Transformation Produces Separation

For us to be transformed into the image of Christ, one essential factor is that we don’t conform to this world. We can’t let the world define terms and morality for us; we have to renew our minds according to how God defines terms. In the end, the world’s dictionary of definitions will be burned up and obliterated, but God’s standards will endure forever.

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9 Things You Should Know About Astrology

Over the past decade, interest in astrology—especially among the millennial generation—has been on the rise. “Astrology is currently enjoying a broad cultural acceptance that hasn’t been seen since the nineteen-seventies,” Christine Smallwood says in a recent article for The New Yorker. “The shift began with the advent of the personal computer, accelerated with the Internet, and has reached new speeds through social media.” Here nine things you should know about the ancient practice of celestial divination: 1. Astrology is a type of divination that involves the forecasting of earthly and human events through the observation and interpretation of the fixed stars, the Sun, the Moon, and the planets. Several ancient cultures developed some form of astrology, with the oldest originating during the Old Babylonian period (circa 2000 BC) in Mesopotamia (an area that covers much of modern Iraq and Kuwait, as well as parts of Syria and Turkey). Some forms of astrology posit that the stars manifest the divine will of a god or gods while others rely on a totally mechanistic universe. 2. Genethlialogy (“the study that pertains to births”) or “natal astrology” is the application of astrology to the birth of individuals, in order to determine information about the nature and course of a person’s life. The idea is that since the universe is interrelated, astronomical bodies exert an influence on newborn children. The main subdivisions after genethlialogy are general, catarchic, and interrogatory. General or mundane astrology studies the relationship of the significant celestial moments to social groups, nations, or all of humanity. Catarchic or electional astrology determines whether or not a chosen moment is astrologically conducive to the success of a course of action. Interrogatory or horary astrology provides answers to a person’s questions, usually through “chart readings” based on the alignment of the celestial bodies at the moment of their posing… Read More

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 1

Labels are funny things. Some we take to ourselves, and others are assigned to us. Of those assigned to us by others, some are complimentary, some merely descriptive, and some even derisive. The label “Christian” for instance was not one Believers gave to themselves, but was mostly likely hung on them by those who opposed them in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Being watched from the outside, some said “these are – you know, those Christ-ians, those people who claim Jesus was the Christ and rose from the dead.” It meant you were out of step with the mainstream. Perhaps even a kook. But Believers adopted the term even though it wasn’t meant as a compliment. Even as it is no longer a compliment in our culture. It was a very similar situation with the label “Methodists.” Those who subscribed to the theology and approach of John and Charles Wesley were scorned as those “Methodists” – who thought a life given over to searching and knowing the Scriptures, and methodically approaching life in Christ was kooky. But the Methodists took the scornful term and owned it. Now the label Evangelical wasn’t a term of derision originally – but it has become so to many in our day. Over-association with politics as well as some other factors has brought that about. Some, like myself, have wondered if the term is useful anymore because it has been so removed from its roots. Then reading recently in the works of J. C. Ryle, the 19th century, 1st Anglican Bishop to Liverpoool, my fervor for being clearly “Evangelical” was renewed. In his little book “Knots Untied” Ryle outlined what he called “the five leading features” of Evangelical religion. So for the next few days I’m going to give you those features – one a day. With… Read More

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The High Stakes of Religious Liberty

“Here in the United States, American believers and religious institutions, especially those who hold orthodox beliefs about human sexuality, are facing a much more polite persecution. And the question I think we face today is whether Americans who subscribe to those orthodox tenets—including the Christian faith, as well as those who are subscribed to Judaism and to Islam—whether they will have the space necessary to be able to live consistent with their beliefs in these areas. If we are going to continue to be a standard bearer in this nation for religious freedom and free expression—if we are truly committed to living out a diverse and pluralistic society, a background with all different faiths—then we must answer the question the same way we always have, which is to opt for freedom over the demands of the current cultural climate.” — Kristen Waggoner Date: April 2, 2019 Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast. Related: Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Why do Christian men and women regularly use pornography?

