Monday, December 13, 2010

Where Does Your Child’s Identity Lay… Truly?

“The greatest need of our children is to cherish and know the infinite value of God. Therefore we want them to become so saturated with the Word of God that they treasure Jesus alone as the One who saves and satisfies the heart.”


“The greatest gift we can offer them is to begin forming and molding their identity in Jesus alone.

Our identity, how we view ourselves and what we find our worth in, will directly determine how we view God, how we treat others, and how we will operate in this fallen world. If our children find their identify in something other than Jesus then they will pursue that thing above Jesus. If they presently find their worth in school, their relationships, or sports, again, something other than Jesus, then they will grow up viewing the faith of their parents merely as ancillary to the more important pursuits of their lives. They will learn to use everything at their disposal to worship that “thing” above the Creator who made it. So, it is our job as parents and as the covenant community of Christ to tell our children who they are.

One of the best ways we can do this is by telling them the story of the Bible, and, what I mean by that is not simply telling them random stories out of it but by showing them the grand redemptive arc of Jesus’ story throughout Scripture and then showing them how their lives intersect with that story.”

– Joshua Elsom via the Gospel Community Mission Collective Forum

Joshua recommended using The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name I haven’t used it yet myself, but am going to check it out!

Sourced from:

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Repentance: What Is It and How Do We Present It?

Today Ray Comfort posted a defense of the biblical warrant for preaching and commanding repentance on his Facebook fan page. His purpose in writing his defense is to speak out against those who would “..say that we should never tell a sinner to turn from his sins, because that implies that he must “do” something to be saved” and those who would “..say that repentance merely means a change of mind about Jesus.”

You can read the entire article here: Is Repentance Just a Change of Mind?

While I certainly agree that repentance is more than “changing your mind about Jesus,” I would add a few things to Ray’s presentation.

Repentance does not have as much to do with what you are turning away from, as much as it has to do with the One to Whom you are turning. A turn toward Christ will always result in a turn away from rebellion against Him. If He be lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself. To explain repentance solely as a "turning away from sin", without exalting Jesus as the reason for that turning, will surely produce legalists.

How many times have you heard this explanation of repentance following the preaching of the Law and Grace?

"To receive this free gift of God's grace through Jesus Christ you must repent and believe. Repentance is this - Remember all of those laws which you broke, that found you condemned before God? You must now turn from your Law-breaking! Stop lying, stop stealing, stop looking with lust and hating. Turn from your sin and God will save you. This is what faith is..."

This is an unbiblical presentation of repentance, unfortunately, this is how many people continue to share the gospel. Why is this wrong? Consider this, if you tell someone that they must now keep the very Law that condemned them to be saved, have you really given them any good news? You've just told them that it is impossible to keep the Law and 5 minutes later you tell them that they must keep that same Law to be saved. It makes no sense.

Let's clean up both our definition and presentation of repentance.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Gospel Rhythms

A Wholistic Approach to Ministry

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your souls. Live such good lives among he pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

1 Peter 2:11-12

In order to lead our people to see all of life as ministry and mission we must equip them to live out the gospel in everyday activities – rhythms. We have found some transferable patterns or rhythms of life that should be lived out in light of the Gospel and our gospel identity.

Everyday Rhythms:


We understand, experience and intersect with God’s Story and Other’s God has been unfolding his Story since before time began. We believe we are participants in the Story and need to understand it and see how our lives intersect with it. Therefore, we regularly reacquaint ourselves with the Story by interacting with God’s Word. We look for ways and times to tell the Story often. We also take time to listen to others stories and help them find their lives within God’s Story. (Genesis 1:1-2; John 1:1; Psalm 1; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)


We set aside regular times to listen to God both backward and forward Jesus listened to God in prayer to know his Father’s will. We are also called to listen to God. We listen ‘backward’ by regularly interacting with God’s Word–the Story and the Son. We also believe he speaks today through his Spirit in us and through creation. We spend time actively listening ‘forward’ to hear what God is saying to us today. (Mark 1:35-37; John 16:7-15; Hebrews 1:1-3; Romans 1:20)


We gather together to celebrate God’s extravagant blessings God’s calls people to regularly celebrate his goodness and grace. We gather weekly in missional communities and regularly as a larger family, to share stories and celebrate all that God is doing in and amongst us. We invite everyone to these celebrations as a way of displaying God’s glory. (Leviticus 23; Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:24-25)


We intentionally bless others through words, gifts or actions God desires that all nations–all people–would be blessed through Jesus. And now, as his Body, we believe we live out this mission as we bless others. We intentionally seek God’s direction for who he would have us tangibly bless each week. (Genesis 12:1-3; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:8-10; 1 Peter 2:12)


