Piper, on Reading the Bible Supernaturally

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Reading the Bible“It appears that our entire encounter with the Bible, even if it involves our natural abilities, is a supernatural encounter. This would seem to imply that whatever we meet in the Bible—historical facts, poetic praises, proverbial wisdom, promises of help, descriptions of God’s nature, illustrations of God’s ways, standards of holy living, procedures of church discipline, predictions, calamities, warnings of Satanic opposition, summons to faith, analyses of human depravity, directions for husbands and wives, political insights, financial principles, and much more—all of it will only be seen aright when we see it illumined by, and in relation to, the peculiar glory of God. In other words, no matter how natural the process of reading is, and no matter how natural the objects discovered are, no reading and no discovery happen without dependence on God or without seeing all things in relation to his worth and beauty—if we are reading the way God means for his book to be read.”

John Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 178-179. Also available via Kindle, and at wstbooks.

 

Thrown Into the Grave of Jesus

stone rolled[20] So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. [21] And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. (ESV)
 
O Lord, thank you for throwing us onto Jesus, who left no bones in the grave, and whose power to resurrect bodies and souls from the dead is greater than Elisha’s.

US Debut of the Africa Study Bible

ASBThis week I have enjoyed greatly the events of the US debut of the Africa Study Bible (ASB). The ASB is the first study Bible written by Africans for Africans. The study notes, artwork, articles, stories, African proverbs, and illustrations within the ASB offer a means of contextualizing the truth of Scripture in African ideas and for African concerns.

The ASB was a major undertaking, involving over 350 biblical and theological scholars from the more than 50 countries on the continent of Africa. The ASB includes a large section of notes given to a narrative timeline of God’s work in Africa.

The representative contributing scholars who came to Moody Bible Institute spoke of the joy of having the ASB as a tool for discipleship. While rejoicing with them, I also am grateful for the ASB’s ability to increase our sensitivity to the concerns of our sisters and brothers in African nations, and to raise our cultural awareness toward non-Western issues the biblical text addresses. For example, an “African Touch Point” on Ex. 22:18 teaches that “witches” should not be equated with “foreigners, widows, and orphans–the vulnerable in society.”

I encourage you to get your own copy of the African Study Bible and utilize its notes in your personal study. Pray for the ASB project to have great reach around the world. Also, an ASB 30-day devotional is available. Below is an example of the devotional reading from Day 1.


Africa, a Cradle of Christianity: a Devotion on Africa’s Legacy

Matthew 2:13-15

13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (NLT) 

From an Africa Study Bible Article titled “Christianity’s African Roots”:

Sankofa is an Akan word from Ghana meaning “returning to your roots, recapturing what you’ve lost, and moving forward.” What are some of the African roots of Christianity?
Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus became refugees in Africa when Herod ordered the slaughter of young boys in Bethlehem. Simon, an African Jew from Cyrene, was forced by the Romans to carry the cross of Jesus on the way to Golgotha where the Lord was crucified. The earliest of the four Gospels was written by an African. John Mark was born in Cyrene in modern Libya to a Jewish family of the tribe of Levi.
The influence of the early African church was great and was concentrated in three areas. First, Alexandria, Egypt, was the intellectual capital of the Mediterranean world. John Mark, Alexandria’s first bishop, was martyred there in ad 68, but the church thrived and expanded its roots in Africa and beyond. Second, the largest Christian community in the Maghreb (an area from modern Libya to Morocco) was Carthage, in modern Tunisia. Three early popes were African from this region. Third, Coptic Christianity flourished in Egypt and Sudan. In the early fourth century, Christianity was declared the state religion of the Kingdom of Aksum, part of modern Ethiopia.
We are heirs to a rich history of ancient Christianity. But the question is: Do we know this history? Do we tell these stories to our children and grandchildren? May the knowledge and legacy of such African giants ignite our own devotion to the Lord!

Today:

Search for your country on the Dictionary of African Christian Biography (www.dacb.org), and tell your church and family about what you discover. Begin to learn early African Christian stories of faith, martyrdom, and intellectual life that you can tell to your children and your grandchildren.
This Africa Study Bible Daily Devotional is provided as a free blessing from Oasis International. To find out more about the Africa Study Bible and where you can find it in your country, visit africastudybible.com.

