Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Christ of Scripture and Christmas

Our current Sunday AM series on "THE Christ of Scripture and Christmas" has been a rich study for me personally. The following resources have been most helpful: 1) Walt Kaiser, "The Messiah in the O.T." 2) William Varner, "The Messiah." 3) Michael Rydelnik, "The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic?" 4) T.D. Alexander, "The Servant King." 5) Richard Belcher "Prophet, Priest, and King." 6) Begg and Ferguson, "Name Above All Names." 7) Leon Morris' chapter in "Jesus is the Christ." 8) Alfred Edersheim's appendix 9 in "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah." Other study helps: A) John MacArthur sermons on the subject of the Messiahship of Jesus. B) James Hamilton article, "The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman," SBJT 10 (2006). C) John Sailhamer, "The Messiah in the Hebrew Bible," JETS 44(2001). D) Walt Kaiser's review of "The Lord's Anointed" in JETS 42 (1999). E) T. D. Alexander, "Messianic Ideology in the book of Genesis."  F) G.E. Ladd's A Theology of the N.T.: Messiah in the O.T. and Gospels (pp. 134-142).  More to come.

Luke 24:13-34, And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Whatever Happened to Christian Liberty in Political Elections?

Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon has been posting some very discerning pieces on Christian liberty and politics lately.  Sadly, I do not think his platform is nearly as large as is the machine that is the Gospel Coalition or Christianity Today.  In large part Dr. Gagnon is reacting against those Christians who suggest that it is wrong, immoral, and/or hypocritical to vote against Hillary Clinton (i.e. to vote for Trump) come November.  At the same time Robert wholly understands that some believers will not vote for either candidate come November because of conscience sake.  As a wise and balanced Christian thinker he does not belittle such persons with, "Don't you realize that a vote for a third-party candidate will ensure a Clinton victory!  Don't you realize what Clinton's positions are on religious freedom, militant LGBT advocacy, abortion, etc- You are an idiot if you ____!!"   Instead, Gagnon presents a thoughtful, principled, and balanced set of convictions and arguments.

Here is his latest article:  "I'm sure that Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, thinks that he is doing the right thing when he accuses of idolatry (!) any evangelicals who vote for Trump, even evangelicals who hate that Trump is the GOP nominee and express disgust for Trump's sexual sin (the latest of which are 11-year old remarks that even Trump himself has apologized for, at least in part) and other behaviors but who nonetheless see a Clinton/Kaine administration as doing far greater policy harm. To Mr. Crouch, there can be no validity any longer to averting the even graver apocalyptic disaster of a Clinton/Kaine administration for the unborn, the male-female matrix for sexuality, religious liberty protections, and the appointment of jurists who don't treat the Constitution as so many tea leaves configured to their leftwing fancy, even though long after anyone will be talking about Trump's disgusting behavior we'll still have the abusive and coercive legal and judicial legacy of a Clinton/Kaine administration.

Here's how it comes across to persons whom Mr. Crouch bashes: insulting, condescending, bullying, and histrionic, not to mention ill-informed at points. The recipients attacked in this and other recent articles (one by Russell Moore and another by a certain Colin Hansen of the Gospel Coalition, both for the fair-minded and politically balanced publication known as the Washington Post, essentially a media outlet for the Clinton campaign) are being portrayed slanderously by a self-appointed evangelical magisterium as too stupid, too morally shallow, too hypocritical, or too crazed with a desire for political power to be respected for their own moral judgments. The tone of these articles goes something like this: Shut up you moral hypocrites and ignoramuses and do what we tell you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What Is a HEALTHY Church (and what it's not)?

 A healthy church is not a church that’s perfect and without sin. It’s a church that continually seeks to conform itself to God’s Word.”  

Mark Dever

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Trump v. Clinton and Going Beyond What Is Written

Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump's wicked immorality or about Hillary Clinton’s habitual lawlessness and her LGBT, radical pro-choice platform- AMEN!

Christians must not try and present an unrepentant, rich, old ruler as a “born again” Christian- AMEN!

Believers should not dismiss Trump’s licentious behavior by pointing to the Democrats "poster child president" (Bill Clinton or JFK); as gross immoral behavior does not justify gross immoral behavior- AMEN!

Disciples must not confuse an apology/worldly sorrow for genuine repentance (see 2 Cor. 7:10; Psalm 51).

BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN that Christians are only left with two options: 1) To either vote for Hillary Clinton (an immoral candidate); 2) OR to vote for a third party/fill in. Elections are matters of wisdom and conscience. In this regard this political election is no different than the last nine or so you have participated in.

Pray, seek God’s Word, educate yourself, listen to wise counsel; especially from Word-governed believers- At the end of the day you must vote (or not vote) according to your conscience!  Don’t let the Gospel Coalition or any other source tell you who you MUST vote for. Christian liberty is just that.  Russell Moore and Collin Hansen do not officially speak on behalf of the Church; (Protestants do not have a Pope)!!! Christian teachers and authors should highlight any and all pertinent biblical principles and historical facts but must work hard to not go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6).

In response to Collin Hansen's Washington Post Op-ed Dr. Roberty Gagnon wrote this balanced response.  It is well worth your time.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Is Your Church On the Right Track? How Can You Tell?

In order for a sick patient to get treatment an individual must admit that he/she is not well.  The same principle is true with regards to "sick" churches.  In a previous blog post Dr. Rainer suggested some of the warning signs that often reveal that a ministry is unwell.  When a sick church lives in denial over their true spiritual condition they are often only "one stage away from becoming terminal."  Many ministries slowly but surely whittle away (numerically, financially, and most importantly spiritually) because they are unwilling to humbly admit that genuine repentance and biblical change are drastically needed.  Pride and apathy often make people blind or indifferent to the words of Christ.