We regularly eat meals with others to invite them into the community of God. Meals are a daily reminder of our common need for God and his faithfulness to provide both physically and spiritually. Jesus called us to remember him and his sacrifice for us through a meal. When we eat together, we commune around this truth. We regularly eat meals with those not in our immediate family or circle of close friends, discipling them toward a life of dependence on God. (Leviticus 23; Matthew 6:11; 26:17-30; Acts 2:46-47; Romans 12:13)


We take time to rest, play, create and restore beauty in ways that reflect God to others. After powerfully and joyfully creating the universe, God rested. We were created in his image and therefore were made to joyfully create and rest as well. We regularly take time to rest, play, create and restore beauty in ways that reflect what God is like to our community. (Genesis 1-2:3; Deuteronomy 5:12; Mark 2:23-28; Hebrews)

Video Courtesy of Verge Missional Community Conference
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Kindness of God that Leads to Repentance

Have you ever had a well meaning Christian suggest that you not speak to unbelievers about God's wrath or judgment; that such speech is divisive and may very well be counterproductive to the very thing you are attempting to accomplish? Have they further suggested that you simply let the world see Jesus through you, in your life and through kind actions? Have they ever used, "It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance." as proof-text for their position? If so and you've not known how to properly respond to this application of Romans 2:4, then keep on reading.

"Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" Romans 2:4

The first thing to look at with any verse that is used as a proof-text is to see the verse in its actual context. You'll immediately note that this portion of Scripture, which is so often quoted, is actually not even contained in the text. It is a clause contained within Romans 2:4 that has been modified to stand alone as a sentence. The problem with this is that when this clause is lifted out of its context it completely changes its intended meaning. This is not only made clear by reading the entire verse but further established by considering the surrounding verses.

So let's take a look and see why this common application of Romans 2:4b does not fit the text.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

It is clear, Paul was not saying that God grants repentance through the conduit of kind actions, he was saying that God is kind in that He does not crush us for our rebellion immediately. Paul was addressing the hypocrisy of those who were standing in judgment over others in the church while at the same time committing the very same sins as those whom they were condemning. He asked them a rhetorical question, " you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience [of God]..?" And then we come to our proof text,"..not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" So what is the kindness of God that is meant to lead us to repentance? Is it kind actions? No, the antecedent of the "kindness of God" is "the riches of His kindness, forbearance, and patience." In other words, Paul was saying, "The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty. You who are judging unrighteously are despising and showing contempt for this gracious patience of God; the very thing which is intended to lead you to repentance."

Obviously, to use Romans 2:4 as a suggestion that a faithful Gospel witness does not speak of God's wrath or judgment but rather shows the love of God through kind actions, simply does not work. Especially when you consider the following verse, Romans 2:5, where Paul speaks of God's wrath and righteous judgment.

"But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed."
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Did you know that this evening’s sunset will begin the Feast of Pentecost? Do you even care? What do you think about when you hear the word? Do you think of speaking in tongues, the birth of Christianity, the giving of the Holy Spirit, or maybe even a Christian denomination? While all or some of these things might come to mind when considering Pentecost there is likely far more to this event than most Christians realize.

Pentecost or Shavuot[1] in Hebrew is the 3500 year old festival which celebrates the spring wheat harvest in the Land of Israel. This holy day falls on the 50th day after the first day of Passover (Lev. 23:15-16) and is the day when the first fruits of the wheat harvest were offered to God (Lev 23:7). Beyond Pentecost’s clear agricultural importance the feast also took on a historical significance. Because this feast falls on the third month of the Hebrew calendar and coincides with the period that the Law was received (Ex 19:1) the Harvest also came to be a time for commemorating the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.[2]

This historic understanding of the Feast of Pentecost can be seen in the portions of the Torah and Prophets which are read by every observant Jew in synagogues all over the world on Pentecost. It has been the practice of the Jews to read a portion[3] of the Torah and the Prophets publicly and aloud on every Sabbath and on every holy day since before the coming of the Messiah. The potions which are read on the first day of Pentecost are Exodus 19-20 and Ezekiel 1-2.

With that background in mind let us take a look at Acts 2.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.

Most assume that the primary reason for the 120 disciples gathering for prayer was in obedience to Jesus’ command that came in the previous week. (Acts 1:8) While this certainly is true it must not be overlooked that these disciples were observant Jews who would have gathered together specifically for the celebration of the Harvest. It is precisely because these Messianic believers were devout that we must assume that they also read the traditional reading portions for this holy day.

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongue as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

Consider now what every faithful Jew in Jerusalem would have been listening to as the Scriptures were read that morning of Pentecost.