What do we do with this? 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis. Of young Christian adults 18-24 years old, 76% actively search for porn. 87% of Christian women have watched porn (at some time). The percentage of all women (Christian or not) who watch porn is on the rise and could eventually rival that of the men. 57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging issue in their congregation. These figures from this site. For other stats from 2016 from a major study by the Barna Group. Barna’s information is a bit older, but apparently it’s more thoroughly researched. What approach do we take? Because it is not just a vice, it is an addiction, which like cocaine or crack changes the chemistry of the brain and rewires it. And the church is still acting as if porn is the dirty magazine you buy at the 7-11, not the movies you see right on your phone. And we are in no way prepared for near-future porn in 3D and multi-sensory. The traditional response of the church has been to tell these addicts half-truths: get more discipline in your life! just say No! get a new hobby! porn is wrong, so just stop! put more rules on yourself! think of what it is doing to your spouse and family! This isn’t working. Nor, and I will go out on a limb here, are these miracle solutions: Be a youth leader or teach Sunday School, your conscience won’t let you use porn! Have a daughter, you will come to your senses about how to treat young women! Read the Bible and pray! Join a men’s group (Well, one statistic states that “50 percent of men viewed pornography within one week of… Read More

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Mez McConnell on Shepherding Abuse Victims

Church-planting pastors who minister in some of the world’s hardest places will encounter many painful issues—whether it be addiction, violence, homelessness, broken families, poverty, racism, or a number of other things. One especially painful aspect of ministry in such communities concerns the reality of abuse. Far too many children experience the horror of being abused by people they should be able to trust. Abuse of any kind is a grievous sin that must be repented of and dealt with by the proper authorities. As churches are planted in places where abuse is prevalent, pastors need to know how to apply the gospel to people who have suffered from it. But how can we do that? Many of us may feel like we don’t even know where to begin. To help us think about this, it’s a privilege to have Mez McConnell with me on the podcast. Listen to this episode of Churches Planting Churches. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Entering Heaven Based On Someone Else’s Test Score

‘; jQuery(“#listen”).html(htmldata); flag = 1; } }); }); In order to go to heaven, you must be as holy as God and have a perfect record in keeping all of God’s commandments. Every human being has failed miserably, but praise God that Jesus Christ’s righteousness can freely become ours by faith.

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Margin notes: Lamentations

Lamentations 5:21 (ESV) — Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— Few, if any, would say Lamentations if their favorite book in the Bible. But its 5 short chapters need to be read often. In the end, it is as hopeful as it is harrowing. But we need to be reminded over and over that God does not take sin lightly – even in His chosen ones. Grace is not license TO sin, but freedom FROM sin. Oh that our hearts would drink this in. This short book with is unique acrostic arrangement was composed so as to aid the readers in memorizing it. Not that they might remain forever shameful, but that they might be forever warned. To be reminded over and over of the effects of sin. To see it in all of its destructive wretchedness. Temptation makes sin look so attractive, but it ALWAYS ends in hideous pain and torment. No one imagines when they try to steal some fleeting but forbidden dainty that it is so full of poison as to bring destruction even into the lives of our children and grandchildren. But it is so. God does not warn us against it to rob of some joy, but to keep us from the result, and to direct us to true, lasting, divine joy. To find our joy in Christ Jesus and His redeeming grace. Prov. 10:22 “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” The PRETENDED blessings of the world, make us bankrupt, and are shot through and through with nothing but sorrow. Advertisements Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Visit ResponsiveReiding

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New Books You Should Know (November 2019)

The Assurance of Salvation: Biblical Hope for Our Struggles Robert A. Peterson Zondervan, 2019 192 pages Robert Peterson always writes simply and yet with genuine substance, and in his newest book he writes to encourage and minister confidence to believers who struggle with assurance. A useful, practical, and helpful book on a most important topic. Also available on Audible. The Story of Creeds and Confessions: Tracing the Development of the Christian Faith Donald Fairbairn and Ryan Reeves Baker Academic, 2019 416 pages An excellent guide to the church’s early creeds and later confessions along with an engaging account of their surrounding historical narratives. Well informed yet altogether accessible. This will likely be the best resource on the subject. Repeat the Sounding Joy: A Daily Advent Devotional on Luke 1–2 Christopher Ash The Good Book Company, 2019 Warm, enriching application drawn from insightful expository and theological reflection on the biblical text. Christian devotional writing at its best—drawn from Ash’s insightful expository and theological reflection on the biblical text. Each of these brief chapters is a delight to read. Joyful Christmastime reading for Christians of every age and experience. Very highly recommended. Inspired Questions: A Year’s Journey Through the New Testament Brian J. Wright Christian Focus, 2019 240 pages What a great idea, and what a delightful book. A daily devotional of just a paragraph or two for each day, leading us to consider thoughtfully 365 questions (January 1 through December 31) asked through the pages of the New Testament. Ideal for brief personal or family devotions each day. Am I Just My Brain? Sharon Dirckx The Good Book Company, 2019 A fascinating book, important for contemporary discussions regarding naturalism—that humanity can and must be explained in naturalistic terms only. Dirckx, a neuroscientist herself, effectively demonstrates that our cognitive functions, consciousness, self-awareness,… Read More

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Margin notes: What’s love got to do with it?

