Sunday, March 30, 2008

Helpful Links - Part III - Missions and Evangelism

IMB - My family and I served with the International Mission Board (SBC) while we were in South Asia. What I like best about the IMB is the emphasis on church-planting. The goal is rapidly-reproducing local house churches, which are led by national pastors. This model has the potential to reach millions of people because it does not rely on outside financial investment or buildings.

Joshua Project - This site is an excellent source for all kinds of information about unreached people groups. It is stunning to think about the fact that 42% of the people groups in the world remain unreached. If you have a blog or other type of webpage, consider posting the "Unreached People of the Day."

Matthias Media - At this location, you can find one of the best tracts that I have seen. Why is it good? Because it begins with God, not man.

New Tribes Mission - NTM is a missions-sending agency that we have not been directly connected with. However, we have heard good things about them. Their focus is the unreached, which is where our churches need to be looking. Speaking of that, also take a look at Christar and YWAM. While in South Asia, we met several very solid evangelical folks serving with these agencies.

Operation World - You can find enormous amounts of information about just about any country in the world at this location. This is a great help for churches interested in praying for certain countries.

People Groups - Somewhat similar to Joshua Project, this site lets you look for specific people groups all around the world. You can search by location, religion, language, etc. Click here to begin to look at India's people groups.

People Groups (North America) - Yes, there are unreached people groups in North America. Go here to find them. Some may live in your own village, suburb, or city. - I've recently discussed this site, so I won't say much about it here. The best part is the maps - check out India.

Voice of the Martyrs - VOM does an excellent job of reminding us about the millions of persecuted Christians around the world. They have a good bookstore.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Excellent Post on Integrity in Church Membership

Integrity in church membership statistics is something that is lacking in many churches. Within my own convention, the number of "inactive members" (it seems like that term should be an oxymoron) is staggering. For example, we claim 16 million members, but on any given Sunday morning we don't know where over 50% of them are. If you are interested in reading an excellent article on restoring integrity to church membership, click here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Helpful Links - Part II - Bible Study

We can probably all use more bible study tools. I hope these help. Again, I do not necessarily agree with all that is said, but I do find them helpful.

Bible Centre - The reason I like this site is that it is British. Therefore, it offers different resources than we might find on American sites. The commentaries are a good place to begin.

Bible Gateway - The best aspect of this site is that you can look up bible passages in a wide variety of translations. If you are multi-lingual, you will be able to compare passages across various languages.

e-Sword - Go here to download all sorts of bible helps. I use this program all the time.

4 Truth - I find this apologetics site helpful because it offers information about arguing for the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, and it also discusses various world religions and cults.

Precept Austin - This site offers commentaries, bible dictionaries, Greek word study tools, and a large listing of Christian biographies, etc.

Song of the Lamb - If you want to begin learning the original languages or want to improve what you already know, this is a good place to go.

Study Light - This location contains various bibles, commentaries, encyclopedias, etc.

Do you know of any more sites to add to this list?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Where are all the Calvinist Troublemakers in the SBC?

As both a Calvinist and a Southern Baptist, I have to ask the question, "Where are all the Calvinist Troublemakers in the Southern Baptist Convention?"

When I read various articles within the Southern Baptist sphere, I see people warning that some Calvinists within the denomination, in particular pastors, are going into churches, teaching Calvinism, causing problems and pain, and splitting churches.

For example, Dr. Frank Cox, who is running for SBC president this summer, said this in an interview with Les Puryear, "My great concern is this new aggressive form of Calvinism that is being disruptive to some of our churches. I believe a pastor or staff member has the right and freedom to hold to this view. However, I would encourage them to be upfront with the church that is seeking God’s mind in calling them to be their pastor. If the church is informed and prays it through and believes they can operate together—then wonderful. However, there are many churches that are not informed and this is not their theological view, so when the pastor begins to lead in this direction, it causes a tremendous amount of heartbreak and disruption for the church and also for the pastor." Read the entire interview by clicking here.

My question remains. Where are the Calvinists causing these sorts of problems?

I routinely read statements, mostly by those in the SBC who oppose the resurgence of Calvinism, that sound like scare-tactics. The idea basically is that Calvinists are hiding their beliefs until they get into churches. After they are there, they begin to teach Calvinism, which in turn causes all sorts of problems.

If this assertion is true, then it is a problem. However, there must be specific examples of it actually occuring in order for it to be true. This leads back to my initial question.

