Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New Google Reader

I have been enjoying a new update of the GoogleReader that allows people to read numerous blogs, new services, etc… all from one web page. The old GoogleReader was structured poorly. With this new release, they made drastic improvements. Anyway, if you like the idea of keeping up with information in the most efficient way possible, you might want to look into this great resource.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Weekend Thanks

Thanks to all of you who contributed to such a blessed weekend of worship and praise this last weekend at Parkview! To John Carlson, the band, and choir, thank you for giving us such a picture of heavenly worship; and to Josh Malone and the others who provided research help, I deeply appreciated your accountability and encouragement that pushed me to deliver a teaching that I pray was Biblically faithful and personally engaging.

If any of you missed the weekend message on Revelation 4 and 5, you can catch it here. I may (or may not) release some notes at a later date for those of you who would be interested in reviewing some of the interpretations and applications I discussed within the message.

BTW: Thanks also goes to Eli Suddarth for coordinating the weekend baptisms and for Phil, Bill, and Don for all the work that went into moving our services throughout the facility and dealing with all the complexities of the integrated baptisms! Great job!

Firefox 2.0

For those of you not aware, Firefox is a free web-browser that has strongly rivaled popular web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Safari, and Netscape. Many avid computer users have been sold on this browser for years. I have been using it for the last year and have been very impressed. Today I installed and test-drove the new Firefox version 2.0 and have been equally impressed. One of the beauties of Firefox is that anyone is allowed to develop plug-ins that can be integrated into the browser. This means you can get a plug in to do everything from display integrated weather maps to synchronizing your “favorites” list on numerous computers browsers. You can check it out here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace

I have heard and read quite a bit of buzz about the Indelible Grace music ministry recently, so I thought it would be prudent to fill in my small collection of Indelible Grace CD’s with their other past releases and Matthew Smith’s new CD titled “All I Owe.” Though I am yet to receive Matthew’s new release, I’ve been really enjoying my Indelible Grace CD’s. It’s not an overstatement to say; I haven’t enjoyed an entire collection of music this much for a long time. I think I most enjoy the combination of acoustic/folk/rock with old hymn lyrics (some of which I am learning for the first time). Not everyone appreciates when we "music types" write new arrangements to these old hymns, but it has been an encouragement to me and may be to you also. Below is a clip of a post from Bob Kauflin on Matthew’s new CD “All I Owe.” You can go hear a sample of Matthew Smith’s music here at his myspace site.

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Matthew's new CD, All I Owe, is now available for pre-order. I was able to get a pre-release download and wanted to share my thoughts on the CD.

The project contains ten hymns:

1. Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing
2. All I Owe
3. Thy Blood Was Shed For Me
4. None Among
5. His Love Can Never Fail
6. Jesus, I Am Resting
7. How Helpless
8. My Lord I Did Not Choose You
9. The Lord Will Provide
10. Nothing But The Blood

The instrumentation is a mix of contemporary styles, ably produced by Cason Cooley. Lots of acoustic and electric guitars, percussion, and great vocals. The sound will be familiar to those who know the music of Caedmon's Call and Indelible Grace. Matthew's strong, clear, and passionate voice carries each song well.

The lyrics are a feast. Some samples:

To celebrate the truth of justification:
Let the world their virtue boast
And works of righteousness
I, a wretch, undone and lost
Am freely saved by grace.

To remember God's sovereign care:
Though troubles assail and dangers affright
Though friends should all fail and foes all unite
Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,
The scripture assures us, the Lord will provide.

To encourage us in our battle against sin:
Idols crowd my heart and mind
And demand I shed my blood
But the Lord, the risen Christ
Has secured me in the flood

To acknowledge God's gracious election:
My Lord I did not choose You
For that could never be
My heart would still refuse You
Had You not chosen me
You took the sin that stained me
Cleansed me, made me new
Of old You have ordained me
That I should live in You.

This last verse is from My Lord, I Did Not Choose You, perhaps my favorite cut on the CD.

The project also includes familiar but tasteful versions of Come Thou Fount and Nothing But the Blood. Some of the songs are great for congregational use, some great for private worship, all of them great for focusing our hearts and minds on the Savior who has bought us with his blood and redeemed us for his glory.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Momentary Lapse

Just thought I'd jot a quick note. I am trying to wrap up the message for this weekend on worship, so no new posts today. I'd appreciate your prayers as I wrap up preparation. Teaching the Word is a very humbling task. Pray that the words I speak would be from the Lord, and that He would use the message to light peoples fire for living a life that is holy and pleasing to Him!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Reuben's Tube

I saw this on Rich Kirkpatrick's blog this morning. This is a fascinating look at how sound waves can be monitored in the most unique of ways. This is so reminiscent of growing up with a father who is a PhD in Chemistry. Oh, the memories of science camp!!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Net Bible

