60 Questions to Ask About the Covenant of Grace

For those who love Covenant Theology, and especially for Baptists who do so, I humbly offer these questions in the spirit of Jonathan Edwards: “Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can toward solving it, if circumstances don’t hinder.” The first question sets forward the main theorem to be solved.

Hermeneutics

  1. Does the covenant of grace teach that essential unity exists throughout the history of redemption such that the Scriptures given to Israel as the Old Testament people of God should be used with and for the church as the New Testament people of God because these two peoples have so few distinctions that they must really be taken to be one people?
  2. Does the Scripture not explicitly call the Egyptians “my people”? (Isaiah 19:25)
  3. Does the Lord not combine Israel, Egypt, and Assyria as distinct peoples that God owns and blesses? (Isaiah 19:24-25)
  4. Does the doctrine of the covenant of grace encourage us to approve the language—the exact terms, names, and expressions—that God uses in the OT prophets and in the Revelation?
  5. Does the essential unity of the covenant of grace tend to flatten the language of prophetic Scriptures so that regardless of the words, they are always saying the same thing?
  6. If we tend to ignore differences and emphasize similarity does that not tend to reduce language down to the most common denominators?
  7. If we reduce language as a hermeneutical constant (eg. Israel means church. So does Judah, Jacob, My people, and the righteous. etc.), are we really being faithful to the doctrine of inspiration in light of the fact that God breathed out those individual names for a reason?
  8. Are there vital differences between the major covenants mentioned in the Bible: Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New Covenant, and the Covenant of Redemption?
  9. If there are differences, then should not those differences be expressed in our teaching when we reach those texts of Scripture?
  10. Since several millennial prophecies reference sin on earth during the blessed time (Isaiah 65:20; 66:17; Rev. 20:7-8), must we not conclude that the millennium will take place on earth?
  11. If the millennium must take place on earth, and if there is only one people of God, and if Judah means the church, then what prevents the 1,000 years of Rev. 20:1-8 as being a metaphor for a very long time where the church slowly triumphs—i.e. postmillennialism?

2 Corinthians 3

  1. Does 2 Corinthians 3:6-14 emphasize the differences between the covenants or the similarities?
  2. Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as a “covenant of the letter that kills”? (3:6)
  3. Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as a “ministry of death”? (3:7)
  4. Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as a “ministry of condemnation”? (3:9)
  5. Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as a temporary covenant? (3:11)
  6. Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as less glorious than the New Testament? (3:11)
  7. Are these differences the reason that Paul contrasts “reading the old covenant” with Jesus Christ? (3:14)
  8. Is there any passage in the Bible that compares the covenants emphasizing their similarities to the same degree that 2 Corinthians 3 compares the covenants emphasizing their differences?

Hebrews 8

  1. Does Hebrews 8:6-13 emphasize the differences between the covenants or the similarities?
  2. Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as inferior to the New Testament? (8:6)
  3. Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as having faults? (8:7)
  4. Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the New Testament as “not according to” the Old Testament? (8:9)
  5. Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as “obsolete, growing old, and ready to disappear”? (8:13)
  6. Is there any passage in the Bible that compares the covenants emphasizing their similarities to the same degree that Hebrews 8 compares the covenants emphasizing their differences?
  7. In what ways does the doctrine of essential unity brought about by the doctrine of the Covenant of Grace discourage the use of Biblical language when talking about the OT?