Exodus 19:16-19

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. And the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly and as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.[4]

Ezekiel 1:1, 4, 26-28

In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Notice that both of these passages closely parallel the manifestations of the Spirit coming upon the 120 who were assembled in the upper room.[5] Both passages indicate that the coming of God’s presence was accompanied by fire and with great power and with the sound of the blast of a trumpet and wind.

Acts 2:15 tells us that this manifestation of the Spirit of God happened during the third hour (9 o’clock). This would have been precisely the time when thousands of Jewish worshipers would have filled the streets having just left Temple after the morning service. Consider that these Jews would have also just listened to and meditated upon the traditional reading portions out of the Torah and Prophets.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…

It should be stated that regeneration or the Spirit of God opening the hearts of men occurred no differently prior to the coming of the Messiah than it does now after. (Rom 4:1-3) What makes this a hard pill to swallow for many is a misunderstanding of what happened in Acts 2. Luke, in writing Acts, seems to point to the Spirit's presence as an endowment of power by the Spirit and not the inauguration of a new salvation paradigm (Acts 1:8, 6:8, 10:38)[6]; though we do recognize that it was at this time that God was making His people His Temple.

What we see happening here with the giving of the Spirit in Acts 2 is different than what we see in the Old. Under the old covenant this anointing of God’s Spirit was given very rarely, sometimes temporarily, and for the most part to the kings of Israel and the prophets. They were given the Spirit so that they might rule their kingdom, prophesy, and perform miracles; something not everyone enjoyed. With the coming of the Spirit in Acts everyone was given the Spirit of Holiness and endowed with power to proclaim the Gospel. Consider this event parallel to and typified in what we read in Numbers 11:16-30 where God took a portion of His Spirit from Moses and dispersed it amongst 70 appointed elders. In the same way, I think it could be argued that after Jesus had ascended to His Father He sent the fullness of the Spirit that rested upon Him and dispersed it amongst His people on Pentecost.[7]

…and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?

This miraculous event amounts to a reversal of what happened in Genesis 11 at the Tower of Babel. At Babel the people had unified in rebellion against God so He divided their tongues. Here God enabled people whose different languages had separated them to understand each other praising God, which is the proper use of unity.[8]

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

The three thousand that were saved on the day of Pentecost is contrasted against the three thousand who were killed on the day that Moses descended Mount Sinai with the Law and found the Children of Israel worshiping the golden calf.

This, of course, was not the first time that such a spectacular manifestation of God’s glory had occurred in Jerusalem.[9] Second Chronicles gives us the story of when another 120 men were assembled in Jerusalem and God manifest His presence before His people. After Solomon had completed the building of his Temple he gathered the people together for its dedication.

2 Chronicles 5:11-14

And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever," the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.

That a parallel exists between the Acts 2 narrative and the one found in 2 Chronicles is not surprising. I believe that the 120
disciples[10] present at the coming of the Spirit in Acts are intended to point us back to the 120 priests present at the dedication of the Temple. Further, I believe that this points to the earlier, 2 Chronicles, event as being a type of the future indwelling presence of God in the hearts of men. The message is clear. The believer has become the New Temple of the LORD. We have become the Dwelling Place of the Dwelling Presence of God.

In conclusion, Pentecost represents far more than most people understand. In fact, Colossians 2:16-17 tells us that the substance of Pentecost is Jesus. It is all about Him. We read in Acts 2 that we were given the first fruits of our inheritance in the Holy Spirit; the escrow payment securing our future salvation. We also see the first fruits of the Harvest gathered into the Body of Christ on Pentecost. In Exodus we find that the Law was written on tablets of stone, in Acts we realize the fulfillment of the New Covenant by the Spirit writing the Law upon the hearts of men. At Pentecost we caught a glimpse of the future Kingdom when the languages that now separate us are finally reunited in praise to our God. With the coming and the gift of the Holy Spirit we find that God’s glory no longer dwells in a temple made with hands but in the temple of the hearts of His people. And finally, we understand that where God would not allow the Children of Israel to approach the mountain because His glory rested upon it has now, through the work of His Son and the power of His Spirit, made a way for His glory to come and rest upon us.


[1] – Shavuot, “The Feast of Weeks”, Yom-HaBikkurim (“Day of the First fruits”, Numbers 28:26), Chag- HaKatzir (“Feast of the Harvest” Exodus 23:16)

[2] – Matan Torah

[3] –

[4] – וְהָאֱלֹהִ֖ים יַעֲנֶ֥נּוּ בְקֽוֹל׃ - and God answered him by a voice.

[5] – Acts 2:5-6 suggests that the 120 may have been gathered in a house located in close proximity to the Temple, if not in the Temple's court itself. That 3000 were saved by the preaching of Peter suggests a much larger crowd was present to hear his message and that a larger area for such an assembly of hearers would be necessary to accommodate the crowd.

