Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Founders Ministries Blog: Update from Donna (Tom's wife)

Update on Tom Ascol

Dr. Ascol is improving according to a new blog post from his wife. He still has many struggles but the Ascol's recognize God's providence and grace even in these difficult times. I would ask for continued prayers from Dr. Ascol and for his family. God is faithful and He is good, in the best of times and especially in the difficult times.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Contend Earnestly: Refuting Those Who Contradict

Contend Earnestly: Refuting Those Who Contradict

Strong words of exhortation, but I have no qualms about what Seth has said. Statements like this are stern rebukes, but we need more of that in the church:

What we need is more prophet types and less pansies. We need more people that will call out false doctrines and stand for the cause of Christ and his kingdom.

Quit being weenies and proclaim Christ and Him crucified, and tell those who preach something else that they are wrong.
A timely and valuable post

Came across a link on Pastor Michael Jones' blog to a very valuable post for those who subscribe to Reformed theology, on the dangers of letting that Reformed label go wrong. The post is called "Truly reformed" and comes from Ray Ortlund.

I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian – or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism.

Great sentiments. Being Reformed is not about shutting ourselves off from others. It is not throwing rotting fruit at Arminians, no matter how much they deserve it. It is about humbly submitting to the will of a sovereign God out of gratitude. The whole post is a wonderful read and has some stinging comments comparing some in the Reformed camp with the Judaizers of the Book of Galatians. If someone can make a comparison like that stick, and Ray does, you need to pay attention!

His closing paragraph has a real gem: "If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you."

If you are truly Reformed, you should be truly humbled by that knowledge. I know I have often said the word "Arminian" with a palpable sneer as if they are sub-human. But what do I have to brag about? That in spite of my gross and utter sin, God for no reason other than His good pleasure chose me before I was even born and despite the myriad of failings in my life His Son took upon Himself the penalty for my sins? Where is bragging in that? I am about as prideful a person as you are going to meet, but I understand all too well (especially over the last year) just how gracious His grace is to save a sinner like me.

Another great quote of this topic comes from Ligon Duncan, courtesy of the Pyromaniacs...

...and those who truly understand God's sovereign grace to them are people who are gracious to other people, and they are merciful to other people, because they know the mercy that has been shown to them undeservedly.

Being Reformed ought to make us all the more humble, not less. It is the Arminian, the semi-Pelagian who thinks that they had something to do with their salvation. We who are Reformed, as has been said before, ought be the most humble people on earth.

The idea of being "TR" or "Truly Reformed" is one that sticks in my craw. There are way too many people out there who have taken the Reformed label and turned it into a club. This person isn't reformed, that person isn't reformed, that book is not reformed enough, this conference doesn't have enough of the truly reformed speakers. Unless you walk in lockstep with my theology, holding to the Five Points, the Solas of the Reformed, sovereignty of God, etc are inadequate. Don't hold to every letter of the Westminster Confession? Not Reformed. Don't use real wine in the Lord's Supper? Not Reformed. Don't baptize infants? Well then you certainly can't be Reformed! Yes, I am talking about you R. Scott Clark.

There are plenty of genuine heretics out there. I am having a couple of mormon missionaries over tonight to witness to. My brother James Lee had a trio of Muslims in for tea and to share the Gospel. Within the orthodox church we can have our differences and we should discuss and debate issues that are important like baptism, the Lord's Supper, eschatology. We should even discuss them fervently! But being Reformed should not be a framework for excluding others or parading our superiority in front of them.

It is not too hard to go from:

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' (Luke 18:11-12)

To this:

The Truly Reformed guy, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, Arminians, dispensationalists, Pelagians, or even like this atheist. I read R.C. Sproul's books; I go to Together for the Gospel, I can draw a TULIP acrostic with the best of them.'

Let's remember that being Reformed is all about how right Christ is, not on how right we are.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Speaking of the Supper

Brian at Voice of the Sheep has a good summary of how paedobaptists are inconsistent in applying the Lord's Supper compared to baptism. He has been fighting a valiant struggle against the error of paedobaptism, and the comments have sparked some great discussions. Well worth the time to read.

The Scriptural Basis for the Lord's Supper

There are several passages that deal directly with the Lord's Supper, along with a number that deal more generally with the idea of the Supper rather than the Supper itself...

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."(Matthew 26:26-29)

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."(Mark 14:22-25)

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:17-20)

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:16-21)

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another-- if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home--so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)

These are the explicit passages that deal directly with the Supper. Like baptism, we should look first to the specific passages before we interpret based on the ancillary passages. What do these passages instituting the Supper as a whole tell us?

- First, in the Gospel we see a rejection that this is literally His body and blood since His body and blood are present at the table in their actual sense, not in the bread and wine. He isn't giving His disciples His literal body at the Last Supper, nor is it literally present in future celebrations of it.

- Next a couple of key things in the 1 Corinthians passages. It is an act of remembrance and declaration. By the supper, we are remembering Him and showing our union with one another in the New Covenant community (1 Cor 10:17). We are one body partaking in one bread, in one cup: The body and blood of Christ. Similar to baptism, it is an outward sign of an inward union with Christ. Likewise we are making a declaration. The Supper must not be a passive act. Should our attitude be: "Pass me the cracker and grape juice and I will take it". Certainly not! It is a profession, a declaration. It requires an act of faithful declaration on the part of the partaker, after self-examination. I went quite a few months recently before partaking again of the Supper, not wanting to partake in an unworthy manner and bring judgment upon myself.

- The Supper is not the same as other functions in the church. many churches treat it with less reverence and importance than they do VBS or fellowship meals. It is a specially mandated ordinance along with baptism. From Benjamin Keach's Catechism:

Q. 99. Wherein do Baptism and the Lord's Supper differ from the other ordinances of God?
A. Baptism and the Lord's Supper differ from the other ordinances of God in that they were specially instituted by Christ to represent and apply to believers the benefits of the new covenant by visible and outward signs.

In the Reformation Study Bible, the note reads: "The Lord's Supper has past reference to Christ's death. It has a present reference to our corporate participation in Him through faith. It has a future reference in that it is a pledge of His return" (The Reformation Study Bible, p. 1659) That really is helpful, that the Supper is past, present and future in nature. He is a crucified and risen Lord, we are declaring that we are His church and we anticipating His future fulfillment of all that He has promised and purchased by His body and blood. We are to partake of the Supper to show that we are a people united to Christ, redeemed by His blood. That is enough and I don't think that we are faithful by trying to add meaning to the Supper than is not warranted by the text. Christ is present at the Supper, but He is present in Spirit whenever two or three are gathered in His name (Matt 18: 20). We are often too cavalier in our observance of the Supper, in it's infrequency and it's lack of solemnity. But as with everything we can swing too far the other way, and it seems many brothers in Christ are drifting dangerously close to Rome with their mysticism about the Supper.

