Friday, January 24, 2014

Debate on Predestination and Divine Healing

Here is information on two debates, one on predestination and the other on divine healing.  Both of the Michael and James are competent theologians so it should be interesting.  I am probably split on the two positions, I believe in unconditional election and divine healing.
Live debate on Predestination and Election Join us on Friday, January 24, at 4pm-6pm EST for a live debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. James White. They will debate the doctrine of Predestination and ask: Did Christ die for all? The debate will be live-streamed again at 9pm EST. Live debate on Divine Healing Come back again on Saturday, January 25, at 4pm-6pm EST for a live debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. James White. They will debate whether the gift of healing has ceased. The debate will be live-streamed again at 9pm EST. Brought to in cooperation with Click to watch LIVE:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How Much Do You Value the Bible?

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.  Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psa 19:9-11)

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Joy of Discipleship

From Jared Wilson.
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
John 17:13
My friend Godwin Sathianathan preached at Middletown Church yesterday morning on Mark 12:28-34, and one particular thing he said in his introduction landed on me especially heavily. He was talking about an old friend of his who was very strong for many years in church activities, discipleship groups, Christian conferences, and the like, but who ultimately left the faith, deciding Christianity was no longer for him. Godwin said that one thing that stood out to him about his friend was that his faith always seemed so burdensome to him.
Should it always be so? We all usually agree that to follow Jesus is to take up one’s cross, to constantly be doing battle against the flesh, to constantly be denying one’s self and resisting temptation and pursuing repentance. This is all hard work. Cross-carrying is not “happy go lucky” stuff. And yet, the love of Christ — love for Christ — for the Christian is seen as a more delightful experience than all the world’s charms and flesh-feedings. The very reason we take up our cross is not because dutiful religion is more fun than no religion but because we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, that taking up our cross is better; it’s more freeing, not less. The yoke and burden Christ offers is easy and light.
Discipleship to Christ is very difficult. But it is incomparably joyful. Or ought to be. And the more we walk with Christ, the more sin we find to repent of, but the more joy we experience too. There is fullness of joy in him. The Spirit actually grows joy in us! So if my Christian life has no joy in it — ever — perhaps it is not the Christian life I’m living.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Abortion and the Lordship of Jesus Christ

I found this while reading articles on World Magazine's website.
The late Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier, theologian and longtime professor at Union Seminary, wrote of abortion’s denial of the doctrine of redemption—that having been redeemed we are no longer our own but belong to God:
“But now, you see, the abortion forces in the church are whispering, ‘Don’t believe a word of it. You belong to yourself, and your body is yours alone. You can do what you like with that child you carry in your womb.’ Oh no, good Christians, abortion is not a fringe issue. It has to do with the heart of our faith—with the Christian doctrine of redemption by the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“In short, abortion has to do with the lordship of Jesus Christ and with everything we say about the nature of Christ’s lordly rule. Abortion says that Christ was wrong when He commanded, ‘Do not kill’ [Mark 10:19]. Abortion says that we can make up our own rules for our sinful selves, and totally ignore the fact that apart from Christ, we can do nothing, except wither and dry up like branches that are good only to be tossed into a fire [John 15:5-6]. Abortion says that Christ is not Lord, but rather that we are our own lords instead. And so abortion argues against and denies the church’s earliest, central, most enduring confession, that Jesus Christ alone is Lord over all in heaven and on earth.”

Monday, January 6, 2014

How to Survive a Cultural Crisis

Here is a helpful article from Mark Dever I found on the Gospel Coalition.

Public opinion appears to be changing about same-sex marriage, as are the nation's laws. Of course this change is just one in a larger constellation. America's views on family, love, sexuality generally, tolerance, God, and so much more seems to be pushing in directions that put Bible-believing Christians on the defensive.

It's easy to feel like we've become the new "moral outlaws," to use Al Mohler's phrase. Standing up for historic Christian principles will increasingly get you in trouble socially and maybe economically, perhaps one day also criminally. It's ironic that Christians are told not to impose their views on others, even as the threat of job loss or other penalties loom over Christians for not toeing the new party line.

In all this, Christians are tempted to become panicked or to speak as alarmists. But to the extent we do, to that same extent we show we've embraced an unbiblical and nominal Christianity.
Here, then, are seven principles for surviving the very real cultural shifts we're presently enduring.

1. Remember that churches exist to work for supernatural change.

The whole Christian faith is based on the idea that God takes people who are spiritually dead and gives them new life. Whenever we evangelize, we are evangelizing the cemetery.
There's never been a time or a culture when it was natural to repent of your sins. That culture doesn't exist, it hasn't existed, it never will exist. Christians, churches, and pastors especially must know deep in their bones that we've always been about a work that's supernatural.
From that standpoint, recent cultural changes have made our job zero percent harder.