Having said that, many ministries that appear to be "successful" on the outside are often plagued with stage four cancer on the inside.  Not everything that glitters is gold.  Just because a church is packed each and every Sunday does not necessarily mean the people are growing spiritually (note the warning given in Hebrews 5:12-14).  Or just because a church is the talk of town does not mean it is a model ministry.  In fact, many evangelical churches that are a mile wide are often only an inch deep.  If you think "bigger always means better" in the eyes of God than you have not carefully read through the New Testament Scriptures.

Revelation 2-3 is one of the most important passages that is routinely ignored by the contemporary church today.  Few things are more relevant than the Lord of the Church providing seven spiritual report cards for seven local churches.  Of the two churches Jesus' praises how financially prosperous do you suppose these praiseworthy congregations were?  These two churches were poor, faithful (persecuted) but of infinite worth in the eyes of God!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Give God the Microphone! A Case for Consecutive Expository Preaching

For a very short season preaching verse by verse, book by book through the New Testament Scriptures was en vogue.  As such, many in the contemporary church adopted this method.  If you peruse the websites of local churches in your home town you will notice this is (sadly) no longer the norm.

In his helpful little book the Priority of Preaching Christopher Ash provides 7 blessings of having consecutive expository preaching as the staple diet on the menu for the people of God.

1) Consecutive Expository Preaching Safeguards God's Agenda Against Being Hijacked by Ours.

In biblical ministry I want to exorcise three demons.  "They are called Relevance, Entertainment, and Immediacy" (p. 111).

"To preach expositorily through a Bible book is to trust that the agenda of God is the right, the deepest, and the best agenda" (p. 112).

"That is not to say that we cultivate dreary preaching; it is to say that the content of our preaching is set not by the demands of entertainment, but by the agenda God has set in the books of the Bible."

2) Consecutive Expository Preaching Makes It Harder For Us to Abuse the Bible by Reading It Out of Context.

We often say that a text without a context is a pretext.  You cannot just make the bible say whatever it is you want it to say and yet that is what many preachers do when they (often inadvertently) miss the point of the passage Sunday after Sunday.

"Consecutive Bible exposition helps us understand the Bible in its context and therefore understand it correctly, and not to abuse the Word of God by twisting it to mean something other than what God has made it mean" (p. 116).  2 Timothy 2:15.

3) Consecutive Expository Preaching Dilutes the Selectivity of the Preacher

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Preaching- R. Kent Hughes

While commenting on Colossians 1:25-29 Dr. Hughes writes, “This apostolic charge has preaching as its main function, and specifically Biblical exposition. The phrase ‘to present to you the word of God’ literally reads, ‘that i might complete the Word of God.' The idea is to lay out the Word of God fully. People cannot know Christ better without knowing the Word of God fully.  Preaching (biblical exposition) was the heart of God’s call to Paul. Preaching must open up the Word of God.  Paul affirms here such preaching is primary to an authentic ministry. There is no shortcut-it takes work. 
Joseph Parker put it this way: If i had talked all the week, I could not have preached on Sunday. That is all. Mystery there is none. I have made my preaching work my delight, the very festival of my soul. That is all. Young brother, go thou and do likewise, and God bless thee."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

EMBEZZLING GOD'S GLORY IN WORSHIP

Minister of music Bill Brandenstein posted a helpful article this week that I wanted to share with my faithful readers.

"The sensationalism of public 'worship' alarms me. For years, I’ve been concerned and humbled by what I hear as I stand before God’s people to lead music: the congregation’s voices magnifying God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although one biblical purpose for music is to edify and encourage one another, I find a healthy tension exists between facilitating praise, and feeling out of place while overhearing the God-directed, heaven-bound collective voice. It’s one thing, as an undeserving sinner permeated by my sin’s egregious blackness, to have Christ’s righteousness imputed to me and to be delivered into His kingdom of glorious light. As if that weren’t enough – and it’s way past “enough,” as if God’s grace would somehow be insufficient and less than wondrous if it stopped there – I am called to be not only Christ’s adopted son, but His ambassador! That is just outrageous and wonderful! And so I stand, His completely unqualified but gloriously equipped representative, encouraging the saints as we surround His throne with our adoration. My friends, what a miracle of divine grace this is! It is also, in a sense, eavesdropping. Being there in a Sunday service helping people sing is a place of both privilege and blissful discomfort while listening in on what is intended for God’s ears.

Meanwhile, pop culture has transformed much that is called “corporate worship” into a spectacle. Far too often now, public gatherings are a carefully manufactured music event driven by adrenaline and emotional manipulation, while seeking by any means necessary (artificial or otherwise) to craft it into The Ultimate Experience.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Pastor's Job Description: What Do You Do All Week Long?

Photo Credit: mintools.com
"What do you do as a Senior Pastor all week long?"  I have also been jokingly asked, "What is it like to only work one day a week?"  Since no two pastorates are exactly alike every minister of the gospel will answer this question slightly different; (my weekly schedule has itself changed over the years based on a number of variables).   A pastor's official job description is set forth in the following Scriptural texts: Acts 6:1-4; Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:28-29; 2 Tim. 2:15; 4:1-4; 1 Tim. 5:17-18; Heb. 13:17.

Here is a basic breakdown of my roles and responsibilities as I seek to faithfully serve the people of God: 

1) Preaching and teaching (2 Tim. 2:15; 4:1-5; 1 Tim. 5:17-18).  Weekly I prepare the Sunday morning sermon exposition and the Sunday School hour (teaching time).  Our church has embraced the priority of PREACHING and values verse-by-verse exposition as the main spiritual diet (John 21:27).   In my early years I also taught a weekly bible study during our Sunday evening service.   I currently teach a combined adult SS class and deliver a weekly sermon exposition during our worship service.  I also teach the T & T students during the AWANA year and provide a short devotional during prayer meeting when Awana is not in session.  For many years I spent a lot of time preparing teaching material for our men's leadership training and development ministry; (see #6).  The congregation and lay leaders have always given me ample time (see Acts 6) for expository study (Tuesday-Saturday) and for in-depth expository preaching during the morning worship service!  For this I rejoice!

