2015 Summer Reading: Plan Ahead

2015 Summer Reading: Plan Ahead

I had the privilege to attend The Gospel Coalition conference this week in Orlando.  As you know, buying books at conferences is usually a good idea in order to take advantage of big discounts.  As I was browsing through the bookstore, I started a short summer reading list that I thought I would pass along.  As you think about this summer, you should set goals in order to help you read what you want and what you need at the same time.  Now is the time to start thinking about your summer reading plan.

Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Butterfield.  I plan on reading this book this summer as I continue to think about how to reach those who are not like me.  Often our bubble is so closed off to people who are quite different than we are, and Rosaria Butterfield helped me think through that in her book, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.  According to the publisher, “Rosaria Butterfield, once a leftist professor in a committed lesbian relationship and now a confessional Christian, but always the thoughtful and compassionate professor, has written a followup to The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. This book answers many of the questions people pose when she speaks at universities and churches, questions not only about her unlikely conversion to Christ but about personal struggles that the ques­tioners only dare to ask someone else who has traveled a long and painful journey.”

Who Is Jesus by Greg Gilbert.  I received a copy at The Gospel Coalition conference in Orlando, and after reading, I plan to give it away to someone who doesn’t know Jesus.  Although this book is not intended to be a deep theological study, it will be a great resource to help introduce friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to who Jesus actually is.

Rejoicing In Christ by Michael Reeves.  If you are unfamiliar with Michael Reeves, he is an author, theologian, historian and professor who teaches at Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) and is the director of Union, a WEST initiative that puts the theological academy back in the local church context. His book, The Unquenchable Flame was very good, and I intend to give Rejoicing In Christ a read this summer as I desire to know more about Jesus and His work as God who took on human flesh.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung.  This book is designed for a diverse group consisting of the skeptic and the Sunday school teacher.  What does the Bible actually say about this lightening rod subject that has swept across our culture.  Kevin DeYoung is a gifted author and I plan to read this book this summer as I continue to think critically about how I should engage and evangelize the homosexual with the gospel of Christ in a manner that honors God.  I am worlds apart from the homosexuality in many ways, but I’m not unlike the homosexual in the sense that I’m a sinner too.  Therefore, I desire to continue thinking about this issue that all Christians here in America need to spend time thinking through.

One God in Three Persons edited by Bruce Ware and John Starke.  This book consists of several contributors who help provide precise theological clarity upon the doctrine of the Trinity.  As I plan and prepare for the 2016 G3 Conference on the Trinity, I will be reading this book in my preparation time this summer.  This book provides a biblical view of the Trinity and rejects the egalitarianism that often comes through the lens of the liberal feminist culture. 

Inheritance of Tears by Jessalyn Hutto.  As a man and husband who has been through this with my wife several times, miscarriage is a difficult pain that only those who experience it can relate.  After walking this path with my wife, I have come to know many people who have likewise experienced the confusion and discouragement of miscarriage.  This book would be a great resource for the church library and anyone who knows someone who has gone through the complexities of miscarriage.  ”When a woman becomes pregnant, miscarriage is usually the furthest thing from her mind. Such was the case for Jessalyn Hutto when she became pregnant with her first baby. But as is all too common in our post-fall world, the life she carried came to an abrupt end. Death had visited her womb, and the horrors of miscarriage had become a part of her life’s story.”

Logic on Fire – The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Media Gratiae.  Released at The Gospel Coalition conference in Orlando after a world debut presentation, this film does an excellent job of putting the life and ministry of Lloyd-Jones on display in a documentary style.  J. I. Packer once commented that the preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones came to him with the “force of an electric shock.”  Why was this the case?  Because Lloyd-Jones had a firm fixed commitment to the preaching of God’s Word by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He was not content to allow the culture to dictate the direction of his pulpit.  God grew his church without the schemes of man and the entertainment culture.  This film would be a great gift to any pastor and a wonderful asset to the church library.

 

 

 

Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analyses of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books he has merely skimmed. Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading.”  ~ Charles Spurgeon

Miraculous Healing: Does God Heal Today?

Miraculous Healing: Does God Heal Today?

Does God Perform Miraculous Healing Today?