This is probably old news for some of you, but is something quite new to me. Net-Bible is a newer translation of the Bible that is a completely free resource, accessible online, and also available for free download. The web version is very user friendly and complete with translator notes and numerous other study aids. Several leading Evangelicals highly recommend it. Check it out here. Below are some informational points from the website. This will hopefully be a wonderful study aid for you and Christians around the world!
  • The first to be completely free for you to download completely (download the whole Bible and 60,932 notes)
  • The first to offer you insights into the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts to enrich your study of God’s Word like never before
  • Accurate, Readable and Elegant! The pinnacle for a great Bible translation is to achieve balance without compromise. The NET Bible’s unique translators notes have made it possible to achieve all three. The text is optimized for readability and elegance while the notes provide added accuracy.
  • 60,932 Translators Notes - never before has a modern translation of the Bible contained the notes the translator's made as they worked with the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. This allows beautiful insight into the meaning of the original languages.
  • References to more than 700 scholarly works enable readers to directly benefit from hundreds of thousands of hours of scholarly research from more than 700 ancient and modern scholarly works.
  • Engaging online community discussions enable iron to sharpen iron. The bible.org forum is the place to discuss the Bible, translation issues, exegeses, theology and more.
  • Plus the thousands and thousands of pages of trustworthy commentaries, articles, character studies and more on bible.org provide insights from some of the world's best minds.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is)

Around four months ago I mentioned this new book by Joshua Harris that was soon to become available for purchase. I thought I would pass on this recent review by mega-blogger Tim Challies. There have been a lot of popular books that have come out in the last several years on the issue of sexual sin (particularly as it relates to men). The one book I read on the issue was effective in shocking people (women particularly) into a stronger awareness of the problem. It also provided a clear strategy for attaining victory over sexual sin. The only problem I have with strategy driven programs is they tend to make the process of healing “man centered” which often translates into a short-term or ineffective fix. No matter how you slice it, sexual sin is a heart issue and consequently finds ultimate healing through spiritual transformation. This is what encouraged me by Tim’s review. I have yet to read the book, but expect to eventually (my reading list is rather long right now).

If you are a guy or gal who is struggling with sexual sin or are married to someone in this category, then this book may be a good resource for you. Below is an excerpt from the review. To read the entire review go here.

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Harris goes on to discuss the gospel. And this is what I love most about this book. Rather than moving from identifying the problem to planning out the solution, Harris pauses at the gospel--he pauses at the source of the solution. In a couple of chapters that seem they could as easily have been written by C.J. Mahaney or Jerry Bridges, he celebrates the gospel and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. "We can't save ourselves and we can't change ourselves. Only faith in Christ can rescue us from the prison of our sin. And only the Spirit can transform us. Our job is to invite His work, participate with it, and submit more and more of our thoughts, actions, and desires to Him."

Harris then wades into the thick of the battle, discussing the issues and offering strategies for long-term change. He discusses the types of issues we would expect him to tackle: masturbation, media, accountability and so on. The best and clearest solution offered, though surely the one that seems least attractive to the carnal mind, is memorizing Scripture passages most relevant to our particular temptations. A chapter at the end briefly discusses the Internet and tips for fighting against succumbing to the temptations of Internet pornography. Through it all, Harris speaks honestly and candidly, even holding out events and experiences from his life that must cause him a good bit of embarrassment. He is willing to admit his own weaknesses and failures in order to help others tackle theirs.

Ultimately, this book leads to the biblical (but still surprising) conclusion that, despite the allure of lust and the pleasures it seems to offer, there is far greater pleasure to be found in holiness. The pleasure and freedom of holiness is so much greater, so much truer, than carnal delights. "Remember," Harris says, "God doesn't call you to sacrifice as an end in itself. He calls you through it. On the other side of sacrifice is unspeakable beauty and indescribable joy. It's not easy, but it's worth every minute." He holds out no easy, magical solution to defeat lust. Rather, lust's power will decrease as we relentlessly pursue holiness.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Vitamin T?

I am getting in the habit of posting something rather trivial and sometimes humorous at least once a week on my blog. I guess you could say it gives both you, and me, a break from the logicistical and/or philosophical direction that some of the posts take. This site is something I stumbled across after reading a blog by Seth Godin. He called Vitamin T one of the sites out there waiting to be discovered. It is a site where people can contribute to sharing practical tips about living. This includes anything from how to pack for a trip to how to choose a fresh cucumber. The interesting thing is you can submit tips and for every tip they use they give you 3 dollars. You can also subscribe to the email and get these tips sent to your inbox daily. The good news is it’s all free! If you are interested in saving time and money, this might be a good link for you.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Christianity is a Singing Faith

This week our vocal ministry participants spent time discussing the role of singing in the life of the Christian and church. Here are some thoughts I assembled based on the four benefits of singing I found in the hymn stories devotional entitled “Amazing Grace” by Kenneth W. Osbeck.

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A New Testament church should always be a singing church, for sacred song is the natural outpouring of joyous Christian hearts. Of all the world’s religions, Christianity is the only religion where singing is a mandatory expression of worship within the gathered community of faith.
Ephesians 5:19: Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
So what are some of the benefits of worshiping God through song?

It glorifies God…
Psalm 69:30-31a: I will praise God's name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD…
God is glorified and pleased when we lift our praise and thanksgiving to Him in song. Song engages our affections in worship and; therefore, affords us the pleasure of enjoying God’s goodness uniquely and passionately.

It instructs people…
Colossians 3:16-17: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We learn many important spiritual truths about God and His word when we sing. For many of us, our first awareness that God loves us was gained through a song sung at our mother’s knee or in the Sunday school nursery. If we have been Christians long, there are numerous songs we can likely recall that God has used to teach us doctrine or about His various attributes such as holiness, righteousness, grace, mercy, etc...

It encourages us in suffering…
Isaiah 49:13: Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
Music encourages those who are suffering in powerful ways. We can likely all name times in our life when God has used meaningful hymns or songs to encourage us in the midst of suffering. All one needs to do is attend a Christian funeral to experience the immense comfort that can be found in musical worship.