2) “Leader among leader” responsibilities (1 Pet. 5; Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 11:1).  The week before our monthly leadership meeting I put together the monthly agenda.   I have always had a great relationship with our chairmen.  The chairman and I talk on the phone or meet in person as much as is needed.   As I have stated many times before faithful lay leaders are the backbone of the church.

3) Worship planningI put together the order of worship for the upcoming month.  I generally do this the last week of the month.  I often correspond with our lay praise leaders and with our secretary as I complete this task.  Our liturgy planning includes Scripture texts, praise songs, special offertories, Scripture reading/readers, etc.  Thankfully, our congregation has not engaged in any fruitless worship wars during the time I have been here.  Our service includes Worship through adoration, worship through prayer and offering, worship through hearing God's Word read, and worship through the exposition of Scripture, and worship through the ordinances (communion and baptism).

Sunday, September 18, 2016

How To Avoid Being Labeled a Boring Preacher

The goal of this short essay is to provide ten practical tips on how to avoid being labeled a boring preacher. 


First, preach the Word of God with passion and conviction.  As Alex Montoya points out, “Passion is the power, the drive, the energy, the life in the delivery of the sermon.  Without passion, the sermon becomes a lecture, an address or a moral speech.”[1] The apostolic mandate is to preach the Word not to merely teach the Scriptures (2 Tim. 4:1-4).  Lloyd-Jones once told someone, “If you do not know the difference between preaching and teaching then you have likely never heard a sermon before.”

Second, use vocal variety throughout your expository message.  If someone attempts to deliver a sermon in a monotone manner it will likely put the congregation to sleep during the first fifteen minutes.  

If the preacher goes back and listens to his sermons on their I Pod they should be able to determine if they employed good vocal variety throughout the sermon.  It should be noted here that an emphatic point can be made by lowering one’s voice (like Rick Holland) or by declaring the truth in a demonstrative way (like Paul Washer).

Third, prepare a sermon manuscript not academic lecture notes.  If one’s sermon notes could be mistaken for a theological journal something’s not right.  It is critical to remember that when writing a sermon you are preparing an oral manuscript to be heard with the ear.  John MacArthur’s sermon manuscripts on “Grace To You” look much different than his books on the same texts of Scripture.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Long-standing Historic Error Dies Hard: Why Reformed Christians Should Consider Premillennialism (pt 5)

Photo Credit: shwebook.com
..."Sometimes the value of a good book is found in one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter, or in the case of Dr. Barry Horner’s Future Israel, in a nine page personal introduction. The testimony of Dr. Horner will no doubt resonate with many Text-driven students of Scripture. It will also challenge some of you as you desire to understand what the sacred Scriptures teach concerning the "end times." But before I share Horner’s eschatological journey allow me to quickly highlight mine.

I was a student at The Master’s College when I came to fully embrace and to appreciate the "doctrines of grace" for myself. Through the expository preaching ministry of John MacArthur and other gifted teachers at my home church (Grace Community) I began to appreciate more deeply the ministry of the Reformers and the Puritans. During this same time I began to question if my convictions concerning eschatology needed to be refined. After all, so many of my favorite theologians were Presbyterian and Reformed. I remember reading Gerstner’s, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth as well as Mathison’s Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? From a theological perspective the argumentation in these books was convincing. At the same time however many of the Text-driven (exegetical) conclusions were lacking.

I decided to go back to the Scriptures in order to determine whether my end times positions needed to be modified or overhauled. As I made my way through the Old Testament Minor Prophets I found Charles Feinberg and Jim Boice’s commentaries to be faithful to the Text and to the point. Both scholars embraced premillennialism. By the time I went verse by verse through Romans 9-11 I was thoroughly convinced that the Word of God not only supports the doctrines of grace they also promote biblical premillennialism. In view of this I was not surprised when John MacArthur titled his main plenary address Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist. Well enough about me. Let’s give Dr. Horner the floor one final time; (this part five in a series of selections taken from his personal introduction in Future Israel).

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Future Israel: Before You Become a Amillennialist (pt 4)

Photo Credit: www.alankurschner.com
Dr. Barry Horner's book Future Israel is a very helpful read when it comes to understanding eschatology and the place of national Israel. The following is a selection taken from his personal introduction (which is well worth the price of the book)...

"When all has been said and done with regard to the three major schools of eschatology, the real, overshadowing central issue concerns the person of Jesus Christ. It is the new covenant which He has established by His blood, and His present reign at the right hand of the Father, that should dominate our thinking and not some distinctive scheme of prophecy. So Reformed amillennialist George Murray commented, “It is Christ, rather than the Hebrew people, who is the subject of the Old Testament prophets.” (4) And of course, all the major schools of prophecy would heartily agree at this point, so that nothing in fact would have been trumped at all. The reason for this is simply that amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism are all based on their future perspective of history as it will be climaxed at the second coming or parousia of Jesus Christ that crowns the redemptive work of His first coming. In this sense, Jesus Christ is clearly central to all three perspectives, whatever their disagreements might involve. However, that being said, it must be borne in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ remains the quintessential Jew. We would even dare to say that He has lost none of His essential Jewishness. However, Murray continues, “To be sure, the nation was sovereignly chosen by God as the channel through which His oracles might be given to the world; but God no longer deals with them as a chosen nation.” (5) How incomplete is the allusion here to Rom 3:2 that ignores Rom 9:4 concerning those who “are [present tense] Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises.” For a professing Calvinist such as Murray to suggest that Israel has lost its election is not only astonishing, but it also flies in the face of Paul’s further explanation that “regarding the gospel, they [unbelieving national Israel, no the remnant] are enemies for your [the Gentiles’] advantage, but regarding election [the election, ten eklogen], they [unbelieving national Israel] are loved because of their forefathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob]” (Rom 11:28). How then can Jesus Christ be exalted when He, “the King of the Jews” (John 19:19), who declared that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22), has His Jewish brethren permanently and nationally defrocked?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Female Bible Teachers, Carl Trueman, and 1 Timothy 2:9-15