No one making the claim that some Calvinists are causing problems ever seems to mention even one specific instance. I have yet to hear of even one example. Furthermore, if this was a significant issue within the SBC, then there would be numerous examples.

Where are they? Would someone, maybe even Dr. Cox, please share with us ten to twenty examples of churches that have suffered at the hands of a Calvinist? If this is really an issue, then we need to know specifics.

Right now the lack of specifics makes this look more like anti-Calvinists trying to scare churches away from hiring Calvinistic pastors.

(On a related note, the "John 3:16 Conference" should be interesting. It concerns me that the speakers have chosen just one verse to be the primary text. Why not look at the whole counsel of the word of God? When is the Ephesians 1:3-14 conference going to be scheduled?)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Helpful Links - Part I - Theology

As I have looked around the internet, I have stumbled across various websites that have been helpful to me. I'm going to be posting about these sites in the hopes that some of them will help you also. I do not necessarily agree with all that is said at these sites, but in general I like what I see.

The sites range across a variety of topics. Today's focus on theology. You may know about all of these already; if any are of assistance to you, then I'll be pleased.

The first seven I mention here are the ministry sites of seven current-day heroes of mine:

Desiring God - This is essentially John Piper's ministry site. One of the best aspects of this particular site is the essays written by Dr. Piper about various life issues. Click here for the DG blog.

Grace to You - John MacArthur's website offers a variety of resources. The best part is probably his sermons.

Ligonier Ministries - Is a Baptist allowed to have a Presbyterian hero? You bet. The best aspect of R. C. Sproul's ministry is his view of the absolute sovereignty of God. Check out the new Ligonier blog by clicking here.

IX Marks - Mark Dever is one of those rare guys who is Reformed, Baptist, and a pastor. Thank God for the few who exist in the SBC (although the number is growing). The IX Marks Ministry offers many good resources related to the church.

Ravi Zacharias - Since he is one of the leading apologists in the United States, it is no surprise that this is the theme of this site. The radio broadcasts are particularly worth listening to.

Sovereign Grace - C.J. Mahaney leads this ministry. The Sovereign Grace website says, "Sovereign Grace Ministries is a family of churches passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are devoted to planting and supporting local churches, with a strong doctrinal basis that is evangelical, Reformed, and charismatic." That sounds good to me. Click here for their blog.

Truth for Life - Alistair Begg may be my favorite preacher in the world. Go to this site to be blessed by Pastor Begg's excellent exposition of the word.

Although not ministries of current heroes of mine, these sites still offer helpful theological information:

Monergism - The best aspect of this site is the wide variety of theological articles and essays from a Reformed perspective. - This site is the best location I have found for downloading sermons from many great preachers.

Puritan's Mind - You'll find a wealth of Reformation/Presbyterian resources at this location.

If you know about other helpful theology-related sites, please share with us.

Much Better News about Bobby

We praise the Lord that we have received much better news about our son Bobby. Click here to read about it. Look under the "Journal" section.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The #1 Blessing of Homeschooling

Educating our three children at home has been a great blessing for the past six-or-so years. I cannot even begin to think of all the privileges and thrills it has brought to our lives. However, if I had to choose the #1 blessing of homeschooling, it would be this: knowing that our children are receiving an integrated education that has Jesus Christ at the very center.

Different families break down the homeschooling responsibilities in different ways. I admit that my wife does most of the homeschooling for our family. My primary duty and privilege is leading our family in worship. This usually involves bible study, prayer, hymn singing, and catechism memorization. This is probably the high point of my day. Seeing my kids grow closer to God while learning more about who he is is absolutely amazing.

One great benefit for our children is the integration of their studies around Jesus Christ. In other words, as they are learning about math, they see that it is God who created math to be the way it is. As they study literature, they see what great gifts God has given to us to be able to read and write prose and poetry. As they study science, God's hand in creation becomes more apparent to them. As they look at world history, they can see God's providential care over his people and world. I could go on.

The point is that not only are our children receiving a Christian education, but they also are seeing how Christ relates to all of their academic subjects. He is quite purposely the absolute center of what they are learning. We base this intentional focus upon God on this and this.

When our kids finish school at home and go on to college, they will know what they believe. They will not be confused by a secular education that conflicts with what they are taught in church. Their worldview will be secure.

Of course, all this rests in the sovereignty and providence of God. We thank Him for His grace and mercy in making up for where we fail as homeschooling parents.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Well, I Performed My First Funeral...

Last week was a first for me in that I performed my first funeral. One reason that it was a challenge is that I haven't even attended that many funerals in my life. I had to rely on the experience of other pastors and what I read in books to help me out.

