Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 4

Following a short essay by Bishop J. C. Ryle, a leading evangelical Anglican of the 19th century, we have seen that Evangelicalism isn’t what most would think of today when they hear that word in the public sector. In a sense, we’ve let others define that term for us rather than insisting on making it clear what WE mean by it. And to be fair, many self-professed Evangelicals have poured into the current public perception by doing what they do in the political and social realms in the name of Evangelicalism. When in fact those endeavors may have more to do with their brand, than the core features we’ve been discussing. The great churchman of the 16th century Richard Hooker noted that when people have a cause and a particular slant in controversial issues or those they are greatly exercised over, they tend to make that issue an all-or-nothing proposition before long. And in doing that, they then pour everything into it in such a way that their very Christianity rests in the issue itself. And as a result, those who do not agree with them on this issue are suspect even in their Christianity. So for some, a representative republic as a form of government or free-market capitalism become synonymous with Biblical Christianity – and anyone holding to anything else in any way can’t even be a Christian! Thus in the process, Evangelicals end up deconstructing our own Evangelicalism. All that to say, that we need to get back to real basics here. So far we’ve seen the first 3 leading features of Evangelical Religion – and today our writer sets forth the 4th one. a) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture, as the only rule of faith and practice, the… Read More

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Christopher Ash on Teaching Esther

The book of Esther presents us, as teachers, with an incredible opportunity to tell a dramatic and captivating story. But the narrative also presents challenges. God is not mentioned once throughout the book. We tend to want to make judgments and draw conclusions about the motives and morality of the characters. But in this conversation, Christopher Ash—writer-in-residence at Tyndale House in Cambridge, and author of Teaching Ruth & Esther—warns us away from over-evaluating Esther morally, and from leading those we’re teaching to either cheer or boo at the actions of the characters, since many of the book’s actions are ambiguous. Instead, he demonstrates how we can teach the book of Esther in a way that points to Christ, a greater mediator than Esther, a more righteous man than Mordecai, who brought about a greater reversal than the king’s edict. Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible. Recommended Audio Resources Recommended Print Resources Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Manage Your Household Well: The Tragedy of Distracted Dads and Pastors

The gratuitously distracted, and often unexamined, lives of modern unmarried men can be concerning enough. Then the seriousness of the problem rises higher when we say, “I do.” And even more when we bring children into the world. One of the greatest needs wives and children have — and all the more in our relentlessly distracting age — is dad’s countercultural attentiveness. Perhaps human attention never has been more valuable. Today the largest corporations in the world no longer compete for oil, but for human attention. And when attention is short and scarce, one of the greatest emerging tragedies of this new era is distracted dads. And in the church, its digital-age analog: distracted pastors. Qualification for Christian Men “He must manage his own household well.” The risen Christ, through his apostle Paul, requires as much of any officer in the church, whether pastor or deacon (1 Timothy 3:4–5, 12). As is plain from the rest of the leadership qualifications, however, these traits aren’t meant to set leaders apart from the congregation, but to make them “examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3) of every Christian’s calling. Christ means for these attributes to be true of us all, and so it is essential that they be modeled, at minimum, in the leadership. By extension, Christ means for every dad to “manage his own household well.” “Before and beneath God’s call that we care for our households, and for his church, is his care for us.” Tweet Share on Facebook This qualification to “manage his own household well” forges a special relationship, among the other requirements, between church leadership and domestic husbanding and fathering. Why must a pastor be one who manages his household well? “For if someone does not know how to manage his own household,” Paul reasons, “how will… Read More

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 3

Being Evangelical isn’t new – though some would (rightly I believe) think that we have lost our moorings. It was the 14th Century firebrand, priest and pre-Reformer who was known in his day as doctor evangelicus. Doctor of the “evangel” or the Gospel. The term gained popularity early in the Lutheran side of the Reformation and spread from therewith the awakening of the Gospel across Europe. Those men wanting to be identified with the recovery of the gospel in terms of its central doctrine of justification by faith called themselves evangelici viri – evangelical men. Luther in turn liked and used the expression in German as die Evangelischen. The direct connection in each case was the idea of the gospel – the “evangel”, or “good news.” And  “evangelical continued to gain popularity, and achieved its widespread use during the 18th century in the revival movement associated with Wesley and Whitefield. That is the heritage of Evangelicalism. A heritage all but lost today, as it was in J. C. Ryle’s day when he sought to rearticulate its foundations. So far, we’ve looked at 2 of those foundations from Ryle’s essay: “Evangelical Religion.” (a) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture, as the only rule of faith and practice, the only test of truth, the only judge of controversy. (b) The second leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the depth and prominence it assigns to the doctrine of human sinfulness and corruption. And now… (c) The third leading feature of Evangelical Religion is the paramount importance it attaches to the work and office of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the nature of the salvation which He has wrought out for man. Its theory is that the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, has by… Read More