The Lord's Supper is ultimately an act of worship. worship of Him. The church is all about faith in the Risen Lord, and that is what we should focus on when we pray, when we sing, when we baptize, when we take the Lord's Supper and especially when we preach.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

News I never thought I would see

It must have been painful for the mainstream media to write this.

For years the defeat monkeys have been banging the drum, Iraq is a lost cause. We are wasting lives, we can never win. The violence is up, hope is down, run now while we can.

Now, all very quietly, we start hearing that maybe things are better, way better, in Iraq than we have been led to believe. From the Associated Press...

Analysis: US now winning Iraq war that seemed lost

BAGHDAD - The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost. Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

That does not mean the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had. The new phase focuses on training the Iraqi army and police, restraining the flow of illicit weaponry from Iran, supporting closer links between Baghdad and local governments, pushing the integration of former insurgents into legitimate government jobs and assisting in rebuilding the economy.

Scattered battles go on, especially against al-Qaida holdouts north of Baghdad. But organized resistance, with the steady drumbeat of bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and ambushes that once rocked the capital daily, has all but ceased.

This amounts to more than a lull in the violence. It reflects a fundamental shift in the outlook for the Sunni minority, which held power under Saddam Hussein. They launched the insurgency five years ago. They now are either sidelined or have switched sides to cooperate with the Americans in return for money and political support.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told The Associated Press this past week there are early indications that senior leaders of al-Qaida may be considering shifting their main focus from Iraq to the war in Afghanistan.
Systematic sectarian killings have all but ended in the capital, in large part because of tight security and a strategy of walling off neighborhoods purged of minorities in 2006.

That has helped establish a sense of normalcy in the streets of the capital. People are expressing a new confidence in their own security forces, which in turn are exhibiting a newfound assertiveness with the insurgency largely in retreat.

Statistics show violence at a four-year low. The monthly American death toll appears to be at its lowest of the war — four killed in action so far this month as of Friday, compared with 66 in July a year ago. From a daily average of 160 insurgent attacks in July 2007, the average has plummeted to about two dozen a day this month. On Wednesday the nationwide total was 13.

Beyond that, there is something in the air in Iraq this summer.

In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago, when the first, barely visible signs of a turnaround emerged.

Now a moment has arrived for the Iraqis to try to take those positive threads and weave them into a lasting stability.

What's this? The surge that McCain supported and Bush proposed worked? How could that be, that the strategy ordered by a moron and a war-monger could have actually worked? Maybe it is optimism that Barack Obama, he of hope and change, might be President. Yeah, that's it. It must be a result of Barack's wave of hope, in fact I wouldn't be surprised if his visit alone to the region didn't lead to an amazing reduction in violence and a dramatic uptick in hope.

The American Left seeks to turn every military conflict into the next Vietnam, to recapture that defeat and the self-importance of the "peace" movement. The self-loathing of the American Left prevents them from supporting our troops, beyond calling to bring them home in defeat. Some people need to be dealt with, sometimes the state must wield the sword. For far too many Americans, America is the problem not part of the solution. We can do nothing right, and indeed our only purpose should be to abase ourselves and apologize for our very existence.

Not this cowboy. I still love our land, I still have faith in our nation. Someday history will, if given a fair chance, look back at a free Iraq which I hope will be the first of many democracies in the Middle East, and like the democracies in Europe and in Asia they will owe their freedom to American blood and we will have asked for nothing in return.

More spin from Obamanation...

Here is another head scratcher...

JERUSALEM - An Israeli newspaper's decision to publish a handwritten prayer left by Barack Obama in the cracks of Jerusalem's Western Wall drew criticism Friday as an invasion of his privacy and his relationship with God.

In the note, placed at Judaism's holiest site Thursday, Obama asks God to guide him and guard his family.

"Lord — Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will," reads the note published in Maariv.

Maariv ran a photograph of the note on its front page Friday. It said the note was removed from the wall by a Jewish seminary student immediately after Obama left.

"It's inappropriate that the prayers of a person at the Western Wall should become a subject of public knowledge at all," said Jonathan Rosenblum, a Jerusalem-based analyst of the religious community and director of the Orthodox Am Ehad think tank.

"There is a rabbinic prohibition against reading other people's private communications, and certainly anyone who goes to the wall expects that those communication will be protected," Rosenblum said.

So a seminary student allegedly pulled out Obama's prayer in violation of rabbinic law and publishes a well written prayer, which of course gets published and allows Obama to pass himself of as a devout believer and appeal to the evangelical voters, while at the same time being cast as a victim. People and especially the media just eat this stuff up.

Any one else suspicious of this?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Faith come by hearing and hearing by the eating of bread and wine?

I mentioned in a previous post that something said on the White Horse Inn last Sunday was bugging me relating to the Lord's Supper. I went back and listened several times, and it still bothers me.

Here are the snippets:

At 12 minutes...

Horton: He is coming down to you in the form of Words

Riddlebarger: Not only in Words but in bread and wine

Rosenblatt: Thank you!
At 31 minutes…

Horton: Through the preaching of the Gospel, so that you don’t have to go get it, you just believe it and you are justified.

Rosenblat: Absolutely, key point. And uh also…

Riddlebarger: Add sacraments!

Rosenblat: Yeah, sacraments

Is the Lord coming to the unregenerate in bread and wine? Or is He presented in the preaching of His Word?

It strikes me that there is, dare I say it, an overemphasis on the elements of the Lord's Supper. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. We are justified by faith alone. I know these guys would all affirm that, and would (I hope) reject any salvific nature in the Lord's Supper. But the language used here seems careless, as if we are justified by faith and we come to faith by the preaching of the Word and the sacraments. An unbeliever who partakes of the Lord's Supper doesn't find faith in that, they bring down condemnation upon themselves. Just as being baptized without first having a credible profession of faith does not justify one, or bring one to faith.

Maybe I am missing something, because I just don't see what they are talking about. I get that it was a brief snippet of conversation but it happened twice and each time it sounded wrong. I may be way of base here, maybe someone can listen to what they said and help me out.