This all happened because I have been preaching lately at a local Baptist church that is without a pastor. A couple approached me after the evening service last Sunday and asked if I could perform the woman's mother's funeral. I wanted to help them out so I said, "Yes." Then I began to worry a bit.

It turns out that this was a great first funeral for me to perform. Why? First of all, the deceased lady was saved. Second, she was 90-years-old. Third, the funeral was a simple one at the graveside. Last, there did not appear to be any family conflict among those in attendance.

One concern of mine was that I did not know the woman who died. God came to the rescue on that issue, too. Two granddaughters and two great-granddaughters wanted to say something in tribute. This meant that I basically just had to offer a few words of comfort and preach a mini-sermon.

I preached from I Corinthians 15:50-57 and John 14:1-6 and 27. I stressed both the reality of the resurrection of the dead and the peace that Jesus gives. I also took some time to clearly lay out the basics of the gospel message.

The entire service only lasted 15-20 minutes. My main goals were that God be praised, that the family be comforted, and that the gospel be proclaimed. It seems that all three of those things happened. The couple who asked me to perform the funeral was pleased with how things went and were very grateful after the service.

Afterward, I remained there for awhile until almost everyone had departed. Presence is a key in all grief situations. I attempted to give them a chance to talk if they wanted to. I think they were just pleased that I was there.

In some ways this was "on-the-job-training." The great blessing was that God was merciful to me, and honored the proclaiming of his word. It was an experience I doubt I will ever forget.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Most Important Day in the History of the World

Matthew 28:1-10 (ESV)
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Mark 16:1-7
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Luke 24:1-12
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

John 20:1-9
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

I Corinthians 15:20-24
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead
, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

(I found both this chart and this essay to be interesting.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What Happened on Saturday before the Resurrection?

The crucifixion of Christ occurred on Friday (at least most folks think so). He hung on the cross for six extremely agonizing hours, from 9 AM until 3PM. His body was relatively quickly taken down because the Sabbath was approaching. The Jewish Sabbath ran from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.

We often don't think about anything happening on Saturday. We tend to skip straight from the events of the crucifixion to the events of the resurrection. But what did happen on that Saturday? Scripture does not tell us much, but we can get a picture.

Matthew 22:62-67
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Mark 16:1
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

Luke 23:56
Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

In Matthew's account, we gain a picture of what the adversaries of Christ attempt to do to prevent his victory. They clearly do not believe he will be resurrected. Instead, they fear some sort of deceitful plan on the part of the disciples. Therefore, they gain Pilate's permission to secure the tomb. We know that didn't work. Interestingly, the legalistic Jewish leaders do not appear to have been faithfully observing the Sabbath rest.

In the gospel of Mark, we read that three women waited until after the Sabbath was over (this would have been after sundown on Saturday), and then purchased spices in order to anoint the body of Jesus on Sunday morning. On their part, we see obedience and service.

Luke tells us that these women prepared some spices and then rested on the Sabbath. As in Mark's account, these ladies were focused on service and obedience.

These three short sections of scripture offer us an interesting contrast between those who hated Jesus and those who loved him. The religious leaders were not only conspiring against Christ, but they also appear to have been disobedient to the law, specifically the keeping of the Sabbath. These ladies, on the other hand, were both obediently following the law and preparing to serve Jesus by placing spices around his body. I have no idea how they planned to get into the tomb beyond the rock, but that is another issue. The key is that they were obedient servants of Christ.

(For more on what happened that Saturday, click here.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bobby's PET Scan Results were Inconclusive

Bobby, our nine-year-old son, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma about one year ago. I have chronicled our saga on this blog since that time. On Monday of this week Bobby had a PET scan of his body to see if there is any cancer present. Today we received the results. Since he is doing well physically, we were hopeful for clear scan results. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Bobby's oncologist told us that the results were inconclusive. The PET scan showed some activity remaining in his lymph node. The question we now have to deal with is, "What does this mean?" My wife, Alice, wrote on Bobby's web page today, "The oncologist hasn't had a chance to look at the actual scan yet--she has only seen the radiologist's report. So she is going to be looking at the scans more on Monday, comparing this one to the last one. If she feels it is necessary, they will have to do a biopsy. But the doctor, and the nurse practitioner, and the nurses are all being very encouraging. It is possible that this is just inflammation of that lymph node that remained from when Bobby was sick."

We must wait, pray, and ask the Lord to act. Thank you for praying.

