30 December 2014

Pop-offecy versus preaching as from a full Canon

by Dan Phillips

It's so much fun to be a Charismatic these days. You can say anything you want, and not only will no one in your movement call you on it, they'll give you buckets of money and the opportunity to do it over and over and over again!

Take Pat Robertson, famous for The 700 Club and much besides. Every year, Pat literally goes up in the mountains to get a word from God. Now, in case you are not familiar with Charismaticism, this isn't a Bible study. This isn't a word like the word every last child of God has been given by Him for millennia. This is a special word, a private word, just from God to just Pat.

Then Pat tells us.

Of course, like all of the distinctive doctrines and practices of modern Charismaticism, this bears no resemblance to the Biblical phenomena. (That's why some solicitous enablers have fabricated the whole "analogy" camouflage.) Unlike Biblical revelatory phenomena, these are largely unverifiable, unfalsifiable, and unremarkable.

"Largely," I say, but not always. In Pat's case, he has made some specific predictions in God's name. In those instances, how's Pat's record as a prophet? In short, not so great. For instance, in 1996 "God" murmured to Pat that Clinton would lose in his bid for the White House. Yeah, if only. Also, a nuke was going to hit the US. Then in 2005, "God" hinted that Bush would pass Social Security reform and tax reform, and would load the Supreme Court with conservatives. Again, if only. Then in 2006, the US would be hit with tsunamis, and in 2007 a mass killing would possibly leave millions dead in the US.

So you see? If Pat were held to the standards of Biblical prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:20-22), he'd be thirty years dead.

More recently, then, how did Pat do for 2014? Well, the walking, talking unpaid Charismatic bill said he thinks maybe God kinda told him that the world is going to be in chaos; some kind of credit crisis. (Wow, now, that's going out on a limb, isn't it?) Also, Iranians will have a nuclear device by end of year. President Obama will be severely hampered and will take a lot of vacations, surfing and stuff — again, hardly Isaiah 40.

But Pat also said “There’s going to be a great move of God.” Like what? Oh, the usual Charismatic stuff — so, nothing. But also this:
“There will be a move of God, and it will be the greatest year in the history of the church. It’ll be unbelievable all around the world. And I think Islam is going to be on the retreat; instead of advancing, it’s going to be retreating, uh, and, you know, onward Christian soldiers”
Apparently God didn't tell Pat what impact it has on Islamists to hear a Christian saying "onward Christian soldiers."

At this writing, that promised revival of Christianity (which, ironically, would mean the end of Charismaticism), as well as the retreat of Islam, hasn't happened either.

So as I say, if this were Israel, Pat would be thirty years dead. As it is, he can't even get himself excommunicated, or disowned, or even effectively shushed.

For our church and as a sort of foretaste for the Sufficient Fire conference, I preached a sermon titled 2015 – Predictions and Prescriptions, from the perspective of hearty affirmation of a full Canon and a sufficient Scripture.

Compare and contrast, at your leisure.

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28 December 2014

“Unimproved and unimprovable”

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The teachings of nature, pages 4-5, Pilgrim Publications.
"We cry to be delivered from the poisonous joys of earth, we loathe them, and wonder that we could once riot in them." 

The grass, what does it do? Droop, nay, wither. The flower of the field: what of that? Does it hang its head a little? No, according to Isaiah it fades; and according to Peter it falleth away. There is no reviving it with showers, it has come to its end.

Even thus are the awakened led to see that in their flesh there dwelleth no good thing. What dying and withering work some of God's servants have had in their souls! Look at John Bunyan, as he describes himself in his “Grace Abounding!” For how many months and even years was the Spirit engaged in writing death upon all that was the old Bunyan, in order that he might become by grace a new man fitted to track the pilgrims along their heavenly way.

We have not all endured the ordeal so long, but in every child of God there must be a death to sin, to the law, and to self, which must be fully accomplished ere he is perfected in Christ and taken to heaven. Corruption cannot inherit incorruption; it is through the Spirit that we mortify the deeds of the body, and therefore live.

But cannot the fleshly mind be improved? By no means; for “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Cannot you improve the old nature? No; “ye must be born again.” Can it not be taught heavenly things? No. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

There is nothing to be done with the old nature but to let it be laid in the grave; it must be dead, and buried, and when it is so, then the incorruptible seed that liveth and abideth for ever will develop gloriously, the fruit of the new birth will come to maturity, and grace shall be exalted in glory.