Beth Moore: Photo Credit- Christianitytoday
Can female bible teachers instruct men so long as it is not during the worship service (as Carl Trueman recently argued)? What does 1 Timothy 2:9-15 actually prohibit? What about female worship leaders? What can Christian ladies in Christ's Church do today?   

What is Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and why does it matter? Should Bible-believing Christians jettison CBMW?

I believe this is the most practical and important video-cast to date; (click to listen to it here).


Monday, August 22, 2016

Are MacArthurites All Theological Clones? Setting the Record Straight.

Are MacArthurites simply theological clones who lack the necessary skills to think critically? Is the Master's Seminary a "monolithic" training center where legitimate discussion and reasonable dissent over tertiary matters is stifled among the student body? In this regard, are TMS' professors much different than say the faculty at RTS? 

Today's brief "Diversity within Boundaries" video-cast provides five personal examples that dispel a common myth about The Master's Seminary and the indebted and loyal students of Pastor John MacArthur and the TMS faculty.

(Video Summary): During my time at TMS I wrote five papers (out of hundreds of assignments) wherein I respectfully disagreed with my teachers; (all of whom I indebted to). I was never discouraged from doing this- nor was I ever graded unfairly.  Those disagreements included the following issues: 1) Dr. Snider's position on the active obedience of Christ (Matt. 3:15; Gal. 4:4). 2) Dr. MacArthur's interpretation of Titus 1:6 (faithful or believing children). 3) Dr. Grisanti's view of Deuteronomy 34, Numbers 12:3 and 'inspired textual redactors.' 4) Dr. Barrick's view on why King David was not allowed to build the Jerusalem Temple? (Holy War or Adultery) & 5) Professor Jim Stitzinger's interpretation of 1 Peter 3:18-20 (bound spirits and the victory sermon of Jesus).

After posting these videos to Facebook they are eventually saved on YouTube.  You can view this videocast here.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Police, Pastoral Ministry, and CONTEXT: Where You Work Impacts More Than You Know

    Photo Credit: mscutie817.tumblr.com
Police work, Pastoring, and Context. WHERE one works or serves as a Christian is often far more significant than many realize. 

Today's video sheds light on this neglected aspect of Christian vocation. With specific insights from police in Los Angeles and Indianapolis.  How has the BlackLivesMatter narrative impacted law enforcement serving in different cities across America?

I trust my latest video-cast will encourage many people; whether you serve in Philippi or in Corinth (1 Cor. 15:58; Gal. 6:9).  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Faith VS Science

"The WAR on SCIENCE." If you dispute the theory of evolution you are as ignorant as those fruit cake moon landing deniers" so says National Geographic and Bill Nye the science guy.  Bill Nye also condemned the Creation Museum's new "Ark Encounter" saying after his visit that it was far worse than he imagined it would be.

Today's video asks the question, "Whose ideology is really blinded to reality and truth? Christian's should have no trouble turning the tables as we interact with the world. The unbelieving world mocked Noah for building an ark way back when and they scoffed at Ken Ham for doing so now.

Everyone places their faith in something or someone.  Who or what are you resting your faith in?  After posting these videos on Facebook I eventually transfer them over to YouTube- You can view this video-cast here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

"Bright Days, Dark Nights." Depression and Sorrow in Service to Christ

2 Corinthians is such a paradox, isn't it? On one hand Paul is so down (2 Cor. 1:8-9a, 4:8-10a) he cannot even return to Corinth (without knowing if they have first received his admonitions). Paul was certainly no wimp; perish the thought. Outside of Christ, Paul may have suffered more for the gospel and the Church than any other minister (2 Cor. 11:23-33). 

And yet Paul also talks in 2 Corinthians about the unparalleled joys/privileges of being a minister of the New Covenant (note 2 Cor 3-4). Life and ministry is sometimes both/and rather than either/or. I remember John MacArthur saying that he was so glad he did not preach 2 Corinthians early in his ministry because one cannot really capture the pathos of Paul unless they have first suffered deeply in ministry. "In the deepest pains we learn life's greatest lessons and the deepest pains in life are often inflicted by those who are closest to our heart." (2 Cor. 12:8-10). Paul's painful experiences shepherding the flock at Corinth is so much a part of the rubric of these inspired letters (1-2 Cor.). 

If the Bible was not inspired blog writers would certainly edit and critique large portions of Scripture. Consider Moses' burden of leading the stiff-necked wilderness generation. Or King David's lament as he talks about the deep, deep pains of personal betrayal (Psalm 55:12-14); or his deep sorrow over the guilt of his own sin (Ps. 32, 51). Israel's hymnbook (the Psalter) includes many psalms of lament. Or the weeping prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 1-2, 20; Lam. 3). I often think about the positive and negative implications of Hebrews 13:17. As with parenting it can be grievous to the soul when attempting to shepherd unruly souls over months and years... 1 Thess. 5:12-13 is an inspired mandate as much as 1 Peter 5:1-4 is. "Let them do this with joy and not grief..."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Maintaining Doctrinal Standards and Revising Church Constitutions

On maintaining core Doctrinal Distinctives  and the careful process of revising the Constitution and Statement of Faith without splitting the church.