The Church

  1. Was Isaiah the prophet—or any OT believer, “in Christ” as Paul uses the expression throughout His epistles?
  2. If he was “in Christ” then were Adam, Eve, and Abel as well?
  3. If all these were in Christ, then did the church begin in the Garden of Eden?
  4. If all these were “in Christ” then what substantial benefit did the Holy Spirit bring at Pentecost?
  5. If all these were “in Christ” then is that not saying the death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ were not necessary to unite a sinner to the Son of God?
  6. If the church began in the Garden of Eden, what similarities does it bear with the NT church when there was no indwelling Holy Spirit, no explicit faith in Jesus Christ’s cross work, no baptism, no Lord’s Table, no church discipline, no preaching of the Word, no apostolic doctrine, and no elders or deacons?
  7. Would the Reformers or Puritans have counted that as a church which lacked any of these elements let alone all of them?
  8. If Isaiah was not “in Christ” then did the church begin at Pentecost?
  9. If the church began at Pentecost, then is that not the introduction of a major difference in the history of redemption?
  10. If Pentecost introduces a major difference in redemptive history, then should we not speak and preach as NT ministers using the language of discontinuity?
  11. If there is essential unity in the one people of God throughout all redemptive history, then why can’t members of the new covenant join as babies just as members of the essentially same old covenant did?
  12. If the new covenant makes certain changes in who can be a member (such as only adults, not infants) then does that not mean there is a change in the group itself?
  13. If there exists a change between two groups of people, is it not a fair use of language to call those groups two different groups of people, or two peoples?

The Law

  1. Does the covenant of grace emphasize the similarities between the Old and New Testaments?
  2. If we emphasize the similarities, then must we not also honor the laws of the Old Testament?
  3. If we honor the laws of the Old Testament, what hermeneutical barrier keeps us from promoting the laws of the Old Testament as laws for modern nations?
  4. If the laws of the OT are the laws for modern nations, then must we not agree with and support the death penalty for nearly all sexual sins (Lev. 18:29) as well as all false teachers (Deut. 13:5)?
  5. If these and other sinners should be justly put to death, then when is the church released from the obligation to evangelize sinners and bound by the law to take their lives?
  6. Does church history not give many examples of professing Christians who put others to death because of their religious beliefs?
  7. Were not many early Baptists put to death on the basis that their religious beliefs were capital crimes?
  8. If the church began in the OT, then why should we not use the OT “church’s” laws as the basis for the NT church?
  9. If we should use the OT “church’s” laws for the NT church, then in what consistent way may we defend freedom of religion or conscience?
  10. Do not the NT doctrines of salvation and evangelism require freedom of religion?
  11. How can freedom of religion be defended from the Pentateuch?
  12. If the covenant of grace logically binds us to obey the laws of the OT church in the NT church seeing that they are the same people, then must we not also obey those same laws in the government?
  13. If we must obey those laws in the government, then must we not also obey the laws regarding banning and even killing false teachers, false religions, and heretics?
  14. If false religion must be met with the power of the sword as Augustine and the magisterial Reformers practiced, then is that not a state church?
  15. If there was a government sponsored religion under the old covenant, then why would we not look for a government sponsored religion under the current administration seeing as there is essential unity?

Salvation

  1. If there is essential unity, and thus members may be added as infants based on their eternal election to that covenant, then may we not presume that our children are regenerate until they prove that they are not—as Abraham Kuyper taught?
  2. If there is essential unity, and thus members may be added as infants based on their eternal election to that covenant, then may we not see them as justified before they have believed in order to avoid any element of works salvation—as Abraham Kuyper taught?
  3. If we presume that our children are regenerate and eternally justified because they are members of the covenant and sanctified by their parents, then will that tend to motivate us to evangelize our children?

History

  1. Have we not seen some or all of these doctrines logically built one upon the other at different times in history such as during the Reformation in Europe?
  2. What other hermeneutic can explain Calvin’s recommendation that Servetus be beheaded (or hanged), Augustine’s interpretation that “compel them to come in” meant that the military should force the Donatists to convert, and Luther’s criminalizing of Judaism?
  3. Where did the Protestant persecution of Baptist’s come from if not from the fruits of the theological presupposition that there is a single, overarching covenant of grace that binds all revelation to the one people of God?

 

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Repentance at the Cross

Oh, how I hate those lusts of mine
That crucified my God!
Those sins that pierced and nail’d his flesh
Fast to the fatal wood!

Yes, my Redeemer, they shall die,
My heart has so decreed; Nor will I spare the guilty things
That made my Saviour bleed.

Whilst, with a melting, broken heart,
My murder’d Lord I view,
I’ll raise revenge against my sins,
And slay the murd’rers too.