The old nature never does improve, it is as earthly, and sensual, and devilish in the saint of eighty years of age as it was when first he came to Christ; it is unimproved and unimprovable; towards God it is enmity itself: every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is evil, and that continually.

The old nature called “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other,” neither can there be peace between them.

26 December 2014

Some Here, Some There — December 26, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Historically, the day after a major holiday (such as, oh, I don't know... Christmas?) is a dead one at the blog. But hey, you clicked through, I hate sad and disappointed readers, so: it may be short, but it is an SHST, and it is just for you!
  • A day late in telling you, but our family appreciated Kevin DeYoung's Do You Know Who He Was? on Christmas Day.
  • On Christmas: when I was a boy, and not even a Christian boy, I remember that Christmas-time would bring all sorts of respectful nods to Christ in the culture. The comics (then called "the funny pages"), TV, all over. Then as I grew and the culture shifted, I noted that the Christ-hating Los Angeles Times would always try to warm the holiday season by scraping the bottom of the moldy wooden barrels of academia, to find some PhD to tell us about how this or that aspect of Christian faith was ludicrous hooey.
  • Newsweek follows in this hallowed tradition. This year, their love-bouquet to Christ and His bride was The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin, by one Kurt Eichenwald. It's a genuinely vitriolic hit-piece with zero redeeming value.
  • Not only that, but it's got some pretty adorable chestnuts.
  • There are those who mock even raising an eyebrow over Piper's apparently collegial reference to the Pope. This makes me wonder, not for the first time, what our leaders today do think is worth fighting over. For one thing, apparently it's worth fighting over not fighting, since that's what they like to squawk about. They don't mock, ridicule, sneer at, isolate, and attempt to marginalize those who are purveying damnable heresies, or those who are compromising core doctrines. But those who do promote sound, biblical Gospel over against false teaching and false teachers? Oh, it's open season on them.
  • As an exercise in empathy, I try to imagine myself reading some Mormon or Jehovah's Witness leader saying how they really need to flood the world with their version of the gospel. And I try — seriously, I do — to imagine myself Tweeting, "In other words, we need to tilt the world with the Gospel!" You know, use it as a tie-in with my book-title, and in effect linking to their words. I try, I say... and it's just not happening for me.
  • And factor in: if I already had my own massive instant-promotion machinery and legions of adoring, I-can-do-no-wrong fans...? Now I'm feeling like...
  • Now to funner things.
  • Re-reading Warfield's masterful statement on the presence and presentation of the doctrine of the Trinity in the NT, I realized not all will have read it, and thought it worth sharing with you.
  • Over at Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson reviews Max McLean's stage version of C. S. Lewis' The Great DivorceSounds like a great experience.
  • That book, if I may digress, is one of these books that are (A) eminently profitable if you read it with a mind to "get" the points Lewis was set on making, (B) very troubling if your stance is OH MY GOSH! THIS IS LEWIS' SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY AND IT'S TERRIBLE!!!1! Though he often noted he was no theologian and did not write as such, he did obviously touch on a lot. Sometimes he was muddled, sometimes downright bad, and sometimes absolutely amazingly wonderful. If you know how to eat a fish, you should be able to read Lewis with profit.
  • Douglas Wilson's post Racial Animosity is so, so good. So much better than so many of the vaunted posts on Ferguson, Garner, and the whole lot. It's the bottom-line truth of the matter. It should have been shared and tweeted broadly, more broadly than those which could be seen as fostering bitterness, resentment, hopelessness and anger. Was it?
  • In the spirit of the Peanuts/25 Or Six To Four video, if you haven't seen this, you must. It's absolutely brilliant, and buckets of fun:

I'll update through noon TX time if anything else strikes me. God bless!

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24 December 2014

6-Part Harmony

Edited by the Late Frank Turk

If you have 15 minutes on Christmas morning, and you want the Bible to remind you why you're about to celebrate, please feel free to use this harmony of Scripture to get your heart and mind right.

God Bless you all, and Merry Christmas.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,
    "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
    "Let all God's angels worship him."
Of the angels he says,
    "He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire."
But of the Son he says,
    "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions."
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to her. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But Mary was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"

And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God. … For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
    "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.

A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. (this fulfilled what the prophet Micah had said, "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days." And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
    "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when [the child] was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."

