Archive for the ‘The Church’ Category


The cup

   Posted by: Mark

Tami and I recently listened to Pat Abendroth’s message titled “The Horrific Anticipation of Calvary,” from his ongoing series on Matthew. It has been months since a message has touched me as this one did.

First, the passage is from “the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Matthew” (Matthew 26:36-46) and is therefore about Christ, not about the disciples and their failure to watch and pray, or about how we can handle difficult times in our life. “It’s about Him“. Additionally, “The Bible is not a book of morals. It’s not the Book of Christian Virtues.”

I can’t do justice to the message, and highly recommend that you take the time to listen to it. As the title of the message indicates, considerable time is devoted to explaining Christ’s anticipation of the crucifixion, and how foolish or dangerous it can be for us to think this dread was related at all to the physical aspect of his approaching death, his betrayal by Judas, or the disciples abandonment of him.

Christ was in unimaginable agony over the anticipation of the “undiluted, unrestrained, full, intense wrath of a righteous, perfect, holy God. …The consuming wrath of God almighty, who has all the power at his fingertips; the God who speaks and things are made is going to pour out his just wrath on his son, it will be the most severe thing to ever, ever, ever happen. …God is judging his son as if he committed all the sins that I ever committed.”

Abendroth points out that we individually deserve the undiluted wrath of God for eternity. Jesus essentially “compressed” the eternity of my Hell, my deserved undiluted wrath of God, and that of all believers, into the relatively short time he was on the cross.

How great and amazing God is!


Standing against the world

   Posted by: Mark

Over the past weeks I have read numerous articles about the upcoming movie “The Golden Compass,” based on the first book in a trilogy by Philip Pullman. (I will refrain from including details about the movie itself, since a Google search will provide countless links to a rather common set of material.) This movie appears to be the latest standard around which Christians are being called to gather in protest, following on the tail of Harry Potter and “Holiday” advertisements.

As Christians we should warn our siblings of things that could be dangerous. While we should all be diligent in our walk, invariably one may see problems with something before the majority does, and should sound the alarm about such things. Warnings about this movie, however, seem to involve much more hyperventilation than seems necessary.

Years ago I was involved in a sect of Christianity that, quite honestly, causes me great embarrassment when I recall my enthusiastic participation. This branch tends heavily toward extra-biblical regulations, and focuses on external activity as singular proof of personal holiness. The stereotypical visions of wide-eyed, pale-faced gasping-in-astonishment reactions to breaches in these regulations are, in reality, incredibly accurate depictions of some of these people. And that is the same reaction I am seeing from many folks regarding this movie.

We live in a fallen world. James tells us that pure religion involves remaining unstained by “the world,” referencing the world-view of unregenerate man. We must be wary of adopting or being seduced by this warped view of life and God.

It cannot be made any more clear than Paul’s statements that “no one does good, not even one.” Even as Christians we get hung up on this. “What about feeding the homeless?” or “I am a devoted father and husband — surely that’s ‘good,’ isn’t it?” And indeed, on our limited scale of human goodness, these things and so many others could be considered “good.” But we cannot dismiss Paul’s statement. By the righteous, perfect measurement, everything we do falls short of being “good.”

Every creation of unregenerate men must promote the fallen perspective of this world — it cannot do otherwise! Every movie will at the very least intimate a hatred or disregard for God. Every book is founded in unregenerate thought.

Is “The Golden Compass” an attack by Satan against our children? Not more than anything else created by fallen man. In fact, it may be less of an attack than the majority of things produced by our culture. And perhaps that is where I am befuddled. A sneak attack against Christianity cannot, by definition, include generally-obvious anti-God material! If this movie is part of a series that describes the killing of an emaciated character called Yahweh (as is mentioned in one of the more widely-distributed summaries), and obviously promotes the ideas of its atheistic (or more properly, agnostic) author, there is not much “sneak” in that, is there?

Be measured in your responses to things. Do not be surprised when the fallen world acts fallen. Certainly validate things against God’s Word. And by all means, stand against the world (world-view), while living in the world (the physical place called Earth) and loving the world (the people).


Reformation Day

   Posted by: Mark

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany to voice protest against the Catholic doctrine of indulgences. This is considered the launching point of the Reformation, and is remembered by many as Reformation Day. (On a side note, I find it interesting that so many churches today hold “Harvest Festivals” with not even a mention of the greatest revival in church history. Dan Phillips of TeamPyro fame addresses this quite well.)

Tim Challies has assembled a very complete list of links to numerous blogs and sites with remembrances and thoughts on Reformation Day and related doctrines.


Unconditional election

   Posted by: Mark

Mike Ratliff has posted an excellent article that deals with the “unconditional election” portion of the doctrines of Grace.

And I also just found an article from C.J. Mahaney (via DG) on the mystery of election.

Good stuff.


The Gospel in 6 minutes

   Posted by: Mark

Thank you, Tim for suggesting this. And thank you Abraham and John Piper for making it available.

The Gospel in 6 minutes


Proper praying

   Posted by: Mark

There are two things I have been mulling over lately regarding prayer. These are not related to each other except by the fact that they both deal with prayer.

First, to whom should we pray? We have been praying with Isaiah most nights before he goes to bed, and in teaching such a small child how to pray I admit that there is a definite “cuteness” in hearing him say “Dear Jesus” as he copies what we say. I have recently changed the wording to “Our Father” or similar. Certainly Jesus is a member of the godhead, but we do not have any examples in the New Testament that direct us to pray to Christ. Yes, we are to pray in the name of Christ: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13). But even the model prayer Christ provides for us begins with “Our Father.” Is there any reason or example that dictates why we so often pray to Christ instead of the Father? This is not to minimize Christ or his power, but rather to ask ourselves if we are truly following the examples we have been given.