Isaac Watts

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Ethical Dilemmas of a Missionary

Ethical Dilemmas of a missionary

Over the past few years, these lists have slowly emerged from our personal experience. At the least, these questions remind us to pray for pastors in general and missionaries in particular that they would have wisdom.

2011

  1. Should I give people a lift if I know they are going to a false church?
  2. Should I evangelize a woman if she is the only adult home?
  3. Should I give a generous offering of my salary to our churchplant?
  4. Should I baptize a young person (child) who has given a testimony of salvation, but has not shown Christian maturity?
  5. May I spend money on my family and personal standard of living even if it is above those in my village? What if it is very above? How much do I let them see?
  6. How harshly should I handle believers who fall into sin?
  7. Should I address cultural issues that are not clearly sin, but may not be consistent with a Christian worldview?
  8. Should I give jobs to church members?
  9. Should I keep doing Bible studies at a person’s home if they have shown very little initiative?
  10. Should I use expensive books, computers, and handouts to make my sermons as good as possible if I know that the next national pastor will not be able to keep the same standard?

2012

  1. Should Christians tithe regardless of their financial circumstances?
  2. Should you teach new converts how to vote?
  3. Should you pray for unconverted people in their presence?
  4. Should you church discipline or otherwise dismiss church members who are nearly permanently absent because of work?
  5. Should you give Bibles to people who can’t afford them?
  6. Should you use slang in formal settings if that is what communicates?
  7. Should you sing nominally Christian songs at a funeral?
  8. Should I take parental oversight of believers who do not have parents or at least do not have Christian parents?
  9. Should you give new Christians jobs in church right away or wait until they prove faithful?
  10. Should missionaries restrain the size of their family so that missions dollars can be used to send more families with less children?

2014

  1. Should I show frustration with incompetence?
  2. Should I sit with my wife and children in church even though many churches separate the men and women?
  3. Should I spank village children?
  4. Should I allow children to return to our yard if they have not been punished?
  5. Should I use loud speakers if that is what the culture wants?
  6. Should I ever encourage someone to pay a bribe?
  7. Should I use a literal translation that is difficult to understand or a thought-for-thought translation that sometimes oversimplifies theological discourses?
  8. Should I rebuke unconverted people for sinful behavior?
  9. Should I open civil functions in prayer if the society is nominally Christian?
  10. Should I feel obligated to stay in a place because of the investment of time and money?

2015

  1. Should I accept living together as marriage?
  2. How long should those who fall to fornication sit out?
  3. Should I ask neighbors to turn their music down?
  4. Should I rebuke prosperity preachers the first time I see them?
  5. Should I strive to use English with the people?
  6. Should I send my children to a public school for the sake of the ministry?
  7. Should I encourage my children to marry Africans?
  8. Should I start a second church before we leave the first one?
  9. Should I offer aid to a poor polygamist?
  10. Should I use expensive evangelistic tools that do not create dependency, but which the nationals could not reproduce without US funds?
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21 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a TV

Spiritual blessings

  1. Do I need this TV to increase my joy in Heaven?
  2. In what way will this TV increase my personal holiness?
  3. How can this TV glorify God according to 1 Cor. 10:31 “…do all to the glory of God.”?
  4. If I didn’t have this TV would it any way inhibit my growth into the image of Christ?
  5. Will this TV encourage any of the Fruits of the Spirit or the Beatitudes in my life?
  6. Will owning this TV in any way encourage a revival?
  7. Does the TV in general commonly create cultural moods and temptations that are antithetical to revival?

Children and Society

  1. Will this TV have any positive effect on raising my children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord?
  2. Does TV tend to create a youth culture that would be harmful to the maturity and spiritual discipline of my children?
  3. Do children tend to consume TV without self-control?
  4. If every house in the country got rid of their TV’s would the positive effects be greater than the negative?

Temptation

  1. Will this TV probably tempt me to lay idle longer than I should?
  2. Will this TV probably tempt me to see provocative displays of others’ bodies?
  3. Will this TV probably tempt me to enjoy murder, violence, and bloodshed?
  4. Will this TV probably tempt me to overlook the profaning of the Lord, His ways, and His name for the sake of my personal entertainment?
  5. Will this TV probably tempt me to covet what God has not given me?