Jesus Christ - The Great Suffering Servant

Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 (ESV)

This amazing passage of scripture breaks down into five stanzas of three verses each. Notice the middle verse of the middle stanza, 53:5. This verse is the pinnacle of this Servant Song. It speaks directly of Christ's work on the cross and the gift we have received (see II Cor. 5:21; also Gal. 3:13 and Col. 2:14).

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.

53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I Do Celebrate Maundy Thursday

In Baptist life, Maundy Thursday is often ignored. I don't know why. This is a day that I like to celebrate, even if I can't find many others who pay attention to it.

Maundy Thursday (not Monday-Thursday; that used to confuse me) is a day to remember Jesus' institution of the ordinance/sacrament of the Lord's Supper. It also is a time to look ahead to his suffering in Gethsemane and, of course, on the cross.

The word "Maundy" is not one we use too often. This word stems from the Latin word "mandatum." This refers to the mandate or command given by Jesus in John 13:34. In that verse, Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."

What was the context of this verse? Jesus says this during the time of the Passover meal, which He was about to transform into the Lord's Supper. He also says this just after he has washed the (stinking, dirty) feet of his disciples. Themes we see are servanthood, unity, and love.

As we think about the gift of the Lord's Supper, we have much to be thankful for. Christ has given his church a way to visibly celebrate his death for our sins. As the proclamation of the scriptures is an auditory celebration, the Lord's Supper is a visible and tactile (kinesthetic) celebration.

Today, even if you don't have a church body with which to gather, let me encourage you to celebrate Maundy Thursday. We have been given a command to love one another. We have seen this acted out, as Christ washed feet. We have been given a practice by which we may celebrate, remember, and experience Jesus' sacrifice for us. On this day, we ought to also focus on the sufferings of Christ, by which we were healed.

We indeed have much to celebrate.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Don't Celebrate "Easter"

I'll admit that the title of this post is designed to grab attention.

I do not celebrate Easter. My family does not celebrate Easter. Why is this? It's because the word "Easter" is nowhere to be found in the bible (The KJV uses the word "Easter" in Acts 12:4, but a better translation is "Passover"; see NASB, ESV, NKJV).

The origin of the word "Easter" is somewhat controversial. This is most likely because some people want to defend the use of it in the church. An objective look at history at least suggests that the word Easter has an ancient pagan origin. The best concise explanation that I have found of the origin of Easter can be found at this site. It says, "The feast day of Easter was originally a pagan celebration of renewal and rebirth. Celebrated in the early spring, it honored the pagan Saxon goddess Eastre. When the early missionaries converted the Saxons to Christianity, the holiday, since it fell around the same time as the traditional memorial of Christ's resurrection from the dead, was merged with the pagan celebration, and became know as Easter. The meaning of Easter was also changed to reflect its new Christian orientation." Notice the similarity of the name of the pagan goddess Eastre with our holiday Easter.

Because of its pagan origin, we have decided not to use the word Easter. I will admit that due to tradition we sometimes slip up and use the word, but it is unintentional. We have also decided not to celebrate any of the pagan practices that accompany celebrations of spring. Specifically, we reject wholesale the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs. There is little I despise more than when pagan practices infiltrate the church. When I see little kids at church running around looking for eggs on the church property, it disappoints and nauseates me.

What we do celebrate at this time of year is our Lord Jesus' resurrection from the dead. On this coming Sunday, we will celebrate what we call "Resurrection Sunday." We actually celebrate this all the time, but especially this Sunday. This term seems to be a much better descriptor of what we are actually rejoicing about. We rejoice in the empty cross. We rejoice in the empty tomb. We rejoice in Christ's victory over death and Satan. We rejoice in our salvation.

Some people may say that I am being nit-picky. They say that the word used for this special day does not really matter. I beg to differ. If we say we are going to be biblical, then why not attempt to be biblical in all things? Why in the world would we use a name derived from a pagan goddess to refer to such a wonderful day of celebration for us? The use of "Easter" seems nonsensical to me.

This cartoon kind of sums things up. The Easter Bunny and Easter Egg have no idea what the cross is all about. This does not mean that we should try to share the gospel with the bunny and egg. What it means is that the bunny and egg have absolutely nothing to do with the cross. They have no connection with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In light of this, could we please reject the traditional use of "Easter" that permeates so many of our churches? Could we please do away with the Easter Bunny? I beg you, no more Easter Egg hunts after church!

Let's call Sunday what it is - Resurrection Sunday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What is Limited about the Atonement?