(they said this because the prophet Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, and he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse and said,
    "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;")
After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

23 December 2014

That other pivotal Christmas character. No, not that one; this one!

by Dan Phillips

Angels, shepherds, Mary, and above all Christ. Even a year or two later, wise men.

But what of Joseph, the fiancé-cum-adoptive-father?

We know that Christ is the wonder of the ages; Mary is an absolutely extraordinary young lady. But also, in considering the character and choices of the man whom God chose to adopt His Son, we learn much.

So, without further eloquence, this year's Christmas sermon: Extraordinary Father, Matchless Son (here's the outline).

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21 December 2014

One sent forth

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from the New Park Street Pulpit, sermon number 57, "The incarnation and birth of Christ."
“Out of thee,” saith Jehovah, speaking by the mouth of Micah, “out of thee shall he come forth unto me.”

It is a sweet thought that Jesus Christ did not come forth without His Father’s permission, authority, consent and assistance. He was sent of the Father that he might be the Saviour of men. We are, alas! too apt to forget that while there are distinctions as to the persons in the Trinity, there are no distinctions of honour; and we do very frequently ascribe the honour of our salvation, or at least the depths of its mercy and the extremity of its benevolence, more to Jesus Christ than we do to the Father. This is a very great mistake.

What if Jesus came? Did not his Father send Him? If he were made a child, did not the Holy Spirit beget Him? If he spoke wondrously, did not his Father pour grace into his lips that he might be an able minister of the new covenant? If his Father did forsake him when he drank the bitter cup of gall, did he not still love him still? and did he not, by-and-by, after three days, raise him from the dead, and at last receive him up on high, leading captivity captive?

Ah! beloved, he who knoweth the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost as he should know them, never setteth one before another; he is not more thankful to one than the other; he sees them at Bethlehem, at Gethsemane, and on Calvary, all equally engaged in the work of salvation.

“He shall come forth unto me.” O Christian, hast thou put thy confidence in the man Christ Jesus? Hast thou placed your reliance solely on him? And art thou united with him? Then believe that thou are united unto the God of heaven; since to the man, Christ Jesus thou art brother, and holdest closest fellowship, thou art linked thereby with God the Eternal, and “the Ancient of days” is thy Father and thy friend! “He shall come forth unto me.”

Did you never see the depth of love there was in the heart of Jehovah, when God the Father equipped His Son for the great enterprise of mercy? There had been a sad day in Heaven once before, when Satan fell, and dragged with him a third of the stars of Heaven, and when the Son of God launching from his great right hand the Omnipotent thunders, dashed the rebellious crew to the pit of Perdition; but if we could conceive a grief in Heaven, that must have been a sadder day, when the Son of the Most High left his Father’s bosom, where he had lain from before all worlds.

“Go,” saith the Father, “and thy Father’s blessing on thy head!” Then comes the unrobing. How do angels crowd around to see the Son of God take off his robes! He laid aside his crown; he said, “My Father, I am Lord over all, blessed forever, but I will lay my crown aside, and be as mortal men are.”

He strips himself of his bright vest of glory; “Father,” he says, “I will wear a robe of clay, just such as men wear.” Then he takes off all those jewels wherewith he was glorified; he lays aside his starry mantles and robes of light, to dress himself in the simple garments of the peasant of Galilee. What a solemn disrobing that must have been!

And next, can you picture the dismissal! The angels attend the Saviour through the streets, until they approach the doors; when an angel cries, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and let the king of glory through!”

Oh! methinks the angels must have wept when they lost the company of Jesus—when the Sun of Heaven bereaved them of all its light! But they went after Him. They descended with him; and when his spirit entered into flesh, and he became a babe, he was attended by that mighty host of angels, who after they had been with him to Bethlehem’s manger, and seen him safely laid on His mother’s breast—in their journey upwards appeared to the shepherds and told them that he was born King of the Jews.

The Father sent Him! Contemplate that subject. Let your soul get hold of it, and in every period of his life think that he suffered what the Father willed; that every step of his life was marked with the approval of the great I AM.

Let every thought that you have of Jesus be also connected with the eternal, ever-blessed God; for “He,” saith Jehovah, “shall come forth to Me.” Who sent him, then? The answer is, his Father!

19 December 2014

Some Here, Some There — December 19, 2014

by Dan Phillips

NOTE: an important announcement about the conference is included below.