Intellectual Effects

  1. Will this TV tend to strengthen my mind?
  2. Do TV shows tend to make my mind sharper, more able to follow extended arguments?
  3. Will this TV encourage me to read good books?
  4. Will this TV perform any service for me except entertainment?
  5. Is there any motive active in my heart to purchase this TV other than my personal desire for entertainment?
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Prosperity “Churches” Are Indistinguishable from Witchcraft

Be sure to read the text on the pictures.

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And then…

 

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Is there any difference between the prosperity gospel and witchcraft?

When you pray for missionaries and churchplanters in the rural areas of Africa, these are the faces that the servants of Satan take to themselves today.

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Toward Correcting Boring Sermons

Some true sermons are boring, and this should not be tolerated by the preacher because he stands in the most vital office on earth. To bore someone with that which is most beautiful? To tire someone’s mind with the message that is the pinnacle of wisdom?

I have experienced a share of boring preachments as have many who are reading this. I have also heard some of the most fascinating preachers including Martin Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, Mark Minnick, and John Piper. What makes these communicators so engaging? Books on preaching will give us a number of answers including the Holy Spirit’s unique blessing, their personal emotional power, the beauty of their language, and the clarity with which they explain the Biblical text.

Preaching is largely teaching. Jesus Christ taught the people (Matt. 5:2), and the Great Commission commands us to do the same to all the peoples of the world (Matt. 28:19-20). One vital, but often overlooked aspect of teaching is insight. Good teachers are insightful, and bad teachers are superficial, obvious, and predictable.

Writing on such a subject should imply that boring sermons are far too common, and that insight deserves more attention in homiletics, not that the present writer can say anything other than the apostle, “Who is sufficient for these things?”

What is insight and how can its lack be cured? Insight is the aspect of teaching that interests, stimulates, and raises the mind. However, like a scent or a beautiful painting it is more easily recognized than defined in words.

Defining Insight
Though it may be hard to define, here are six categories by which to think about insight including a pair of examples from Scripture.

1.    Insight is making true, but commonly overlooked connections between ideas.
Both Samson and Christ accomplished more in their deaths than they did in their lives. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. Judges 16:30

Eve is called Adam’s helper in Gen. 2:18, but God is also called Israel’s helper with the same Hebrew word in Psalm 30:10.

2.    Insight is seeing from unexpected perspectives so that what was hidden is now in the open.
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory (2 Tim. 2:10). Sovereign election encourages us to keep going as missionaries. It doesn’t stop us from evangelizing.

Is Christ our example? Not in everything. Christ is not a complete example for sinners because he never knew what it was to repent of sin (Heb. 4:15).

3.    Insight is grasping the relationship of individual parts to the larger system.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, (Eph. 5:25). Christ died with a special intention for His bride. There was a love for her that He did not have for others.

And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female…” (Matt. 19:4). Adam and Eve were created at the beginning of time, therefore, no form of evolution can fit with Biblical Christianity.

4.    Insight is weighing the importance of different parts of the whole so that their relative value is apparent to each other and in light of the larger body.
Christ commands us both to be baptized and to believe on Him. The second command is more important, unless the manner of denying the first command is actually a repudiation of his Lordship.

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet (1 Tim. 2:11-12).” This doctrine is not as vital to Christianity as believing that Jesus Christ is God (1 John 5:1). However, if allowing a woman to preach is covering for a settled refusal to bow to Christ as Lord, then it is indicative of a kind of apostasy.

5.    Insight is stretching past the explicit statements to a logically coherent, Biblically sanctioned conclusion that often escapes the notice of others.
God loves the world (John 3:16), and God hates sinners (Psalm 5:5). Therefore, in the mind of God lies an infinite ability such that he can express both love and hate to the same being at the same time.

The last verse in Jonah says, “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” God has special compassion for infants and even animals.