It prepares us for heaven…
Revelation 5:13-14: Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Worship is what we were created for, and the singing of praise to God will be a medium of worship enjoyed for all eternity. It is by God’s grace that we can enjoy this “foretaste of heaven” in both personal and community worship.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Is God Green?

A few days ago Bill Moyer of PBS did an extended news feature on how some evangelicals are taking a more aggressive stand on environmental issues. This stand is in opposition to the long held belief by some conservatives that environmental protection issues and global warming are only liberal agendas intent on costing American jobs and hurting corporations. I do think Moyer’s suggestion of a “new holy war” is overly dramatic; however, this is an interesting and growing debate that is worth our attention. You can see the video of the stories here. Below is a summary from Moyer’s website.
A new holy war is growing within the conservative evangelical community, with implications for both the global environment and American politics. For years liberal Christians and others have made protection of the environment a moral commitment. Now a number of conservative evangelicals are joining the fight, arguing that man's stewardship of the planet is a biblical imperative and calling for action to stop global warming.

But they are being met head-on by opposition from their traditional evangelical brethren who adamantly support the Bush administration in downplaying the threat of global warming and other environmental perils. The political stakes are high: Three out of every four white evangelical voters chose George W. Bush in 2004. "Is God Green?" explores how a serious split among conservative evangelicals over the environment and global warming could reshape American politics.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Itunes at Parkviewchurch.org

Thought you’d all appreciate knowing that our web guru Dan Van Oss is now linking our weekend song sets to itunes from the “worship and the arts” link on our website parkviewchurch.org. This is a new feature from itunes which allows organizations who link to itunes to get 5 percent of the revenue made from songs purchased through the link. Of course, this is also a great feature for people who like a song they hear on the weekend and want to add it to their personal music library.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Being Afraid of Hell

As I have been studying Revelation 4 and 5, which upon first read seems only to be a beautiful picture of heavenly worship, I have been somewhat haunted by the key role this passage plays in the coming judgment of God. I will be working directly from these passages when I preach in services on October 28-29. Though I will not be zeroing in very much on judgment and hell, I do admit that I have been a little troubled about how to handle its presence within the passage. I don’t consider revisionism to be an option.

For year pastors have been skirting around hell with the express desire of not making people feel overly “uncomfortable” with their teaching. The interesting thing is that Jesus spoke about hell a lot. Hell is mentioned by Christ 15 times in the book of Matthew alone. So how, like Jesus, can one be a friend of sinners and also tell them the truth about hell?

Below are a few statistics about what Americans feel about hell today that I pulled from a blog post on resurgence.com:
Curiously, most Americans believe in hell according to the report, which said, “A Harris poll of our attitudes conducted a few years ago found that 94 percent of American adults believe in God, 89 percent in heaven and 73 percent in hell.”

But here’s the hook, nobody thinks they are going to hell because hell is for the other evil people like terrorists and relief pitchers who give up a lot of walks. The report said, “Fully three-quarters of survey participants felt pretty sure they will be going to heaven when they die, while just 2 percent expected they would wind up in hell.”
The reality that the majority of people believe in hell was somewhat surprising to me. Clearly the problem with this is that a lot of people who are facing hell do not realize what hell is and how it is one gets there.

It is my opinion that people, even unchurched people, do not want a “soft sell” when it comes to the hard teachings of the Bible, and there is no question that the glory of heaven is far more attractive when contrasted with the reality of hell. In the same regard, like Christ, we must love people so deeply that our warnings about hell are not perceived as judgmentalism, but rather as the warning of a friend who wants desperately to see them saved from a life of sin leading to an eternity of death and suffering.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Album Covers....Wow!

Here are some humorous albums from the past. Are people one day going to look back at today’s album covers and laugh just as hard? Certainly not!

(HT: Purgatorio)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Campaign for Real Beauty

We live in a “plastic” society where what is promoted as beautiful is botoxed, siliconed, nipped, tucked, and air brushed. Click here for a brand new commercial by Dove soap which shows the transformation of a “normal” woman into a “super model.” It’s a pretty revealing look at what we consider beautiful and what it takes to get there.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Continuationism and Cessationism (Part 2): An Interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem

Here is part two of Tim Challies interview with Dr. Grudem. I am posting this interview because I am concerned that the cessasionist position has limited the potential work of the Holy Spirit within the life of the church. Thanks in part to theologians like Dr. Grudem there is a trend within the evangelical community to embrace what I believe to be a healthier Biblical view on this issue. I am not yet convinced of the arguments for the hard-charismatic position, but think it is healthy to discuss and consider all views. For the first half of this interview, you can read yesterday’s post. Here’s part two…

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Let me turn to a couple of questions that I know are of concern to cessationists, that they routinely bring up as concerns about continuationist theology. The first of these is: if we grant the existence of non-authoritative prophecy, does not such a position weaken the argument for the sufficiency and authority of Scripture? In other words, does the existence of non-authoritative prophecy weaken our claims for the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture?