Reblogging: “Theological Moorings for Canonical Readings”

Biblical Reasoning

My doctoral supervisor, David Hogg, was once asked in my Theological Method PhD seminar what his method is. I still love his response: “I look for patterns and weird stuff.” That is, his approach to reading Scripture consists largely of paying attention to what is repeated and what stands out as extraordinary, either in terms of actual events or their description or both. This interpretive method produces readings that sometimes (many times) vexes those who hold to the historical-critical method and its evangelical cousins.

What, then, are the *theological* rationales that give an interpreter the hermeneutical warrant to link certain biblical texts together in a typological chain? To put a finer historical point on it, why does Irenaeus, in his On the Apostolic Preaching, feel justified in linking the Virgin Birth to the untilled ground out of which Adam is made, or Eve’s creation out of Adam’s rib to…

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THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION’S DECISION TO INVESTIGATE RUSSELL MOORE HAS HUGE IMPLICATIONS FOR BLACK SBC CHURCHES

(Below I have reblogged Pastor McKissic’s excellent post because of its importance to SBC life, and to greater kingdom work around the world. It is difficult to see how some, like Dr. Jack Graham, cannot understand that the ability for the SBC to gain a hearing in the culture — even at the level of the personal proclamation of the Gospel by local church members –is effected by the perception that some SBC churches’ criticism of Russell Moore and withholding of funding to the ERLC is a move that demonstrates power politics is more important than moral reasoning–moral reasoning that does not align itself with a GOP platform. It would be wonderful for predominantly white, mega-church congregations within the SBC to speak with boldness equal to Graham’s and even greater courage in support of the direction of the ERLC under Russell Moore, and thus for Moore himself. McKissic’s voice should be part of a grand movement of voices within and without the SBC that continues to work to separate the Gospel from American political positions. At this time in history, it would be a shame for the SBC to witness a diminishing of SBC support by its ethnic minority congregations and less successful outreach to an increasingly ethnically diverse culture because it takes a vocal stand against Russell Moore–a Christian champion of righteousness on racial justice, fair immigration policy, and just treatment of people of all faiths. The opposition to Moore is using a standard of accountability seemingly that was not used when former ERLC President Richard Land made greatly insensitive comments about Treyvon Martin and followed the comments with a non-apologetic apology. I guess the opposition thinks Jesus is smiling down from glory and saying, “Way to go! Way to use your financial power to force Moore to stop criticizing Donald Trump and those who have attempted to morally justify support of President Trump.” [Clap, clap, clap.])

Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION’S DECISION TO INVESTIGATE RUSSELL MOORE HAS HUGE IMPLICATIONS FOR BLACK SBC CHURCHES

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

The Prestonwood Baptist Church of Plano, TX, (a Dallas suburb) led by Dr. Jack Graham, a former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, has determined to escrow funds totaling $1 million, that were previously designated for the Cooperative Program—the premier funding mechanism of the Southern Baptist Convention’s agencies— because of positions and policies taken by Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Other predominantly White Southern Baptist Churches are also threatening to withhold Cooperative Program funds surrounding public positions taken by Russell Moore and the ERLC.

Consequently, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention has decided to investigate and explore the depths of why some churches aren’t giving and the best way to address the whole matter. They want…

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The Mariners’ Prayer, and Mercy and Judgment Toward Jonah

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In hermeneutics class at MBI yesterday, one of my students proposed that Jonah received mercy via the fish appointed by God as God’s response to the prayers of the mariners:

Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.”

By rescuing Jonah, the Lord answered the prayers of the mariners–that they would be free from the blood of Jonah. I agree with this proposal by the student.

The mariners, who have called on the Lord—who was revealed to them by the prophet, themselves receive mercy through throwing the prophet to his death in the waters. Therefore, their prayers are answered as part of their response to the gospel (in cryptic form in the OT). The Lord is answering the one prayer of unbelievers he has bound himself to answer.jonah

Resource: Exalting Jesus in Jonah, Micah, Nahum, and Habakkuk

Wm. Dwight McKissic on SBC Challenges to Russell Moore

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russell-mooreFrom the faithful pen of Pastor Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr., always speaking truth to power:

IF RUSSELL MOORE IS FIRED, “UNTO US” A TRUMP BAPTIST CONVENTION IS BORN

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

The first cabinet member that soon-to-be President Donald Trump will fire, may not be in his White House Cabinet. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics, and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC–a cabinet level entity head position within the SBC org chart–will be the first person fired by the direct influence of Donald Trump and his influential supporters within SBC circles, if they are successful in their unprecedented public attempts, to discredit and dismiss from office the most compelling and effective spokesman ever to hold that office in the history of the SBC. The lynch mob in SBC life who is going after Moore are taking their cues from Donald Trump who was among the first to attack Moore with one of his infamous tweets during the primary season:

“Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!”