6.    Insight is attaching the right metaphor to the right affection.
Christ loves us like a husband, not a boyfriend.

A sinner has followed his lusts like an insane person (Tit. 1:15), not merely someone who made a mistake.

In each of these six categories, there are factors that make insight uncommon. Usually it has to do with time for reflection, but presuppositions also open or close or minds to insight. In other words, insight is finding a piece of the puzzle that was not made explicit.

Finding Insight
Here are five methods exemplified by the best preachers and found in works like Watts’ Logic.

1.    Read insightful authors or talk to insightful people.
Since we learn by imitation, draw near to those who have the qualities of speech and mind that you want to see in yourself. If you are not insightful and if you have no interest in being insightful, you will not enjoy spending time with those who are. But if you have a great desire to grow in this skill, you will find yourself pulled to these men who are above you, even if you can’t understand everything they say.

2.    Teach your eyes to see the big picture.
One way to do this is to practice the art of summarizing. Try to summarize the Bible in one sentence. Then the NT. Then the OT. Then individual books. For example, Dutch philosopher, Herman Dooyeweerd, broke all of life into 15 categories in an effort to comprehend the whole of the universe under the authority of Christ.

a.     Numerical aspect: amount
b.     Spatial aspect: continuous extension
c.     Historical aspect: flowing movement
d.     Physical aspect: energy, matter
e.     Organic aspect: life functions, self-maintenance
f.      Mental aspect: feeling and response
g.     Logical aspect: distinction, conceptualization
h.     Scientific aspect: formative power, achievement, technology, technique
i.      Lingual aspect: symbolic communication
j.      Social aspect: social interaction
k.     Economic aspect: frugal use of resources
l.      Aesthetic aspect: harmony, surprise, fun
m.   Political aspect: due, rights, responsibility
n.     Ethical aspect: self-giving love
o.     Religious aspect: faith, vision, commitment, belief

What makes this list insightful? He tried to grasp all of reality in less than half a page. In order to do this he had to define each of these categories carefully. His definitions for individual parts of the system had to fit smoothly with all the other parts.

Biblical Theology tries to look at the Bible this way. This discipline attempts to show how history has one main story, and all the little episodes are just scenes in this greater drama.

3.    Closely related to this practice is the ability to make definitions.
Your mind must become accustomed to learning clear definitions for the broadest categories of life. A mind sharpened by a mastery of logic will cut hearts. This point is a summary of Watts’ Logic (pages 99-113, Soli Deo Gloria reprint) where he teaches us to define things in two steps: First, determine the basic attribute of a thing, and second, search for the essential difference—how that thing differs from all others in its category.

A mind that defines clearly will more quickly notice when his thought and preaching are disconnected. He will also be able to make connections with other ideas more fluently since he can define them as well.

4.    Learn to see the world through analogies.
An analogy is a comparison, like this sentence. The Bible is filled with analogies because that is the way God has made our minds to think. The right analogies, comparisons, and metaphors (like that list) are the best use of language because they carry not just denotations but connotations—not just propositions but affections as well. What are these comparisons supposed to do to our minds?

a.     Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Husband of the Church.
b.     God is our Father, our King, our Judge, our Shield, our Song.
c.     The devil is Satan (which means enemy in Hebrew).
d.     The church is like a light, a city on a hill, a temple, a house, a body, a bride, and a nation.
e.     A sinner is a goat, a child of Satan, a weed, dead, a plant with no roots, and a criminal.
f.      False teachers are animals, trees of a different kind, dead trees, and casual workers.
g.     The Christian life is a journey, a war, a building project, farming a field, and a business venture.
h.     Salvation is being brought out of slavery, being raised to life, being discharged from prison, and being adopted to a new family.

5.    Look for new (yet Biblical) ways to say things.
If you are preaching on repentance again, find some new way to get that same old truth. Metaphors show there worth here.

If you’re always saying, “You must repent!” Try saying, “Are you a prodigal? When will you turn your eyes to your Father?”

If you’re always saying, “Believe in Christ!” Try saying, “Hide yourself under the cross!”