This week, as we ponder the glory of the atonement of Jesus Christ, it is important that we ponder it correctly. In particular for this post, let's ponder the limit of the atonement.

Many people do not like the term "limited atonement" because they think it means that Jesus' atoning work on the cross was limited in its power. They believe it is an insult and an affront to Christ. They believe this doctrine is heretical because they think it states that Jesus' death was not powerful enough to overcome sin.

If that is what limited atonement (I like the term particular redemption better) means, then it would be a heresy. However, that is not what limited atonement means at all. Limited atonement in no way suggests that the power, strength or efficacy of Christ's death is lacking. Rather, limited atonement states that the application of that atoning power is limited to believers in Christ alone. To put it another way, Jesus died to pay for the sins of his specific elect, not for the sins of every individual in the world. This stands in opposition to the doctrine of general atonement, which states that Jesus died to pay for the sins of the entire world.

Limited atonement also states that the death of Jesus actually secures salvation for the elect. It is not a potential salvation, which is what logically must be tied to general atonement.

Although many folks do not like the idea of a limited atonement, this doctrine has two things in its favor. First, it simply makes sense. Second, and more importantly, it is supported by numerous scripture references.

Limited atonement makes sense because in this doctrine all sins are paid for one time. Jesus paid for all the sins of the elect. The non-elect pay for their own sins in Hell for eternity. If Christ's death offers a general atonement, then many, many sins are paid for twice. In this view, Jesus paid for all the sins of everyone in the world for all time. Those who reject him and go to Hell also pay for their own sins. This means that most of the sins in the world are paid for two different times. We must keep in mind that God is a just God. He would not expect sins to be paid for two times. Therefore, the doctrine of general atonement must be rejected.

The biblical support for a limited atonement is significant. I have listed some of the supporting verses below (I added italics to emphasize where they speak to a limited atonement).

Isaiah 53:12 "Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors."

Matthew 1:21 "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (ESV)

Matthew 26:28 "
for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

Mark 10:45 "
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

John 6:37 "
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out."

John 10:14 "
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me."

John 17:9 "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours."

Acts 20:28 "
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

Romans 5:8 "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

II Corinthians 5:21 "
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Galatians 3:13 "
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'"

Ephesians 5:25 "
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."

Titus 2:14 "
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."

Hebrews 9:28 "so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him."

Revelation 5:9 "And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.'"

So, what is limited about the atonement of Christ? It certainly is not the power. It is the application that is limited. Christ died to pay for the sins of his followers. We can rejoice greatly in his sacrifice.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring in South Georgia

Spring has arrived in South Georgia. Actually, it probably started several weeks ago. One of my favorite signs of spring is the blooming of the Azaleas. These shrubs look like any other bush for most of the year, but in March-April they explode in a range of colors. The photos you see here come from Azaleas in our yard. These photos are not as clear as I would like because I took them with my phone. However, I think we can still enjoy them. If you live in cold, snowy places, then these pictures are just for you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Life Where We Were

Most of you know that we served in India from October 2006 until February 2007. We planned to stay there for many years, but God had other plans. We returned to the U.S. so that Bobby could get treatment for his Lymphoma.

Life in India is so different that it is often difficult to describe. However, the doctor who first treated Bobby in India is good at describing things in our particular city. This doctor, who is also our friend, has a knack for using humor on his blog to illustrate what life is like in India. What he says here is right on target.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

25 Things I Really Like About Church

In no particular order:

Seeing and hearing our triune God worshiped as He alone deserves

Edifying other believers

Being edified by other believers

Hearing the bible read in public

Hearing the scriptures proclaimed

Hearing how God has answered prayers

Listening to old saints pray

Praying together

Celebrating the Lord's Supper

Celebrating baptisms

Hearing how God is working in the lives of others

Giving tithes and offerings

Singing great old hymns

Singing great new choruses

Listening to a choir praise the Lord in song

Seeing young children observing their parents worshiping

Seeing young children worship

Watching kids grow in the Lord

Hearing babies cry

Seeing the excitement of a new Christian

Seeing the excitement of mature Christians

Watching people use their spiritual gifts to build up the body

Listening to reports from international mission trips

Listening to reports from local mission trips

Being with other believers

What would you add to this list?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Check out Worldmap

I love maps, especially when they are connected to the spread of the gospel around the globe. One of my favorite websites to visit is This site, which is part of the World Missions Atlas Project, contains a great deal of resources, statistics, and maps.