What has Russell Moore done to generate such vitriol and hatred from Trump and his supporters and sycophants in SBC life? Moore dared asked the SBC if it is in keeping with their values to support a person for POTUS who mocks the disabled; engages in race baiting; owns strip joints and casinos; admits to sexual predatory behaviors; wants to create a Muslim registry, which violates the religious freedom beliefs of the SBC; and speaks of unlawfully targeting non-combatant in war acts. One would think that a person assigned to address the SBC regarding ethical issues is fulfilling their assignment in addressing these matters.

Future Supreme Court Judges and Reversing Gay Marriage were believed to have a better chance of lining up with SBC values under a Trump Administration. Therefore, many SBC personalities argued in spite of Trump’s misgivings and failures in the aforementioned areas, he’s still worthy of support because of who he might appoint to the Supreme Court who would reverse Roe vs Wade and Gay Marriage. To which Russell Moore responded, how can we count on Donald Trump to keep his word on these matters any more than anyone named Mrs. Trump could depend on him to keep his word to them? This was a brilliant and prophetic response.

Shortly after he was elected, Trump announced that Gay Marriage was settled law, and he would not revisit that matter. Ironically, Pastor Robert Jeffress at FBC, Dallas agreed with Trump on this. Go figure? He has already gone back on his word even before he took office, and many SBC persons voted for him under the delusion that Trump would somehow reverse or, at least, redress gay marriage. With a majority Republican House, Senate, soon to be Supreme Court—and of course occupying the White House–there is absolutely no reason why gay marriage can’t and shouldn’t be reversed; other than Trump doesn’t want to reverse it. Now, a prominent SBC leader is backing Trump in this bait and switch campaign tactic. Rather than holding Trump accountable for his pre-election position supporting traditional marriage, they’d rather spend their time attacking Moore. Again, Moore warned us that Trump’s history did not lend itself to counting on him to keep his word. You would think he would be given credit for his insight. Instead, they’re crushing him. If President Elect Trump—not candidate Trump—view is that gay marriage is settled law, why is it not his view that Roe vs Wade is settled law, using the same logic? Already Moore has proven to be 50% accurate in the lack of trust worthiness of Donald Trump on an issue important to Evangelicals—gay marriage. If and when Donald Trump says the same thing about Roe vs Wade, Moore will be 100% correct in saying that Donald Trump was not a trustworthy candidate in addressing matters important to Southern Baptists. On what grounds then are the ones calling for Moore’s dismissal upset?

Make no mistake about it. The union between the SBC and the Republican Convention is an unhealthy and unholy one, particularly with Trump as President. But that would be equally as true with anyone else as President and equally as true if such a union existed with the SBC and The Democratic Party. It is detrimental to our witness, evangelism, discipleship, church planting, race relations and the identity of our seminaries. This is a malignancy that must be excised from our Convention.

To fire Russell Moore though, cements and consummate the relationship between the SBC and The Republican Party. We shouldn’t give Trump that kind of influence over our Convention. We shouldn’t by default say to the public we value loyalty to the Republican brand over a critical evaluation of a Republican nominee for President.

It’s not enough to say that Russell Moore was speaking against the majority of the SBC and those who pay his salary, as a reason to silence his voice. The Bible is inerrant and infallible, the SBC is not. What’s been missing from SBC history to often was a Russell Moore.