I would restate that question by saying, if we say that God works through means other than Scripture, doesn't that weaken our authority for Scripture? I would answer, no, these are things other than Scripture. If, for instance, we say that God works through the advice of friends or the wise counsel of a pastor or elder, doesn't that weaken the authority of Scripture? It doesn't, because it is a different category of thing. It is something we think is used by God and through which God can work, and our strong belief in the Sovereignty of God would encourage us to think that, but it comes with human authority but not with absolute divine authority. Whatever people would say about prophecy I would say, what about advice from friends and counsel from friends? How do you understand that? Same thing. Can't God work through that? Sure. Well, can't God work through prophecy? What's the difference? I don't see that it is a qualitatively different thing. In fact I think the Westminster Confession of faith, chapter 1, paragraph 10, hints at the fact that we should put these in a similar category. So no, I don't think so. Can there be mistakes that lay people make? Sure, but those aren't the responsible leaders that we should quote. I can quote from any movement mistakes of irresponsible lay persons.

Probably the most common critique of continuationist theology by cessationists is that it relies too heavily on experience. Cessationists often claim that continuationists allow experience to drive their hermeneutic. How do you answer that?

Doctrinal disputes should be settled by appeal to Scripture. Experience is not our final authority - Scripture is. But the Scripture talks about these spiritual gifts quite openly and honestly and frequently and talks about them in the context of the New Testament church and I think they're part of the church age.

Is it possible to believe in a continuationist position without having experienced any of the gifts?

I encounter students and pastors all the time who say "I'm not persuaded by the cessationist arguments from Scripture but I've never seen any of these miraculous things in my life." That is the most common comment that I hear about these things from people who are in mainstream Evangelical positions. And over the years as I've taught not only here at Phoenix Seminary but at other seminaries - adjunct at other seminaries - by far the most common view expressed among seminary graduates is open but cautious. They say "I'm not convinced by the cessationist arguments but I really don't know how to put these things into practice in my own church and I've never seen them happen." Tim, the cessationist argument is not winning the day in terms of exegetical arguments or persuasiveness in the books published. I think it's appealing to a smaller and smaller group of people.

Are you aware of this book, Miraculous Gifts for Today: Four Views that I published from Zondervan?

Yes, though I just received it a couple of days ago.

A mature, widely-respected Evangelical leader in England, said to me about that book, that the thing most Evangelicals in England found surprising was that any argument could be made for cessationism at all. Another widely-respected British Evangelical leader fifteen years ago said to me that the battle between cessationists and non-cessationists in England is over. The cessationists have lost. Or the charismatics have won. I'm not sure exactly what he said but it was something like that. And that's the case, I think, in almost the entire world outside the United States.

So you feel that it is a caricature that the cessationists have Scripture and the continuationists rely on experience.

Yes. You know, Jack Deere in his book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit - do you know this book, published by Zondervan?

I know of it, though I haven't read it.

His argument is that the primary reason why cessationists hold their view is experience. That is, he says, they haven't experienced any of these miraculous gifts and so they construct a theology to justify it. He was a highly-respected Hebrew and Old Testament professor at Dallas Seminary promoting a cessationist view.

So he would say that the lack of experience is as much an argument from experience as actually having had the experience?

Yes. I think that's an excellent book, actually. I agree with ninety-eight percent of it. He has some little thing about apostles that I don't agree with but otherwise I think it's an excellent book.

One more question that a cessationist might have has to do with prophecy, as you might expect, and the fallibility of prophecy. If God grants prophecy today, why is it so frequently misunderstood? Continuationists will often explain that the details of prophecy do not work out perfectly perhaps due to human weakness or sin. Since God can make Himself clear, and usually did so in the Bible, why doesn't He do so today?

He chose to work thought imperfect means.

And you'd say in Scripture He did not?

Scripture is unique. He worked in a way that is inerrant and absolutely authoritative. But, throughout the whole history of the canon, from Adam and Eve to the book of Revelation you have a story of God interacting personally with individual people. The cessationist view wants to tell us that this doesn't happen anymore today, and I don't feel that's right. I should say, interacting personally with individual people in ways that are distinct from the canonical words of Scripture which they had at the time. It is God speaking to individual people. In spite of the fact that the Bible is full of those hundreds and hundreds of examples, now cessationists come along and say, "Sorry, God doesn't do that today. He did that throughout the whole history of the Bible but He doesn't do that today." That is relating directly to specific people other than through the written words of the canon that they had at that time.

Do you believe that the way God spoke to people in Old Testament times, say, for example, the way God spoke to Abraham, is that consistent with the way God speaks to us today? How would God have spoken to Abraham?

The way God speaks to people can vary widely in biblical times and it can today as well. Going back to "why does God speak to us in ways that are fallible," I would say the same question can be asked of many other things. Why does God work through evangelists who are imperfect? Why does God work through pastors who work through imperfect sermons? Why does God work through Sunday school teachers who say things imperfectly? Why does God work through the advice of friends, some of whom make mistakes? God works in this age through imperfect people. That's his normal manner of working. And to object to something by saying, "How can God work through this if it's imperfect?" is just denying the entire way God works through people...

I think the argument would be not that God works but that He speaks. The trouble people have is in an imperfect word of God.

Doesn't God speak through Sunday school teachers that are imperfect? Does He speak through personal counsel and advice that is imperfect? What's the difference?
I really enjoy getting into this discussion when I get into it.

I'm sure you do!

I've been away from it. I've been into Bible translation and manhood and womanhood and I'm on rich and poor nations and I've forgotten about all this.

Let me turn to the future to cessationist/continuationist relations. In the last few months I think we've seen some interesting developments between continuationists and cessationists. John MacArthur invited C.J. Mahaney to preach from his pulpit and there's also the Together for the Gospel conference that is coming up. Do you feel that these developments might just herald a new day for cessationist/continuationist relations?