By the grace of God we are a Word-driven, Christ-exalting, doctrinally-minded local church (per 1 Tim. 3:15; Jude 3; Col. 1:28-29). In all things we seek to be biblically balanced and to be a body committed to grace and truth. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is of course the Greatest Commandment of them all (Matt. 22:36-40; Rev. 2:1-7).  We are sinners saved by grace who long to please the Lord in all of our ways.

Though all biblical truth is important we embrace a theological triage approach to Christian ministry. In other words, some theological matters are of “first rate” importance. This is the inspired language the Apostle Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

“The word triage comes from the French word trier, which means ‘to sort.’ Thus, the triage officer in the medical context is the front-line agent for deciding which patients need the most urgent treatment. Without such a process, the scraped knee would receive the same urgency of consideration as a gunshot wound to the chest. The same discipline that brings order to the hectic arena of the Emergency Room can also offer great assistance to Christians defending truth in the present age.”

Fundamental doctrines would include things like penal substitution, justification by grace through faith in Christ alone, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Deity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, the Trinity of Persons within the One true God, etc. To deny any of these gospel truths is to be outside orthodox Christianity (see 1-3 John, 2 Peter).

“The set of second-order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create certain boundaries between believers. When Christians organize themselves into congregations and denominational forms, these boundaries become evident.”

The Bible does not establish an definitive list of second and third order doctrines, therefore, each congregation will establish their own theological identity. Some embrace a “big tent” approach to local church ministry, while others, (like FBC) are more precise in their philosophy of ministry and in their theological distinctives.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Reformed Premillenialism and Horatius Bonar

"In the nineteenth century Horatius Bonar published his Prophetic Landmarks: Containing Data for helping to Determine the Question of Christ’ Premillenial Advent, which is a solid and judicious premillennial apology.  This upholder of the doctrines of sovereign grace considered the pivotal issue regarding a right perception of prophetic revelation to be the primacy of the nature and destiny of the Jewish people in the whole eschatological scheme of things.  He wrote,

The prophesies concerning Israel are the key to all the rest.  True principles of interpretation, in regard to them, will aid us in disentangling and illustrating all prophecy together.  False principles as to them will most thoroughly perplex and overcloud the whole Word of God. (3)
This significant point will be recommended quite frequently throughout this book. Indeed at this juncture we coin the term “Judeo-centric Eschatology” since it offers such a cohesive basis for the integration of various elements of biblical prophecy, and even more so than the common premillennial resource to Revelation 20.  Given a right understanding of Israel in relation to the Christian Church, an eschatology will nevertheless result that incorporates an essentially premillennial understanding of Revelation 20."

(3) H. Bonar, Prophetical Landmaks: Containing Data for helping to Determine the Question of Christ’s Pre-millenial Advent (5th ed.; London: J. Nisbet, 1876), 228. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged (Barry Horner)

Those who have embraced unconditional election and the doctrines of sovereign grace should also welcome Text-driven Premillennialism. In his pot stirring series, Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist John MacArthur mentions an insightful new book titled, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged.   This book is part of the NAC Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology.

As I mentioned last time the introduction of Future Israel is worth the price of the book.  Today's article is the second part of a series of articles on the subject of Biblical eschatology (see part one).   Dr. Horner describes his theological journey with these helpful insights:  "More recently, a closer study of four books of the Bible has led me now to more firmly assert that the basic premillennial model of biblical prophesy, and especially as it relates to ethnic and national Israel, is closest to the truth of Scripture.  First, there was a study of Zechariah, so permeated with the ultimate triumph of the Messiah and the nation of Israel.  The prophet speaks of God’s vindication on earth when He “will become king over all the earth- Yahweh alone, and His name alone” (Zech 14:9).1  I will never forget the study of David Baron’scommentary on this book, which seemed so much more illuminating to the text than Calvin’s.

Then a close study of Romans over several years, and particularly chaps. 9-11, resulted in an indelible impression that for Paul, the converted Hebrew rabbi, Israel has n ongoing national identity, its unbelief notwithstanding.  On the other hand, it seemed as if Reformed exegesis, at least on a prima facie reading of the text, was attempting to avoid the obvious.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING CHRISTIAN SERMONS

photo credit: rookiepreacher.com

CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING CHRISTIAN SERMONS
 (By Art Azurdia)


1) Exegetical accuracy 

2) Doctrinal substance

3) Clear structure

4) Vivid illustrations

5) Pointed textual application

6) Helpful delivery

7) Supernatural authority (Spirit-filled Preaching)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Preaching Epistolary Literature (Azurdia)



"When interpreting/preaching New Testament epistles keep in mind that . . .

1.                  They tend to follow a standard form

                        Name of writer (e.g., “Paul”)

                        Name of recipient (e.g., “to the church of God in Corinth”)

                        Greeting (e.g., “Grace and peace to you from God our Father”)

                        Prayer wish or thanksgiving (e.g., “I always thank God for you . . .”)

                        Body

        Final Greeting and Farewell (e.g., “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you”)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Reading The Scriptures Publicly

"What you believe about the Bible is inevitably communicated by the way you read it in public:

1. The Bible Is Spirit-Inspired

The entire Bible has its source in God. It is composed of books, sentences, phrases, words, and individual letters that He has “ . . . breathed out” (2 Ti 3:16). Without using dictation, and without destroying the individuality of each human author, God has given us a book that, in its tiniest details, is exactly what He wants it to be.

Therefore, unless it is read inaccurately (or from a faulty translation), the reader is speaking and the listener is hearing the very Word of God. We are thus encountering God Himself. It’s the nearest we get to heaven during our time on earth.