[6] – Fee, Stuart, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pg. 96

[7] – We see additional significance in Numbers 11 because it would appear that Moses prophesies, in verse 29, that the Spirit of God would not be limited to the 70, or to him alone, but would one day be poured out upon all flesh. This is further anticipated in the prophecy of Joel 2, which is quoted by Peter on Pentecost. We also see some significance in the number of elders that were given this disbursement of empowerment by the Spirit. You will note that the number 70 is indicative of the Nations. Genesis 10-11 lists 70 fathers of Nations that were scattered throughout the earth after God confused the languages at Babel. So again, we see the theme of God’s Spirit being poured out upon all men, not just Israel, and we once again see a connection to the reversal of the confusion of the languages.

[8] – Stern, David, Jewish New Testament Commentary, pg. 222

[9] – We see a very clear movement of God’s presence throughout the Biblical narrative. In the Garden we see the Creator walking with His son Adam until Adam breaks Covenant with his God by eating the fruit. God casts Adam from His presence.

Many years later we see the glorious presence of God moving earthward from Heaven and resting upon Sinai. (Ex. 19) God commands the Children of Israel to keep away from the mountain lest they be killed. After the giving of the Law and the acceptance of the Mosaic Covenant God moves his glory from the mountain and into the Tabernacle so that He might dwell among His people.

We see God’s glory in motion once again many years after the Hebrews entered the Land of Promise when King David decides to build a permanent structure for the LORD. David was not able to complete the Temple because of the blood he had spilled but he was able to finance it for his son Solomon. It was at the completion and dedication of the Temple that we see the presence of God making His home in the Holy of Holies. (2 Chr. 5) Unfortunately because of Israel’s disobedience God forsakes the Temple and we see His glory leaving Jerusalem just before the Babylonian captivity. (Ez. 10)

Finally we see God’s glory returning to Jerusalem but in a much more remarkable way. God still came with fire and wind, just as he had done before, but rather than entering the Holy of Holies as He had in the Tabernacle and Temple, He instead takes up His residence within the bodies of the believers gathered there that day.

[10] Interestingly, the 10 Commandments are made up of 120 Hebrew words.  At Sinai, on the inaugural Pentecost, there are 120 words testifying of the Law of God.  On Pentecost, the anniversary celebration of the giving of the Law, we have 120 disciples testifying of the Grace of God in many languages.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

It’s not all that Hard to Understand Hardening

It has almost been 1600 years since the Pelagian controversy was settled, yet the same questions still seem to arise. Does man have free will? Or, does God impose His will upon men? To understand and answer these questions we must consider closely the story of the Exodus. However, as you will soon discover, as we begin to examine these Scriptures we quickly note quite a few apparent contradictions. Consider the following verses complied by Rick Appelton of Wretched Radio.

God hardened Pharaoh's heart

1. Exodus 4:21 The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

2. Exodus 7:3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt.

3. Exodus 9:12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.

4. Exodus 10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them.

5. Exodus 10:20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.

6. Exodus 10:27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he was not willing to let them go.

7. Exodus 11:10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

8. Exodus 14:4 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." So the Israelites did this.

9. Exodus 14:8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly.

10. Exodus 14:17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.

11.Joshua 11:20 For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Pharaoh hardened his own heart

1. Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.

2. Exodus 8:32 But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.

3. Exodus 9:34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts.

4. 1 Samuel 6:6 Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When he treated them harshly, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way?

Pharaoh's heart became hard

1. Exodus 7:13 Yet Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.

2. Exodus 7:22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh's heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.

Pharaoh's heart was hard

1. Exodus 8:19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.

2. Exodus 9:35 So Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses
So what’s the story; what’s going on here? Does Pharaoh harden his own heart or does God harden it for him? We have some verses which say Pharaoh is to be blamed for his hardening and others which say God is responsible. So which is it?

The answer, without contradiction, is both.

The reason why we might conclude that there is a problem in the Exodus account is because we sometimes act like the Bible was written in English, when of course it was not. So the first step in figuring out this mystery is to look at these verses in their original Hebrew? Let’s see what we find. Consider the following two seemingly contradictory passages, Exodus 8:15 and Exodus 4:21.

Exodus 8:15 “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said."

The word translated in English as “hardened” in Exodus 8:15 is the Hebrew word kabad, which means:

1. to make heavy
2. to make heavy, make dull, make unresponsive
3. to cause to be honored

Exodus 4:21 The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

And the word translated as “harden” in Exodus 4:21 is the Hebrew word chazaq, which means:

1. to make strong
2. to restore to strength, give strength
3. to strengthen, sustain, encourage
4. to make strong, make bold, encourage
5. to make firm
6. to make rigid, make hard

What we notice then is that when Pharaoh is the source of the hardening, the word kabad is used. And when God is the source of the hardening, the word chazaq is used.

