Monday, January 31, 2011

The Book of Esther - Chris Anderson

Overview of the book of Esther by pastor Chris Anderson - basically just a message I discovered while browsing on SermonAudio and enjoyed (I love sermonaduio... there's just so much there to explore.)

What I found helpful about this message is how Pastor Anderson sets the context historically of what's going on with Israel, and how Persia defeated Babylon and the Medes and Persians are in control at this point. Israel is in captivity to Persia, yet at the point of this book Israel is given the opportunity to return to their own land. Problem is, the land has been decimated and Jerusalem is in ruins. Another interesting detail is how Isaiah 45 prophecies about Cyrus, well in advance of the events of the book of Esther.

I thought this MP3 message, roughly a half hour, gave a solid overview of the background and message of the book of Esther.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sproul on Head Covering

Excerpt from Now, That's a Good Question, a book in which R.C. Sproul takes on a number of various theological questions, and particularly a section on Dr. Sproul's thoughts on the relevance of head coverings for today (per the Apostle Paul's instruction in I Cor. 11).  This is free over at Google Books and also on Amazon:

Russel Moore and The Cross and the Jukebox: Ring of Fire

Russell Moore offers a very insightful analysis of Johnny Cash’s song “Ring of Fire”, as part of his new podcast series called the Cross and the Jukebox. I think that this is podcast a novel idea, as I'm always glad to hear someone with Moore's depth of insight comment on the deeper theological messages that lurk behind songs like this.

I've heard 'Ring of Fire' on the radio before, and I remember that distinctive "mariachi" opening, as well as the lyrics of how "it burns, burns, burns." Dr. Moore relates how June Carter wrote this regarding her pre-marital relationship with Cash, and parallels how Proverbs 7 speaks of the dangerous enticement of adultery with its inevitable destructive consequences. The podcast seems like it will be a good one and I look forward to hearing more.

Strangely, and somewhat off-topic, this song reminds me of the expression "ring of fire" which my wife has described as part of the pain of childbirth during certain pushing stages of delivery. I'm pretty sure that's NOT what Cash had in mind, nor does it fit AT ALL with the theme of the song, but regardless the song reminds me of my wife's laboring... go figure.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hudson Taylor: Songs on His Pilgrimage

Brief yet informative overview of the life of missionary Hudson Tayler by Jason Janz on SermonAudio. There is so much to the life of Hudson, as I learned when reading one of his bios a year or so back, and this message gives a nice overview, while at the same time barely scratching the surface. What I recall most about Hudson Taylor's life was that it was one of an incredible faith, in which, similar to situations in the life of George Mueller, Taylor was often virtually penniless yet completely reliant on God's provisions. In a way, as I personally study Hudson Taylor I find it reflective of how lacking my own walk tends to be, so it serves as powerful illustration of a life of fervent, effective faith in God.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Trinity Hymnal Baptist Edition

A link for ordering the Trinity Hymnal Baptist Edition.  I currently use some of the standard Trinity hymnals for family worship, and merely skip the paedobaptist songs.  :)

The Trinity features some of the most excellent of hymns of the faith, and I appreciate that they offer a "Baptist" flavor of this hymnal.  The songs, with midi, can be found listed here.  Alas, no sheet notation, but if you hear it a couple times you can pretty much pick it up in order to sing it without instruments.

I Cor. 11:17-34, the Lord's Supper and Prescient WiFi

Some reflections on the Lord's Supper, while I'm working in the local Methodist cafe using their free "prescient WiFi" (I foresaw in advance this morning that I would be using their wifi for job searches and blogging.)  The UMC is NOT my first choice theologically, but they have a nice quiet cafe for computer work, so who am I to refuse? 