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Book Sale at WTS Books: Don’t forget the 2nd Advent

Book Sale at WTS Books In this Advent journey through Luke 1–2, Christopher Ash brings these familiar passages to life with fresh insight, color and depth. As you soak up the Scriptures, you’ll experience the joy of Christmas through the eyes of those who witnessed it first hand, from Mary and Elizabeth to the Shepherds and Simeon. Celebrate afresh the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah in history, and learn what it means to wait for him with joyful expectation today. Each day’s reading includes a short reflection, a prayer, a carol, and space to journal, helping you to treasure the Lord Jesus in your heart in the hectic run-up to Christmas. About the Author: Christopher Ash has been a pastor and then Director of the Cornhill Training Course. He is now an author and writer-in-residence at Tyndale House, Cambridge. Endorsements: Sam Allberry, Speaker, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries “Christopher Ash shows us the refreshing, startling realities that lie behind our Christmas festivities. Whether you’re familiar with the story of the birth of Jesus or yet to be convinced it has any real relevance to life today, this will make you sit up, think again, and give thanks for these events that happened so long ago. I’m going to enjoy using it.” Kathleen Nielson, Author; Speake “These devotionals are digestible: they will go down easily in the busy days of Advent. They are profound: they will go down deep. Most wonderfully, they are word-filled: they will feed us with the truth and beauty of the Scriptures, and of the Savior whose advent we celebrate.” David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org “Christopher Ash is a proven scholar with pastoral sensibilities. His Advent meditations will give substance to the season for you and your kin. As the world turns its attention to Christmas, even as… Read More

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When You Don’t Desire God’s Word

When I was young, my mother made my brother and me drink prune juice (for obvious reasons). I dreaded walking into the kitchen and seeing that glass full of thick, purple poison awaiting me. I held my nose and reluctantly drank, since I knew it was good for me. But it did not taste good. I go through seasons when I view God’s Word like prune juice. In these moments my soul lethargically sits down to read, and my thoughts wander to my to-do list shortly after starting. Opening God’s Word sometimes feels more like a chore than a delight. Yet this is not how David describes it. David describes God’s Word as “sweeter than honey” (Ps. 119:103). It should taste good to our souls, because it is good for our souls. When Scripture is sweeter to me than honey, I run to it as to living water, and I think about his words and the implications of them for my life throughout my day. But what do we do—especially in bitter and busy seasons—when reading God’s Word seems less like honey and more like prune juice? Give Your Time Meditation takes time, which many of us may protest we don’t have. And yet it’s hard to believe David could say that he loved God’s law (Ps. 119:97) without having given time to digging deep and memorizing, meditating on, and understanding it. God’s Word is the psalmist’s meditation all day long (Ps. 119:97). The Hebrew word for “meditation” here refers to an object of “musing, study, or prayer.” In biblical meditation, we are filling our minds to think deeply on a verse, a passage, or a theme. The difference between reading and meditating on it is the difference between raking and digging. As with raking leaves, you can read the… Read More

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Book Notice: WE ARE ALL PHILOSOPHERS: A CHRISTIAN INTRODUCTION TO SEVEN FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS, by John M. Frame