I hope so. I see these as outworking of the pastoral and church level the kinds of interaction and mutual appreciation that I've seen for the last twenty years in the academic world.

Is it feasible or even desirable for cessationists and continuationists to come together to worship as members of the same church or denomination or is this too big an issue?


No trouble with that?

No. I pose an interesting hypothetical question at the end of this book, Are Miraculous Gifts For Today: Four Views. The very last segment of the book is my reflection on spending two days of conversations with the other four authors, Richard Gaffin, the cessationist, Robert Saucy, from Talbot, the open but cautious, Sam Storms being a Vineyard or Third Wave person, and Doug Oss from the Assemblies of God, and me. After everyone wrote their essays we met in a hotel conference room in Philadelphia for two days, no tape recorders, no notes, just the five of us talking for about seventeen hours. In my summary of it I talked about what had happened (and nobody changed his mind) but it was a wonderful discussion because all five of us had Ph.Ds in New Testament or theology and Doug Oss in his forties was the youngest in the room so we were fairly mature in our views. I said, "What if, by some strange act of God's providence, we were all thrown together in the same church and we were the five elders?" Here's how we would have to make adjustments and allowances, but I think we could all work together. I love to pray with Richard Gaffin who is my cessationist friend because He walks with God. So I talk a little bit about that. [this references page 348 of the book]

I've been in a Vineyard church, I was about five years in a Vineyard church; I did a pastoral internship while I was at Westminster Seminary in an Orthodox Presbyterian Church - loved the people there and am thankful for the church; have been an elder of a Southern Baptist Church; now I'm at a Bible church. Wherever you go you find people, ordinary Christians, who love the Lord and they love His Word and if you can show things to them in the Bible they believe it and they try to follow it. I think that's a wonderful thing.

On the subject of Southern Baptists, I wondered if you had any thoughts about the new policy adopted by their mission board. I don't know if you heard about that, but it forbids missionary candidates from speaking in tongues.

I haven't read it so don't want to comment. If it's true I'd be very disappointed.

Fair enough. Let's head towards wrapping this up. Why does God allow issues like this to exist in the church? You have to believe that He could easily clear up such issues as continuationism and cessationism. Why does He allow disputes like this to carry on?

Well, for one He wants to test our hearts and see what our attitude is towards those with which we disagree. And two, He purifies the church through controversy because our positions are then deepened and strengthened. And so through the whole history of the church the controversies over the deity of Christ, over the Trinity, the great Reformation controversies over justification, the controversy in the church in our generation over inerrancy, controversy over men and women in the church, controversy over spiritual gifts - everybody changes. In recent controversy everyone has changed somewhat. But they come to a more nuanced, more refined, more accurate position and then they hold firm. That is happening in the controversy over manhood and womanhood issues and we have more openness to and appreciation of the valuable ministries of women in the church, yet the church is not going to go in an egalitarian position. Ultimately, the vast majority of God's people are going to have churches where only men are elders.

So you feel this is a valuable discussion and one that will end in a consensus of the church...

What happens is over time the vast majority of God's people come to the right decision. Then, like the Arians in the fourth century, or like the anti-inerrantist people in our lifetime, the people on the other side eventually are marginalized and continue but with very little impact on the church as a whole. I think that is going to happen with egalitarians in the manhood/womanhood controversy, but it is going to take some time to get worked out because the culture has such strong pressure in the other direction. I think with regards to cessationists and non-cessationists the controversy has been very healthy in a number of ways: there has been a greater appreciation of the importance of spiritual gifts and ministry by every Christian to one another; there's been remarkable change in worship styles that I think has been very valuable and we have, in large measure, the charismatic movement to thank for that; there has been a great appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the validity of prayer and prayer for miracles today. On the other hand some of the abuses and mistakes of the charismatic/Pentecostal movement have been highlighted and people are trying to restrain those and refrain from making some mistakes like that. And there has been a new emphasis on the unique authority of the Bible and I'm thankful for that. So I think there's good on both sides.

So you feel this controversy is going to end with others in the history of the church? That it will strengthen the church?

Oh yes, definitely! It already has.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Continuationism and Cessationism: An Interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem

It’s true, I am an “open but cautious” charismatic. The discussions on this issue are prolific and often passionate.

I stumbled across a two part interview that Tim Challies did with Wayne Grudem on this very issue and thought it interesting enough to re-post today and tomorrow on my blog. I really resonate with a lot of Grudem’s thoughts and appreciate the grace he extends to those both in the cessasionaist (gifts ceased) and continuist (gifts continuing) camps.

WARNING: These are longer posts, but a good read for those curious about this issue.

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Dr. Wayne Grudem is Research Professor of Bible and Theology at Phoenix Seminary. He holds a B.A. from Harvard University, M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary and Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He has served as president of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, as president of the Evangelical Theological Society (1999), and as a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible. He has written more than 60 articles for both popular and academic journals, and his books include: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, and Business for the Glory of God. He has also co-edited Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A response to Evangelical Feminism and edited Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views.

I began our discussion by describing the purpose of this interview and the audience who was most likely to read it. I then proceed to ask questions of Dr. Grudem.

How important is this issue in the grand scope of all that's going on in the church today. How much attention do you feel this subject deserves?