Because inspiration is verbal, you must take care as to how you pronounce and express every word. Every time you open the Bible you do so in the presence of its Author.

2. The Bible Is Clear (Perspicuous)

This does not mean that every (or any) individual Christian understands everything God has revealed. It does mean that the church of Jesus Christ, in every generation, is capable of understanding the God-breathed Word. The simplest person, with the Spirit’s illumination, is able to understand the truths necessary for salvation.

It follows, then, that the Bible should be read clearly. This cannot be done, however, if you lack an understanding of what is being read. Contrarily, when the text is rightly understood it can be read with appropriate expression.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Preacher's Resolutions (Azurdia)

Photo Credit: www.westernseminary.edu
The Preacher’s Resolutions

"Resolved, that I will ‘preach the word’—not about the word—not from the word—not with the word—affirming that it is only the exposition of the word that communicates God’s mind and conveys His power to transform.

Resolved, that I will labor to the point of exhaustion when preparing to preach.

Resolved, that I will display the redemptive indicatives that establish the basis for moral imperatives.

Resolved, that I will repeatedly acknowledge my absolute dependence upon the empowerment of the Spirit.

Resolved, that I will allow the cross to not only determine the content of my preaching, but the manner in which I communicate it.


Resolved, that I will give careful attention to my private and public walk with God, knowing the congregation never rises to a standard higher than that being lived by the preacher.

Resolved, that I will fervently pray for the regeneration and sanctification of those to whom I preach.

Resolved, that I will preach with humble gratitude, as one privileged to be a herald of God.

Resolved, that I will preach solely for the pleasure of God and not the approbations of people."


By Professor Azurdia.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The 'Telos' Statement in Preaching

Telos statement in preaching  by Art Azurdia

"The telos is a succinct statement of summary that is ruthlessly bound to the Spirit-intended purpose of a selected text. 

The telos does not incorporate the potential implications, applications, and theological inferences of the selected text.  This is not to say that these potential implications, applications, and theological inferences cannot or should not be mentioned in the actual sermon (which, more properly speaking, is an issue to be determined when considering the sermon’s unity). 

When constructing a telos the expositor must never impose his own purpose on the text.  Such is imposition, not exposition.  Once again, the telos is a disciplined statement of summary that confines itself exclusively to the truth contained in the pertinent text (or, perhaps, asks a question that the truth of the text answers).

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Do's and Don'ts of Teaching Parables (MacArthur)

If you want to have John MacArthur as a preaching professor on a regular basis there is only one D. Min program in the world you should enroll in (and that's TMS).  Drs. John MacArthur and Steven J. Lawson are the regular teaching faculty for the Master's Seminary Doctor of Ministry program.  This is one of the reasons why the revamped Doctoral of Ministry track at TMS now has 60 pastors/missionary students.  During one of Dr. MacArthur's final lectures this past summer he talked about the Do's and Don'ts of Preaching Parables.

“The word ‘parable’ (parabole) appears forty-eight times in the Synoptic Gospels (seventeen times in Matthew, thirteen in Mark, and eighteen in Luke).  It is entirely absent in John’s Gospel and is missing in the rest of the New Testament...”[1]  The word comes from two Greek roots: para (beside) and ballo (throw).  Literally, it means "to place alongside."  It suggests a comparison between two things that are alike in some way.

Regardless of what passage or genre one is studying, employing a consistent hermeneutic is the most important component of faithful interpretation.  The student of Scripture must never depart from the grammatico-historical hermeneutic in effort to manipulate the God-intended message of the text, for the meaning of Scripture is the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15).  According to MacArthur, Tim Keller misrepresented the major thrust of Jesus' Good Samaritan parable in his best-selling book The Prodigal God.  This kind of thing is not uncommon when it comes to parables.  Many apparently believe you can make parables say anything you want them to say; so long as your conclusions are biblical.  This is simply not true!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Make Much of Christ: Proclaim the Four Gospels (John MacArthur)

Photo Credit: godsbreath.net
In the final summer D. Min lecture at TMS Pastor John MacArthur shared a brief word on making much of Christ especially as we preach through the four gospels.  In this lecture MacArthur noted that the gospels are historical narratives written with a theological purpose.  In view of this, MacArthur recommended that we all read Dr. Abner Chou's opening chapter (Did God Really Say...?  Hermeneutics and History in Genesis 3) in What Happened in the Garden.  In this chapter Chou demonstrates that history is the ground of theology.  "The biblical writers do not see history as merely a means of communicating theology; rather, they see history as the means of actualizing theology" (p. 29).  In the gospels Divine truths about God, Christ, Man, the Kingdom, and Salvation are taught.  The historical Gospels are especially Christological which makes them a treasure trove for preaching and Christian worship.

MacArthur went on to say that one of the most theologically rich chapters in the Bible is John 3 which highlights the doctrine of Divine regeneration ("the new birth").  Jesus' doctrinal instruction in John 3 does not compliment Billy Graham's book title, "How to be born again" as the new birth (regeneration) is monergistic (a work of One).  God alone can make dry bones come alive.  He alone can bring a spiritually dead sinner (Eph. 2:1-10) to life again.  In short, don't miss the rich theology of Christ as you work your way the four gospels!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Not So Fast (Before You Become an Amillennialist)!

Sometimes the value of a good book is found in one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter, or in the case of Dr. Barry Horner’s Future Israel, in a nine page personal introduction.  The testimony of Dr. Horner will no doubt resonate with many Text-driven Christians.  It will also challenge some of you as you desire to understand what the sacred Scriptures teach concerning the "end times."  But before I share Horner’s eschatological journey allow me to quickly highlight mine.