A few weeks ago, my daughter had to be hospitalized for a severe case of dehydration after coming down with the common stomach bug.  It was a rare case of extreme dehydration that came on fairly quickly.  As I stayed home on Saturday evening with the other three children, my wife took our youngest daughter Kalli to the hospital.  We expected her to receive fluids and then be released.  However, her case of dehydration was so bad, her blood work revealed some problems that had to be addressed quickly – by specialists.  What I didn’t know was that she would spend three days in the hospital in recovery.

During this time at home, I had sent texts to my close friends, posted privately to our church family, and finally I posted an update and prayer request on Facebook to a broader audience.  Later that evening, I received an e-mail through Facebook.  Part of that e-mail reads:

I’m offended with you. Not long ago you publicly blasted a church for having a healing service. But now you are asking for prayer??? What is the prayer for? Obviously not healing because that would mean you do believe in miraculous healings.   

To be fair, this person went on to explain that the purpose of the e-mail was not to slam me or ridicule me.  The individual simply wanted an explanation.  I would say, it’s a fair request since I had openly criticized the healing services in our community over the last year.

To be clear, I believe in miracles.  God is big and sovereign and has the power to heal anyone, anytime, as He chooses.  I do think it should be stated that the false claims of fake healers from Christian charlatans should be called out for what they are – aberrant and offensive frauds.

God’s Sovereignty in Miraculous Healing

God has consistently provided verifiable evidence that He has power over disease.  He has put His power on display in the ministry and work of His Son – Jesus Christ.  Not only did God prove to have power over disease, but He likewise demonstrated His power over death by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

As the church is established by Jesus, He made a very specific promise to Peter and the disciples regarding His church.  In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  As Jesus established the church, the gates of hell would literally come against it.  Although Jesus validated His ministry and His claim of deity through miracles, wonders, and signs, they still nailed Him to the cross to get rid of Him.  They wouldn’t accept His gospel, but they couldn’t explain His power, so they killed Him.

That clearly didn’t work, because Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the third day.  Out of all of Jesus’ miracles and signs, the resurrection on the third day was the authentication of Christianity that could never be explained away.  Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to hundreds of people over a 40 day period.  As He prepared to ascend to the Father, He prepared His followers to receive the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem.

The skepticism and open rejection of the church by the religious establishment would have been overwhelming for a group of sketchy Jesus followers had it not been for the miracles, wonders, and signs that accompanied their ministry.  The early disciples experienced great power from God in order to validate the authenticity of the church.  From speaking in tongues (other languages) at Pentecost, to various other signs and wonders, the early church and the message of the gospel was being established by these signs.  After the lame man was healed and could walk, the entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar.  The Sanhedrin held council after arresting Peter and John for the miracle.  As they talked to one another privately and they could not escape the power of the miracle.

Acts 4:16 - What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.

As the church continued to grow, the mounting pressures continued to push back against the followers of Christ.  God performed miracles through them to show the world that His church is genuine and the message of the gospel must be heard.  The purpose of the miracles was not to make the disciples into superheroes.  It was to validate the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ.

Miraculous Healing or Strange Fire?

Are today’s miracles genuine or counterfeit?  Are the tongues in today’s Charismatic movement real or counterfeit?  We should test the spirits to see if what is being claimed is of God – or strange fire (1 John 4:1).  God does not take lightly false worship, and we recall what happened with Nadab and Abihu as they were consumed for offering up to God strange fire upon the alter before the Tabernacle (see Leviticus 10).  They were consumed in a fire of God’s judgment.

Does God still perform miracles today?  Yes, without a doubt He does.  Does God still give miraculous gifts to His church as a normative manner of validating the truth claims of the gospel and the authenticity of the church?  We must consider several important facts as we evaluate this question.

