Remembering September 11: A Prayer

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imagesThis week, as I leave Chicago’s Union Station and walk past the Willis Tower heading toward my CTA train station, I have thought of the chaos I immediately would experience if a terror attack came to the former Sears Tower while I am within its vicinity. I’m not sure I can place myself in the shoes of those who ran from the falling World Trade Center’s twin towers, or who lost loved ones in the attacks. However, my heart and prayer today is with you who were most affected by that infamous day in 2001. May the the God of all comfort be with you through the mercy that is Jesus Christ himself. May he work justice on your behalf with mercy. May he mercifully reveal himself as the most beautiful Savior and most terrifying Judge. May he disclose to you, in mercy and love, the message of the fall of the tower of Slioam and the parable of the Vinedresser and fig tree — Lk. 13:1-9: “Unless you repent…” — so that you might know his peace. May the death of Christ for our sins and his resurrection from the dead be your hope as you look to him alone to see your tears, heal your heart, overcome your pain, and provide the joy of his mercy.

 

Anyabwile: Reviving the Black Church

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41zibWJCT6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I just received my book notice for Thabiti Anyabwile’s, Reviving the Black Church: A Call to Reclaim a Sacred Institution (B&H Books). I have longed to see a book written of this type with a Christ-centered focus as opposed to a social-centered focus. So I am very excited about this book, which in some sense will complement Anybwile’s earlier work, The Decline of African American Theology (IVP). Churches of all types need reviving. Anyabwile graciously directs his focus and hope to a particular segment of the Bride of Christ. You can gain a sense of his hope from his recent CT interview, “Tough Love for the Black Church.”

Within my endorsement for the book (which I am not sure was included) I say,

Unflinching in his call to recover a New Testament church, Thabiti’s proposal is sure to draw naysayers and enemies as he prioritizes identifying the people of God over seeking social significance. But such critics should give the work a full and judicious hearing, for the sake of the exaltation of our people, and for the salvation of people everywhere. Out of deep love for the Black Church, Thabiti has spoken up loudly and timely, with grace and truth.

Congrats, TA! Thank you for providing us with another great resource — another that demonstrates the practicality of Reformed Theology for contemporary African American culture.

All Good Things for Us to Enjoy, Including Cake

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photo.PNGEvery so often, you come across a sign or post that reminds you that theology touches all areas of life, including one’s food intake. My theology tells me that eating pound cake and cupcakes – yes, in moderation – falls within the joy of the creation–that the Lord has created all good things for us to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). So, let’s order some cake! (My real sympathies to those who have allergies that will not allow you to enjoy cake. I cannot enjoy cheese, which has removed pizza, mac-n-cheese, scrambled eggs with cheese, and the like – some of my favorite foods – from my plate, so I feel a pain akin to yours.)

By the way, you can indulge in the Sugar Cookie Cupcake at Cupcakes by Lauren: https://cupcakesbylaurengilliam.wordpress.com. Tell the shop I sent you!

 

I Have Two Men’s 33 DVD Sets to Giveaway

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vol-6I have enjoyed Lifeway’s Men’s 33 Series. The 2-DVD set in each of the six volumes in the series intends to build-up men in every area of life. The authors propose it as a “journey” to authentic manhood. Each DVD invites in both unbelievers and believers by examining common perceptions of various aspects of manhood through personal interviews with people on the street – interviews related to the purpose of marriage, the goal of fatherhood/childrearing, the value of work, etc….

The speakers in volume 5 – Bryan Carter, Tierce Green, and John Bryson – do a fantastic job of talking to men from all walks of life with respect to marriage – single, happily married, unhappily married, immature-Christianly married, mature-Christianly married. The videos provide a means of welcoming unbelieving men into a Gospel-proclaiming session without using exclusively Christian language or being preachy. Even when theological terms are used, the speakers define the terms in simple words and analogies. I would suggest that many men who are skeptical about the church would find the video sessions to be welcoming and accessible, and that they would find great agreement with the hosts’ pictures of the realities of marriage in a fallen world. Each lesson is simple to understand, and the speakers review their talks at the end of each discussion.

A great feature of the video sequence is that Paul Tripp is a guest to each session. Tripp brings to the series a wealth of wisdom from years of professional counseling and church ministry. I enjoyed hearing Paul say to a hypothetical woman disillusioned about her marriage and mate (in classic Paul Tripp style), “Well it is the man you married; the man you dated was a fake.”