Insight is such a great gift, it will not come without hard work over a long period of time. Maybe the government will give someone a degree for free, but no one will become insightful for free. We are an era of surface gliders. So our preachers are as well, but who can listen to that each week for an hour? May we find grace to speak in a manner worthy of an oracle of God.

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Ethiopia Then, Cambodia Now

Guest post by Forrest McPhail, churchplanter among the Khmer of Cambodia

The Winds of God: How the Gospel Swept the Four Corners of Southern Ethiopia by Raymond Davis is an interesting little book. God works different ways at different times among the various peoples where He is calling out a people for His name, and it is interesting and instructive to read accounts like these. In Ethiopia, He chose to work in a very profound way, with much visible fruit, over the course of several decades (1930s-1970s). The Church was born there amidst much persecution, including murders and imprisonments, relative poverty, widespread illiteracy, occupation by the Italians in WW2, later Communism, and extreme pagan tribal culture.

In that movement of God, the Lord did use foreign missionaries, both in church planting as well as discipleship and training. National workers however, both ordained pastors, as well as their co-workers, did most of the work, of their own volition.

Funds? The movement was almost entirely sustained by the national believers. Bible conferences, supplies, love offerings for special meetings, support for evangelists, prayer houses (as they called meeting places) etc. came from the Ethiopian believers. They gave, and kept giving, and God kept blessing the forward movement during these years.

Cambodia? What a contrast! Nearly every city church is almost completely patronized by foreigners. Most pastors that are trained are funded from overseas. The Church does not pay for almost anything. Bible conferences, special meetings, pastoral support, evangelistic efforts, buildings etc. are almost always completely funded by foreigners. Cambodia is much better off financially than the Ethiopians spoken of in this volume. Why is Cambodia in this predicament?

One reason is history: the Church was largely birthed (a second time) after Pol Pot in the refugee camps and its aftermath of Communism, where emergency aid was necessary and vital to survival. Once things began to calm down and things began to normalize in the 1990s, the NGOs and Christian aid and development workers came in legion. The second reason for this endemic dependency, then, is foreign Christians who thought, and still do think, that the Cambodian church needs foreign money and projects in order to follow Christ—they could not be further from the truth!

What Cambodian churches need is the gospel, discipleship, and obedience to God’s Word, trusting God to meet their needs in their own context, not foreign funding. What happened in Ethiopia has happened among some in Cambodia, particularly among the tribals in Rattanikiri, but it is very rare among the main people group of Cambodia, the Khmer.

Missionaries who understand the need for Cambodian believers to live out the Gospel outside of financial dependence from abroad know also that God’s blessing will be largely restrained on the Church here until a change happens. This leads to frustration, thoughts of turning back, desires to look for easier places to minister, discouragement, discontentment, even disillusionment.

Yesterday I met with an American missionary who wanted to discuss ministry over for coffee. I found that he was very like-minded. He shared his burdens for Cambodia, which are similar to ours. He began to be passionate about the need for faith and confidence in God and His Word, that, if we ourselves will preach Christ in truth and keep calling Cambodian believers to biblical discipleship, God will bless. God will break through the mess and will raise up an indigenous church. Our job is to be faithful to our task and have a biblically informed faith in what God can do. I needed that encouragement from this man.

There is a growing number of foreign missionaries and Cambodian pastors that are awakening to the need for Cambodian churches to make the break from foreign funding, and, more than this, to return to biblical discipleship which would strengthen churches and lead them towards healthy NT local church life. This does not mean that foreign funding has no place, but it should definitely be a small part, if present at all, within the churches.

Pray for God to work! He is building His Church here! Pray that His people, both foreign workers and Cambodian believers, will rally around biblical truth, the power of the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit, resulting in “The Winds of God” blowing across this land in very clear ways, to His glory. Pray that we will be faithful to do our part, and full of faith in God, not ourselves.