  • We know that the apostles were given as gifts to the church in the beginning to establish the early church and organize it for growth.  The apostles are now dead and they are in the presence of God rather than the presence of God’s church.  Therefore, we can say assuredly that the gift of the apostle was a temporary gift for a season in church history.
  • Speaking in tongues was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit and as the early Jesus followers spoke in tongues, the text of Acts 2 reveals that they were other known languages.  The gibberish that is often called tongues by the modern Charismatic movement does not align itself with the power of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of Acts 2.  Linguistically, the modern tongues movement does not line up with Scripture.
  • By the closing of the New Testament, the miraculous gifts are starting to fade away.  As the apostles were dying, the miraculous gifts that were given by God to validate His church and His gospel message were likewise fading off of the scene with the apostles.  By the time the close of the New Testament is complete, the miraculous gifts are not prevalent among the church throughout church history.
  • Consider the need for the gift of prophecy.  To have a divine Word from God during the Old Testament was necessary because the full and completed Word of God was not in place.  This gift continues into the New Testament age as the church was being validated and established, but once the canon of Scripture was closed by God, there would no longer be any need for a divine Word from God to be given.  God’s Word is sufficient.  Therefore, modern prophecy ministries deny the validity and sufficiency of God’s Word.
  • The modern faith healers that have come to us through a long line of religious charlatans dating back to the magicians who stood before Pharaoh.  They are aligned with Balaam and Simon the Sorcerer rather than Peter and the apostles.  Benny Hinn and others like him have been proven as false prophets.  They do not have the validating power of the Holy Spirit upon them as we see in Acts and the early church.
  • Can the modern miraculous gifts be mimicked, mocked, and explained away?  That seems to be the case.  The false prophets of our age abound through the media of television and the Internet.  Many of these false teachers hold miracle crusades where they ask for those people who need to be healed to come up on the platform to be healed.  However, at the front there are screeners who separate certain people from the large crowd and only a privileged group of people are granted access to the stage.  In the majority of the cases, the crusades are more about money than miracles and when you contrast and compare the miraculous gifts of the early church from those that we see paraded across the television screen today, the differences are more than the similarities.

We must be committed to exposing the fraudulent practices of false faith healers.  Their work is not for God.  Their message is based on health, wealth, and prosperity rather than the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  In Atlanta, where I live and minister, the entire city is swimming with these prosperity preaching false faith healers.

Can miracles be performed today?  Is there any evidence that miraculous healing takes place today?  I think the answer to both of those questions is in the affirmative.  However, I do not believe that God is gifting His church with a normative practice of miraculous gifts.   The age of the prophets has passed from us.  The age of the apostles has faded off into the sunset.  The canon of Scripture is closed.  The Word of God is completely sufficient.  God is sovereign and He does still perform miracles and that’s why we pray!  We trust God to do the extraordinary.  The focus of our prayers is upon His power.  Rather than focusing on a prayer room, a crusade, or a certain group of gifted people in the local church, the entire church comes together to pray to God who can perform a miracle for His glory.

I’ve actually heard preachers claim that they blow the Holy Spirit upon people in the local mall as they walk around shopping with their family.  Those same preachers hold miracle crusades and devote themselves to a ministry of miracles, wonders, and signs.  Anyone who claims to have the power to control the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is very confused.  Miracles are real because God is real.  From creation to the resurrection of Christ, we see God consistently performing miracles.  One day, He will bring this present world to a final culmination that aligns with His sovereign purposes.  The return of Christ will be a miracle.  Until then, we can trust that our sovereign God continues to rule over all things at all times and we can call upon Him and plead for the His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  As we think through these issues, we must not allow hucksters to deemphasize the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and the miracle of the new birth by peddling false miracles in the name of Jesus.

B.B. Warfield has written, “[Miraculous gifts] were not for the possession of the primitive Christian as such; nor for that matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confirmed them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it.”1


Helpful Resources:

1. Counterfeit Miracles, Banner of Truth, 1918, p. 6.

2.  Charismatic ChaosJohn MacArthur

3.  Strange Fire John MacArthur

4.  Strange Fire ConferenceGrace Community Church 

James White Talks About the Future of the Church

James White Talks About the Future of the Church

Listen to James White, in an interview with Todd Friel from Wretched Radio, as he speaks about the future of the church in America.  He addresses the subjects of:

  1. Homosexual Agenda
  2. Governmental Control
  3. Political Involvement of Christians
  4. Suffering

This video will not waste 7 minutes of your life.  What James White speaks of in this video could be a reality in the future if things continue to trend in the direction they are headed politically, culturally, and ideologically in America.  What does that mean for the future of the church?  Make no mistake, it will change the way the church functions, at least for those churches that refuse to compromise.