Part of the problem in the Western church when it comes to missions is not knowing where to begin. The task seems so incredibly vast. Clearly, only God can do it. However, He has called upon us to be involved (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8). My suggestion to local churches is to research various parts of the world, pray about it, and then get involved where the Holy Spirit leads.

Why not begin where the need is largest? If you look on the main page of the worldmap website, you will see an interactive globe with faces surrounding it from various parts of the world. Run your mouse arrow over the different faces to see statistics for the different regions of the world. You'll quickly notice that East Asia (which is basically code-speak for China) and South Asia (dominated by India) have by far the most people in the world. However, while East Asia has "only" 400 unreached people groups, South Asia has 1100 that have never been reached.

So if you want to be involved in international missions, but do not know what to do, let me suggest that you begin by praying for South Asia. Second, please give financially to international missions. Your denomination, if you are part of one, should be able to help with this. Third, consider making a short-term trip overseas to assist and encourage missionaries who are already there. Finally, consider being a full-time missionary. I can think of about 1100 people groups in South Asia who need you right now.

One additional way to spur your church's interest in international missions is to put some maps up around your building. You can order various maps at the worldmap site. The map below shows the status of evangelization (or lack thereof) in South Asia. It is difficult to see, but any red area has almost no Christian witness (click directly on the map for a close-up view).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More Acid Aimed at Homeschoolers

In today's edition of the Los Angeles Times, two former university professors take aim at homeschooling. In an opinion piece entitled, "Regulating home schoolers," Walter P. Coombs and Ralph E. Shaffer, both emeritus professors at Cal Poly Pamona, write the following things about home education:

"It's time Californians realized that there are few regulations regarding home schooling and virtually no safeguards to make certain that subjects appropriate to the age group are taught. On the other hand, there is a formidable cottage industry run by conservative evangelicals that provides 'suitable' materials for home schoolers."

"If home schooling forums on the Web are indicative of the views held by parents of learn-at-home kids, their offspring are getting an extremely warped lesson in civics."

"It's evident that the vast majority who teach their offspring in front of the television do so because they don't want their children to be subjected to such dangerous doctrines as evolution, abortion, global warming, equal rights and other ideas abhorrent to the evangelical mantra."

"There has always been something decidedly elitist and anti-democratic in home schooling. It smacks of a belief that privileged children should not have to associate with the other kids in the neighborhood and that by staying home, they would not be subjected to the leavening effect of democracy."

"Moreover, it is apparent from the cries of the far right that there has been a specific policy in home schooling -- to teach only the ideas acceptable to ideologues who fear the contaminating influence of what is commonly known as a liberal education."

These comments speak for themselves. The concerning thing is that because these men were professors, at least some people will listen to them. This way of thinking could continue to make its way into public policy.

All parents who exercise their constitutional rights to educate their children at home must be aware of what is happening nationally. We must stand up for the rights granted to us in the U.S. constitution. One way to start doing this is to join HSLDA.

To read the above opinion piece in the LA Times, click here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Unemployed and Homeless

I'll admit up-front that both the post title and this photo are exaggerations of our current situation. We are by no means destitute, nor are we actually homeless.

Here's our current situation: we are living in the mission house owned by Rothwell Baptist Church, which is located in Pooler, GA (suburban Savannah). The Rothwell family has been very gracious to us. They have given us no time limit on how long we may live here. Therefore, we do have a place to live. However, this does not feel like home because we know that there is no permanence to it.

As for employment, our financial support and benefits from the International Mission Board end on March 15th. After that, I am officially unemployed. The IMB has been very gracious to us; I am thrilled that we were able to resign from the IMB on good terms.

I have been looking for both pastoral and non-pastoral positions within this area and beyond. I can't remember all of the various job applications I have filled out. I even applied to work at Starbucks (they have good health insurance). At one point, I considered returning to UPS, but then I came to my senses and discarded that idea.

Right now a few things seem promising. I have preached locally at one Southern Baptist church on three different occasions. We spent a joyful day there yesterday. I preached twice, and Bobby's car even won their Pinewood derby (after, not during, the morning service). In the morning service, the sermon came from Ephesians 4:17-24. In the evening, the text was Acts 16:1-15. We have enjoyed our time at this church; this may be where God wants us to serve. I have the privilege of preaching there next Sunday morning also. I'm planning to discuss the Triumphal Entry in the AM service, and the topic of suffering in the PM service.

Other possibilities include one church in Tennessee and another in Utah. Beyond that, there are two Christian chaplaincy agencies that may have positions available. I am certainly also open to moving into secular work, but nothing has surfaced so far.