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50 QUESTIONS FOR A CHARISMATIC CHRISTIAN

Evangelism and missions

  1. Have you ever known a charismatic who moved to a poorer culture with a different language for the sake of planting churches?
  2. How could you answer an experienced missionary’s contention that the practices of tongues and miracles as practiced in the rural areas of Africa are actually vital parts of their false religion of prosperity?
  3. Do you consider the prosperity gospel a form of true Christianity or a false religion?
  4. Do you know of anyone who speaks in tongues or performs miracles who also encourages believers to suffer for the glory of Christ?
  5. Has the charismaticism of the poorer places in the world helped them to send out churchplanters or missionaries?

The gospel and false teachers

  1. Do you know of any popular, false teachers who profess to speak in tongues and perform miracles?
  2. Have you ever heard of any charismatics who warned people about these false teachers with the same kind of intensity of Jesus, 2 Peter 2, and Jude?
  3. Why are there few or no charismatics who rebuke the terrible and rampant sins of people like Todd Bentley, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, or any of the other popular charismatics?
  4. Why is it that if you find a man who believes in prosperity theology he also endorses speaking in tongues and miracles?
  5. How many examples of false prophecies have you heard?
  6. How many examples of Scripture twisting have you heard from charismatic preachers?
  7. What would you say to missionaries who claim to have heard scores of the most ludicrous, sinful, greedy, blatant, and carnal statements from a wide swath of charismatic pastors in multiple languages in the poorest areas of Africa?
  8. What would you say to African Christians who suffered for years under wicked charismatic false teachers and claim that after having visited many churches in the whole area, they cannot find one that teaches the gospel?
  9. Do you know of any charismatic pastors who are known for teaching verse by verse through Scripture?
  10. Is that a common emphasis among charismatics?
  11. If tongues, miracles, and prophecy are important today, then when the epistles were being written, why were they only referenced in 1 Corinthians 12-14 to the most carnal church?

Changes in the gifts

  1. Have you ever heard claims of miracles or examples of speaking in tongues that you considered fraudulent?
  2. How did you know that these miracles or tongues were fraudulent?
  3. Do you consider modern miracles, tongues, and prophecy exactly the same as the gifts described in the NT?
  4. If you do, then where are the missionaries who can translate the Bible without learning the language, where are the men who can calm hurricanes, and who are the pastors who predict the death of their church members like Peter in Acts 5?
  5. If you think the gifts are not quite the same as the NT experiences, then does that not make you a kind of cessationist?
  6. If you are a kind of cessationist, then what Scripture do you use to support the partial cessationism that you believe in?
  7. Could those same Scriptures also lead you to a more complete cessationism?

The Holy Spirit

  1. Since Romans 8 speaks more often about the Holy Spirit than any other chapter in the Bible, and since that chapter is so central to the foundational book of Romans, and since charismatics profess to have a special interest in the Holy Spirit, why don’t we see books, conferences, and denominations focused on Romans 8 among the charismatics?
  2. Do charismatic churches talk about the fruit of the Spirit as often and with the same intensity and expectancy as they treat miracles, tongues, and prophecy?
  3. Is the charismatic movement as a whole known today for humility and holiness?
  4. Aren’t those some of the most vital marks of the Holy Spirit’s work in a man?
  5. Why have the major leaders in this movement not brought this as a critique?
  6. Do you know of any charismatic revivals that took place without any contemporary music or modern technology such as DVD’s?
  7. If not, then why doesn’t the Holy Spirit work as He did in Acts 2 where technology and contemporary music were absent?

Apostles

  1. Do you believe that the names of the 12 apostles that will be on the New Jerusalem are the twelve apostles from the NT (Rev. 21:14)?
  2. If these 12 and no more will be written on the foundation, then can there be any more who are just like them?
  3. If there are no more apostles who are just like those apostles, then isn’t that a change—a cessation of NT practices?

Tongues

  1. Of the instances of tongues speaking with which you are familiar how many are similar to the Acts 2 where the believers spoke in earthly languages?
  2. Have you ever known any missionary who preached fluently in an earthly language that he had never studied?
  3. Have you ever been in a church service where the assembly spoke in tongues according to the rules of 1 Cor. 14? (The rules: One at a time, no more than three, an interpreter must explain, no women)
  4. What percentage of churches that speak in tongues do you think follow the rules of 1 Cor. 14?
  5. If you have ever been in a church where they broke the rules, how do you explain the Holy Spirit inspiring something that is clearly against His Word?