Here then is what we learn from this simple exercise:

Pharaoh’s rebellion was the result of his own wicked heart which he made unresponsive and heavy (kabad) against the Prophet, the Hebrew slaves, and the God of Israel. This was of course according to the plan of God, because as we read in Exodus 7:1-5, God desired that He might deliver His people with great power and by great acts of judgment, so that all of Egypt would know that YHWH is the LORD. In Exodus 14 we see something interesting take place. Pharaoh had finally relented and released the Children of Israel from their slavery when suddenly he experiences a change of heart. Verse 4 gives us the reason for that change. God says, “I will strengthen and encourage (chazaq) Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them...” He did indeed and we know the rest of the story.

What we discover is that Pharaoh hardened his own heart against God, but whenever he was ready to give up, God gave him strength to continue in his rebellion. It’s like God had Pharaoh in the boxing ring and was battering him around until Pharaoh hit the mat. 5..6..7..8..9..and just before the 10 count was up God picked Pharaoh up off the ground, walked him to his corner, gave him a drink of water, and a pep talk. “You’re not quitting on me yet Pharaoh! We are going the distance, all 10 rounds!” You see, God not only wanted the knock-out but He also wanted the points. In Exodus 11:9 God said, ”Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” That is exactly what happened isn’t it? God encouraged Pharaoh to stay in the fight so that He might beat him silly until the end of 10th and make His name famous in the entire world.

The reason that these “hardening” passages are so controversial is that those who deny that God would harden a man’s heart errantly believe that God’s participation in such an act would both implicate Him in that man’s wickedness and cause Him to violate that man’s free will. Neither is the case. As we have seen, God merely strengthens the already hardened heart so that wicked men might act, according to their free will, in such a way as to bring about the ends which God has decreed. He, therefore, takes no part in their sins nor does He violate their will to choose exactly what their wretched hearts already desire. Namely, continued rebellion against God.
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Solus Libri - The 6th Sola

This is my final post in this series of responses to my not-yet-continuationalist brethren who dismiss the possibility that God spoke to and led James King through an alligator infested swamp.

Over the past week since making my position known on this topic I have received a couple comments/questions regarding specific passages in the Bible, which at first glance would seem to refute the continuationalist position that the gift of prophecy is ongoing. They are Proverbs 30 and Revelation 22.

Proverbs 30:5-6

"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

Revelation 22:18-19

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The argument which is being made by the presentation of these verses is plain. If one claims to have received a revelation from the Lord in 2010, and subsequently after the closing of the Canon, then the one who pronounces such a word is “a liar”. These prophets, “so called”, by their prophecies have added to the Scripture and will soon find themselves rebuked and the recipients of every plague contained in the Bible.

Is this true? Is this what the authors intended us to understand from their statements? Let’s see.

Proverbs 30:5-6

The first thing that pops into my head as I consider the argument is this; if the author intended his readers to understand that there would be no more prophetic revelation then how is it that the Sons of Israel ever accepted another Prophet of God? If Agur, being carried along by the Holy Spirit, meant that anything beyond what He was writing was an addition to God’s Word how did the people of God receive the remaining Old Covenant Scriptures, or the New for that matter? Obviously, that was not what he meant; otherwise John would have never dared record the Revelation for us. So what did he intend for us to understand?

Revelation 22:18-19

The reason that this verse is offered as a refuting text is essentially no different than that found in the Proverbs passage. However, because this portion lies at the end of the last book in our Bible it is presumed by those presenting it that their argument is strengthened. Not so. Again one must simply ask the question, “Is this what the author intended for his audience to understand?” What do you think? Did the Apostle intend for his readers to dismiss the Spirit empowering grace of the prophetic gift when he wrote these words down? Are we to believe that John was speaking to any Scripture outside what he was immediately writing? Was he announcing the end of prophecy at this point in his letter; did he even understand that there was a New Testament Canon or that he was closing it? If not what was John endeavoring to communicate?

The Key is Systematic

So what did they mean? If we are to properly understand these passages two things must happen. First, we must not isolate these verses from their context and import our own ideas into the reading. This is what was corrected above when we looked at the passages separately and examined their authorial intent. Second, we must scour the Bible and search for similar declarations to determine whether a system of interpretation is developed. So, let’s take a look at the rest of the inspired Testimony and see what we find.

Deuteronomy 4:2

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.”