Despite these uncertainties, we know that God is still sovereign and will do what is best. In his perfect timing, he will provide a job and home for us. We, of course, would like this to happen today. However, we have to trust that God knows best. Even when our faith wavers during this time, he is always faithful.

He shows us his providence each day. We have a prime example - our son is not only alive, but he is healthy!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The High Priestly Prayer and Particular Redemption

One passage of scripture that stuns me with its depth and beauty is Jesus' High Priestly Prayer from John chapter 17 (click here to read). This prayer is the pinnacle of the Farewell Discourse, the teachings of Christ to His disciples in John 13-17. Immediately after John 17, Jesus headed to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Two verses stand out from John 17 that help us understand the extent of Christ's atonement. In John 17:6, Jesus prays, "I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word." A few verses later, in John 17:9, our Lord says, "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours."

When we read these verses, several things stand out:
First, God the Father gave specific people to Jesus.
Second, Jesus made Himself known to those particular people.
Third, these people first belonged to God the Father.
Fourth, these people kept God's word.
Fifth, Jesus prays for these particular people.
Sixth, Jesus does not pray for the world.

So what is going on here? It is clear from this passage that God the Father chose specific people that He then gave to His Son, Jesus Christ. During His time on earth, Jesus made Himself known to those people who had been given to Him. These people were the ones who ended up keeping His word. In other words, they became followers of Christ. When Jesus prays, He prays for those specific people that had been given to Him. Christ makes a point of saying that He does not pray for the world.

How do these verses impact our understanding of the atonement? Specifically related to the extent of the atonement, do these verses support a particular redemption (limited atonement) or a general redemption (general atonement)?

John 17:6 and John 17:9 clearly show us that God has a particular people that have been given to Jesus. Christ causes Himself to be known to these people, who then follow and obey Him. Jesus prays for these people, but not for the entire world.

There can be no doubt that these verses support particular redemption. The entire theme of these verses is that God has a specific people. Christ prays for only these people. Therefore, Christ would have died for these specific people.

It would be outlandish to say that Christ died for the sins of those whom He was not given, who do not follow Him, and whom He does not even pray for.

God has a specific plan of redemption which began before the foundation of the world (see Eph. 1:3-5). This plan extends to the end of time and beyond (see Eph. 1:13-14). This plan is for the redemption of a specific people, whom God has chosen out. These people will all turn to Christ in repentance and belief.

In this specific plan, God the Son died for this specific people. All of the atoning work of the cross is effective. If, on the other hand, Jesus had died for the sins of all humanity, then most of the atoning work of the cross would have been wasted (since the vast majority of people are not saved). We know that God's work is not wasted.

When Jesus prays in John 17, He prays for God's specific, particular people. These are the same people for whom He died. Christ prays for His own children.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Homeschooling Comes Under Fire in California

A court ruling in California states that parents do not have a constitutional right to teach their own children at home. The state has said that parents must have state-approved teaching credentials in order to educate their kids. This is a stunning and troublesome ruling because it both targets parental rights in general and also is a direct attack on homeschooling. To see much more about this, click here to read Dr. Mohler's blog.

On a related topic, if your child attends public school, will they be observing the nation-wide homosexual-sponsored "Day of Silence"?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Beauty of Particular Redemption

My favorite single verse in the bible is II Corinthians 5:21. In my opinion, it gives the best single verse description of the gospel in all of scripture. Here it is in several different translations:

ESV - "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

KJV - "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

NASB - "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

NKJV - "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

YLT - "for him who did not know sin, in our behalf He did make sin, that we may become the righteousness of God in him" (Young's Literal Translation, 1862/1898; although it is quite wooden, I have included Young's translation because it provides us with the closest translation of the original Greek.)

When we read this beautiful verse, we clearly see the wonder of the "great exchange". We read of God the Father making God the Son to be sin on our behalf, so that we would become the very righteousness of God in Christ. The amount of profound information in this one verse is staggering.

One often overlooked aspect of this verse is its support of the doctrine of Particular Redemption, what is sometimes referred to as Limited Atonement. This doctrine states that when Christ died, He died for the sins of the elect (all Christians of all time) only. This is to be contrasted with the doctrine of General Atonement, which states that Christ died for the sins of all mankind.