Miracles

  1. Why do healers of today differ from the healing of Jesus Christ in that they do not heal everyone present, they do not perform miracles over death or nature, and they cannot create matter such as bread?
  2. Why don’t healers of today go into a hospital and empty all the wards?
  3. Why do so many charismatic preachers show themselves on TV with prepared environments for their miracles?
  4. Do you know how frequently false prophets deceive poor people with fake miracles in the developing world?
  5. Where are the responsible charismatics who for the great love they bear to the true gospel, and for hope they have that some of the poorest will be converted, and for their own righteous indignation that a false preacher is calling himself a charismatic, will denounce these charlatans as children of Satan (Matt. 23:15), snakes (Matt. 23:33), dogs (2 Peter 2:22), and pigs (2 Peter 2:22)?

Prophecy

  1. How is prophecy today different from just speaking wisely?
  2. If prophecy is similar to speaking wise words then how is that different from the belief and practice of all other churches?
  3. Are the words of a prophecy words that came from God?
  4. If they did come from God, then should we not record them in the Bible, and preach from them, and demand that all people obey them?
  5. If they did not come from God, then aren’t they simply men’s fallible and possibly sanctified opinions?
  6. If the words of a prophecy came directly from God, then isn’t the canon still open?
  7. If the words of a prophecy came from men’s own fallible but possibly sanctified opinions, then how is that a unique spiritual gift?

 

 

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Why Read History?

History maketh a young man to be old, without either wrinkles or gray hairs; privileging him with the experience of age, without either the infirmities or inconveniences thereof. Without history a man’s soul is purblind, seeing only the things which almost touch his eyes.

Thomas Fuller

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Is Rap Music Sinful?

Some time back, one godly man asked another if rap music was sinful. The question of course pointed to a deeper debate about culture, meaning, and beauty. Had I been asked, here is my answer.

Rap music is sinful like…

  1. Spitting on your kitchen floor.
  2. Preaching in boxer shorts.
  3. Making fun of your wife’s weight.
  4. Greeting the president with a chest bump.
  5. Playing a kazoo at a funeral.
  6. Choosing to wear filthy clothes to a wedding.
  7. Calling your parents by their first names.
  8. Dressing a little girl in a negligee.
  9. Wiping your nose on your pastor’s tie.
  10. Relieving yourself in a public place.
  11. Putting a black man in the bed of your pick-up truck while your dog sits inside the cab.
  12. Arranging a game of bingo in parliament.
  13. Playing heavy metal for Sunday morning worship.
  14. Refusing to shower or groom before a social function.
  15. Greeting your in-laws with “Yo, dog” and “Dude man.”
  16. Putting muddy feet on your host’s couch.
  17. Smirking when you hear that your friend’s father passed away.
  18. Spending money for an air-conditioned doghouse.
  19. Voting for a candidate only because of the color of his skin.
  20. Replacing men with women in active-duty combat.

All the items on this list are—at the least—offensive, but we don’t have verses that explicitly condemn even one of them. This list represents unchristian behavior because the items on this list objectively degrade the sacred or exalt the profane. Our first task is to get these two categories. Our second task is to rightly populate each one. Unfortunately, the mood of the day earns its daily bread by blending the sacred and profane.

In other words, God honors some things and condemns others in words that we have cleverly learned to disarm. For example, if someone reading this disagrees with me, I don’t think he’ll be convinced by one of the many clear proof texts I could offer: Do not be conformed to this world. The two believers on the road to Emmaus had so badly missed the point of the proof texts that they had been given, that Christ Jesus calls them fools with a heart problem (Luke 24:25). When my friend debated a Muslim, the unbeliever actually tried to use the New Testament to demonstrate that Jesus was not God.

Too often we ask for a proof text, when only a change of heart will serve.

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