...where faith and culture collide

Steve Camp's Ten Commandments of Evangelical Co-Belligerence

A funny list but sobering as well, living in a world where the Gospel is used as a marketing opportunity by some and as a political action committee by others. Number 7 is especially pertinent, as it is always easier to rail against "those sinners out there" rather than to call to repent "these sinners in here".

1. Thou shalt keep all family values and moral/social causes continually before you

2. Thou shalt not let the Word of God, doctrine, theology, truth, or the gospel of Jesus Christ keep you from “standing together” with anyone to reach our goal of impacting our culture by returning it back to moral traditional values through legislation, judicial process, and co-belligerent partnerships

3. Thou shalt remember the Lord's Day and keep it political; rename it by changing it from the Lord's Day to "Justice Sunday." Be sure to substitute the worship of God; the preaching of His Word; prayer; the heralding of the gospel, turning the Sunday evening worship service into a political rally; making certain you feature non-Christians from different faith-based groups to share the pulpit and platform to insure a wide tolerant political religious ideological appeal

4. Thou shalt not take the name of family value/moral causes in vain; but use every social cultural political co-belligerent means necessary to strong arm politicians to win the day

5. Thou shalt honor thy senator and thy congressman as long as they stand for what we tell them to stand for (this is the first commandment with a vote)

6. Thou shalt boycott, protest and petition against all who act immorally and who try to filibuster judicial Presidential appointees

7. Thou shalt fault, criticize and belittle unsaved people for living like unsaved people given every opportunity possible. It’s OK for them to remain unsaved people, but they just can’t live like they're "too unsaved." (They can be unsaved, but just can’t be outwardly gay; they can be unsaved, but just can’t be vocally pro-choice; they can be unsaved, but just can’t believe in euthanasia; they can even remain unsaved, but must be for a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage)

8. Thou shalt faithfully turn the body of Christ into The Pope’s Political Action Committee (TPPAC): The Lord's Lobbyists; Value Voters, Patriot Pastors; the Largest Special Interest Group in America; and most importantly, Christocrats.

9. Thou shalt not do anything to shrink the mailing list of any Para-church ministry for three things are always necessary for success: donations, donations, donations.

10. Thou shalt always remember to keep your primary focus on the family and not on the faith

The Gospel is not a political platform!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A manly man's church!

Many have lamented the lack of men in the church. Look around in most evangelical churches and you see tons of women, and not many men. The men that are there often look like they were dragged against their will. So what is the church to do? According to USA Today, one church in (of course) Grapevine, Texas 121 Community Church has started to make the church more "manly"

One church, 121 Community Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside Dallas, was even designed with dudes in mind, from the worship center's stone floor, hunter-green and amber decor and rustic-beam ceilings to woodsy scenes on the church website.

No pastels. No flowers. No sweet music. No sit-with-your-hands-folded mood. Women are welcome, but the tone is intentionally "guy church" for a reason, says Ross Sawyers, founder and pastor of 121.

"I have read that if a child comes to Christ, 12% of the time the whole family will follow," Sawyers says.

"If the mom comes, there's a 15% chance the family will. But if the man comes to church, 90% of the time the family will come along behind.

"That's the reality, and that's why we do this."

I get what they are trying to do, I really do. That church building sounds cool, and I dislike flowery stuff in church. But that caters to the natural man in me that seeks what the natural man finds appealing, and a life of submission and sacrifice ain't it. There needs to be more men in the church, more husbands and fathers leading their family in worship and serving in the church. But this is not calling men to a life of service for their Savior, it is yet another way of peddling the Gospel and confusing evangelism with marketing. It is easy to cater to sinners, it is harder to call in the sheep. Only the Word of God is up to that task.

Why do so few churches have a Biblical model of elder rule? Because they have so few men that are eligible. Either they have no elders, which is wrong, or they appoint men who are unqualified just so they can say they have elders, which is also wrong. We need more men! But this is the wrong way to bring in men, because it is not reflective of the Biblical pattern of manliness. For a great blog post on this very topic, check out Grow Up. Be a Man. at Team Pyro.

There are lots of people who see what is wrong in the church, and lots of extreme ways to try to fix it by our own wisdom that often go bad. The house church movement is full of devoted Christians, but I think it is wrong to abandon the "steeple house" as unredeemable. Great men of God ministered to sinners in "steeple houses", men like Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, John Calvin, Martin Luther. They ministered where God's people were and ministered in a way that showed the unbeliever Christ and Him crucified by the preaching of the Word. Others try to make the church more appealing, whether in this sort of misguided effort of making "masculine" churches or in passing out lattes. When the focus is off Christ and becomes an effort to market to sinners, the Gospel suffers. So what is the church to do to call men to Christ? How about calling them the way men were called by Him. On his radio show today (where I first heard about this article in USA Today), Paul Edwards listed the three ways that Christ called men to Himself:

1) By proclaiming bold truths

2) By preaching long, doctrinally deep sermons

3) By risking His life and calling others to do the same

If the church will do as the Savior did, we will see men who love to come to church because they love Christ, not because the find church manly. Then and only then will we have a healthy, Biblical balance in the church where the men serve and lead, and where women don't have to because the men are nowhere to be found.

I love sports. I love to hunt. I am not much of an angler but I know how to fish. I drive a pick-up truck. But those are not what make me a man. Often what makes a man a true Christian man are the things I have done most poorly. But what I need to strive for is not to belch more and eat more red meat, but to honor God by loving my wife and my children as Christ loves the church.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)
Who will decide which candidate will be our next President?

The treatment of Obama is unprecedented. Even the fawning over Bill Clinton doesn’t compare to this. Every thing he does, every step of his day is recorded and gloried in by the media. Saturday Night Live, Jay Leno, etc. have all poked fun at the treatment of Obama by the media, and yet they still do it. The coverage of Obama is unfailingly positive, everything he does is spun in the best light. The “mainstream” media is clearly heavily invested in seeing Obama win, based on a combination between their desire to see the first black President, an open disdain bordering on hatred for President Bush and general warm fuzzies on their part towards Obama. Hopefully the American people will as a whole catch on to this uneven handling of the campaign and refuse to let the media power brokers in New York, Chicago and L.A. determine who will be President. The recent refusal by the New York Times to run a McCain op-ed piece while giving plenty of ink to Obama’s op-ed piece is a prime example, as is the wall to wall coverage of his “tour” of the Middle East.