The Uncommon Practice of Killing Sin

The Uncommon Practice of Killing Sin

One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible is found in the opening words of Romans 8.  The first verse reads, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Unfortunately, many people use this as a license to sin.  Rather than killing sin, they keep sin as a household pet.

In June of 2010, Norman Buwalda, a 66 year old man from Ontario was killed by his Siberian tiger.  Many people in his community feared that the animal was a danger to Buwalda and their community as a whole, but what everyone else saw as danger, Buwalda viewed as his pet.  What was an ordinary practice of Buwalda interacting with the tiger turned deadly.  For some unknown reason, the tiger that he loved turned on him and killed him.

For many of us, to even think of keeping a massive tiger as a pet is a fearful venture that we are unlikely to pursue.  We are much more likely to have pet sins as opposed to pet tigers.  While we would not conceive of having a deadly cat as a household pet, we often do something just as dangerous, we invite sin into our lives, homes, families, and expect a different result than what Norman Buwalda received.  The Bible is not silent on this matter.  In fact, just after Romans 8:1 appears Romans 8:13 – “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  Once again, the apostle Paul says similar words to the church at Colossae in Colossians 3:5-11:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. [11] Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

The Greek word, “νεκρόω” is translated in the ESV as “put to death.”  In older translations, such as the King James, νεκρόω is translated as mortify.  The ongoing practice of mortification of the flesh and the evil deeds of the flesh is mandatory in the Christian life.  John Owen, in his famous work titled, Of The Mortification Of Sin In Believers, writes, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”  The idea of keeping a man-eating cat in your home may seem ridiculous, but how many of us keep man-eating sins as pets?  We must not use grace as a license to play with deadly sins.

What does this daily mortification of sin (killing sin) look like?  According to Paul in Romans 8:5, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”  In Romans 8:5-8, Paul explains that to “set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”  He goes on to describe the inability of the unsaved man to submit to God’s law.  However, in Romans 8, the very next paragraph begins, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.”  Paul is pointing out that the children of God have the ability to please God, and we must choose to do so by the power of the Spirit and the mind that is focused on obedience to God (Romans 12:1-2).

Certainly if Norman Buwalda had treated the tiger like a wild animal he would not have died that day in 2010.  They believe that he left one common door open in the enclosure allowing the tiger to seize the opportunity to kill Buwalda.  How many people today will be overtaken by the sin of adultery, pride, materialism, or evil passions of the flesh because they will leave one door open to their pet sin?  Rather than keeping the sin as a pet, it should be put to death.  Your pet sin is not your friend.  Kill it. Killing sin is hard work.  Killing sin requires time in prayer.  Killing sin requires time in God’s Word.  Killing sin requires submission to the Holy Spirit.  Killing sin is not an option to consider, it’s mandatory.  Either we are to be killing sin or our sin will be killing us.

These words by Owen should serve as a warning and helpful reminder as we make decisions today that will impact the rest of our lives.  We must choose today to stop feeding our pet sins.  What seems small, harmless, and fun today will eventually gain size and strength and kill us.

Biblical Evangelism: The Sowing of the Gospel

Biblical Evangelism: The Sowing of the Gospel

We often focus too much upon tactics, tricks, and schemes in our evangelism.  While some people have the wrong focus, others seem to complicate evangelism by turning it into a robust system.  What does biblical evangelism look like?  Jesus provides us the answer in a simple parable found in Mark’s gospel.

Recently, I had the privilege to talk with Gary, a man who lives directly across the street from our church.  This man’s family has had a long history within our church, but Gary has consistently remained disconnected from our church for the majority of his life.  Another gentleman from our church accompanied me to Gary’s home and we were invited inside.  As we talked, I spoke to Gary and asked if I could share the gospel of Jesus Christ with him.  After sharing the gospel, I talked about how Jesus Christ changed my life.  As I finished, I told Gary that I would like for him to consider the condition of his soul.  Before I could go on, he stopped me and said, “Pastor, I need the Lord.  I know I need Him.”

I was preparing to tell Gary that we would leave because I’m not a “used car salesman” when it comes to the presentation of the gospel.  No offense if you’re a car salesman, I’m simply not into pressuring people into making a quick decision for Jesus.  What I wanted to do was come back and followup with Gary and make sure that he understood the gospel.  He insisted that he understood and made it quite clear that he needed the Lord to save him.  That night, in his living room, Gary called out to the Lord to save him and became a follower of Jesus Christ.