2. Understand that persecution is normal.  

In the last few months I've been preaching through John's Gospel, and a number of people have thanked me for bringing out the theme of persecution. But I'm not convinced my preaching has changed; I think people's ears have changed. Recent events in the public square have caused people to become concerned about what's ahead for Christians. But if you were to go back and listen to my old sermons—say, a series preached in the 1990s on 1 Peter— you'd discover that ordinary biblical exposition means raising the topic of persecution again and again.
Persecution is what Christians face in this fallen world. It's what Jesus promised us (e.g., John 16).
Now, it may be that in God's providence some Christians find themselves in settings where, even if they devote their lives to obeying Jesus, they won't encounter insult and persecution. But don't be fooled by the nice buildings in which so many churches meet. This Jesus we follow was executed as a state criminal.
One of my fellow pastors recently observed that, in the history of Christian persecution, it's often secondary issues—not the gospel—that elicit persecution. Persecutors don't say, "You believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ; I'm going to persecute you now." Rather, some belief or practice we maintain as Christians contradicts what people want or threatens their way of seeing the world. And so they oppose us.
Again, to the extent we respond to changes in our culture either with panic or alarmism, to that same extent we contradict the Bible's teaching about ordinary Christian discipleship. It shows we've traded on the normalcy of nominalism.
Pastors especially should set the example in teaching their congregations not to play the victim. We should salt into our regular preaching and praying the normalcy of persecution. It's the leader's work to prepare churches for how we can follow Jesus, even if it means social criticism, or loss of privilege, or financial penalties, or criminal prosecution.

3. Eschew utopianism.

Christians should be a people of love and justice, and that means we should always strive to make our little corner of the globe a bit nicer than how we found it, whether that's a kindergarten classroom or a kingdom. But even as we work for the sake of love and justice, we must remember we're not going to transform this world into the kingdom of our Christ.
God hasn't commissioned us to make this world perfect; he's commissioned us chiefly to point to the One who will one day make it perfect, even as we spend our lives loving and doing good. If you're tempted to utopianism, please observe that Scripture doesn't allow it, and that the history of utopianism has a track record of distracting and deceiving even some of Christ's most zealous followers.
It's good to feel sadness over the growing approval given to sin in our day. But one of the reasons many Christians in America feel disillusionment over current cultural changes is that we've been somewhat utopian in our hopes. Again, to the extent you think and speak as an alarmist, to that same extent you demonstrate that utopian assumptions may have been motivating you all along.

4. Make use of our democratic stewardship.

I would be sad if anyone concluded from my comments that it doesn't matter what Christians do publicly or with the state. Paul tells us to submit to the state. But in our democratic context, part of submitting to the state means sharing in its authority. And if we have a share in its authority, we just might have, to some extent, a share in its tyranny. To neglect the democratic process, so long as it's in our hands, is to neglect a stewardship.
We cannot create Utopia, but that doesn't mean we cannot be good stewards of what we have, or that we cannot use the democratic processes to bless others. For the sake of love and justice, we should make use of our democratic stewardship.

5. Trust the Lord, not human circumstances.

There's never been a set of circumstances Christians cannot trust God through. Jesus beautifully trusted the Father through the cross "for the joy set before him" (Heb. 12:2). Nothing you and I will face will amount to what our King had to suffer.
We can trust him. He will prove trustworthy through everything we might have to endure. And as we trust him, we will bear a beautiful testimony of God's goodness and power, and we will bring him glory.

6. Remember that everything we have is God's grace.

We must remember anything we receive less than hell is dancing time for Christians. Right? Everything a Christian has is all of grace. We need to keep that perspective so that we aren't tempted to become too sour toward our employers, our friends, our family members, and our government when they oppose us.
How was Paul able to sing in prison? He knew that of which he'd been forgiven. He knew the glory that awaited him. He perceived and prized these greater realities.

7. Rest in the certainty of Christ's victory.

The gates of hell will not prevail against the church of Jesus Christ. We need not fear and tremble as if Satan has finally, after all these millennia, gained the upper hand in his opposition to God through the same-sex marriage lobby.
"Oh, we might finally lose it here!" No, not a chance.
People around the world now and throughout history have suffered far more than Christians in America presently do. And we don't assume Satan had the upper hand there, do we?
Each nation and age has a unique way to express its depravity, to attack God. But none will succeed any more than the crucifixion succeeded in defeating Jesus. Yes, he died. But three days later he got up from the dead.
Christ's kingdom is in no danger of failing. Again, Christians, churches, and especially pastors must know this deeply in our bones. D-Day has happened. Now it's cleanup time. Not one person God has elected to save will fail to be saved because the secular agenda is "winning" in our time and place. There shouldn't be anxiety or desperation in us.
We may not be able to out-argue others. They may not be persuaded by our books and articles. But we can love them with the supernatural love God has shown to us in Christ. And we can make his Word known today—with humility, with confidence, and with joy.
Mark Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and the author of numerous books, including Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. You can learn more about him at 9Marks or follow him on Twitter.