Deuteronomy 12:32

"Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”

Galatians 1:6-9

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

When we look at these three passages and compare them with Proverbs 30 and Revelation 22 we immediately see the similarities. The portions from Deuteronomy both declare “You shall not add, nor take away” and “You shall not add to it or take from it.” And we see a commonality between the Galatians passage and Revelation 22 as well. Namely, that a curse is upon anyone who alters the message that was delivered. What else do we see? We discover the object which we are forbidden to modify, the commands of God.

So, what Moses was intending for us to understand was that men should not add to or subtract from what God has already commanded. He was not at all concerned about what God may add, by way of prophecy, in the future. No, his principle concern was that the Children of Israel remain obedient to God’s Law alone. He was warning the people to not heap man made commandments upon what God had already established, as the Pharisees would one day do, and not to subtract from what God had commanded and attempt obedience apart from faith.
Let’s now return to the texts in question and ask ourselves why the authors might have included “do not add or subtract”.

Proverbs 30: I believe that Agur was doing nothing more than quoting Moses’ sermon in his Proverb. It’s interesting, don’t you think, that cessationists run to this passage and completely ignore both Deuteronomy 4 and Deuteronomy 12. Why are they not offered as refuting texts against modern day prophecy? The reason they do this is because it is not possible to proof-text Moses like they do Agur. The reason they make their eisegetical mistake is that they are not reading the passage systematically or in the original Hebrew.

"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

The word translated as “words” in Proverbs 30:5-6
is dabar. This is the same Hebrew word which is translated as “commandments” in Deuteronomy 4:2. Which means, we may also render Proverbs 30:5 in this way, “Do not add to his commandments, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Reading Proverbs 30 that way makes it impossible to import the meaning that it is typically given when dabar is translated as “words”. When Proverbs 30 is approached without its context and without an understanding of the original language the uninformed reader imports “Word” (Bible), in place of “words” and error is introduced.

Revelation 22: I believe that the same thing holds true for John’s usage of Deuteronomy as it does for Agur’s. He was quoting Moses. However, given the literary genre which John was writing in makes this Mosaic quote far more powerful and significant. In the wisdom literature Agur was merely quoting Moses but John was establishing that his testimony was equal with Moses’ testimony. In other words, John was declaring his writing Holy Scripture.

So you see, these passages, Proverbs 30 and Revelation 22, may not be used as a polemic against those who prophecy today, that is unless by their prophecy they are adding new meaning to the Scripture. What is ironic about this whole misapplication of Scripture is that those who misinterpret the “don’t add or subtract” passages find themselves far closer to violating this command than those who they are attempting to correct.

Solus Libri - The 6th Sola

Most are aware of the 5 Solas which were a product of the Protestant Reformation. They are Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone"), Sola fide ("by faith alone"), Sola gratia ("by grace alone"), Solus Christus ("Christ alone"), and Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone"). The 6th Sola (which I have just coined) on the other hand is not a product of the Reformation but of those who allow their tradition to interpret the text. Their mishandling of the Doctrine of Sufficiency has unfortunately led them down a path of rejecting the Gifts of the Spirit and believing that the revelation of God is limited to paper and ink.

By the way, Solus Libri, in case you were wondering means (“by a Book alone”)
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

I’ve been thinking a lot about my latest blog entry since posting it last night. Specifically about those who would reject the continuationalist position yet are willing to say that it might be possible that God may have actually spoken to James King.

Check out the following video for an example of what I am talking about; pay particular attention to 2:31 – 2:44.

Notice that the host, Todd Friel, is quick to say that “[God’s] revelation to us is done. We don’t get that type of revelation anymore.” in one breathe and in the next asks, “Could it have happened?” Does that sound right to you; is Todd’s question in keeping with his previous statements? Either Todd misspoke or he is unaware that his question is inconsistent with his position on Biblical Sufficiency. I tend to think he meant what he said because of comments he made earlier on the Wretched Radio program. Listen here.

Todd goes on to respond to his own question, ”Of course God could have...” but qualifies his answer by pointing out that God speaking to men in this age would “absolutely” and “positively” not be normative.

Clearly, the problem with this position is that if it could be demonstrated that we have evidence of even one instance of extra-biblical revelation, this side of the closing of the canon, then the door to the contuationalist position is flung wide open and Todd’s position is defeated. Whether that revelatory communication is normative or not makes no difference, Todd’s stance cannot afford for it to happen even once. So, Mr. Friel is left with a decision, he must either demand that God did not speak to James King or he must reassess both his view of Sufficiency and pneumatology.
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Does James King Trump the King James?

What an amazing story of a miraculous rescue! While every Christian celebrates Nadia Bloom’s rescue there are many within the evangelical world who have their doubts about what James King allegedly heard or experienced this past week in that Florida swamp.