At ORRB family camp this summer the pastors talked about various ordinances of the church, including the Lord's Supper and the instructions from I Cor. 11.  One of the things I found really nutty about the Methodist application of this meal was that that pastor, prior to distribution of the elements, would give a fairly watery (and non-Scriptural) warning that the elements were only to be partaken by believing Christians or those considering becoming Christians.  This struck me as odd: so basically, someone could be in the audience of a Methodist church, could think, "Hmmm, that was a nice message, and that brief sermon about self-righteous moralism felt really good to me.  Maybe I'll try some communion!"  I can't see this without finding it problematic. 

Per the church discussion this summer, this faulty UMC view of communion is apparently something like a "half-way covenant", which allows for people merely thinking about becoming believers to eat the meal.  The point made from family camp was that believers should iron out the implications and decide for themselves prior to taking the elements.  The Apostle Paul lays out some stern warnings in I Cor. for the wrongful taking of the elements, and I think it ultimately detracts for the importance and symbolism of the meal to do it is such a frivolous manner.  But the UMC has a habit of cherry-picking what they want to believe from the Holy Spirit's words through the Apostle Paul (primarily from I Tim. 2, but that's another can o' worms...)

Another thought is on the usage of the word "sacrament".  I've discussed this one with Presbyterian Dad recently, and I'm not sure its an accurate label to refer to either of the ordinances (Baptism and the Lord's Supper) as sacraments, because by definition a sacrament implies that a measure of grace is ALWAYS imparted as part of the act.  I don't agree with this position for a number of reasons, but the primary objection would be on the grounds that, much like in the UMC, an ordinance like the Lord's Supper could be taken in a totally hollow, superficial manner - so how or why would grace be imparted in that situation, to an individual who's just sitting there and appreciating the taste of the elements without giving any genuine reflective thought to the meaning of those elements?  Likewise with baptism, particularly paedobaptism, I don't see how the term of "sacrament" would apply in situations where a Presbyterian infant is sprinkled with water, and then that child grows up and walks from the faith for the rest of their life.  Where, then, is the grace?  Was it wastefully imparted to one who was never elect in the first place?

The term "ordinance" refers more to instructions from Christ - he instructed his followers to baptize and to remember him through the elements of the Supper.  *IF* grace is imparted as part of this act, then praise the Lord.  But the blanket understanding of grace always being a part of these ordinances doesn't seem to work, especially in situations of individuals who don't partake in a deeper meditative understanding of what these ordinances represent.  And how can a toddler know what those baptismal waters of death really represent?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics

At Oak Ridge we've recently started a series on Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics by Ray Rhodes.  It's a fairly interesting book, and I'm about half-way through it so far.  The book is a well-written overview of some of the principle Catholic beliefs and why these often do not jive with Scripture, and while it can be read straight through it also serves as a nice reference resource when you need to look up certain topics like the Apocrypha and so on.

The only thing notable absent from the book, that I would have liked to have seen more information about, is the topic of birth control and family size, but I have a feeling that Rhodes deliberately avoided this topic simply because it is such a massive can o' worms.  The dichotomy seems to be one of: most Protestants settle for "two kids and a vasectomy", while most Catholics find curious loop-holes like NFP (or just blatant disregard of papal teaching on birth control), and in both scenarios the Biblical mandates to be "fruitful and multiply" are more or less dismissed as contextual (or inconvenient.)  I would have liked to have seen this issue covered more.  My own observation is that in recent history there was a trend of seeing "large Catholic families", but I think this practice was based more on papal-writ on avoiding birth control as "evil", and not as much on the Biblical blessing of a full quiver (Psalm 127.)

Yet to me, when I consider Roman Catholicism, although I consider such a tremendous amount of their teaching so heretical and contradictory to Scripture, I do admire their strong pro-life position, which often feels more vocally powerful than that of the protestants.  I also respect how Catholics often seem to have stronger grasp on Church history and the writings of the early church fathers, a study that it would do many Protestants good to investigate further.  But beside this, there can never really be true ecumenical union with Protestants and Catholics because at the core of true Biblical Christianity is one key, consistently backed by Scripture: Salvation by faith alone, in Christ alone, by God's grace alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.