When the majority of the SBC embraced the diabolical institution of slavery, we needed a Russell Moore, even if he was being paid by the SBC. When the majority of the SBC denied women the right to vote as messengers within the SBC annual meetings, and supported laws forbidding women the right to vote in the secular realm, we needed a Russell Moore. When the majority of the SBC voted to support Jim Crow laws and would not support Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, we needed a Russell Moore. When the majority of the messengers in the ‘mid ’70’s voted in a SBC annual meeting to support abortion, we needed a Russell Moore. When the IMB created unbiblical landmark baptismal policies and unbiblical policies restricting missionaries’ private worship in 2005, God raised up a Wade Burleson to prophetically address these matters; and he was publicly maligned and marginalized, and now the same attempt is being made toward Russell Moore.  In 2015, everything Wade Burleson was asking the IMB to do, they did: Return to the pre-2005 private prayer policies, and the prior baptismal policies. Now that they have done so, Wade Burleson is owed an apology, because their actions now prove he was right from the beginning.

SBC, are we going to now make the same mistake with Russell Moore as we did with all of the aforementioned matters that we later reversed policies on? Are we really going to place that much stock in Trump and choose Trump over Moore?

Honestly, a convention that would even consider this is a severely spiritually sick convention. If it were not for a great health insurance plan that I appreciate (connected to GuideStone), and a small life insurance and small retirement account that may be useful at some point, I’d seriously consider whether I could actually belong to a convention that’s so invested and identified in every way with the Republican Party and Donald Trump. To fire Russell Moore will have far-reaching consequences than most persons realize. It defines being SBC as also being Republican, or at least not publicly criticizing a Republican candidate. Minorities tend not to be Republican because they view Democrats as being more sensitive to social and economic justice, equality and fairness issues. They also view these matters as life issues and equally as important as abortion and gay marriage issues. Russell Moore is one of the few Southern Baptists that really have a heartfelt identification and understanding of social justice issues from a minority perspective. There are those who think that this backlash against him is rooted in his outspokenness on race issues and police brutality issues. Russell Moore really feels our pain. In many ways he is being treated as a racial minority by the Convention in this situation. So to fire Russell Moore is to say to minorities, you are only welcome in the SBC if you remain silent regarding your political views. Seriously? Is that what you really want? If so, continue with this lynch party and proposed firing. And Congratulations!!! You will have just birth THE TRUMP BAPTIST CONVENTION.

Russell Moore has spoken as a prophet. The late Professor Jack Gray defined the spiritual gift of prophecy as the ability to communicate a particular truth, to a particular people, at a particular time. This is what Moore has done. To fire Russell Moore is in effect to make the statement that the gift of prophecy is unwelcome among Southern Baptists if it conflicts with our politics. Russell Moore would have gotten the same kind of treatment in SBC life had he spoken prophetically against slavery in 1845-1863 as he is getting now. Southern Baptists can and should do better than this. I pray that we drop this vendetta against Russell Moore. He has asked for an apology if he was misunderstood or crossed over a line. Let’s forgive him and move on. Threatening to withhold funds over a critique of Donald Trump is too small of an issue for us to divide over. During this yuletide season, let’s practice our faith and seek peace on earth and in the SBC and good will toward all men. Brethren, let’s drop our swords and be The Southern Baptist Great Commission Convention and not the Trump Baptist Convention.

John M. Yates: Opposing Hate with the Gospel

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I am grateful for Dr. John M. Yates, Dean at Midwestern College. The article below posted at The Pathway.

HANNIBAL – John Mark Yeats, Dean, Midwestern College, center-right, shared at the 2016 Worldview Conference regarding adoption.

Opposing hate with the gospel

KANSAS CITY – It’s an annual event our house – the celebration of the day our children became part of our family forever. “Gotcha Day” or “Adoption Day” features ice cream, pictures, favorite meals, and a recounting of their unique adoption story.

Like most families, we share these moments online. But this year, our celebration angered individuals in the recently emboldened alt-right movement. The alt-right or “white nationalists” as some call them, are a grouping of far-right individuals that truly believe the best solutions for our country comes from separating races. Some have blamed the rise of the alt-right on the current political climate, others on the rapid expansion of politically-correct cultural change. Whatever the rationale, the trolls from the alt-right assured my racially mixed family that I was a disgrace to whites everywhere and that I was most assuredly “going to hell” for violating God’s racial laws. Even worse, according to these individuals, I was “cucked.”