Two little words in Greek in II Corinthians 5:21 support the doctrine of Particular Redemption. Those two words are translated "for our sake" (ESV), "for us" (KJV, NKJV), "on our behalf" (NASB), and "in our behalf" (YLT). A straightforward reading of the text makes it clear that God the Father caused God the Son to be sin for us. In other words, God did this on behalf of certain people - us.

Who, then, is the "us" in II Corinthians 5:21? We can easily find the answer to this in Paul's greeting at the beginning of the letter. In II Corinthians 1:1, Paul writes, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, and Timotheus the brother, to the assembly of God that is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia" (YLT).

Paul was writing not only to the church in the city of Corinth, but also to all the saints in the region of Achaia. When Paul writes the word "saints," he is referring to Christians. The key here is that Paul is only writing to Christian people.

Since Paul was only writing to Christians, the "us" in II Corinthians 5:21 must mean that Jesus was made to be sin for Christians. Therefore, He died for the sins of the elect. If Paul had wanted to say that Jesus had died for the sins of the entire human race, he could have written something like,"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for all individuals." However, Paul did not write that. The apostle makes it clear here that Jesus died for the sins of the elect only.

There is a significant beauty to the doctrine of Particular Redemption. Since Jesus died only for the sins of the elect, then His payment on the cross is an actual atonement. This is because it is effective in paying the price for the sins of the elect. None of the elect are failed to be saved. This ought to give us great peace.

If Jesus' death had been for the sins of all individuals, then His payment would not have been an actual atonement; it would only have been a potential atonement. This is because we all know that not all individuals are saved. In this doctrine (General Atonement) Christ's death must be accompanied by something else for salvation to be achieved. It depends on man's choice of God. Therefore, in this view man's choice of God logically has to be added to Christ's death in order for salvation to be achieved. In the end, this ends up being a "grace plus works" view of salvation.

The biblical view of salvation is "grace alone." Christ's death on the cross by itself is enough to save. Please do not misunderstand me. A person is only saved after he repents of sin and believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What I am stressing in this post is that all of the work of salvation is the work of God. The doctrine of Particular Atonement supports this.

In the end, the reason I hold to Particular Atonement is because it is biblical. I hold to all of the Doctrines of Grace because they are biblical.

Click here to read more.

This One Might be an Improvement

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ockham's Razor and the Bible

I recently posted about the necessity for humility in what we believe. However, I in no way want to suggest that we cannot know the truth. If we can't, then everything is relative. God has given us His word to keep us from falling into a relativistic trap.

We must be able to correctly interpret the bible in order to know what God is saying to us. How do we do this? What methods can we use to assist us when we read the scriptures? One of the most important things to keep in mind is that there are some sections of the bible (verse, passage, or chapter) that are easier for our fallen minds to comprehend than are others.

When we run into a difficult passage, we must interpret it by looking to clearer passages that deal with the same or similar topics. In other words, the bible must be used to interpret the bible.

Closely related to this is the extreme importance of context. Single verses rarely carry the writer's full meaning in the bible. It is the paragraph that is the key. Furthermore, we must always remember the meaning of the chapter, book, and full canon. Context is key.

What else can we do? We need to believe that the writers of the bible meant what they said. We must assume that a passage should be taken literally unless there is an obvious reason not to do so. So, when Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me," we must believe that He literally meant it. If we do not do this, then the bible simply becomes a book that we bring are own meaning to. Then all meaning is "up for grabs."

When I read the bible, I try to keep in mind Ockham's Razor. William of Ockham was a 14th century English philosopher and logician. His principle has been used over the years in many ways. Simply put, Ockham's idea means: All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.

Although Ockham's theory is not found in the bible, I still believe it has relevance for our study of scripture. When approaching a passage, if we believe that the straightforward reading of the text is simplest and almost always correct, then we will do well in understanding what the original author meant. Most of the time, when we try to look for something more complicated, we run into trouble (by "trouble," I mean coming to an incorrect understanding of the text).

I'll admit that all scripture should not be taken literally. For example, in John 10:9, Jesus says, "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." I think we'll all agree that Jesus is not a literal wooden door with a handle and hinges. Writers of scripture sometimes employ literary techniques such as allusion, anthropomorphism, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, parable, simile, etc. However, when the writers do this, they make it obvious. Why? They do this because God wants us to be able to understand His book. He is not playing games with us. (For very helpful information about literary techniques and figures of speech in scripture, check this out).

I say all this as encouragement to all of us. Our faith in God is based upon the truth revealed to us in His book. We must be able to understand it in order to know Him. The glorious thing is that we can understand it. We do well in this by keeping things simple - God means what He says.