorite Christian author’s tells a story in his book, “Blue Like Jazz”, about an interview he had on a secular radio station. During the interview he was asked to defend Christianity. He wouldn’t do it. He said, “I won’t defend that term.” He clarifies by continuing, “Of the hundreds of thousands of people listening to his show that day, some of them had terrible experiences with Christianity…to them, the term Christianity, meant something that no Christian would defend.” By the end of the radio interview, Don Miller, had this radio host confessing that he always wanted to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but he never liked church or Christians for that matter.
There are two things, in my opinion, that stem from words like Don’s and attitudes such as the one above. One, which I believe Don is an example of, is more concerned with redeeming the term “Christianity” so that he may defend his faith in Jesus as the Son of God. If not the term, he is at least concerned about introducing people to the living God of the universe. He sees this, if you read his books, as a job for the people of God, the body of Christ, that is, The CHURCH.
The second, attitude that can stem from this approach is shame and perpetual apologizing for our religion – for the church. This is the approach I see in much of our culture today. And don’t think for a minute that it is the younger generation – please. You think the authors promoting the emergent, “so sorry if you ever felt uncomfortable in church” approach are in their twenties? Don’t think so. We have become so painfully unpopular, un-cool, and generally despised in American and European culture that we have begun to apologize for the Church.
That is why we have to remember our authority. That is why those of us who love Scripture, love God and His Son, must go to his Word; so that we may confidently define and PRACTICE authentic religion. Even if it means we will still be generally considered “un-cool”.
Therefore, it is my intention throughout the following posts to make some positive statements about God’s church. To do this I simply ask the question, “What is a Church?” There are three things I want to highlight that lead us to the beginning of an answer and today I would like to share with you the first.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians highlights a significant aspect of the Church’s nature. Namely, A Unified Diversity. Unified by the Spirit of God, given Diverse gifts by the Spirit of God. I Cor. 3:5,
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”
Further, I Cor. 12:4-6,
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all…”
I don’t know about any of you…but what I see Paul pointing out here is not only the activity of God’s Spirit but the presence of His Spirit in A COMMUNITY of believers. I realize that this is a “Christian Living” buzz-word but I think it is actually appropriate. America, even the American church has become increasingly individualistic. We can exercise at home, shop at home, have food delivered, rent movies on line and so on.
We are spiritually individualistic as well. We can listen to sermons online instead of going to church for instance. Not to mention the emphasis we place on the need for a personal, private devotion time. To be clear I think there is a need for personal devotion time. The danger I see in over-emphasizing it is our neglect for the equal if not greater need for fellowship in the community of God – The Church.
Just think about the Lord’s Prayer. The disciples ask Jesus, straight up, “Teach us how to pray.” So he answers, “Our Father in Heaven…give us day by day our daily bread…forgive us our sins and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” He uses plural pronouns, I think not only, because he is teaching multiple people at the same time but because he expects them to pray together - as a community.
These are just a few examples of many that Church is a Community, unified in their diversity by the Spirit of God. Stay tuned...next time I will address what Paul refers to as the Foundation of Church. God Bless, Cory

4 Weeks Thursday

Life for Jacob has been very difficult. There is always some other Fisher that wants to be holding him. Then he has those grandparents imposing themselves upon him every evening. Then he is forced to hang out with me!

It is tough to only be almost 4 weeks old.