I was a student at The Master’s College when I came to fully embrace and to appreciate the "doctrines of grace" for myself.  Through the expository preaching ministry of John MacArthur and other gifted teachers at my home church (Grace Community) I began to appreciate more deeply the ministry of the Reformers and the Puritans.  During this same time I began to question if my convictions concerning eschatology needed to be refined.  After all, so many of my favorite theologians were Presbyterian and Reformed.  I remember reading Gerstner’s, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth as well as Mathison’s Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?  From a theological perspective the argumentation in these books was convincing.  At the same time however many of the Text-driven (exegetical) conclusions were lacking. 

Preaching Revelation: "Folks, Don't Ignore the End of the Story!" (John MacArthur)


John MacArthur on the how and why of preaching the end of the story (Revelation).
 (D. Min lecture delivered on 7/19/16 at TMS):  

"My Premillennialist convictions can be summarized in one sentence.  Their will be future salvation of national Israel after the unrepentant rebels are purged (Zech. 12-14) and their will be a future reign of Christ upon the earth (Psalm 2; Rom. 9-11; Rev. 20)."

If you reject the literal grammatico-historical method of interpretation the book of Revelation is going to take on a thousand different interpretations.  This partially explains why commentaries written by non-Premillennialists interpret Revelation so many different ways.

If you think Christ is glorified in the Old Testament, the gospels, and the epistles you would be absolutely correct.,,But the place Christ's glory shines brightest and fullest is in the book of Revelation.

To ignore this book is unacceptable.  It's to have a story without an ending.

MacArthur is convinced the book of Revelation is one of the easiest book to interpret if you maintain a consistent hermeneutic.  Dr. Floyd Hamilton himself admitted that if you employ a (consistent) hermeneutic to Revelation that you will be a premillennialist.

A question was posed to John MacArthur, "Why is their such hostility against premillennialism?"  Pastor John believes Antisemitism has been the driving factor towards rejecting premillennialism (see Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged).  He also admitted that some of the unnecessary baggage has come from the old Scofield study bible.  In light of some unnecessary interpretations many people threw the baby out with the bathwater.  Wacky Dispensationalism needs to rejected; (such as the errant view that Matthew 5-7 is all about future kingdom living); or  "My hope is built on nothing less than Scofield's notes and Moody Press."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Learning From John Calvin (Derek Thomas)


Dr. Derek Thomas did his Ph. D on John Calvin's expositions of Job.  This research eventually became a book titled, Calvin's Teaching on Job: Proclaiming the Incomprehensible God.  The following post is a summation of Dr. Thomas' Calvin lectures at the Master's Seminary (D. Min class).  Please note that I have included some theological and pastoral commentary along the way. 

This influential Reformation leader has left us with an extraordinary legacy.  When people remember Calvin they often think first of his Institutes of Christian Religion.  Calvin believed his commentaries and his Institutes should be studied together.  Calvin's commentaries are exegetically grounded and help the contemporary reader to understand the basis of Calvin's systematic theology.  In a later introduction Calvin defended the Protestant Reformation and said the Roman Catholic church was out of step with the Church Fathers and therefore it was the Roman church that was schismatic.  For Calvin the mark of a true church consisted of three defining marks: The faithful preaching of the Word; the two ordinances (baptism and communion), and church discipline. 

Brief biography of Calvin:  The French theologian John Calvin lived from 1509-1564.   In those days towns and cities were often built around Roman Catholic cathedrals.  During his youth Calvin's mother passed away.  His relationship with his father was distant though respectful.  In order to honor his dad's wishes Calvin went to school to become a lawyer.  After Calvin's father died it opened the door for Calvin to give his life to the church in a pastor-theologian capacity.  Remarkably, Calvin never received a formal theological degree; (he did received various academic degrees in law and later in philosophy).  At some point in the 1530's Calvin came to a saving knowledge of the gospel.  According to one historian, "After what he called a 'sudden conversion' at the age of 23, Calvin became a fervent Christian and scholar of the Scripture. Calvin did not immediately break with the Roman Catholic Church, but rather worked toward its reform. His pleas for reform soon brought upon him the hatred of the Catholic Church, and in time he was banished from Paris."  During this time period Calvin moved to Switzerland.  As a Renaissance scholar Calving published a book on "soul sleep" and then in 1536 as a 27 year old he published his first edition of the Institutes.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Preaching Acts (Derek Thomas)

Dr. Derek Thomas recently preached through the book of Acts and was subsequently asked to write an expositional commentary in the Reformed Expository Commentary series.   In view of this he was the right man to come and instruct a group of 60 D. Min students at TMS on preaching the Acts of the apostles.  This edited version of his lecture notes should be helpful to pastors and layman alike.

Historical background: Acts is the second part of a two part history on the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and expansion of the Church of Jesus Christ.   The Holy Spirit is the continued representative agent of the ascended Christ (the Divine Paraclete).

Acts is based in a multi-cultural setting.  This book demonstrates how biblical Christianity came to be with other religions and worldviews (eg. Acts 13:8; 16; 19).  This book highlights church planting in a "multicultural setting."

History is often retold and rewritten in a dishonest and biased manner (holocaust denials, moon landing deniers).  Luke has no interest in this kind of thing.  His account is the exact truth of what took place in the first century.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Expository Preaching: Anything Less is Tyranny (Derek Thomas)

Derek Thomas is "a reformed pastor and theologian known for his teaching, writing and editorial work. He is currently the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church,and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at RTS."  Dr. Thomas is also one of the visiting teachers at the Master's Seminary D. Min track in expository preaching.  The following article(s) are taken from his July, 2016 D. Min lectures at TMS.