Perhaps you aren’t familiar with this term, but it tends to be a favorite of the alt-right to refer to Christians who take a stand for racial equality. Historically the term “cuck,” or “cucked,” implied a lack of masculinity and virility – particularly to a husband of an adulterous wife or to men who unwittingly invest parental effort in raising children not connected to them genetically. Creating familial relationships through adoption that bridge the racial divide are case-in-point. Even integrating churches or ministries that work with refugees are seen as cowering to the Political Culture and therefore, weak. Churches taking Biblical stands on these issues become demonstrative of “Cuckservative Christianity,” “Cuckianity,” or “Cucked Christianity.”

For the alt-right, white nationalist, race is tied to cultural expression so that certain races inherently possess cultural markers. For those cultures to then flourish and reach their natural ends, the races should be separated and become their own nations. For many, the white, European race needs to reclaim its uniqueness and primacy and therefore protect its cultural heritage. It’s the grand reversal of the identity politics of the left.

This isn’t a new idea launched during a 2016 political campaign. Incredibly prescient, Carol M. Swain identified this Nationalist impulse present in American culture over 15 years ago. Her book, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration deserves a close read by anyone seeking answers to the longer history of this movement. Swain, quotes Dan Gayman, leader of the Church of Israel, a Christian Identity/white nationalist movement located in Missouri, “Most white Americans believe in their hearts in the doctrine of racial separatism even if they are too intimidated by its current disfavor in the media and elsewhere to openly acknowledge their beliefs.”

In a post-2016 election cycle that empowered many of radicalized groups on both sides of the aisle, the cultural filter Gayman referenced has lifted. It’s gone. The attacks have gone mainstream.

Swain argued that a variety of economic as well as cultural currents could ultimately lead to the challenges we are facing today. Her suggestion? The solution has to come from the church.

Why?

Because the Gospel doesn’t change. Because the need for all of humanity to be reconciled to God doesn’t change. Because once we trust Christ, our identity changes fundamentally as part of the family of God – we are all adopted sons and daughters and share in the inheritance of the Gospel!

But this concept is often missed by many in America. The Gospel decimates our broken and sinful concepts of race! Jesus’ victory on the cross ended the hostility between Jew/Greek, male/female, black/white/Hispanic/Asian. It doesn’t erase our ethnic heritage or unique attributes – this is not an “I don’t see race” proclamation. Instead, it is a new vision that despite these differences, we are placed into a new family where we become one because of Christ. Ephesians 2:14 is especially poignant: “For He (Christ) himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” We are one in Christ. Period.

But every Sunday, we bring our wretched, broken souls into the gathering place of our churches carrying discrimination against each other or those outside of our doors. How should pastors respond to this reality?

Understand that the media is not “fabricating” or “creating” stories of the rise of an emboldened, racially motivated alt-right. While I believe they are a very small, yet loud, subset of the population, they are doing everything they can to target the young, the disenfranchised, and the poor with their racially charged message. If Swain’s research bears out, this group will continue to see gains if the seed of their teaching is watered and left unchecked.

Your brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of a minority group may actually carry some justified fear about what might happen to them during this presidential transition. If you are not listening to them, please take time to consider what they are feeling and hearing in their congregations.

You must remain vigilant about issues of race and racial reconciliation. Pastors must preach the peace and healing that comes through Christ alone. Beyond preaching, congregations must continue to work to reach their specific mission field. Do a census study of a five-mile radius around your congregation’s meeting place. If your congregational doesn’t mirror the racial proportions of that same space, you are missing your mission field!

Recognize that individuals in your congregation may carry racial discomfort or even hatred against others into your building every week. If the church really is a place where broken sinners find healing through the Gospel, this is a live issue. Since the truth of our true identity in Christ is connected so deeply to the Gospel, we should expect the ideas of race and racial division to be live issues that Satan will use to create division.

Preach the Gospel. Over and again share the hope of the Gospel. There is no underestimating, as Carol Swain states, “the enormous power that Christian religion can exert to save us from our ingrained bigotries and prejudices.” [2] The Gospel forces us to deal with our sin and the inherent racism that each of carries and annihilates it on the cross of Calvary.

Christians must hold to the higher standard that all believers are one, new race in Christ. This is our identity that supersedes all other markers. When it comes to a question of the alt-right, they are wrong. Attitudes of racial superiority or even discrimination are morally wrong according to what we are told in Scripture. Pastors and churches must guard against this cultural moment and continue to point people to the cross where we are made new.