An accompanying workbook contains articles to supplement the study. The series has links to its own website and social media sites.

I HAVE TWO SETS OF MEN’S 33 VOLUME 5 FROM THE PUBLISHER TO GIVE AWAY TO TWO CHICAGO-AREA PASTORS. I will give the sets to two Chicago-area pastors of churches with Sunday worship attendance of 250 or less, whose church’s membership is predominately an American-born minority (or minorities), whose church is within the boundaries of the city of Chicago proper, whose annual church receipts for 2014 were under $750,000, and who have a means of integrating the series into an education or men’s group module this fall. If you qualify, please leave comments below explaining how you will use the study to build-up men in your congregation, and what you will encourage men in your congregation to do tangibly in order to invite unbelieving male friends to the sessions—that is, how you will help get the Gospel to men in Chicago. Include your email, Facebook ID, and/or Twitter ID so that I can contact you if you are selected to receive the series. I will take comments for 72 hours following this post. I will draw two recipients at my discretion and will notify the receivers. I will have your packet my office at MBI for you or a proxy to pick up. Let’s build up some men!

 

Interview with Glenn Kreider on Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption

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UnknownDr. Glenn R. Kreider is Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Along with Jeffrey Bingham, he has edited, Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption: A Developing and Diverse Tradition (Moody Press, 2015). The new work has the potential of defining and clarifying dispensationalism for both the modern academy and the church. Dr. Kreider graciously agreed to an interview in association with the publication of the book.

Dr. Kreider, first, tell us a little about your church and educational background as relates to dispensationalism. Did any of this play a role in your reasons for writing this volume?

I was born into a dispensational family, came to faith in a dispensational church, was trained in two dispensational schools, and now teach at Dallas Theological Seminary. My roots are firmly planted in this tradition. The more I have studied the Bible and the more I have studied the history of interpretation, the more I am convinced that dispensationalism is a legitimate hermeneutical approach. In my view, it seems to be the best way to read the Bible.

This book grew out of a frustration with the way dispensationalism has been represented by its critics, as well as the need to provide an overview of the tradition today for both friends and foes. (A third group, those who are unaware of dispensationalism, might be the largest.) For example, as recently as today, I read the claim (in print, in a book published by an evangelical publisher in 2015) that all dispensationalists believe in several ways of salvation. It has been 40 years since Ryrie’s Dispensationalism Today. We thought it time to provide a summary of dispensationalism as it currently exists.

I notice that the writers come from diverse ethnic traditions, which itself is unique for an evangelical theological volume. How did you decide on the contributors to the volume?

Our intent was to represent the diversity that exists in dispensationalism. Dispensationalism always has been a diverse tradition, with a worldwide impact. We thought that diversity should be represented in the contributors.

The writers of the essays fall into three categories. Several of them were our teachers. Several of them were our colleagues. Several of them were our students. They are all competent scholars in biblical and theological studies, as well as a pastor and a missionary/theologian. And all of them are our friends.

Early in the book you write to dispel some misperceptions about dispensationalism. What are one or two of the most important misperceptions you address?

I have mentioned already the repeated assertion that dispensationalism is heretical because it denies that salvation always has been by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It seems that this one simply will not die, no matter how many times and how emphatically dispensational writers respond.

Another major misperception is that dispensationalism is a hermeneutical approach that is imposed upon the Bible. The claim is that no one ever has read the Bible this way, until recently, and that no one ever would read the Bible this way unless taught to do so. I believe that, although dispensationalism as a system is relatively recent, most Christians have seen distinguishable periods in redemptive history where God has dealt with his people differently. And, I think a reasonable case can be made that this is the way the Bible should be read.

A related misconception is that dispensationalism is largely concerned with eschatology. We try to show in the book that although dispensationalism does hold to a pretribulational premillennial eschatology, the tradition is much more than that.

Some would say that dispensationalism’s late foray into church history makes it suspect with respect to conforming to orthodoxy. How would you respond to such a charge?

It is true that dispensationalism as a system is recent. But there are no doctrines of Christian orthodoxy that are denied or ignored by dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is a subset of Christian orthodoxy, holding to the trinity, full deity and humanity of Christ, inspiration of Scripture, substitutionary atonement, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the bodily resurrection of Christ and his bodily return, the resurrection of the dead, etc.