Friday, January 3, 2014

How to Guard Against Mission Drift

Everyone struggles with drifting from their mission.  Here is a good reminder.
New pastors and/or church planters have extremely high aspirations for maintaining the purity of their church's mission. All those churches they used to work for got too messy, complicated, and unfocused. "This church won't be that way!" they vow to themselves and other leaders.
broken compassThis is easier said than done. For most, after a few years of ministry, the challenges of mission drift come fast and furious.
Jesus is clear that our job as Christians is to make disciples (Matt. 28:19-10). Any church that doesn't have this aspiration as a focal point of their mission simply disobeys Jesus. But mission drift happens even in organizations with clear goals and objectives. Consider the following points to help guard against this tendency.
Be ruthlessly redundant. I recall a time when I was giving announcements during a church service concerning an upcoming marriage retreat. It was the third week in a row that I made this same announcement. After the service I saw my friend Laura and asked her if she and her husband would be attending the retreat. I know she was present in the service all three weeks I made this same announcement. Yet she said to me, "Marriage retreat? I didn't know there was a marriage retreat!"
We have to over-communicate everything for anything to be heard. So dare to be ruthlessly redundant. We have to learn to creatively over-saturate people with various modes of communication so they truly know our values and what we are collectively doing in light of those values. The bigger your organization the harder you must work to keep everyone on the same page. It helps to keep your mission statement simple. Because if no one can remember your mission, you won't have to worry about mission drift, because you won't have any mission.
Put the right people in the right place. Is everyone on your team fully convinced of the mission? If not, you're simply waiting for mission drift. I know that most leaders can't simply remove people from their team without causing huge conflict. Nuanced and difficult situations demand wisdom, patience, and prayer as you handle the complexity of hiring and firing. If you can't change the team, at least you must be careful about who gets added in the future.
Say no to some very good things. Make the mission of your church the filter by which you determine your yes and no. You will need to say no to some very good things that don't hit the bullseye of what God is calling your church to do.
Prepare for people to get mad, leave your church, or write you angry e-mails. This is the cost of a focused mission, but make no mistake—the payoff is beautiful. "Don't spread yourself too thin" is a cliché for a reason. Everyone has a tendency to do it. But if you are in the habit of saying no to some really good things it will most likely free up space for you to accomplish your church's calling.
Remember that you are not accountable to people who leave your church or write you angry e-mails. You will answer to God alone on the day that he has fixed. That judgment should provide the needed motivation to stay focused on your vision and mission.
Drip mission in every sermon. Larry Osborne writes in his book Sticky Teams about how he used to think that the most important aspect of casting vision was his yearly "vision sermon." Over time this sermon proved challenging because people didn't show up and faithful members tended to tune out since they heard the same message, with the same point, the year before. Now he practices a new approach to guard against mission drift:
Rather than blasting it all at once, I drop vision and core values into every sermon I preach.
The result has been far greater congregational alignment. Dripping core values and vision into every sermon makes them unavoidable. Anyone who would have missed my vision series or who would have tuned out because they'd heard it before is now stuck. Each week I plant a seed or two and then move on, long before they have a chance to tune out or put up their guard. And if they missed this week's sermon, I'll get them next week.
Beware personal drift. Most organizations reflect the values and personality of their leader(s). How's that for a scary thought? Is there mission drift in your life? Can anyone around you diagnose this drift? If there is any disconnect between the stated vision and mission of the church and the life of the main leader(s), is it any wonder the church drifts from it?
Leading any organization is hard work. Staying aligned to our core calling to make disciples takes continued focus. This can be exhausting at times. Remember, in the end, Jesus will build his church. When we fear that everything is falling apart, that is the time to fall apart in prayer to the Father. As we faithfully pursue him, he will provide what we need to make sure that his church (not ours) will be focused on the right things.
Zach Nielsen (@znielsen) is one of the pastors at The Vine Church in Madison, Wisconsin, where he serves in the areas of preaching, leadership development and music. He is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and Covenant Theological Seminary and blogs at Take Your Vitamin Z.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

15 Best Preaching Practices

Every year Preaching Today gives their Top Ten Lists.  Here is the article on preaching skills.  The author is a church planter and has done a lot of reading recently on the subject so he has gleaned some of the best ideas from some of the top communicators.   Some suggestions are better than others but worth reading for all communicators.