That's a hard first question because there is no one answer that fits every church. I am in a church, Scottsdale Bible Church in Arizona, that has about 7,000 people in it. I suppose its position would be "open but cautious." Its heritage would be more from Dallas Seminary and Calvin Seminary and Bible Church background which has traditionally been more cessationist. In fact, in people's actual prayer lives as well as in the personal conversation of the pastor in the pulpit to the congregation, people talk about the Lord leading them and guiding them in specific ways. Sometimes in ways it sounds very much like the gift of prophecy to me, but they don't call it prophecy. They call it prompting or leading. I am thankful for all of that and I am very comfortable being in a home fellowship group where people pray and are willing to say how they think the Lord is leading them and guiding them as they pray and what He brings to their minds. And they don't call it prophecy. But I'm thinking, "That sure looks like prophecy to me!"

The pastoral leadership of the church might or might not say that there are people with the gift of healing today but in fact I am on the elder board and quite often at the beginning of an elder meeting we'll lay hands on someone and anoint someone with oil in prayer for healing according to James 5. God sometimes answers those prayers in wonderful, and I would say miraculous ways.

So what is very important is people's day-by-day walk with God and whether that is a vital, personal, ongoing relationship in which people, ordinary Christians, are regularly praying about concerns and events in their lives and getting answers to prayers and knowing the reality of the Holy Spirit's guidance and direction. What's also important is people depending on the Lord in seeking His blessing and empowering in their ministries.

So how important is it? Some of the things that go on would be called by other names in more charismatic churches and they probably would be a bit more demonstrative. But the Holy Spirit can work in such a variety of ways.

Let me ask this. Do you feel that there is some inconsistency with cessationists in terms of what they believe and how they actually act out their faith? You gave the example of guidance. Many people I know claim to be cessationist yet still have no trouble claiming that "God told me" - they are using what Dr. Waldron called prophetic language.

I am thankful for that. However, Tim, I think we have to recognize that there is a segment of the cessationist community that is ready to pounce on anyone who speaks of subjective forms of guidance; ready to pounce on anyone who speaks of dealing with promptings of the Lord in one way or another; that is highly suspicious of any emotional component in worship or prayer. I don't know that that is representative of all of cessationism but there is a segment of the cessationist community that is so suspicious of any emotional component, any subjective component in all of our relationship with God and with others that it tends to quench a vital aspect of the personal relationship with God in the lives of ordinary believers. And that can tend to a dry orthodoxy in the next generation that abandons that faith and the church spiritually becomes dry and static, and I'm concerned about that.

Now, are you aware of this new book that came out last month called "Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit?" Let me get that off the shelf.

I believe Justin Taylor sent me a link to it just a couple of days ago.

It's called Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit? and it's by Dan Wallace who is a New Testament professor at Dallas Seminary.

And you wrote the foreword, right?

I did. I wrote the foreword and Josh McDowell wrote the foreword. It is an insider's look at dispensational cessationism and saying, "While we're still officially cessationist we can...become too rationalistic; give too high a priority on knowledge instead of relationship and this can produce in us a bibliolatry (believing in the Father, Son and the Holy Bible)." The net effect of this is the depersonalization of God and that part of the motivation for depersonalizing God is the increasing craving for control. We want to affirm that God is still a God of healing and miracles; Evangelical rationalism can lead to spiritual defection; many of the power brokers of Evangelicalism have been white, obsessive-compulsive males since the turn of the century; the Holy Spirit's guidance is still needed in discerning the will of God; we must not avoid the sufferings of Christ in seeking out the power of the Spirit; and then they talk about the witness of the Holy Spirit. I thought it was a very healthy book and I eagerly commend it. I didn't agree with everything in it but I thought that it was very good.

Back to "how important is it?" I would want to say to cessationists and to open but cautious people on the one hand that I agree that there are ways in which the Holy Spirit is still working that are similar to what was happening in the first century churches and described in the New Testament. I think that the first century church and the New Testament generally encourages us to seek miraculous workings of the Holy Spirit much more than we do in mainstream Evangelical churches. I think if we did, and if we taught about spiritual gifts that were consistent with Scripture and which put safeguards against abuses, that we would see a much greater explosion of the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in bringing more unbelievers to Christ and in bringing physical and emotional and relational healing to people within our churches and in bringing us to new levels of joy in worship beyond the very positive things that we see today. I would like to see much more, not just openness to, but encouragement of the miraculous works of the Holy Spirit. That's what I've written some of the things that I have.

In general most Reformed people do not hold the position you do as a continuationist. Why do you feel that most Reformed believers are cessationists?

I am not sure that we know what most "Reformed believers" hold. I know what a number of professors at Reformed seminaries hold but that may not be representative of what is actually going on. I just want to say that as a qualification.

The dominant literature coming out of Reformed presses and Reformed seminary professors has been more cessationist I think. I think that's a fair characterization.

Would you be willing to suggest some reasons why that would be?

[Laughs] You want me to answer, really, don't you?

I suppose!

The most basic reason, and one which I think everyone can agree on, is a desire to protect the unique authority of the Bible and to protect the closed canon and not to have anything compete with Scripture in authority in our lives. That's a fundamental, deep concern among cessationists and I affirm that concern and I think it's very important to maintain it in the church.

