Sunday, 22 March 2009

Christian Hedonism in the C16th

Alongside my morning Bible reading I have been reading 365 days with Calvin: I forgot to take it with me while I was away Friday and Saturday so it was good to catch up this morning. Part of the reading for 20th March was the following:
Praise Ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that fearth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. Psalm 112:1
In the second clause of the verse, the prophet specifies that the fear of God includes delighting greatly in his commandments. The addition of this explanatory clause is quite apparent, for while people boldly condemn the law of God, yet it is also common for them to pretend that they fear God. The prophet refuses such impiety when he acknowledges that no one is a true worshiper of God who does not endeavor to keep God's law. The prophet makes a significant between a willing and prompt effort to keep the law, and one that merely consists of servile and constrained obedience.
We must therefore, cheerfully embrace the law of God in such a manner that our love of it, with all its sweetness, may overcome all allurements of the flesh. Mere attention to the law is fruitless. A person cannot be regarded as a genuine observer of the law unless he truly delights in the law of God and renders obedience that is agreeable to God.
Joel Beeke the editor offers these thoughts for meditation: Do you esteem God's smile and frowns to be of more value than the smiles and frowns of people? Do you welcome any means He May employ to urge us on to obedience.
God Bless

Are you a functional deist?

This morning at CBC we had the privilege of having Dr Jamie Grant from HTC preach, Jamie's style is warm and conversational. His text was Isaiah 54, during his introduction he gave us a short history lesson on Deism. Reminding us that the Deists believed in a creator God who had created the whole universe, but like someone who winds up a grandfather clock and then leaves to function on its own. The deists believed that the creator God just left the universe alone, there is no personal involvement. He said the problem for many Christians especially in the Calvinistic tradition is that we understand that God is LORD, creator, King and ruler but we live as functional deists, this side of the cross we might recognise that God loves the world but we are less sure that he loves us. To us the idea that God is interested in our day to day circumstances, in our work, our home life isn't something that even enters out minds, we are in danger of being functional deists. In Isaiah 54 God tells us through the prophet that he our maker, the LORD of the heavenly armies is our husband. That is the most intimate language that God could use to describe his relationship with us. Our Maker is our husband he is concerned in a loving way for us, he provides for us and he shares himself with us. He is also our redeemer, Isaiah isn't talking in Pauline language he is talking about the Goel, or the kinsman redeemer. The kinsmen redeemer who fills the post of getting a relative out of trouble.
We have a personal relationship with God, we can share with him every need, every hurt and every desire of our hearts because he cares for us! God is creator and is all powerful and is not only willing to side with us but is able act on our behalf for His glory!

Stephen <><

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Christianity in Crisis 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff

Seeing this book back in print and updated for the C21st makes me happy and sad at the same time. Hanegraff’s original edition of Christianity in Crisis did an excellent and complete job of showing that the faith teachers have a different Jesus and a different Gospel. Yet the sad part thing is the faith teachers are still in business, dressed in pure wool suits, and fleecing the flock. I remember being devastated as a young Pentecostal going along to hear Benny Hinn. I never read anything but the Bible and was looking forward to the signs and wonders, but I went to hear him. What I heard was heresy, Hinn said temptation only came when we are far away from God. The Bible says Jesus was tempted in every way as we yet is without sin. in Reality temptation comes the closer you get to God. Secondly, Hinn said, the flesh is our fallen nature, John tells us that Jesus came in the flesh. That was a painful evening leaving me feeling all alone, then I came across Christianity in Crisis and found out I was not alone and indeed the crisis I had stumbled upon was bigger and much worse than I had thought. Hanegraaff shows that the faith teachers God isn’t the sovereign omnipotent God of the Bible but a genie who responds to the force of faith. Hanegraaff builds his case in the words of the faith teachers themselves.
This new version isn’t a new book but it has new characters, the flawed theology of the faith teachers is the same as ever. Some of the faces have changed, Hank has built in quotes from Joyce Meyer, Joel Olsteen, Rod Parsley and “the latest shooting star” Todd Bentley. Hanegraaff rightly refers to Bentley as a shooting star so much so that by the time of printing he is a spent force. This isn’t the case for Christianity in Crisis, this is a book that is well researched, easy to read and is very necessary. Although I no longer move in circles where the names of the faith teachers come up on a daily basis a visit to the local version of a national Christian bookstall reveals that the faith teachers are still the best sellers. People are being deceived by the faith teachers and need to hear what they are saying in light of Scripture. This is a book that deserves to be read, the original book had a tape version which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that these were not the words of Hanegraaff but the faith teachers themselves. I hope Thomas Nelson bring out an up to date audio version.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

How Can A Good God Let Bad Things Happen- Mark Tabb

When I first started this book, I was a little disappointed because it was not a philosophical discussion. I was filled with dread anticipating another book filled with more cliché easy answers to this perplexing question, yet that was not the case at all. Mark Tabb recognises that he as American (like any of us in the West) cannot speak of discomfort in the same way as Christians living under persecution. However he has previously served as a pastor, he is a volunteer fire fighter and serves as a chaplain to his local fire department so he has faced people with real problems. He says while we are in seminary or discussing theology we might be able to talk about two will’s within God. Yet it is difficult to talk about the secret will of God to someone who has just lost their loved ones. Mark Tabb takes us on a journey through Job he notes that Job is not afraid to ask God why, rather than trying to clinch his teeth and pretend to God that everything is just fine which is the foolish thing that we do.
Tabb recognises that God is sovereign and that everything will work out for the believer in eternity but we do not have the answers to the difficult questions of human suffering. For example, he rightly points out that we cannot say that God is using our circumstances to refine our character to someone who goes through repeated family loses, loses all their wealth and is regarded as a righteous man before that happens as in the case of Job. In fact in the book of Job, he doesn’t receive any answers as to why God allows him to suffer. At the end of the book, Job sees the LORD and accepts what the LORD has done in his life.
It is clear that Tabb has been around people with real tragedy and has been able to stand alongside them. He reminds me that sometimes pointing to Romans 8:28 isn’t helpful just being there for someone is. Tabb answers the question from a Bible perspective he shows that taking the Open Theist view will not work because God is sovereign and all powerful. The book is well written, Tabb doesn’t go for an easy answer to the most perplexing question of all. I highly recommend this book!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

though he is dead he still speaks

I was reminded yesterday of Jonathan Edwards connection to several great movements of God even after his death. Firstly, Edwards had a good connection with the first Scottish Presbyterian split they offered each other mutual encouragement when Edwards was fired from his job and the disruptionist group left the Church of Scotland. Edwards was sent a copy of a little Scottish book on prayer, this influenced his book "A Call to United Extraordinary Prayer.." which was very influential in stirring revivial again after Edwards' death, influencing both in his native America and here in Britain.

After his death Edwards influence continued amongst Scottish Presbyterian splits, Thomas Chalmers one of the leaders of the Free Church of Scotland said, 'My theology is that of Jonathan Edwards.' In the only Free Church I have attended regularly there is still a feeling of Edwards warm vibrant Calvinism.

In England the Particular Baptists were caught up in the snare of hyper Calvinism it was through the rediscovery of the Calvinism of Jonathan Edwards that revealed to them a more evangelical Calvinism and created the environment for the modern missionary movement by influencing people like William Carey.

In the C20th the Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd Jones was greatly influenced by Jonathan Edwards and MLJ himself influenced a generation of evangelical ministers.

In the USA, John Gerstner, R. C. Sproul and John Piper have created a new generation of Edwards disciples, this is a good thing as Edwards offers a robust warm Calvinism.

Long may his legacy continue!

God Bless

Stephen <><