Here you go:
  • Last week I mentioned the "celibate gay" Christian Wheaton hired to be... well, I guess to be a "celibate gay" Christian, and I made and linked to commentary. Now see also Robert Gagnon's comments.
  • Through the one-way glass: on the subject of "gay Christians," Owen Strachan says much that we've said, and more, and very very well.
  • If you missed last Monday Music — well, for shame. And here.
  • Reviewing anti-Christian filmmaker (is that a tautology?) Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods & KingsBrian Mattson says that if Scott's target had been Islam, he'd spend the remainder of his life in a bunker in an undisclosed location. 
  • It is interesting to note how those brave Hollywood liberals (is that an oxymoron?) pretty invariably target those whose very religion prevents violent response.
  • I think of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary as the little (?) seminary that could and does. Were I seeking a seminary today, I'd look very closely at them. The DBTS journal is excellent, and its blog is always worth checking. In this article, Ben Edwards notes one of many TGC inconsistencies, this one relating to dispensationalism. You don't have to be a dispie to nod. Another case of natural co-belligerents being split by the unreasoned prejudice (or elitism?) of one party.
  • BIG NEWS about the Sufficient Fire Conference. Providential turns have resulted in our moving the conference from the Berry Center to Copperfield Bible Church. The program is unchanged. But this move brought us substantial financial savings, which we've translated into offering free registration. If you already paid for your tickets, your money will be refunded in PayPal. The conference is not free to the sponsor, of course, and your financial support would be right and appreciated. But note carefully: only register if you will come, God permitting. Seating is limited, so don't take the seat of someone who would come if one were available.
  • What is the one sentence pastors most dread hearing? Thom Rainer offers his opinion, explains it, and offers a solution. I think he's made an excellent pick. Another would be when someone faults you for not accomplishing, in your sermon, what you never set out to accomplish — but I can't reduce that to words. Like you've pulled out all the stops and poured your heart out to glorify God's eternal gracious love, and someone says he didn't see how that helps him be a better WalMart greeter, or something. What's your nominee?
  • Do you know anyone who's just too darned happy? Try sharing some Werner Herzog Inspirationals.
  • You may be aware that there was a panel discussion ostensibly on racial relations chaired by a very scary-looking Ed Stetzer. Here it is (a sort of registration is required). It evidently was called by Bryan Loritts; if you don't know who Bryan is, you need to know this, and this as well. Anyway, it may quite astonish you — you particularly — to hear Loritts say, in the context of racial reconciliation, how he "wondered aloud, 'Where are the conservative, evangelical voices?'"
  • If you were watching, you may have said back to the screen, "Well, I know where two of them are, at least: on Pyromaniacs! One recent post at least was a sweeping Gospel-centered address the whole situation. In fact, didn't Thabiti Anyabwile say he was in agreement with that post?" Indeed he did:
  • So (I continue) you may have thought, "Pyromaniacs is high-traffic, hardly invisible. How can Loritts say 'silent'?"
  • One could hazard a guess:
  • Re. Bell: as usual, you-know-where was well ahead of the curve, and more than once. Sadly, this gracious entreaty and invitation from Frank Turk was ignored.
  • Because, you know, the important thing today isn't that these timely warnings, if spread and heeded at the time, might have prevented much misery and harm. The really important thing is not to note that fact, so that nothing will improve going forward.
  • Because nowadays people seem to celebrate folks who come on a burnt building and intone sage, measured, nuanced, judicious remarks about the ruinsmore than they do people who say of the still-standing building, "Say... I smell smoke."
  • Because you know, these days, only shielding the elitist celebrity culture from even the most obvious criticisms and calls for accountability and reform is deemed conduct becoming us Christian serfs.

  • If you tweeted a snatch from a cult's hymnody as if expressing your own words, wouldn't you want to know? Yeah, me too.
  • On to another cult: on the 12th we reminded you that the Piano Guys were Mormons. A few days later Challies offered some very good expansions and warnings about Mormons and their prosyletizing methods. (I can't call it "evangelism"; there's no evangel there.)
  • So, amid the bad news, wouldn't some good news be nice? Here you go: reader "Rowdie Jones" pointed me to a series of posts (beginning here) in which former Assemblies of God charismatic Dan Michael Cogan explains his journey from the mess that is charismaticism to affirming the sufficiency of Scripture.
  • Courtney Reissig has a good word for wives, but it works just as well for husbands. Be grateful for the 80%, trust God with the 20%.
  • Dear bro David Murray (who himself has a wonderful Scottish accent) shows us what "a depressed Scottish S'more" looks like:

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17 December 2014

An Arclight of Hope

by The Late Frank Turk

So here's the point: Christmas is not a celebration of everyday life.  The purpose of Christmas is not to celebrate your middle-class life and ethics, or even to enjoy simple human good will, or to inspire it.  It's not even to give thanks for a decent year past -- however good and godly it might seem to try that.  The point of Christmas, if I may say it this way, is that God is fully aware that the world and the lives of those living here are all headed for a sad and sober end if nothing changes.