Despite the one sided positive coverage of Obama, he still has only a slight lead over McCain. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning a poll that shows voters far more comfortable with McCain’s experience and background. That is before ads have really started to fly exposing the gross inexperience of Senator Obama. Average Americans get that he is not qualified or sufficiently experienced for the job, but he still holds a lead because of the non-stop media coverage, all of it favorable, of Senator Obama. From the Wall Street Journal...

WASHINGTON -- Midway through the election year, the presidential campaign looks less like a race between two candidates than a referendum on one of them -- Sen. Barack Obama.

With the nominations of both parties effectively settled for more than a month, the key question in the contest isn't over any single issue being debated between the Democrats' Sen. Obama or the Republicans' Sen. John McCain. The focus has turned to the Democratic candidate himself: Can Americans get comfortable with the background and experience level of Sen. Obama?

This dynamic is underscored in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The survey's most striking finding: Fully half of all voters say they are focused on what kind of president Sen. Obama would be as they decide how they will vote, while only a quarter say they are focused on what kind of president Sen. McCain would be.

The challenge that presents for Sen. Obama is illustrated by a second question. When voters were asked whether they could identify with the background and values of the two candidates, 58% said they could identify with Sen. McCain on that account, while 47% said the same of Sen. Obama. More than four in 10 said the Democratic contender doesn't have values and a background they can identify with.

Those findings suggest voters' views of Sen. Obama are more fluid than his relatively steady lead indicates. In the latest poll, 47% say they prefer Sen. Obama to win, while 41% say Sen. McCain, the same lead Sen. Obama enjoyed a month ago. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The campaign's unusual dynamic appears to be the result of an anxious nation now sizing up an unconventional candidate who presents himself as the agent for change, which voters say they want. The contest thus parallels in some ways the 1980 race, when voters seemed ready for a change away from Jimmy Carter and the Democrats, but weren't persuaded until late in the race that they could be comfortable with a former actor and unabashed conservative, Ronald Reagan, as commander in chief.

"Obama is going to be the point person in this election," says pollster Peter Hart, a Democrat who conducts the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll along with Republican Neil Newhouse. "Voters want to answer a simple question: Is Barack Obama safe?"

If the answer is yes, then Sen. Obama stands to benefit further from a favorable environment for Democrats. If no, Sen. McCain is seen by a wide swath of Americans as a safe, well-qualified potential commander in chief. The poll was taken Friday through Monday, before much of the extensive press coverage of Sen. Obama's trip this week to the Middle East and Europe, meant to build his credibility.

So we have an election where on the one hand we have a young, hip, inexperienced made-for-TV candidate with supports who are incredibly passionate about him: “Sen. Obama is in the odd position of having unusually passionate backing from his supporters -- his voters are three times as likely to say they are excited about their choice as are Sen. McCain's…”, even though I would guarantee that the overwhelming majority of his supporters don’t know the first thing about his background or where he stands on issues beyond vague platitudes about “hope” and “change”. On the other hand we have an old, kind of curmudgeonly military vet with many more years of experience in Washington, a man with a firm grasp on issues even if you disagree with him.

The clear winning strategy for McCain seems pretty obvious, give a clear and simple set of issues, highlight what McCain would do and hammer it over and over…

• Energy independence. Use high energy prices and unease to promote an aggressive plan for new, safe drilling, exploration and nuclear power.
• Obama’s inexperience. This is dangerous because you don’t want to come across like Kerry, who seemed to view his military service even when in ‘Nam as a political tool. But you cannot ignore McCain’s experience as a military officer and a POW, as well as his decades of service and foreign policy expertise

This comment from a voter kind of sums it up:

“Patti Carr, 59 years old, of Collierville, Tenn., outside Memphis, says she voted for Democrats Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry. But she isn't yet sold on Barack Obama. His experience is giving her pause.

"I see Obama as a very nice person but I don't believe he has the experience at this time to be president," she says. "He's new, he's young and he still has a lot to learn, I believe." She leans for now toward Sen. McCain, but is open to persuasion.”

He is a nice guy (which he may or may not be, I wonder how much of that is a carefully constructed persona). His race to me is irrelevant other than as a landmark of how far race relations have come in spite of the efforts of race-baiters like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to keep the hate alive. He is a great prepared speaker. But he is inexperienced, far left politically and willing to change positions seemingly at will. If McCain makes a shrewd choice for his VP, this could be another four years of the GOP controlling the White House and may even mitigate losses in Congress. But if he makes a poor choice trying to be a maverick he will propel an unqualified empty suit into the most powerful office in the world. Evangelicals want to get behind a candidate but are sitting on the sidelines right now. It is time for McCain to get them in the game.

It's an election, not a coronation, no matter how much the media wished it were otherwise.

The creeds on the Lord's Supper

The Westminster Confession


Of the Lord's Supper.

I. Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein He was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of His body and blood, called the Lord's Supper, to be observed in His Church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of Himself in His death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto Him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with Him, and with each other, as members of His mystical body.
II. In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; nor any real sacrifice made at all, for remission of sins of the quick or dead; but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same: so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ's one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of His elect.

III. The Lord Jesus has, in this ordinance, appointed His ministers to declare His word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other alone; as likewise, the denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about, for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.

VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ's body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthrows the nature of the sacrament, and has been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yes, of gross idolatries.

VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

VIII. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament; yet, they receive not the thing signified thereby; but, by their unworthy coming thereunto, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore, all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Him, so are they unworthy of the Lord's table; and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 30: Of the Lord's Supper

1. The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and shewing forth the sacrifice of himself in his death, confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other.

2. In this ordinance Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sin of the quick or dead, but only a memorial of that one offering up of himself by himself upon the cross, once for all; and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same. So that the popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominable, injurious to Christ's own sacrifice the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.

3. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use, and to take and break the bread; to take the cup, and, they communicating also themselves, to give both to the communicants.

4. The denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this ordinance, and to the institution of Christ.

5. The outward elements in this ordinance, duly set apart to the use ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, although in terms used figuratively, they are sometimes called by the names of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ, albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.

6. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ's body and blood, commonly called transubstantiation, by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason, overthroweth the nature of the ordinance, and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.

7. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

8. All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord's table, and cannot, without great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto; yea, whosoever shall receive unworthily, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment to themselves.

Are there differences? I want to look at that next...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Leonardo DaVinci's The Last Supper

A means of grace?