Jesus provides us with a parable in Mark 4:1-20.  The parable has become known as the “Parable of the Sower.”  Jesus describes biblical evangelism by telling a story about a sower who went out to sow seed and as he went along spreading seed, the seed fell upon different types of ground:

  1. The Path
  2. Rocky Ground
  3. Thorns
  4. Good Soil

The only seed that resulted in a lasting harvest was the seed that fell upon the “good soil.”  As with Jesus’ popular pattern of teaching, His parables were earthly stories with a spiritual (divine) meaning.  Jesus goes on to explain His story to the disciples.  According to Jesus:

  • The sower is anyone who spreads the Word of God.
  • The seed represents the Word of God.
  • Seed on the path represents the hard hearted person that never gave the seed an opportunity to gain root on the hard path, and the birds that came along and devoured the seed represent Satan who comes along to steal the Word.
  • The rocky ground represents the people who receive the seed of the Word, but because there isn’t good soil, when the hardships of persecution or trial come along, the seed dies.  It will not last on rocky ground.
  • The thorns represent the people who receive the seed of God’s Word, but the cares of this world, deceitfulness of riches, and the desires of other things choke the Word and it becomes unfruitful.
  • The good soil represents the people who receive the Word and the seed roots in the fertile ground and brings forth a harvest in due season.

The soil is the issue in Jesus’ story and it represents the heart of man.  Sometimes, when you share the gospel with a neighbor or a friend, you will find that it bounces off of them because of the hardness of their heart.  Perhaps you have shared the gospel with another type of person who seemed to accept it with joy, but in just a short while they walked away from the church and the gospel too.  We have all witnessed the person who seemed to love God and His Word, but the cares of the world became the god that they eventually bowed down to and devoted their life to.  What a blessing it is to share the gospel with someone and see them produce fruit that demonstrates genuine faith in Christ.

On Easter Sunday, we had the privilege to witness Gary and his wife follow the Lord in believer’s baptism.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Consider the vast amounts of people that surround you, your home, and your church campus that need Jesus.  We often think of the mission field as some place on the other side of the ocean.  Have you considered the field where you work and where you live?  Will you be faithful to go and sow the seed of the gospel and trust God to bring about a harvest in due season?  Perhaps you will encounter people with hearts like the good soil and perhaps someone has been sowing in their soil for years.  Perhaps others have been watering.  Could it be that the Lord would use you in the final stages of this process?  God alone can bring about the harvest, but He is sending out laborers into the fields (1 Corinthians 3:6).  Will you go?

As we go out into the fields with the seed of God’s Word, let us remember that very little has changed through the years with farming.  The seed and the soil are the same.  Certainly there are different pieces of equipment that have made things easier in the process of farming, but the basic idea is still the same.  We must not place more emphasis upon the set design, marketing campaigns, and social media applications than we do the gospel of Christ.  Our confidence must be upon the Word – not the machine.  The tractor cannot produce a harvest.  While the tractor helps in the process, the seed must enter the soil and the good soil must receive the seed in order for a harvest to take place.  When was the last time you passed a large field of crops and thought about what the farmer must have been wearing?  It is my prayer that we will use different tools in our modern age, but that our confidence will remain centered upon God’s power to bring about a harvest through His seed of the gospel. Are you a sower?  What’s in your bag?  If you aren’t scattering gospel seed, don’t expect to see a harvest in due season.

As my friend and I left Gary’s home the evening that he turned to Jesus for salvation, I said, “You know who will be rewarded for this before the Lord?”  He said, “Who?”  I said, “There’s a lady he works with who’s a member of our church.  She has been sharing the gospel with him, praying for him, and inviting him to church for years.  We made one visit and he bowed to Christ.  She was the faithful sower.”  There’s a lesson for us all to learn in the story of Gary’s salvation.  We must be focused on biblical evangelism, like a farmer sowing the seed in a field, and trust God to bring about a harvest.

Paul Washer has rightly said, “It is no exaggeration to say that our understanding of regeneration will determine our view of conversion and our methodology in evangelism.”