I think it is somewhat of a historical aberration that cessationism - that the leaders of the Reformed movement have been cessationist. This was certainly not true in the seventeenth century among Puritans in England, for instance, like Richard Baxter. In The Christian Directory he has a number of statements that align almost exactly with my view of the gift of prophecy. And I quote those in the back of The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. I took a couple of pages from Baxter's The Christian Directory and I faxed those to J.I. Packer and said, "It looks like Baxter holds the same view of prophecy that I do." Packer faxed me back and said, "Yes, you're right. This was the standard Puritan view. They weren't cessationists in the Gaffin sense." Let me just find that. Jim Packer gave me permission to quote that. I am quoting John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, the Westminster Confession of Faith, Samuel Rutherford, George Gillespie, Richard Baxter. I quote this on page 353 to 356 of The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. Packer, whose doctoral dissertation at Oxford was on Richard Baxter's works, sent back the following: "By the way, some weeks ago you faxed me an extract from Baxter about God making "personal, informative revelation" (those were Packer's words). This was the standard Puritan view as I observed it - they weren't cessationist in the Richard Gaffin sense." That's J.I. Packer's personal fax to me on September 9, 1997 and I quoted it by permission.

Packer knows the Puritans well. You also have this article in the Westminster Confession of Faith saying that the Westminster Assembly recognized different views of prophecy. Byron Curtis, who had this article in the Westminster Journal saying that the phrase "private spirit" in the Westminster Confession (110) means "private revelations of the Holy Spirit - personal revelations of the Holy Spirit" and it puts it in the same category as decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers and doctrines of men. These are all to be examined and attested by Scripture. So Curtis argues (there's been an answer to him in the Westminster Journal, but I don't think it's been an adequate one), and I think Curtis is right that the Westminster Confession itself allows for this and says it has to be subject to Scripture.

So I think we have in the twentieth century a historical aberration not essential to Reformed theology that cessationism has become the dominant view. It may be a legacy from B.B. Warfield and the respect with which people held Warfield. Warfield was responding to Roman Catholicism and their claims for the validity of their doctrines based on appeals to miracles and Warfield was trying to discredit that. I don't know what Warfield would say about the modern charismatic movement but that isn't what was in his view at the time.

To be honest, Tim, the early beginnings of Pentecostalism in the United States in 1901 and 1906 at Topeka, Kansas and then at Azusa Street in Los Angeles, these were not theologically-sophisticated, highly-trained people leading the movement. They were more ordinary believers in whose minds the Holy Spirit began to work in a remarkable way but they didn't understand it very well at times and didn't articulate it very well. They began promoting a doctrine of baptism in the Holy Spirit after conversion that was a mistake and they mislabeled it - they should have called it filling or empowering of the Holy Spirit. I think much of it was a genuine work of the Holy Spirit. But it wasn't defended by people who knew Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German and French and had been to Princeton Seminary. And so it was so easy for people to focus on the abuses and mistakes and the misstatements or less than carefully articulated theological statements by the defenders of what was going on.

And honestly, I think that people who tend to gravitate towards a position of leadership in denominations that are highly doctrinally self-conscious tend to be people for whom doctrinal precision and analysis is of very high value. And their ministries naturally gravitate towards being very clergy-oriented and very oriented towards the ordained clergy and the means of grace - the administration of the sacraments, the preaching of the Word, discipline - these are all clergy-run means of grace. And so we are coming out of a heritage of the neglect of the importance of ordinary lay people ministering to one another in small groups and home fellowship groups and things like that - in prayer and personal words of counsel and encouragement and exhortation - that just wasn't a strong suit among many of our Reformed forbearers in the last century. And so when something comes along that has strong lay emphasis, an emphasis on lay ministry, and it wasn't anything that was printed in the bulletin that was going to happen that week, it seems like things are not done decently and in good order. Then it begins to find reasons to criticize.

When you discuss these issues with cessationists, what do you feel is the single greatest misunderstanding of charismatics by cessationists? This is your opportunity to get that one thing off your chest.

I don't know that anything comes to mind. I have lived and worked and fellowshipped in so many contexts and have been able to be thankful for so many different contexts. To give you two examples, my son Elliot, was just six weeks ago ordained as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church of America in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I spoke at his ordination. A few months before that my son Alexander married a woman from an Assemblies of God background and I co-officiated the wedding with her father who is an Assemblies of God pastor. I felt very comfortable in both situations. To take another example, on the same week I received invitations (this is probably twelve years ago) to write notes on Second Corinthians for what was then called The New Geneva Study Bible, edited by R.C. Sproul, and to write notes on Romans for The Spiritual Life Study Bible edited by Jack Hayford which is a charismatic study Bible. I accepted both invitations and didn't tell either party that I was doing the other. They both come out within a short time of each other. I am just thankful for both ministries and for what they are doing for the work of the kingdom.

I would say that it is too easy to have in mind a mental picture of a caricatured episode that has been on television. If cessationists would actually attend some worship services or prayer meetings in more responsible Vineyard churches or Foursquare Churches or Assemblies of God churches or independent charismatic churches, I think they would be surprised how strong people's love for God is, and love for His Word, and desire to be subject to His Word, and not to teach or do anything that would be wrong, and how much real ministry and real healing in people's lives (I don't mean just physical healing, but emotional and relational and spiritual healing) is going on and how much zeal for the lost, how much evangelism, how much care for the poor, how much actual carrying out the work of the kingdom is being done in these charismatic, Pentecostal and Third Wave churches. It's marvelous. It's wonderful and I think we need to be aware of the good examples of it of which there are tens of thousands and then be thankful for them.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Where Worship Begins

People often think that the success of a worship service depends on the "excellence" of the preaching or music. A.W. Tozer writes that if worship doesn’t happen in your heart then it won’t happen in the church you attend either.
If you do not know the presence of God in your office, your factory, your home, then God is not in the church when you attend. I have come to believe that when we are worshipping, if the love of God is in us and the Spirit of God is breathing praise within us, all the musical instruments in heaven are suddenly playing in full support… it is my experience that our total lives, our entire attitude as persons, must be toward the worship of God.
A.W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship? P. 123