The theology and practice of the Lord's Supper has kind of been weighing heavily on my mind for some weeks now. What does it represent, how real is the presence, how often ought we partake of the supper? What has really been bugging me is the last White Horse Inn, where the topic was not the Lord's Supper, but where twice it was brought up as being a "means of grace" (more on what the WHI boys said in a later post). That term really was bugging me. What do our more liturgical, high church type Reformed brothers mean by that term. What do Baptists mean by it? Most importantly, what does the Bible say about it? Not what do our confessions and creeds say the Bible says about it, what does the actual Word say? So that is kind of my task at hand, more for my own edification than any other reason. How should we administer this vital ordinance of the church?

More from Piper on baptism

The second sermon from Dr. Piper on baptism and church membership is available online here. It is a good summary of the biblical doctrine of believer's baptism, but he still ends with a question about admitting people into church membership who have not been Biblically baptized.

So now after two sermons, we have two things that are important. Baptism is important. And the nature of the local church as a sacred expression of the universal body of Christ is important.

Failing to be baptized is serious. Excluding genuine believers from the local church is serious.

There are godly, Bible-believing, Christ-exalting, God-centered followers of Jesus who fail to see the dreadfulness of not being baptized as a believer. And there are godly, Bible-believing, Christ-exalting, God-centered followers of Jesus who fail to see the dreadfulness of excluding such people from church membership.

The question we should ask is not only hard to answer, but it is hard to formulate. Perhaps the Lord in his mercy will show us how to do both in a way that will cut this knot for his glory. May the Lord grant a wisdom like Solomon’s or, even better, a wisdom like the One who is greater than Solomon.

To his credit, Piper does reject categorically infant bapstism. A good summary of his points were published on the Desiring God blog...

The drama of baptism gets its meaning from the gospel.

It pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It's not mainly about ritual or tradition but Jesus and his magnificent saving work of dying for sinners and rising again in triumph.

Baptism is:

a command of Jesus,
that expresses union with him,
by immersion in water,
in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit,
for believers only.

A sense of the continuity of the old and new covenants leads some people to baptize infants. But the argument for infant baptism doesn't work textually or covenantally.

Textually, the apostle Paul makes plain that baptism is for those who have been raised with Jesus through faith (Col. 2:12) and are sons of God through faith (Gal. 3:26–27). Baptism is not for those who don't have faith in Jesus—whether adult unbelievers or infants.

Covenantally, while the old-covenant sign of circumcision was administered to males after their physical birth into the national people of God, the new-covenant sign of baptism is to be administered to both males and females after their spiritual birth into the international people of God. New birth by the gospel now provides entrance into the people of God, not physical birth, and is marked by believer baptism, not circumcision.

I pray that the elders of Bethlehem Bapist continue to insist on obedience to the Gospel command and admit into the body only those who submit to Biblical baptism.
And she's (almost) off!

Tori has gotten to the "hangin' on and walking around stuff and letting go and standing by herself stage, so she looks just about ready to walk. If she weren't so chubby she may be walking already! No pictures but we are going to replace our camera soon...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

All the (liberal) news that fit to print

Here is a shocker. The New York Times printed an op-ed piece from Barack Obama detailing his "plans" for Afghanistan and Iraq. When Senator McCain submitted his only op-ed piece, it was rejected. The reason? It needed to mirror more closely Senator Obama's piece...

The New York Times on Friday blocked an opinion piece submitted by John McCain to the newspaper shortly after it printed a piece by his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, McCain campaign officials confirmed to FOX News on Monday.

Obama’s piece detailed his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan. While McCain’s proposed piece also discussed Iraq, The Times told McCain’s advisers that it would not accept the op-ed in its current form because it did not offer new information. Obama’s speech previewed a series of speeches leading up to a highly publicized trip to war zones in the Middle East.

“I’d be very eager to publish the senator on the op-ed page. However, I’m not going to be able to accept this piece as currently written. I’d be pleased, though, to look at another draft. Let me suggest an approach,” Times op-ed editor David Shipley wrote the campaign via an e-mail later distributed by McCain’s team.

“It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq. It would also have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory — with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the Senator’s Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan,” Shipley wrote.

Shipley, who was named deputy editor in January 2003, served in the Clinton administration as a senior presidential speechwriter and special assistant to the president from 1995 to 1997.

Huh, so John McCain's opinion on Iraq and Afghanistan (the opinion of a military veteran and war hero) is only valid if it "mirrors" his opponents op-ed piece. So says a former Clinton speechwriter. I am sure Mr. Shipley is an entirely unbiased source, a true journalist and not a leftist hack and apologist for Democrats who would do anything to see Obama win. What is really sad is that so many people won't see anything wrong with this, because they are drinking the "Hope and Change" Kool-Aid.

See, there isn't a liberal bias in the news media after all!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
(1 Corinthians 5:6 ESV)

Heresy rarely starts out openly. It almost always is a subtle thing, a whisper here, a sly question there. Just like the serpent in the Garden, lies sneak in where you are most vulnerable. "Did God really say that?" A perfect example of this is found in the story of a local Episcopalian church in Detroit that broke away from the Episcopal Church USA because the false teachings finally became intolerable.

For years, worshippers at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Livonia patiently put up with their diocese as it adopted a series of liberal changes that clashed with biblical tradition. But the breaking point came in 2003, when the Episcopal Church -- with the approval of the local diocese -- consecrated an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire.

And there is the problem. They patiently let things go from bad to worse, and only when the heresy was right in their face with the ordination of an open, unrepentant homosexual did they finally act. They should have stood up a long time ago, and if churches like St. Andrews had done so, maybe they could have turned the tide away from heresy and back to it's Biblical roots.

It is not a Christian virtue to be tolerant of heresy in our midst. As their denomination began to reject the Bible as God's complete and inerrant truth, they started to let standard slide including the ordination of women as pastors and the perverting of the Gospel from a Gospel of salvation to a political action arm for social justice. Step by step, little by little they lost their way until one day they looked around and realized that they no longer represented Christ, but just the opposite. This quote from the pastor really strikes home: "We didn't break away from the church so much as they broke away from what the Bible teaches," said the Rev. C. Allen Kannapell, 39, who heads the breakaway church in Livonia.

Too bad they came to that realization too late, but this should be a warning to others to be every diligent of their doctrine and their practice.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

FIDE-O: Pray for Tom Ascol

FIDE-O: Pray for Tom Ascol

Prayer is urgently needed for Dr. Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries. He was apparently struck by lightning the other night (see the full story here) and while his injuries don't appear life-threatening, they are having severe after effects on his sensory systems and his ability to rest. Dr. Ascol has been used mightily of God to call the Southern Baptist Convention to repentance as well as restoring the historical doctrines of grace to Baptist life. He has been a huge influence and encouragement to me, so please join me in praying for Tom.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Is John McCain Bob Dole 2.0?