Finding Christ Between the Testaments

Fascinating message by Dr. John Barnett on the Intertestamental Period (the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew.)  The message of this silent period is that the Jews were victorious when they were obedient to the Word and defeated when they fell away from the Word.  The intertestamental period also presents the timeframe when the four main religious groups of Christ's day (the Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots) came into development, and also gives more background into the very dark and violent times of the life of people like Joseph, Mary, Simeon, Anna, Elizabeth and Zacharius, etc.

Dr. Barnett discusses how Daniel (in Dan. 11) prophesied about Alexander and the four kingdoms (prophetic words that were indeed fulfilled), as well as a little more background into the some of the Apocryphal books.  Although for Protestants we can sometimes be a little quick to dismiss the Apocrypha as non-canonical "Catholic" books, even though these are not cannon they do offer some interesting insight into the dark times between the testaments, including details of events such as the Maccabean revolt.

Some of the Apocryphal works, such as the Ezras books, need to be taken with a grain of salt:  per Dr. Barnett, I Ezras is basically just a copy of the Old Testament book of Ezra with extra stuff added in about "don't mistreat the Jews".  II Ezra's is a "flaming apocalyptic" with various inaccurate prophecies.  Its noteworthy that Jesus nor any of the New Testament ever make mention of the Apocrypha.  Rome clings to these, primarily because of fringy passages like 2 Maccabees 12:43, that talk abotu how Judas Macabees, when his soldiers died, shacked them up and made a sacrifice for them.  The entire Catholic system of purgatory was built around this one verse.

Dr. Barnett gives an excellent overview of this Intertestamental Period, and it helps give an little more background into the lives of those in Luke's gospel and the rough, violent time that they were coming out of.

Monday, January 10, 2011



John 6:44

Some research I did into the use of the word "draw" found in John 6:44 - "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."  I used this as part of an online discussion board on the topic of sovereign election.  Notes were taken using the Blueletterbible site:

TR and GNT use the same word, "ἑλκύσῃ".  Strong's lists this word G1670 - helkō, as:

1) to draw, drag off
2) metaph., to draw by inward power, lead, impel
I did a search for helkō elsewhere in Scripture, and there are eight other occurrences of this Greek word in Scripture, including passages such as:
  • John 12:32 - And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me (similar to passage above.  Speaks of God drawing/gathering)
  • John 18:10 - Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it (Peter completed the action and grabbed a sword)
  • John 21:11 - Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land (Peter did the action, and pulled the net to himself)
In each of these passages,  helkō speaks of an action of the individual drawing someone or something to himself by their OWN effort.  Peter's sword didn't do anything, neither did the fish net.  It was the one doing the action that is credited in the word.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A bland Romans/Galatians commentary

I've been recently flipping through a somewhat bland commentary on Romans and Galatians by a handful of different commentators, and wanted to jot down a few thoughts.  This isn't an overly good commentary, but some of the images and illustrations are interesting.  The book strays away from being a substantial or satisfying systematic theology, but rather offers a glossy surface overview of these two books, with the occasional Arminian flavoring (I noticed that two of the writers were associated with Fuller Theological Seminary, and its interesting [providential] that I was just listening to a Mark Dever interview with Wayne Grudem talking about his experience with Fuller and the downward slide of how this particular school moved away from Biblical inerrancy.  As another completely unrelated note, Grudem also mentioned the site on The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which I did not know about previously but which looks to be a wealth of good information, so I'm going to add this to my Delicious links and check it out later.  Here's the link to the Grudem interview)

Anyhow, not much more to say about this Romans/Galatians Zondervan commentary.  Not sure how or why I got this, but to summarize: the content isn't overly deep (sidebar blurs about the "Global warming"issue?) the theology is a little wonky, but the images are interesting.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bartholomew's Passage

We've been reading Bartholomew's Passage as part of our nightly family worship.  It's a fun little book intended to be read around the Advent season (Yes, we've missed this window by a few weeks, but it's still a good read.)  The writing isn't always perfect, the theology can be a little wonky from time to time (with an Arminian edge), and some of the "cliff-hangers" can be a little bit contrived, but otherwise it's a fairly fun read.  And while some of the thematic material might be a little bit creepy for younger readers, Ytreeide does do a nice job with some of the historical realism with details about the Roman occupation, the Dead Sea, the Essenes, etc.  A section each night makes for a nice part of family worship time during the Christmas season.