According to Mr. King, in an interview with Meredith Vieira on the Today television program, Nadia’s rescue was the direct result of his hearing and response to the voice of the Almighty.

“It was very rough. I was prepared. I’ve been in swamps,” said King, who took a GPS device, two cell phones, a Bible, a machete, water, trail mix and a nutrition drink with him. “The Lord told me to follow where the sunrise was, so I went directly east — as much as you can go direct in a swamp.

“I would call, ‘Nadia?!’ and then I’d be praying and talking to the Lord, and the Lord would be directing me. And then one time I said, ‘Nadia?’ and I heard, ‘What?’”

As of this writing I have yet to hear or read an interview in which Mr. King explains exactly how he was “told” to find 11 year-old Nadia. Was it a feeling, a prompting, did he have a vision, or did he actually hear the audible voice of God? These are questions that are yet to be answered. Ultimately his explanation of the method of communication would be inconsequential. For no matter how Mr. King explains it people will still ask, “Did it really happen?” and “Does God speak to people today and does He speak outside of His Word?”

Those who would answer, “No, it did not happen.” and “No, God does not do that.” mount their defenses in the stronghold of the Doctrine of Sufficiency and find their support in the Holy Scriptures. Most often the verses that are used as a proof for this position are 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

The argument that is offered is as follows: If the inspired Scriptures are profitable for every good work, as Paul tells Timothy, then there is no longer any need for God to speak outside of them; since we now have the Scriptures in their entirety they and they alone are all that is needed to make one wise for salvation and righteous living.

So how do those who hold this position, that the closing of the Canon of Scripture silenced God’s voice, respond to stories like this most recent one? I suppose that one might get a hundred different answers from a hundred people asked, anything from “King is delusional!” to “He was listening to a demon.” but there is one answer (which may assume delusion or the demonic) that I hear quite frequently when this topic comes up and it is this specific objection that I would like to address. Invariably, whenever someone claims to have received a message from God, whether it was an audible voice or they simply felt His leading, a skeptic somewhere down the line will inevitably and sarcastically object, “Well, if you heard God speak then you had better write it down and staple it to the back of Revelation.” The point of the remark, of course, is that if God is still speaking to men today then the Canon of Scripture remains open. That is, at least according to their rendering of 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

So, is this true? Does James King’s claim that God communicated with him directly and outside of the Bible contradict the Doctrine of Sufficiency? I don’t think it does.

What I think is often missed when approaching this topic is that not all things that are received by direct revelation carry equal theological weight. One revelation may bear immense theological significance while another may carry little to none whatsoever. Those revelations which carry the most weight I will call inspired Scripture; they are in a class all by themselves and are no longer given. Those revelations which carry less theological weight could be thought of as a reiteration of Scripture or an expression of a scriptural principle that is encouraging or exhortative in nature. These revelations, I believe, are ongoing and given by the Spirit of Christ, however, they will never present novel theology. Those revelations which are non theological could be considered strategic for one’s personal affairs or for corporate direction. Therefore, (leaving Scripture out of the equation) not all revelation is necessary for the Church Universal.

I believe that the faulty logic of the cessationist’s accusation, that prophecy violates Sola Scriptura, may be demonstrated in a couple of ways. First, we do not have all prophecy ever delivered. Why not? If all divine revelation is to be inscripturated then what does one do with those prophecies that were never written down? And second, we see that some prophecy contained in Scripture was personally specific and strategic in nature; these revelations were intended for one or two people and held no bearing on the rest of the Church.

First Objection:

If all “alleged” prophecies which are delivered in this age must be considered on a level playing field with inspired Scripture, as the cessationist flippantly argues, then what is one to do about the possibility of the many thousands of unrecorded prophecies that were received in ages past and which are assumed by an examination of Scripture? I believe that these are questions that the cessationist must answer. Let me explain, we know for instance that there were numerous prophets both named and unnamed in the Old and New Covenant Scriptures yet we have no record of what they actually prophesied. Here are a few examples: There were 70 elders assembled about the Tabernacle in Numbers 11, what did they prophesy? How about Saul, what utterance did he give as he prophesied amongst a group of prophets at Gibeah in 1 Samuel 10? What did those prophets with whom Saul was assembled say? What about Agabus, what did he prophesy outside of what was recorded by Luke? What about Philip the Evangelist's four daughters who prophesied, what did they share and why do we not have any record of their divine revelation? Or what of all the prophecies that were received by those in the 1st Century church before the Canon was closed? Certainly there was divine revelation given to those prophets who were given to the Church and distributed throughout the Body of Christ? So you see, the person who argues that every revelation or prophesy given by God today must be canonized has to account for a thousand revelations that were not recorded yesterday.