Because let's face it: things don't really change.  You might make a case for all manner of improvements in law or economics or standards of living, but our core complaint this week is that innocent people die all the time for no reason.  That never changes -- it's the status quo of the world.

That is: until Christmas.

Look: a few years ago I made a point of telling everyone that God's view of Christmas is a strange and amazing balance between his threat to bring justice to disobedient people and his promise to save them from their utter disregard for him.  Another time I made it a point to tell you that the miracle at Christmas is not that a legion of fantastic beings sang out to God's praise in a field -- it was that a baby was born and laid in a manger, fulfilling the promises of God with God Himself.  That was a pretty good one.

This year, let me say this: in this world where your home may seem empty because of a gigantic loss, and where the death of innocents seems to be an insurmountable sign of how the times have turned, God has already taken it upon himself to change the status quo.  The point here -- the actual reason that there is a Christmas, actually a moment when the world affected by the church of God stops and stares, expecting to see something completely amazing -- is that Jesus, who is God, didn't try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything, and was born in a manger to became a slave, when he became like one of us. Jesus was humble the way only God can be humble, surrendering the Glory which Isaiah saw in the throne room of God to become a miracle wrapped in rags. He obeyed God -- and his obedience didn't stop at being born in a barn.  His obedience took him lower still, to a death on a cross when he deserved worship and honor and power, so that the death of innocents would, in an eternal and permanent way, be defeated forever.

Jesus is not just some ephemeral housekeeper who can tidy us up right now -- or at least until we toss ourselves back into the filth. He's not someone who merely helps us avoid the worst right now, as if God has nothing better to do than to stop us from doing exactly what we want to do.  His story is not just a story about truth: he's the one guy who understands our weaknesses because he has suffered through them all, refusing to sin, and then he died for them all so that they can all not only be defeated, but forgiven.

And here we are -- worried that the something was ruined because the sins of our society are more obvious this week than they are most other weeks. I think something was ruined when the angels sang, "Glory to God in the Highest! And on Earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests," -- and what was ruined was the status quo.  Since then it has been our problem to catch up with that -- to live as if that really happened, so we can make much of this Jesus, and enjoy him forever.

This is the true meaning of Christmas, dear reader, and tossing out another example of human moral destitution which tears down our illusions about how safe and civilized we are doesn't harm even one thin angel hair of tinsel in that kind of Christmas: it causes the brilliance of Christmas to shine like an arclight of hope which leads us to our one and only savior.

This Christmas, I beg you: look for him, find him, and throw yourself on him, because in that stable, and at his cross, and ultimately at his empty tomb and his seat at the right hand of God, is your only hope in this world where death is the common end.  Let nothing you dismay: for Jesus Christ our savior was born upon this day to save us all from death and sin's power when we had gone astray.  Those are the tidings of comfort and joy.

I wish you good tidings of great joy this Christmas, and true prosperity and eternal life in the New Year.

16 December 2014

Short Christmas sermon: How not to find Jesus

by Dan Phillips

For our annual Christmas program, I was to bring a brief message. The program lasted well over an hour before my time came, and it was wonderful — piano, banjo, saxophone, flute, guitars; songs, recitals; little tiny kids and adults. Really great.

I'd puzzled and pondered on what to bring. Such events bring believers and unbelievers. We have many such events at which I'm asked to speak; and I know unbelieving friends and relatives are there. So I invariably preach the Gospel as pointedly, plainly and powerfully as I know how. And, to date, there has not been one conversion or even further contact from these events. This is a matter of intense, ongoing prayer for me, and I do all I can to urge my dear ones here at our church to do the same.

That said, I had no interest in offering a soothing, tranquilizing, boilerplate intonation of familiar imagery. So I took a different approach on a familiar passage. I focused on Matthew 2, but announced my topic is "How NOT to Find Jesus."