The second thought I have been tossing around is related to what we should pray for, specifically when dealing with the preaching or teaching of the Word. I often hear requests such as this: “Lord, please speak through the man of God this evening” or “Please use this preacher to speak to us this morning.” The request is that God speak to us through the teacher or preacher. This may be nit-picky, but I think it reflects a profound misunderstanding of how God speaks to his children today.

I do not want this to become a cessationism versus continuationism debate, but it is important to note that God spoke often in the early church through dreams, visions, and signs, and that he does not do so today. (That is not to say he cannot, but rather that he does not do so commonly). Today, he speaks to us solely through his Word.

This is important, because I believe a misunderstanding here can launch Christians into some very dangerous waters. We are blessed beyond measure today by having such easy access to countless translations of God’s written word. And we know that this book is utterly and completely sufficient for teaching a Christian how to be “competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17). This Bible is the foundation for Christianity. Without it we would know little of Christ and nothing of the redeeming work he accomplished on the cross. We would know nothing of God’s grace in selecting us for salvation. We would know nothing of the God who spoke the worlds into existence. This Bible contains all objective earthly knowledge about God; there are no other sources for this knowledge! (While nature certainly points to God, it does not tell us directly that he loves us, nor does it provide insight into the detailed workings of his plan, as the canon does.)

If we ask God to “speak to us through a man,” are we asking for the best thing? Are we even asking for something God will do?

Perhaps this is hyper-sensitivity, but carried to a logical conclusion, if we ask God to speak to us through a man, it seems we run the risk of hearing the man, not God. And as soon as I begin depending on a man to tell me what God says, I have started down a dangerous path. We need teachers, but we need those teachers to teach the Bible, because it is through the Bible that God has chosen to speak.


What makes the gospel glorious

   Posted by: Mark

I look forward to Tuesdays. On this day each week, I get to spend anywhere from two to three hours in the car as I drive across the river and through the city to work, rather than getting to work from home. I despise traffic, and drive a vehicle with a manual transmission. But on this one day, I get to listen to one or two messages from Pastor Patrick Abendroth of Omaha Bible Church.

Pastor Abendroth has confidence in his preaching, but is nothing if not humble. He is consistently careful to properly apply passages in context, both culturally and textually. He is one of the most effective expositional preachers I have ever heard.

Today I listened to “What makes the Gospel Glorious” and was filled to overflowing yet again. Here are some quotes that stood out to me:

  • We don’t see grace as glorious because we don’t see ourselves as sinners; utterly and completely devoid of any merit whatsoever, to please God in any way, shape, or form.
  • …the key to rightly praising Jesus Christ and exalting the cross and exalting what he has done for us and praising him; the key to that is understanding what you’ve been saved from. It’s no wonder we’re mumbling about the gospel. It’s no wonder we’re half-in, half-out in some sort of lackadaisical way, calling what we give to him praise, even though it’s pretty shameful, because we think somehow we’re good enough to earn grace, which is contradiction of terms.
  • [an aside on Ephesians 2:1-3] Throughout history, every corruption of the gospel, every perversion of the gospel, has started here. It started by not seeing this. Somehow it’s something other than spiritually dead, and that leads us to somehow it’s something other than just the cross; perhaps it’s the cross and something else.

    But this is the key to understanding salvation; it’s understanding sin… Dead means more than sick. Dead means dead (spiritually dead here..). Dead means more than dying. Dead means more than in danger of dying. By the way, this therefore means that the salvation of the gospel analogy that says: “God throws you the life-preserver, and all you need to do is reach out and grab the life preserver” that’s been so famous shows absolute and complete biblical ignorance. Dead people don’t grab life-preservers. You’re at the bottom of the ocean. You’re fish food, and they’re eating your innards, and you’re swollen, right? That’s the right idea. And God has to go down there and give you a new heart, and make you alive, because you’re dead. So let’s be clear… it’s not that you’re sick. Sinners are dead spiritually… Dead means the total humbling of the sinner before God.


The Implications of Grace

   Posted by: Mark

Here are some quotes from a message preached by Byron Yawn while visiting Omaha Bible Church recently. Erik Raymond (the Irish Calvinist) posted a link to this message.

“If we ever think that our best is what maintains our relationship with God, that bears great offense in the mind of God, because Christ came to save us from our own work.”

“We have to get over trying to pay Jesus back for what he did on the cross.” (quoting Erik Raymond)

“We think that when we are at our moral best, that God is applauding us, congratulating us for finally getting our lives straight. That is not the case.”

“Nothing you do can affect your standing before God.”

You can download the MP3 here. Thank you, Erik and OBC, for making this available.


Around the Web

   Posted by: Mark

Below are links to a few articles I have recently read that focus on critically important topics, and ones that are seldom addressed fully and biblically.

Sister, Show Mercy! — Dan Phillips sticks “his finger in the fan, up to his elbow” on this one. Thanks, Dan.

On Denominations — Dan Phillips (again!) does an excellent job on the topic of denominations. You have to love this one, with words such as “Epiptopresbymethobaptopalian” and “Calvidispiebaptogelical.”

The “Sinner’s Prayer” in evangelism — The Irish Calvinist addresses a question about the absence of the “Sinner’s Prayer” in the literature he uses while evangelizing.


Hearing the voice of God

   Posted by: Mark

Tim Challies linked to this Piper post two days in a row. It really is a “must read.”

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