The similarities are kind of eerie. The GOP candidate is a veteran, a war hero. He is a man of substance, whether you agree with him or not. A foreign policy expert. A long-time US Senator and a man who has tried before to be the nominee and finally gets his turn. A pretty poor prepared speaker, an older figure who fails to appeal to younger voters.

On the other side is the latest Bill Clinton, a hip candidate with minimal qualifications (a first term senator today, governor of Arkansas then) He appeals to crowds with energizing, but empty speeches. He is long on feigned empathy, short on specifics. Young people like him because he is not like those stodgy old candidates. He appears on all of the cool TV shows, and looks and sounds great in front of a teleprompter. (As a side note both have strong willed wives with a but of a temper, but that is a different topic)

Makes me nervous. McCain is hardly an ideal candidate, and was pretty far down my list of candidates, but he is a world better than Obama. But the GOP base is not energized, the liberals are energized and in times of economic woes the leftist message of blame someone else, soak them with taxes and give it to me resonates. This may be yet another example of the far better qualified candidate getting beat by a TV friendly candidate, and that would be a disaster for America.
Why real men vote for John McCain

Funny stuff from National Review...

Real Men Vote for McCain
Top 10 reasons why.

By Lou Aguilar

1. Barack Obama spent 20 years sitting in church while his preacher and others bad-mouthed the United States of America. Navy pilot John McCain spent five years being tortured in the Hanoi Hilton, and refused a chance to walk out ahead of fellow POWs with more seniority.

2. Obama wants to cut and run from Iraq regardless of conditions on the ground or future consequences. McCain took on the president and secretary of defense in demanding more troops for Iraq, a policy that is inarguably winning the war. He also has two sons who fought in Iraq.

3. McCain supports nuclear power. Obama backs wind energy.

4. Obama wants restrictive gun control because only economically depressed middle-Americans “cling to God and guns.” McCain unwaveringly supports the Second Amendment.

5. McCain has deviated from his party’s conservative base on several occasions (McCain-Feingold Bill, Gang of 14, McCain-Kennedy Bill, opposition to torture). Obama has voted the left-wing line every single time, and been designated the most liberal Senator in Congress.

6. Obama is willing to meet with hostile state leaders like Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez without preconditions. McCain will set conditions first, talk later — maybe.

7. Obama is married to a bitter, angry lawyer who became “proud” of her country for the first time this year. McCain’s wife is a beer heiress who founded an organization to provide MASH-style units to disaster-torn world regions. Did I mention that she’s a beer heiress?

8. Obama supports higher taxes for a government-run nanny state that will coddle all Americans like babies. McCain trusts people to spend their less-taxed money however they wish.

9. The name John McCain sounds like “John McClain,” the action hero played by Bruce Willis in the manly Die Hard series. “Barack Obama” sounds like the kind of elitist villain John McClain has to outwit and defeat.

10. McCain is endorsed by Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Obama gets support from Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, and every weenie in Hollywood. Plus, Susan Sarandon has vowed to leave the country if McCain gets elected. Case closed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Save Wilbur!

Oh George, not the livestock…

This made me throw up in my mouth a little bit...

Army to shoot live pigs for medical drill

HONOLULU-- The Army says it's critical to saving the lives of wounded soldiers. Animal-rights activists call the training cruel and outdated.

Despite opposition by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Army is moving forward with its plan to shoot live pigs and treat their gunshot wounds in a medical trauma exercise today at Schofield Barracks for soldiers headed to Iraq.

Maj. Derrick Cheng, spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said the training is being conducted under a U.S. Department of Agriculture license and the careful supervision of veterinarians and a military Animal Care and Use Committee.

"It's to teach Army personnel how to manage critically injured patients within the first few hours of their injury," Cheng said.

The soldiers are learning emergency lifesaving skills needed on the battlefield when there are no medics, doctors or facility nearby, he said.

PETA, however, said there are more advanced and humane options available, including high-tech human simulators. In a letter, PETA urged the Army to end all use of animals, "as the overwhelming majority of North American medical schools have already done."

"Shooting and maiming pigs is outdated as Civil War rifles," said Kathy Guillermo, director of PETA's Laboratory Investigations Department.

The Norfolk, Va.-based group demanded the exercise be halted after it was notified by a "distraught" soldier from the unit, who disclosed a plan to shoot the animals with M4 carbines and M16 rifles.

"There's absolutely no reason why they have to shoot live pigs," PETA spokeswoman Holly Beal said.

Go back to the alleged "distraught" soldier. OK, he is in the military and heading to Iraq where he will likely have to shoot people, and he is supposedly distraught over shooting a pig? Who wants that guy watching your back in a firefight. No covering fire, I might hit a songbird and how could I live with myself!?

Of course PETA would probably be a lot happier if they got some people instead, especially if they were homely or poor, and practiced gunshot wound treatment of them. Heck, use old people they aren't much use anyway. A bit over the top but it captures the mindset of animal rights extremists. Given the choice, I would let them shoot a thousand pigs if it helps save one of our servicemen in the field. Perfect example of Romans 1, worshipping the creation instead of the Creator. Plus it is just plain silly. Sausage for breakfast tomorrow!

Stop swinesploitation!

(When they get done patching up the pig, I wonder if they pat them on the head and say "That'll do pig, that'll do")


Defending the right of Americans to show off their underwear

The city of Flint, which is a generally pretty rough town with serious crime issues, recently announced that the young men who have adopted the fashion statement of wearing their pants down past the buttocks will be stopped, searched for other contraband and fined for indecent exposure pursuant to city statutes. Sounds like a pretty OK idea to me. They even have a chart showing what is an acceptable level of boxer exposure. But darn it, you know that the champion of all things undergarment the ACLU is going to come to the rescue!

Flint residents who like to wear their pants in the latest sagging fashion shouldn't have to pull up their trousers to stay out of jail, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

The right to wear sagging pants is protected by the U.S. Constitution, the state ACLU argued in a letter it sent Monday to acting Flint Police Chief David R. Dicks, who has ordered officers to start arresting people who wear saggy pants that expose Skivvies, boxer shorts or bare bottoms.