What is one significance of holding to a dispensational theology for practical church ministry?

Dispensationalism, like every other Christian tradition, provides the hope of resurrection and the redemption of all things. There is nothing more practical or more significant than the gospel. Dispensationalism recognizes progressive revelation and the redemptive trajectory in God’s relationship with his world. Dispensationalism, as a biblical hermeneutic, helps the student of the Scripture to read, and thus apply, the biblical story to life and ministry today.

What do you hope the broader, evangelical academic community will gain from reading this work?

I hope that dispensationalists will understand the breadth and the diversity of this tradition and that non-dispensationalists will understand that some of what they have been taught about dispensationalism is not accurate. Our goal is understanding.

Also by Glenn R. Kreider

Jonathan Edward’s Interpretation of Revelation 4:1-8:1

God With Us: Exploring God’s Personal Interactions with His People Throughout the Bible

 

Deconstructing Visions of Cosby and Jenner

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1344626706_bruce-medal-467medal9n-3-webI find irony in the right and righteous condemnations of Bill Cosby while many of the castigators are having great celebrations of Caitlyn Jenner. Both men are distorting the image of God in people and are revealing distortions of the order of creation, by demeaning women and their naturally-given femininity, setting poor examples of manhood for boys and girls, and increasing confusion about gender identity rather than clarifying truth about gender identity. Take away Cosby’s Medal of Freedom and take away Jenner’s ESPY. Leave Jenner’s gold medal in place to remind him that someone fully male won the Men’s Olympic Decathlon; we’ll let him live with his own personal revisionist history.

For those of you Jenner sympathizers holding to a hermeneutic of suspicion or a deconstructionist theory of reading, please note that in the above paragraph I did not equate rape and transgenderism (or transgender operations). The meaning of the above paragraph is, The equally distorting actions toward the gender of women by Cosby and Jenner present irony when the latter’s is celebrated as the former’s is rightly condemned, and calls for a stripping of national honors that would wrongly celebrate such distortions while leaving in place an honor that rightly distinguishes maleness. Even though you might be confused about the significance of gender distinctions, I do not want you to be confused about the meaning of my words.

This post is in honor of Dr. Hershael York, whose replies to the comments on his, “Two Readings of Scripture, Two Views of Jesus” made me laugh royally, even as he told the truth within a culture of suspicion, deconstruction, and inconsistency.

Sam Storm’s Packer on the Christian Life in Hand

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I just received my copy of Sam Storm’s, Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit (Crossway). I am excited to drop into more J. I. Packer. His works, Knowing God (IVP) and Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (IVP) — two modern classics — profoundly have shaped my routine Christian walk, theology, evangelism, and both pastoral and academic ministries. I get to add Sam’s book to my copy of Dane Ortlund’s, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God (Crossway). Both books intend to strengthen Christian thinking and living by drawing out the richness of historical and modern evangelical – and in the cases of Edwards and Packer, Puritan – thought for conforming one’s life to Christ in the contemporary world.

Over a decade ago I read McGrath’s biography of Packer and was challenged by the depth of Packer’s life–a life lived in the face of God. I am eager to see how Ryken’s new biography of Packer will enrich admiration of Packer, striving for holiness, and greater proclamation of Christ.

Related: J. I. Packer, “Introduction” to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. Packer’s Introduction is a modern classic, and the work by Owen some consider to be the classic, definitive text on the extent of the atoning work of Christ.

What are our options in post-Obergefell America? (A repost from Denny Burk)

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The following is a post from Denny Burk’s blog.


What are our options in post-Obergefell America?

David Gushee has a stimulating column at RNS arguing that “strident” calls for civil disobedience in the wake of Obergefell are empty. Yes, federal policy now disfavors those who adhere to a traditional definition of marriage, but there really isn’t any relevant way for Christians to disobey the government—at least not where things stand now. Instead, he argues that Christians will have to face the crushing consequences of their views and that they have no appropriate way to “disobey” in order to resist:It seems very unlikely that government would simply mandate that Christian organizations change such policies. It might, however, withdraw tax-exempt status, not from churches, but from church-related organizations. Or it might ban federal funds, such as government social-service contracts, research grants, or student loans, from going to such organizations. This is not the same thing as simply banning such organizations from adhering to their preferred policies, but for many organizations it remains a nightmare scenario.
There would be no form of civil disobedience available in such cases. In actuality, their real fight would be within the legal and political system, and it is in fact already happening. If these organizations stick to their policies, and if government moves in the direction I have just indicated (which is by no means a certainty), no organizational leader will be arrested or imprisoned. No organization will be raided and padlocked. No civil disobedience strategy will be relevant. Instead, such organizations essentially will be quarantined off from government dollars, with predictably scary bottom-line and reputational effects.