1 Corinthians 16:22 (ESV) — If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! Sometimes, you can read something in God’s Word which you’ve read a multitude of times, that hits you with such fresh force it takes you up short. Such was true for me as I hit upon this all-too-familiar passage today. Let the gravity of these words sink in – “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” This really is a most sobering and searching verse. We are prone to talk about individual faith by that term alone – faith, or belief. So many a person claims to believe in God, believe in Christ, believe in the Bible. Believe in the Gospel etc.. But bare belief is only one side of the coin. If there is no “love for the Lord” – no desire to see Him, be with Him, delight in Him and especially to find Heaven that place where we will see and experience His unveiled glory – if that is not a motivating factor in our hearts – whatever else we may profess to “believe”, we are still accursed. Now this is a deeply necessary consideration. Paul says it in the most stunning of terms. He does not say if one has no love for the Lord, they need help – but that they are actually accursed. We must search ourselves in this regard. Many if not most desire “Heaven” in the sense of an existence without the scars and plagues of sin. Or simply as the pleasant alternative to Hell. But do we desire Heaven because we love Him and want to be with Him? Yes, we groan with all of Creation for the day when the Fall’s effects will be totally… Read More

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5 Ways to Build Trust as a Pastor

As a church planter, I was coached to keep a close eye on the “economies” that would affect our ability to pursue our mission. “Pay close attention to the critical numbers. Watch the national and local job markets. And watch your Sunday numbers. We count people because people count.” Overall, this advice is sound. But it’s incomplete. There is another, far more important economy we must keep a careful eye on: the economy of trust. Trust is foundational to everything we do. ‘Good Name’ Trust of a “good name” runs between members and leaders, and within the leadership itself. It’s what Solomon described in Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” As a church-planting pastor, few things will affect your ability to lead people through difficult seasons like their trust in you. When you have a “good name,” they’re much more likely to both listen to and follow you. Instead of fearing your summons to sacrifice, they’re more likely to hear an invitation to grow in grace. And as you develop a culture that builds trust, the whole community benefits. As a church-planting pastor, few things will affect your ability to lead people through difficult seasons like their trust in you. To build trust, people need to see integrity in our intentions, words, and life as a whole. We need to be “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:2). But how do we create this kind of culture in our church plants? Here are five practices that will help build an economy of trust. 1. See people who need to grow, not problems that need to be solved. A fellow pastor once told me (in jest, of course), “I’d like ministry a lot more if I didn’t have… Read More

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What Should Make Us Angry?

We typically think of anger as a work of the flesh that we need to put to death and flee from. And in most cases it certainly is, but there actually is a time and place to be angry. What are some of the things that are right to be angry about? Many times we think of anger as selfish and a destructive emotion that should be eradicated from our lives altogether, but the fact is Jesus got angry when men were hard, when men were unbelieving, unfeeling, unsympathetic, and especially when they dishonored His Father. The Apostle Paul could say to the Galatians at a time when they were being duped by false teachers, “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves.” Emasculate? Brace yourselves. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says, “cut off your privy parts.” You say, “well, I never!” Well, that’s right. You’ve never been stirred up like Paul has when somebody comes in with teaching and is trying to lead people away and possibly to their damnation. And he gets stirred! And he knew what that word meant. And he used it in mixed company. Why? Because he was angry. And he was stirred up. And when people came with false doctrine he got that way. And there are some things as Christians that are worth getting bent out of shape about and worth getting stirred up about. Unfeeling people are called calloused. Unfeeling people are Gentile-ish, not Christian. Passionless people, passionless Christians are pathetic Christians. There are things in this world worth getting stirred up about. There is darkness out there. There is wrong out there. There is evil out there. There are people taking advantage and there are devilish doctrines. And there are people trying to deceive our brothers and sisters and deceive your children.… Read More

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