Proverbs 6:5 and Dave Ramsey: Good with finances, Terrible with theology

I was at the local United Methodist Church recently having a coffee at their nook (and using their free WiFi - it's a Weslean coffee nook, right, so I have a free will to use their WiFi) and while there noticed a poster for a Dave Ramsey lecture, in which it made the ridiculous comment about how "Jesus said more about money than love."  What?  Now I can see how this sort of ridiculous, surface-level observation of Christ's teaching would manifest at a United Methodist church, but all the same, this is just patently bad theology. I've posted why I'm not a Methodist before, and the fact that the eldership at this church would give the blanket approval for this painful kind of goofy surface-level Scripture reading is, frankly, very telling.

Jesus said more about his coming KINGDOM than he said about money or love.  Money as spoken of in the gospels wasn't used as a vehicle to give financial advice!  Jesus rather used examples of money to illustrate things such as the importance of using heavenly gifts wisely (Matthew 25:18), expressing the importance of forgiveness (Luke 7:41), or even the sin of polluting God's house with merchandising (John 2:14) - (would that apply to coffee shop/gift shops in Methodist churches?)

But in terms of Ramsey, who apparently thought up this advertisement for his seminars, it's frankly a shame that he'd resort to using such a lame gimmick for his seminars.  I think his financial book, "Total Money Makeover", is fantastic, and I've really benefited from much of his thinking - if nothing else, his loathing of credit cards that I now share.  Budgeting is very important too, and Ramsey does a nice job of breaking this down to a granular level with forms in the book.  I do believe that the Proverbs 6:5 passage he uses is right on in terms of vigilance in fleeing debt-slavery, "Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler", yet at the same time, throughout the book Ramsey also uses a lot of Navigator-style Bible verse quotes that are often ripped completely out of context that always throw me off when I'm reading, because then I'm left puzzled at the usage of the passage in the right context, instead of figuring out what mutual funds to use.

Good advice, but at times Ramsey makes money seem as if it's the end-all, and he would be wise to do a little bit of a deeper reading into Scripture, and really dig into the danger of serving money (Matthew 6:24) which is a flavor that does seem to come across from time to time.  Good financial advice, but misquoting Jesus really isn't the best approach he should take.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Polity (and Baptism) in the Local Church with Mark Devers

Recently listened to Mark Dever of 9Marks deliver an excellent message on the topic of church polity, what what caught my notice the most was his closing comments on the topic of baptism, that literally capped off the last final moments of the message.  I'm jotting a few notes down here because I think Pastor Dever is right on about this.

Dever identifies how there is no teaching of infant baptism in the new testament, nor are there any parallels of it to circumcision in the new testament.  The Apostle Paul denies the connection in Colossians 2, and rather parallels spiritual circumsicion to physical baptism, with the idea being that when you are born again you are to be baptized.

There is no mention of baptizing infants in the Didache, and there is no record of infant baptism in the first or second century.  By the third century there are a few disputed cases, but by the end of the third century the baptisms are Rome-style "saving" baptisms.  Until the time of Zwingli and Calvin, there is no infant baptism articulated that is not saving.

Dever's presented a summary that the oldest opinion would be that of believers baptism, the second oldest opinion that of the "saving" baptisms of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics, and the third oldest  being 1,000 years later with the reformers.

In Romans 6 Paul is assuming that all those who have the new life have been baptized (again, being born again then baptized).  There is an implies acceptance of the cognitive gospel prior to baptism.

Here's the link to the message:  Polity in the Local Church with Mark Dever