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tis the Season… Almost

Friends. About a week-and-a-half ago Pastor Jeff invited me to speak in services on October 28-29th about how “Faith Makes a Difference in Worship.” Thanks to a chapter on worship that Josh Malone shared with me, I have identified Revelation 4 and 5 as the passages I would like to “exposit” for the weekend. As I’ve dug into the text I’ve realized quickly how difficult it will be to adequately teach several chapters of a text in one message. Have no fear, I WILL keep it to about 35 minutes (or my credibility will forever be shot)! All this to say, my lack of blogging for a few days and a slow-down in posting over the next week or so is likely due to this shift of focus.

Before I return to some reading, I thought I would take a moment to update you on Christmas scheduling. With the very successful addition of a live venue this Fall and with numerous losses in key staffing positions. we are not doing any major production service this year. We will, however, have a short series of Christmas weekend services that will feature some excellent Christmas celebration. All these services will be designed to clearly communicate the gospel to all the visitors and your guests that you invite to attend. Here’s our schedule…

December 9-10
  • Worship Center: Contemporary Christmas Celebration with Vocal Team and String Orchestra and Band
  • Atrium Venue: Traditional Christmas Celebration
December 16-17
  • Worship Center: Christmas Worship with Adult Choir, Children’s Choir, and Wind/Brass Ensemble
  • Atrium Venue: Joining the Worship Center for Services
December 23-24
  • Worship Center: Three Christmas-Eve Services Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, and Sunday Night. These services will be identical in content making three excellent options for those of you who will be celebrating with your families at different times throughout the holidays.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fox Faith Movies

20th Century Fox’s new movie division “Fox Faith” is preparing to come out with some interesting new "faith based" movies Love’s Abiding Joy and One Night with the King. Click on the titles to link with the websites and view the trailers.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Healthy Living Radio

Today Pastor Jeff challenged the staff to listen to “Healthy Living Radio” with Dr. Ken Cooper for one month. He did this in the context of challenging us to take good care of our temple (1 Cor 6:19) with good diets and regular exercise.

If you have itunes (or another player that will download podcasts) you can simply paste this link in the “subscribe to a podcast” box located under the advanced menu bar item:


If you are looking for motivation to “get in shape” this is a good place to get it!


There is a lot of "buzz" in blog world regarding the postmodernism conference I just attended. The feelings on both side of the fence are pretty strong. I certainly think we could spend a lot of time scrutinizing every little detail (which in my opinion can quickly become a waste of time). As I detailed yesterday, there were some "big ideas" that were very valuable for us all.

To read a rather detailed review by my colleague Josh Malone go here.

All the talks from the conference are online here. I would recommend Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll's talks as well as the "Conversation with Pastors." Of course Piper is always a good listen. Unfortunately to figure out who gave which talk, you need to click "read" next to the talk and the name of the speaker will be on the page that opens.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Reflections on Above All Earthly Powers

A few initial comments regarding this weekend’s conference…

It was a really great experience. At the beginning of the conference Dr. Wells painted a rather dismal picture about the condition of faith in the western world (from Tim Challies blog).
We see a pattern emerging that Christianity is moving South to Latin America and Africa, and moving East into some of the most populous nations in Asia. There are probably more Christians in China than in the United States. It is also growing in India and elsewhere. In the West, Christianity is struggling to survive. The United States is a bit of an exception, but in Europe vast areas of its life have been stripped of all Christian presence, leaving behind nothing but empty churches and cathedrals. This is somewhat true of Canada; it is true of Australia and New Zealand. This Sunday only 2% of people in New Zealand will go to church. By contrast, in some African churches up to 80% of people go to church. Some meet under a tree or beside a building, but they still meet. There is more Christian believing outside the West than inside the West. Christianity is becoming de-Westernized.
This should serve as a rude awakening to those of us who think of the western world as the most reached area in the world. Times are a changing.

I believe the “big picture” message was that we must combine allegiance to the timeless truths of a good Biblical theology with timely ministry that contextualizes ministry in a way that makes it relevant to postmoderns. Both Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll did an excellent job helping us to better understand how to do this. One thing we must understand is that the postmodern generation is the most Biblically illiterate generation we’ve seen in ages. This means that more now than ever before we must take into consideration that those we are trying to reach have absolutely no comprehension of even the simplest aspects of the Christian faith. Consequently, we must incorporate the meta-narrative (historic story) of the Christian faith in all we do. We must also remember to be “seeker sensible…” which means “we don't lose theological vocabulary, but take the time to explain it,,, in terms they (seekers) understand.” Another reminder was that our commitment to social ministry (serving our community) must parallel our commitment to proclaiming the gospel.

Of course John Piper, David Wells, and D.A. Carson did a phenomenal job cautioning us that our strategies and the cultures epistemology (how we know something / how we think) must not erode the Christian beliefs that are foundational to our faith. Some facets of the emerging church are neutering Biblical doctrine by denying hell, the wrath of God, the penal substitution of the cross, etc… If one denies these doctrines they are denying some of the very things that make us Christian.

Certainly, there were many other memorable and instructive moments in the conference. For a complete review of the sessions you can read a complete summary on all the talks on Tim Challies blog. The audio messages will be available for free download on Desiring God’s website within a few days.