Dr. Thomas' opening address was on why verse-by-verse, expository preaching is the preferred way to shepherd your flock and declare the whole counsel of God.  This approach to preaching  is also referred to as lectio continua.  

The title of Derek's opening address is Expository Preaching: Anything Less is Tyranny.  If you are not expounding the text you are likely talking about yourself; (Be like me, listen to my opinions, be wowed by my charisma, etc).  The root authoritative principle is the Word of God otherwise you are a tyrant lording your own will over the flock; (what right do we have to share our thoughts for 2 hours every single week?).  Our goal is to bring God's people a Word from the Lord (1 Pet. 4:10-11; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).  We do not begin with ourselves or our people, not that those things are unimportant, but the starting place is Divine Revelation (2 Tim. 3:16-4:5).  

What right do we have to stand up, week after week, and deliver a "monological address?"  An address with no questions or interruptions.   Our answer is directly connected to what the Word of God is (an inerrant, infallible, sufficient, authoritative word).  In and of ourselves we possess no right to do this.  In view of this we must be extraordinarily committed to the text.  Thomas says Martyn Lloyd-Jones is exemplary here.  The sheer reverence MLJ has for Scripture is palpable.   On this point Thomas reminded us that MLJ's commentaries on Romans were Friday night lectures; not Sunday morning sermons; (i.e. this is not the model for morning expositions).

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Presuppositions of Expository Preaching (Derek Thomas)

Basic presuppositions of expository preaching:

A) All Scripture is God's Word and is exactly as God intended it to be.

We must be convinced that the Bible is the inerrant and all sufficient Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12).  

Exalting the Bible is not bibliolatry (Psalm 138:2)!  On the Emmaus Road, Jesus wanted his disciples to be confident in the integrity of the Bible (note Luke 24:36-49).

Do you ever secretly think, "I need to add a little in order to help this message/Bible study come alive?" Perhaps when you find yourself in Leviticus 11.  We should never tamper with or try and improve the inspired text.  It is pure and perfect in all of it's mysteries.

B) Our own spiritual condition impacts the man of God's handling of Scripture; (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:15).  

Let us remind ourselves of at least these three things:

20+ Practical Helps For Preachers and Teachers (Derek Thomas)

Derek Thomas at TMS July 2016
During his lecture at TMS Derek Thomas offered 20+ practical helps related to preaching in no matter order:

A) Be a shepherd expositor.  Preaching to the same people in the context of the local church is much different than being a circuit (conference) teacher.  In some ways, shepherd-leaders will shape their expositions to the needs of their people; (see notes above with regards to Text-driven sermons).

B) Know your strengths and weaknesses and play to your strengths and work on improving your weaknesses.  Preachers do not have the exact same strengths and weaknesses.  For example, not every pastor can preach fresh sermons if they only exposit a few verses week after week.  Honestly access your own gifts and your limitations.  You are likely not Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 

C) Preach sequentially.  Over 40 years the primary diet Dr. Thomas has served his flock is verse-by-verse, book-by-book expository preaching.  He has preached through approximately 40 books.

D) Preach different genres.  Variety will grow you as a preacher and will likely help the congregation track with you over a lengthy ministry in the same place.  On occasion it is helpful to break from your verse-by-verse series in order to preach a series on the vanishing conscience, or prayer, or Christian liberty, etc.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

STYLE In Expository Preaching (pt. 2)

Good preaching is built upon accurate exposition but it also involves homiletical "style."  Many seminary graduates know how to do faithful exegesis but do not understand how to write and preach memorable sermons.  Dr. Steve Lawson addressed this dilemma during his July lectures at the Master's Seminary.

Last article highlighted the following headings I) What is Style and Why is it Important?  II) The Advantages of Style.  III) The Category of Style  IV) The Legitimacy of Style

Which brings us to, V)  The Influences of Style.

A) Where you went to seminary (chapel speakers, preaching philosophy, alumni influences, etc).  B) Who you listen to. (good preaching is as much caught as taught).  C) Who you read.  D) What you read.  E) What your affiliations are.  F) What genre of Scripture your preaching. G) What your temperament is (personality not spirituality).  H) Your sense of humor.  I) Are you a natural story teller. J) What is your intellect? K) Your life experiences.  L) Where you serve and who you serve. M)Where the pulpit is located in the sanctuary. N) What the pulpit is (how it's constructed). O)Who your predecessor was. P) What happens before you get up to preach (music style, mood in the room). Q) The size of your "sanctuary" and how it is laid out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

STYLE In Expository Preaching (Dr. Steve Lawson)

Photo Credit: theysmell.com
In a recent lecture at TMS Dr. Steve Lawson made a compelling case of how both substance and style are critical components of effective expository preaching.

I) Introduction: What is Sermon Style?  Why is it important? "Though substance is of greater importance than style, style should not be an afterthought."  Preachers should try and be a scientist with regards to hermeneutics and exegesis and an artist with regards to homiletics.

When it comes to good preaching it is not only what we say but how we say it.  This is especially true in the day and age in which we live.

Faithful pastors typically exegete the text the same way; the difference between a good preacher and a great preacher often comes back to homiletics.  Many popular preachers sacrifice content and depth in effort to be viewed as relevant and often in hopes of drawing larger crowds.  We should strive to excel at both (exposition and application/implication; substance and style).

II) The Advantages of Style- A) It draws and repels people for good and bad.  B) It can help people to listen; (do not be the bland leading the bland).  C) It can help people receive the truth; (like salt on a steak).  D) It can help people digest the truth; (like digestive enzymes).  E) It can help people remember the timeless truths in your sermon. F) It helps people share the principles they learned as they communicate this message with others.  G) It can help people apply the text with greater ease (James 1:22-25); application on Monday-Saturday is the crucial.  Liberty in Christ is freedom to do the right thing.