The letter called for an immediate end to the stopping and searching of individuals with low-riding pants and a response from the Police Department by July 21. If not, the ACLU said, it would be willing to represent in federal court any Flint resident who has been or has had a "legitimate fear" of being stopped, threatened or charged under the ordinance.

Read that again: The right to wear sagging pants is protected by the U.S. Constitution, the state ACLU argued

So now it is a civil liberty to show off your underwear? Is that really what the Founding Fathers had in mind? Once again we see the ACLU, an unaccountable far left organizations decreeing what is or is not Constitutionally permissible and threatening expensive legal action if Flint does not bow to their demands and acquiesce. That is America? A private group replaces the courts and the people?

Thank goodness for the ACLU, defending the right of hoodlums, punks and posers to strut around with their underwear hanging out!

(Seriously, how tough do you look with your pants hanging down off your behind?)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The difference between expository and topical preaching

There seems to be a great deal of confusion between what is and what is not expository preaching. A lot of preachers make a great show of proclaiming their dedication to expository preaching and then get up wee after week and preach a message that is anything but. I cam across a great quote from David Wells in The Courage to be Protestant that really gets to the heart of the difference...

About preaching, I think I discern two rather clear and distinctive viewpoints. On one side are those who have become convinced that it is the Biblical text that must be preached. Perhaps they come to this opinion through reading older sermons, or by understanding the emptiness of topical preaching, or as a reaction to the older liberalism. But they hold a conviction that the Word of God, in the hand of God, is sufficient for the people of God. The form this conviction most often takes is expository sermon, in which the text or passage provides both the structure and content of the sermon.

On the other hand are those who have become acutely aware of how postmoderns think. These are the preachers who want to meet their audiences on their own turf in a way that they think addresses their world and needs. Sermons here, most commonly, begin not with a text but with something in the postmodern experience. Perhaps a movie, a sitcom, an excursion into the mall that yielded an amusing anecdote. If the intent is to be biblical at all in these sermons, the preacher will try to find his or her way back from the opening story to some aspect of biblical truth.

(David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant, pp. 230-231)

That is precisely right. Topical preaching may have it's place, but in my humble opinion the first and foremost mode of preaching should be expository preaching, preaching the whole counsel of God. There needs to be application, exposition is not just a running commentary on a text (which I have been guilty of before). But the focus of worship services should be on the preaching and the focus of the preaching should be on Christ and the best way to focus on Christ is to preach the text. Period. I would rather head a mediocre expository sermon than a hear wrenching topical sermon any day of the week.
Gay "Bishop" called to repentance

Open homosexual "bishop" Gene Robinson had a church service interrupted by a young man who repeatedly called upon him to repent, until he was forcible removed.

The headline says that he was "heckled" but this was not heckling. There was no mockery, just a genuine call from a Christian to Biblical repentance. This was not a shameful act unworthy of a Christian. This young man was doing what the apostles and what countless missionaries and evangelists through history have done. What is un-Christian and shameful is the behavior of those sitting through this service and helping to officiate it. They, by their presence and inaction, are condoning the actions of this heretic. The young man called on "Bishop" Robinson to repent, but he would have been just as right to call on the entire crowd to do so.

(HT: James Lee)

The langauge is a bit coarse, but JibJab does great political satire!

Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard Today!
Why bother being a Baptist anyway?

The news from Minnesota, not Lake Woebegone but Bethlehem Baptist, is that they are revisiting the issue that caused so much controversy a few years ago: will they admit into membership people who were baptized as infants but don't want to be properly and Biblically baptized as adults. Traditionally, in most conservative Baptist churches, that was the case. If you were baptized as an infant and now wanted to join a Baptist church you had to undergo baptism. Not be rebaptized as infant baptism is rightly seen as illegitimate and not a true baptism anyway, but to be Biblically baptize after repentance and a public profession of faith in Christ. Now Bethlehem Baptist is questioning that practice.

The Issue: Church Membership
The issue was: How should our church relate to those who are born again, and deeply committed to the Bible and to Christ, but are not yet persuaded that their infant baptism is unbiblical and invalid? Should such believers be admitted in some cases to membership at Bethlehem? Or to put the question in the larger general way: Should the front door of the local church be roughly the same size as the door to the universal body of Christ? In other words, should we say to any person: We know you have truly entered into membership in the universal body of Christ, but you may not enter into membership in this local expression of the body of Christ?

How Important Is Membership?
Or another way to put the issue is: How does the seriousness of exclusion from local church membership compare with the seriousness of not being baptized even though, after studying the Scriptures and trying to be obedient, the unbaptized person believes that he is baptized? In the real world where genuine, Bible-believing, gospel-loving, Christ-exalting, missions-minded Christians do not agree on the meaning of baptism in the New Testament, how should we relate to each other?

Piper states that Bethlehem Baptist is concerned not with baptism per se, that they hold to an orthodox Baptist position on believers baptism. Their statement of faith certainly does. They claim this is a separate issue, an issue of membership not baptism.

But if you believe so strongly in believers baptism as Biblical, why would you admit into membership someone in rebellion against the Word, who refuses to submit to the authority of the Bible and be baptized as professing faith? Someone who apparently is relying on the act of getting sprinkled as a baby, before conversion to fulfill a very specific Biblical command? I think not and I am not sure what would motivate this.

On the other hand. what is the motivation of those seeking to join a Baptist church and not hold to Baptist theology? I fear it is based on a desire to be a member of Piper’s church, a name brand pastor. Why else would you seek to fellowship and join in covenant membership with a Baptist church if you refuse to follow one of the key distinctives of a Baptist church? I would hope that people would not join a church for such self-serving reasons, but I am cynical enough to assume that it does happen.

Should this be a conversation we should have? Certainly. We should be clear on what Biblical baptism looks like and what cchurch membership entails. But should a Baptist church abandon one of it's core convictions to bring in more members, to make rebellious Christians more comfortable, to allow some who refuse to be Biblically baptized to say "I belong to John Piper's church? I don't think so and I hope that the elders of Bethlehem Baptist agree.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Do you have to go overseas to be a missionary?

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8 ESV)

Boy we are quick to support missionaries who go to exotic places, Africa, Asia, South America. There is something exciting, almost exotic. Sure we understand that the missionaries we send there are in some danger and great discomfort, and we love to get and post the postcards on the wall. Almost as if we put them on the wall in the church to say "See, we support mission work. We are carrying out the Great Commission. Just look at those postcards! Yeah we never hear from them or see them or have any idea what they are teaching, but we send them checks and they always cash them so we are a 'missional church'!"