Second Objection:

Not all prophetic utterances that we see in Scripture are theological. For instance, what were the theological implications from Agabus' prophecy that there would be a famine in the Roman Empire? How did such a strategic revelation of a famine confirm or expand previous understanding of established doctrine? What about Agabus’ prophecy that Paul would be arrested in Jerusalem? What does that revelation have to do with me living in Tacoma, Washington today? Nothing…it has nothing at all to do with me. These prophecies, while they inform our theology on how the Spirit dealt with and directed the burgeoning Church, contain no theology themselves and are relevant only to those who received them. While one never wishes to argue from what is not written, it is hard to imagine that these prophecies recorded in Acts are all that were ever received by those who were given a prophetic grace.

Okay, considering all that I have written about unaccounted for prophecies, revelation of varying theological degree, and utterances of a strategic nature one needs only to ask themselves if there is room in their Doctrine of Sufficiency for the presence of God’s extra-biblical voice today. I think that it is clear that God speaking to men today, no matter the form of communication, does not encroach upon the sufficiency of God’s Word. We absolutely have everything we need for life and godliness in the Bible. However, it remains the prerogative of the Spirit to speak to whom He wishes to speak, when He wishes to say it, how He decides to deliver it, and to do it without contradiction.

It is for these reasons that I absolutely believe that God responded to James King’s request to direct him to Nadia Bloom. If you disagree and you believe that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 limits God’s children to receiving absolutely everything we need from the Bible, then I’d like to know which verse you might have chosen to navigate that swamp?
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What is a Missionary?

What do you think about when you hear the word missionary? My idea of what a missionary is was greatly influenced by the small Baptist Church that I grew up in. What usually pops into my head when I think about missionaries are the global map and missionary postcards that hung on the back wall of the sanctuary and the eccentric and awkward looking men in cheap three piece suits who would come and show us a slide show of a far off land; usually consisting of a picture showing a tinned roof single room cinderblock church with a small group of indigenous people wearing cheap three piece suits and holding their Bibles. We would hear of all the successes and struggles that they had celebrated and endured; all of the baptisms and all of the disease. And after all the stories were shared the pastor would ask the congregation to take up a love offering and visit the missionary’s table after the service was over. So for me a missionary was someone who was super excited about telling foreign peoples about Jesus, had no money, worked really hard, lived without A/C, and had a lot of kids. They were people I could not identify with and they lived a calling that I prayed I would never receive.

I was curious about what others might think about when they hear the word “missionary” so I posted a question on Facebook to see what I might get. Here are a few of the responses I received:

* A person commissioned to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to another culture.

* Christians who suffer persecution, at the hands of those who do not want to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

* Someone who serves unconditionally and loves without being judgmental. Sometimes you have to leave the place you love and travel to places you never imagined.

I believe that we, in the contemporary church, need to reexamine this word “missionary”. Many errantly believe that "missionary" is a title that is found in the Scriptures, when actually the word was unknown before 1598 when the Jesuits sent members of their priesthood abroad. If we examine the etymology of the word we understand why it was used; “Missionary” is derived from the Latin word missio, meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send". Now to be fair the concept of one who is sent is found in the Greek word apostolos, which means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.”, and there is of course an office within the Church called Apostle. However, I do not believe that this apostolic office and our modern idea of a missionary are synonymous. I believe what we have done is inadvertently taken this relatively new word, missionary, and invented a new office within the Church. The title or position of missionary is not a bad one in and of itself but what has unfortunately occurred as a result of the position is that it has created an environment within our churches that tells the average congregant that it is an elite and radical people, called missionaries, who “Go” and that to be a person who is on mission you must travel to another continent and assume a foreign culture.

Now it may appear that I am splitting hairs here in my explanation of what a missionary is but I believe that words are very important and they do inform how we think. Most Christians today, especially those in the West, no longer understand the Church to be an apostolic entity and they certainly do not believe that they themselves have been sent. So I propose if we are to use this term “missionary” may it be used in such a way that every Christian understands that they too have been sent. Their mission and the people group to whom they have been called may only be across the street but it is missionary work none the less. Some may be blessed with an extra measure of grace to take the Gospel farther and make greater sacrifices for the sake of the mission but this should not elevate their work above another’s. Let it be understood, there is no such office within the Church called "missionary". It is we, the gathered ones of God, collectively who are on mission. We are one body with many parts all participating in the sweeping expansion of God's Kingdom to bring all peoples into obedience to the Gospel of Christ. We are a Missional Church!
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Saved Unto Something

Sermon by Josh Elsom; Ephesians 2 from Vic Napelenok on Vimeo.

Sermon preached January 31st, 2010 at Spring of Life Church in Mukeltio, WA.
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