I'll do for you what I never do. These are my preaching notes:

1.      Every Sunday I stand in the pulpit and tell people how to find Jesus, how to know God, how to walk with Him
a.       Those who come, want to know these things
b.      Those who do not want to know these things do not come
2.      So I thought for a change, I’d preach a short sermon on how not to find Jesus
a.       King Herod will be our example
b.      I’ll draw out three main points, briefly 

I.          When You Hear of Jesus, Don’t Look for Him Yourself
A.       Wise Men Told Herod
1.        He was troubled – making him both smarter and dumber than some
a.         He saw Jesus as a threat, and he was right
b.         But not the way he meant
c.         Still, he did not welcome God’s Messiah
2.        He did not join the Magi himself, but turned to the Experts – a dodge
B.        Bible Experts Told Herod
1.        They found in Scripture where Jesus would have been born
2.        This would have been just six miles
a.         Yet Herod did not go
b.         And the religious experts did not go!
TRANSITION:  this method will work every time: don’t look, and you won’t find

II.       When Your Non-Searching Results in Non-Finding…
A.       First: Blame Others
1.        Herod was angry at the wise men…
2.        angry, at them, for not being caught by his lie, and helping him destroy the Christ Child!
B.        Second: Believe Absurdity Instead
1.        So Herod believes this is God’s Messiah, and a threat to him…
2.        …but he thinks he can kill him?
C.       Third: Lash Out
1.        What did the babies do? Nothing
2.        Yet little god Herod is desperate in preserving his little god universe…
3.        …and a few innocent babies aren’t going to stop him
TRANSITION:  Keeping the issue everything-but-me also always works; but…

III.    Most Importantly: Never Intend to Find Him in the First Place
A.       Herod Never Meant to Find Christ for Himself
1.        By “find” I mean know, worship, love and embrace Him
2.        Herod just wanted Christ gone so he could carry on as before
B.        Remember: Christ Was There To Be Found
1.        As for Herod and the Experts…
2.        …so for you and me
C.       What If Herod Had Repented?
Psalm 2:10–12 — Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. 
1.        As for the kings of the earth…
2.        …so for Herod…
3.        …and so for you and me

I expanded a good deal, gave some additional historical anecdotes about Herod... buy hey, did you expect everything?

Now I've given you a gift for Christmas, or so was my intent. Would you give me one? Pray for the church I serve and for me, for these things:
  • That unbelievers present for this message find themselves unable to put it out of their mind, their thoughts turned to Christ afresh by the Holy Spirit
  • For the power of the preached Word in our church
  • For God to use His Gospel as His power for salvation, converting and redeeming the lost in our ministry
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14 December 2014

Jesus in the midst

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Gospel of the Kingdom, page 154, Pilgrim Publications.
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

There is no excuse for giving up prayer-meetings while there are two praying people in the place; for two can prevail with God. 

The presence of Jesus is the fixed centre of the assembly, the warrant for its coming together, and the power with which it acts. The church, however small, is gathered in his name. Jesus is there first: I am in the midst of them. 

We are gathered together by the holy impulses of Christian brotherhood, and our meeting is in the name of Jesus, and therefore there he is; near, not only to the leader, or to the minister, but in the midst, and therefore near to each worshipper.

We meet to do him honour, to hear his Word, to stir each other up to obey his will; and he is there to aid us. However small the number, we make a quorum; and what is done according to the laws of Christ is done with his authority.

Hence it is that there is great power in united prayer from such persons: it is Jesus pleading in his saints. This should prevent Christian men from giving or taking offence; for if Jesus be in our midst, our peace must not be broken by strife.

12 December 2014

Some here, some there — December 12, 2014

by Dan Phillips

If you're one of those misguided souls who only drops by on Fridays, be sure to see the extra-edition SHST posted last Tuesday. I think many missed it.

So, let's see... what day is it today? Oh yeah.

On with it:
whether she's struggled similarly to put her finger on just what she believes about rape, murder, Arianism, Roman Catholicism, lying, theft and other sins. Like when she mentions a "celibate homosexual Christian" friend — does she have child-molestor-Christian friends, atheist-Christian friends, murdering-Christian friends, Sabellian-Christian friends?

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11 December 2014

"From You Shall Come Forth..."

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in December 2010. Phil offered his thoughts on Micah 5:2, noting that it is both a messianic prophecy and a Christmas text.

As usual, the comments are closed.
One of the most famous and important Old Testament messianic prophecies is also a Christmas text. It foretold that Christ would be born in Bethlehem: "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days" (Micah 5:2).