Gushee’s argument here is really strange in light of recent news about the Christians in Oregon who have been ordered by the state of Oregon not speak about their right to run their business in keeping with their Christian conscience. It was civil disobedience to “The Oregon Equality Act” that got them into their current predicament. And now, it is civil disobedience that keeps them speaking-out in spite of the unjust gag-order from the state. This week—of all weeks—it’ astonishing that Gushee would argue that there’s no “relevant” paths of civil disobedience for Christians. The Kleins in Oregon have shown us otherwise.

Gushee also argues that if Christians wish to maintain their ancient beliefs about sexuality and marriage, they need “to prepare for the day when they will have to function without continued access to tax-exempt status or government dollars.” If they don’t want to lose tax-exempt status or access to government dollars, they only have two other options:

(1) Christians can change their marriage policies to get in line with Obergefell while not changing their principles. He argues, “They could do this because they decide that their organizational mission is too important to let it die on the hill of LGBT policies.” Gushee apparently thinks that Christian organizations can embrace gay marriage in their policies but not in their values. But what does that even mean? It is a like a husband telling his wife that he accepts monogamy in principle but that monogamy won’t determine the way he actually lives. That is not a recipe for saving a marriage but for destroying it. Likewise, Gushee’s suggestion is not a way for Christian organizations to maintain their Christian identity but for forfeiting it. In reality, this particular “option” is just rank hypocrisy and not really an option for Christians of conscience.

(2) Christians might simply “reconsider their beliefs about LGBT people and their relationships, as some of us have already done,” says Gushee. In short, this means Christians would need to change their views on marriage to get in line with Obergefell. Obviously, Gushee considers this an option because it’s one he himself has already embraced. But here again, the approach is fundamentally flawed. One cannot deny Christ in the name of Christ and think that they come out on the other side as Christian (Titus 1:16). On the contrary, a high-handed embrace of gay marriage is in reality a low road to perdition. The stakes really are that high (Matthew 7:13-15). This “option” isn’t really an option for Christians either.

The only real option for Christians is to remain true to the word of Christ no matter the cost. For some (like the Kleins in Oregon), that will involve civil disobedience. For others, it will involve suffering social and financial sanction. For others, it may cost even more than that. But this is no surprise to us. Jesus was clear up front that following him would require taking up a cross (Matthew 16:24). And he prepared us for this by promising that we would lose nothing here that we wouldn’t receive back and then some in the age to come (Mark 10:29-30).

In reality, our only option is what it always has been—Christ. He is our plan A, plan B, and plan C. It is a narrow path that leads to life, and there is no other way.

David Daniels asks, “Am I a Racist?”

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David Daniels, Senior Pastor of Pantego Bible Church in Ft. Worth Texas — where I served during my seminary years — provides a provocative and thoughtful look at racism via this Vimeo video. I appreciate his courage and candor.

He also preached on the subject in, “The Gospel Truth About Racism.” You can follow him @Pastor_Daniels.

I think, too, Divided by Faith still has great significance to the conversation about race. I would say the same for Race MattersBoth now should be considered standard reads and future classics on the topic of resolving racism in America.

 

Anthony Horvath – Warden Watch

Warden Watch

My friend Anthony Horvath just published Warden Watch, which has a reading level “two grades about C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series” according to AH. A brief description from the publisher says, “Casey has stumbled upon a secret: ‘Big Foot’ is real, after all, but its place among the Warden-Watch turns out to be far more mysterious than the myth itself. As one so-called myth after another turns out to be rooted in fact and reality-albeit in wholly unexpected ways-Casey finds himself craning his neck to catch a glimpse… of the Blood King. The Warden-Watch is the first installment from the Annals of Myrtle and the Blood-King.”

Learn more at http://www.thebloodking.com

 

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