A Brief Book Notice from Books At a Glance Everyone is a philosopher, and how we live reveals what we most deeply believe. If you and God were asked the same question, would you both respond in the same way?Are Christians right to believe what we do? In We Are All Philosophers, John M. Frame takes seven major questions of philosophy and compares the Bible’s answers with common philosophical ones: What is everything made of? Do I have free will? Can I know the world? Does God exist? How shall I live? What are my rights? How can I be saved? We Are All Philosophers carries all the marks of John Frame’s books: he appeals to Scripture frequently and carefully. He writes elegantly and simply, a byproduct of having mastered the complicated philosophical topics he surveys. About the Author: Dr. John M. Frame is the retired J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and is the author of many books, including Salvation Belongs to the Lord, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology and the four-volume Theology of Lordship series. Endorsements: “By answering seven fundamental questions from a thoroughly biblical worldview grounded in Scripture, John Frame wonderfully helps the average Christian engage philosophical thought according to Christ. In a short, popular, and accessible style, Frame helps Christians engage the questions of life with answers that demonstrate that the fear of the Lord is truly the beginning of wisdom and the foundation of all thought. I highly recommend this book for all Christians who want to know and proclaim the truth of the Gospel in our generation.” ―Stephen J. Wellum, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary “I tell my students that everyone does philosophy: the only question is whether you do it well or not!… Read More

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‘I Don’t Believe in Christ — Why Is Faith So Hard?’

Audio Transcript Just recently, Pastor John and Noël traveled to Holland, France, and Germany. Earlier in the year, they traveled to South America. And earlier in the spring, they were in Ireland and Scotland. All those trips were ministry trips on behalf of Desiring God. Our ministry partners make these international trips possible. So thank you. Today I want to share with you one moment captured in Scotland, recorded at a conference hosted by our friends at 20schemes. In Scotland, a “scheme” is something like a housing project, a government-subsidized neighborhood that’s pretty rough, known for high crime and rampant drug use. More troubling, over half of Scotland’s schemes are gospel-less places. 20schemes is a ministry to change this by planting gospel-loving churches right into these areas of deprivation. While in Scotland, Pastor John sat down to field audience questions from one of those church planters, Andy Prime, who relayed to Pastor John the following question. Have a listen. Andy Prime: Someone says, “Hi, Pastor John. I’m someone who has been exposed to a lot of Christian talks and events in the last couple of years, but I am still struggling to put my faith in Christ. What advice could you give me?” John Piper: Wow, I wish I knew you. I would really probe before I gave an answer. I would probe the word struggle. What is that? I want to help you so bad to get over that. Let me just say what comes to my mind. Narrow Way, Light Load Let me give you two texts, and then tell you why the word struggle is a little odd and yet understandable. In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Now,… Read More

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Did Christianity Profoundly Influence the Founding of America?

Mark David Hall—the Herbert Hoover distinguished professor of politics and faculty fellow in the William Penn Honors Program at George Fox University—is swimming against a certain scholarly stream in his new book, Did America Have a Christian Founding? Separating Modern Myth from Historical Truth (Thomas Nelson, 2019). Unlike a David Barton, Hall is a serious historian committed to historical honesty and going where the evidence leads him. In this regard, Hall is part of an important school of thought—represented by scholars like Thomas Kidd, Daniel Dreisbach, Mark Noll, and others—showing the (complicated) influence of Christian ideas on the Founding of America. If someone were to ask me whether America had a “Christian founding”—the question that headlines this book—I would have to know how they defined that term before I could offer an answer. Hall write that there are five options of what we could mean by a “Christian founding”: [Option 1: The Founders Were Self-Identified Christians] One possibility is simply that the founders identified themselves as Christians, which they clearly did. In 1776, every colonist, with the exception of about two thousand Jews, identified himself or herself as a Christian. Approximately 98 percent of them were Protestants, and the remaining 2 percent were Roman Catholics. But these facts alone are not particularly useful. These men and women may have been bad Christians, may have been Christians significantly influenced by non-Christian ideas, or may even have been Christians self-consciously attempting to create a secular political order. As we shall see, there are good reasons to reject these possibilities, but even so, it is necessary to dig deeper. [Option 2: The Founders Were All Sincere Christians] A second possibility is that the founders were all sincere Christians. This would be a more interesting finding, yet sincerity is difficult for scholars, or anyone else, to… Read More