That promise loomed large in the minds of expectant first-century Jewish leaders—so much so that many of them were prepared to reject Him because they did not know His birthplace and assumed, naturally, that he had been born in the region of his parents' home: "Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee" (John 7:52).

But I think the most amazing thing about Micah's prophecy is the way the deity of Christ is expressed in the verse's final phrase. Israel's Messiah would be One "whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days."

The clear implication of that expression is that the birth of Christ in Bethlehem was not the beginning of Christ as God's Son and our Sovereign. He is eternal. He "came forth" from Bethlehem, but He did not come from there in the first place. His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting"—to use the familiar phrasing from the King James Version.

Notice also that the words of this prophecy are spoken directly by God the Father. Some clear threads of Trinitarian doctrine are woven into the fabric of the text. God the Father is speaking, and in speaking about the One who would come forth out of Bethlehem, He says this: "from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel."

Don't miss the importance of those two words "for Me." God the father is sending this eternal Person to be born and to rule and to redeem His people, and to make righteousness reign over all the earth.

The language is of course reminiscent of John 3:16John 10:36Galatians 4:4, 1 John 4:9-10, and 1 John 4:14.

That is the gospel, and it's embedded in our text by implication. Christ—God the Son—came to this earth at the behest of God the Father, on a mission of mercy and redemption. He calls us to repent of our sins and believe in Him—and He does all the work of redemption Himself. It's not up to us to atone for our own sin—we simply lay hold of His grace by faith.

10 December 2014

Working Clothes

by the Late Frank Turk

Some of you will recognize that last weeks' post was a re-write of a post which was about the same from 2009.  You might recognize this one that way as well, but it's worth your time to revisit this with me.  I’m thinking about work today because I have plenty of it to do. In one sense, I am feeling blessed by my own abundance of tasks and the fact that they aren’t going to change the locks on my door while I’m out for Christmas holidays because I know for certain some of my own friends are not so lucky. Some of you are getting notice that you have Fridays off indefinitely, but they’re going to cut your pay accordingly. Some of you wish you were only getting Fridays off, because let’s face it: CareerBuilder.com is not awash in great-paying, long-term career moves right now.

So today as I put on my working clothes – sport jacket, decent shirt, pressed jeans since it’s the week before vacation, shoes, socks, appropriate undergarments – I was thinking about the kind of work there is to do right now. And layered on top of that is the News. You know: it’s Christmas, and you’d think human nature could take two weeks off to give us a break, but it never does, and it comes to us as The News. And I don’t know about you, but when I see The News, I think of my own kids, and because I know them and love them I pray to God that there is not an end like that the one in The News in store for them.

Because let’s face it: there could be. The News keeps coming out every day, every single day, because these things keep happening to other people's children and spouses and friends. These things man-handle the blogosphere. When the world puts on its working clothes, that is the kind of thing that comes of it. That is the kind of world we live in. Usually I have some kind of pithy zinger to throw in to really make you not forget what I’m talking about here, but I got nothin’: you know how The News makes you feel every day, and if you don't you’re dead inside.

And for that reason, we get stories/video like this one:

 I will grant you that there are a variety of items in that video which my wife isn’t going to list in my honey-do list, and things I wouldn’t spend the time listing because they are so implausible, but overall that’s what people think of church – as a place where we live out what we believe. While the world has its own work to do, and its own working clothes, decent people think they have a different job, and a different set of working clothes to get into and get after.

But here’s the thing: it seems rather obvious to me that the way this video frames it up, there’s no solution in that activity to the problems we find in The News. If what’s in that video is what the church (of all places, of all groups of people) is all about, it’s a no-contest, one-round knock-out punch, and the world is going to win every time.

So I’m thinking about a different set of working clothes this morning – especially as I try to get myself ready for Christmas amid the busy-ness of life which I am right now blessed with. I’m think of the one who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The working clothes of that guy is where the hope of the world comes from – not from our paltry efforts (however genuinely-good and genuinely-loving they are) to make the world a better place. We don’t believe in our good works: we believe in a Lord and Christ, a Sovereign and a Savior who overcomes a world filled with The News -- the Bad News -- and the sinful hearts which cause it.

And that’s what we celebrate at Christmas: the working clothes that look like a baby in a feeding trough; the long-suffering and loving-kindness of a God who is with us.

We celebrate that there is not just News, but there is Good News, Good tidings of Great Joy for all people.