To be certain those places need to hear the Gospel. There are billions of unreached people in the world, and our mandate is to take the Gospel to as many of them as we can. But while we are here in the Detroit area sending checks out to missionaries all over the world, there a literally millions of people in Detroit who also need to hear the Gospel. Just up the road from where I work is Dearborn, Michigan with what is supposed to the largest mosque in America, The Islamic Center of America (pictured) and almost 30,000 Muslims. Shouldn't our bulletin boards at churches include pictures of missionaries in our own home towns? Isn't there enough mission work to be carried out in Detroit or Indianapolis or Topeka to warrant missionaries? Maybe there are missionaries, in fact I am pretty sure there are, but I can't name any. It would be great if we had missionaries who worshipped with local congregations on Sunday and then spent the rest of their time out evangelizing and mercy ministry among our neighborhoods.
A great quote from Covenant Children Today...

But, many of our paedobaptist brothers appear to be inconsistent in how they view the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant in the New Covenant. They see parts of the Abrahamic covenant fulfilled spiritually, but they cling to other parts as still being fulfilled as they were in the Old Testament.
It would seem inconsistent for the New Covenant to transform all of the major elements of the Abrahamic covenant except one – especially when there is no biblical reason found elsewhere for such an example. Only a preconceived opinion would lead to such an exception. Surely the clear reference to a spiritually transformed land, nation, and circumcision argue for a spiritually transformed seed as well.

(Covenant Children Today, pp 22-23)

Really hits the nail on the head, everything is fulfilled and transformed in the New Covenant except the sign of the covenant. That really makes very little sense, but it was once the majority report among the Refomred.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hmm, sound like a set-up to anyone else?

Bernie Mac appeared at a Barack Obama rally and was apparently pretty crude and downright offensive.

CHICAGO (AP) — Comedian Bernie Mac endured some heckling and a campaign rebuke during a surprise appearance Friday night at a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Toward the end of a 10-minute standup routine at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago, the 50-year-old star of "The Bernie Mac Show" joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity, and used occasional crude language.

Senator Obama and his campaign immediately chastised him for his language and behavior.

As the joke continued, the punchline evoked an angry response from at least one person in the audience, who said it was offensive to women.

"It's not funny. Let's get Barack on," a man shouted from the crowd, which paid $2,300 each to support the Illinois senator.

About 15 minutes later, Obama tried to smooth things over with a joke of his own.

"We can't afford to be divided by race. We can't afford to be divided by region or by class and we can't afford to be divided by gender, which by the way, that means, Bernie, you've got to clean up your act next time," Obama said. "This is a family affair. By the way, I'm just messing with you, man."

The incident drew response from Obama's campaign, which criticized Mac for his choice of material.

"Sen. Obama told Bernie Mac that he doesn't condone these statements and believes what was said was inappropriate," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement after the event.

No maybe I am just a conspiracy nut (well I know I am but especially in this case), but Bernie Mac for all his crudeness is a sharp guy and knows full well that his remarks were live and being recorded. His comments were crude, but not that crude, just enough to set the stage without causing a huge fuss. I find it hard to believe that any comments by anyone at a campaign rally for a Presidential candidate are not reviewed by campaign handlers before they go on stage. This whole thing smacks of a set-up, a man unaffiliated with the campaign says some mildly crude stuff and here comes Senator Obama, Mr. Family Values, to the rescue to chastise him. He gets to make Bernie Mac a patsy, Mac takes a fall and Obama comes out the paragon of virtue and swellness. This is a carefully staged stunt to show moderate voters that Obama cares about family values (at least once you escape the womb alive). If you think this was all in innocent deal, you need to pop one of my cynicism pills. Heck, take two, I have plenty.

(BTW is Bernie Mac really 50? Wow!)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kim Riddlebarger and Tim LaHaye

What do they have in common?

This is just an off the cuff post, so I haven't really taken the time to work through all of the arguments. These are just thoughts floating randomly in my head. But it seems a common thread between both Kim Riddlebarger, arch-Reformed guy, defender of amillenialism and paedobaptist and the far kookier Tim Lahaye, he of the Dispensational, free-will theology mindset, is the way they misrepresent the covenant promises to Israel.

Riddlebarger and other paedobaptists err by assuming that the mode and recipient of the sign of the Old Covenant model in ethnic Israel must continue on into the New Covenant administration. It seems to me that there is an odd discontinuity that is forced into relationship between the rejecting of the Dispensational hermeneutic but the continued embrace of the paedobaptist hermeneutic for church membership. Riddlebarger gets Israel right on eschatology, but misses badly on the Old vs. New Covenant administration.

LaHaye and other Dispensationalists err by assuming that all of the Old Covenant promises to ethnic, national Israel will be fulfilled without modification by the New Covenant. Clearly not all Jews are of Israel (Romans 9:4-8), and those who are of faith are the heirs of Abraham (Galatians 3:29). But when Dispensationalism morphs into a two track salvation, restoration of temple sacrifice in a rebuilt physical temples, inheritance of the land, etc. it loses it way. There is a dangerous overemphasis on ethnic Israel to the detriment of the Scriptural record and Jewish evangelism.

It is my contention that only an amillenial (or perhaps post or historical pre) Baptistic view is consistent in hermeneutic and jives with the Biblical record with a continued but different and improved covenant promise. I know this is an oversimplification, but hey it's my blog.

Just something I was musing about this evening.

Next up...

A much shorter book, and it should be easier to read than The Courage to Be Protestant, especially since credobaptism is so obviously the Biblical position!


At last I have finished David Wells masterpiece The Courage to be Protestant. It is not an easy read, but it is a clarion call for the church to recover her first love, Christ and His Word. Chapter and hard hitting chapter, Wells exposes what the church has abandoned and lost and why it is vital to recover it if we ever hope to have the church return to a place where God is glorified and Christ is exalted under the preaching and authority of His Word.

In his conclusion, Wells makes this great summary observation of where we are and where we need to be:

The church is not a business, not an experiment, not a product to be sold. It is an outpost of the kingdom, a sign of things to come in Christ's sovereign rule, which is now hidden but will be made open and public. Then all the world will bow before him in recognition of who he is.

Amen. I just pray that the church bows before Him now, instead of waiting until it is to late.

If you haven't read it yet, you simply must do so. It is one of the most important books of the church since Christianity and Liberalism, and like Machen's masterpiece it will be a work of great importance for many years to come.