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 2

Evangelical. We hear it in the press all the time. Almost exclusively in political terms. The “Evangelical right” as a voting block. That is the way most people hear, understand and interact with the word. But it wasn’t always so. Going back to the days before the Reformation, “evangelicals” were just what the name means – they were “gospelers” – heralds of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelicals were simply those who had heard, believed, and now spread the “good news” – the Gospel – the “evangel” that Jesus had died to make an atonement for human sin, that all who put their trust in His substitutionary death, could be, WOULD be, reconciled to God. We’ve come a long way. And sadly we’ve let those outside of Evangelicalism reshape how that label is understood and used. And perhaps, even those who consider themselves evangelicals might be surprised to know what that has meant historically. And to that end, we are reviewing Bishop J. C. Ryle’s five leading features of Evangelical Religion. Last time we looked at number  – (a) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture, as the only rule of faith and practice, the only test of truth, the only judge of controversy. Today, I submit to you number 2. Here’s Ryle: (b) The second leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the depth and prominence it assigns to the doctrine of human sinfulness and corruption.Its theory is that in consequence of Adam’s fall, all men are as far as possible gone from original righteousness, and are of their own natures inclined to evil. They are not only in a miserable, pitiable, and bankrupt condition, but in a state of guilt, imminent danger, and condemnation before God. They are not only… Read More

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What I’ve Learned in 15 Years as a Church Planter

I spend a lot of time with church planters. Whether it’s Acts 29 assessment conferences or Portico Church’s own residency efforts, I’m privileged to invest in the next generation of pastors. So many of these young church planters I encounter are full of David’s heart, Moses’s humility, and Elijah’s conviction. A few months ago, I watched Ray Ortlund and Sam Storms answer questions about enduring in ministry. With more than 70 years of vocational ministry between them, Ray and Sam reminded me that church planting isn’t just about sowing seeds up front—it’s also about the harvest at the end. Many of us start strong but finish weak. As my first boss used to say, “Some say they’d rather burn out than fizzle out. But either way, they’re out!” The point is, stay in. Early zeal matters little if you fail to finish well. After 25 years of vocational ministry—including 15 in church planting—I’ve at least learned what not to do. Here are three common pitfalls young church planters face, and some suggestions on how to remedy them. 1. Know when ‘good’ is good enough. Author Eric Ries first introduced me to the concept of the MVP—minimum viable product—in The Lean Startup. When starting a business, you can’t afford to chase perfection. An MVP must have the necessary basic features for early adopters to lead you to the next stage of development. This means that, early on, you can’t quibble over trivial concerns. If you’re less than two years into your church plant, you need to think about your young church as an “MVP.” One can argue about what features are essential in a young church—things like clear gospel teaching, commitment to discipleship, and a healthy understanding of what constitutes a church—but your sermon series’ title sequence probably doesn’t make the cut.… Read More

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What Is the Apocrypha? Listening to Four Centuries of Silence

ABSTRACT: The Apocrypha is a collection of books written in the four centuries between the Old and New Testaments. Though the Apocrypha is not Scripture, many Protestants (including Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers) have found the collection useful historically, theologically, and spiritually. Discerning readers of the Apocrypha gain a fuller understanding of first-century Judaism, including the messianic fervor that led, in part, to Jesus’s passion. For our ongoing series of feature articles by scholars for pastors, leaders, and teachers, we asked Professor David Briones to provide an overview of the Apocrypha’s history and the potential benefits it can offer Protestants. Most Protestants have never read the Apocrypha. Many don’t even know what the term apocrypha means. And the majority don’t care to read books that aren’t in their Bibles. Is this a bad thing? Shouldn’t the Apocrypha be kept out of sight and out of mind? Protestants who were raised Roman Catholic would probably say, “Of course!” They have come to learn that the Apocrypha is uninspired and supports erroneous Roman Catholic dogma. And that’s more than enough reason to disregard it. “The Apocrypha provides us with rich historical information that illumines our understanding of the New Testament.” Tweet Share on Facebook As accurate as that negative assessment is, disregarding the Apocrypha isn’t necessarily the right response. We can read it discerningly yet constructively, critically yet charitably. Doing so will lead one to see the many ways it actually enhances our understanding of the divinely inspired Scriptures. So, rather than thrusting the Apocrypha out of your sight and out of your mind, I want to give you a glimpse of what you’d be missing if you did. After providing a brief description and history of the Apocrypha, I will lay out some of the theological and spiritual benefits this questionable… Read More

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