Thursday, July 2, 2015

I'm great! And I'm greater than you! I'm the greatest person in this whole town!

Not really, of course. But in reading Ephesians I learned something about humility.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

We are called to walk a certain way in the world. It must be a walk worthy of the calling. What makes the walk worthy is the demonstration of our:

--humility
--gentleness
--patience
--tolerance in love
--diligence for unity
--in bonds of peace

Boy, Paul can cram a lot into one sentence, can't he. Where we receive all that from is Christ. Let's look specifically at humility. It is the first quality mentioned. Humility is urged upon the faithful throughout the New Testament, repeatedly.
These characteristics, of which humility is the foundation, form a progression, the genuine exercise of one leading to the exercise of those that follow. Tapeinophrosun√© (humility) is a compound word that literally means to think or judge with lowliness, and hence to have lowliness of mind. John Wesley observed that "neither the Greeks nor the Romans had a word for humility." The very concept was so foreign and abhorrent to their way of thinking that they had no term to describe it. Apparently this Greek term was coined by Christians, probably by Paul himself, to describe a quality for which no other word was available. To the proud Greeks and Romans, their terms for ignoble, cowardly, and other such characteristics were sufficient to describe the "unnatural" person who did not think of himself with pride or self-satisfaction. When, during the first few centuries of Christianity pagan writers borrowed the term tapeinophrosun√©, they always used it derogatorily -  frequently of Christians - because to them humility was a pitiable weakness." ~John MacArthur, Commentary on Ephesians
In Christianity, humility is a foundational virtue. When we read in Acts 17:6 that the rioters dragging Paul and Silas and Jason to the authorities characterized them as "having turned the world upside down."

But humility before an equal or a lesser was morally suspect. It upset the assumed equation: merit demanded honour, thus honour was the proof of merit. Avoiding honour implied a diminishment of merit. It was shameful. SourceIn one sense we understand that means that uproars and chaos followed them wherever they went (a chaos the Jews themselves fomented). But trouble did follow Paul wherever he and the other missionaries and evangelists went. It's like when we look at each other in today's time and shake our heads and say "Things are getting crazy!"

In the other sense though, Christianity DID turn the world upside down. Everything was opposite. Jesus taught that:

The meek shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
The last shall be first (Matthew 19:30)
The first shall be last. (Matthew 19:30)
Pray behind closed doors, not marching around in the marketplace to be seen by men. (Matthew 6:6)
Give secretly, sounding no trumpet. (Matthew 6:2-4)
Rejoice in trials and tribulations. (James 1:2)
Think of others more highly than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

To obtain an idea of how entrenched the Romans and Greeks were in pride and public recognition, one example is the Roman Triumph. This event was a spectacle that honored and sanctified the returning military general and his troops from a victory. Sanctify, because a triumph, which included a lengthy parade and celebration, was also a sacred rite in their pagan religion.

In the pagan world, personal achievement deserved lengthy and public praise.

As for the Greeks, their word was philotimia, literally, the love of honor. John Dickson in his book Humilitas, wrote
...one of the most difficult concepts to get across to late Western students is the concept of an ancient honor and shame culture, a culture where not truth nor life is the top value in the hierarchy of values, but rather obtaining honor is. The Greek word is philotimia literally the love of honor, and it dominated the matrix of values in the Greco-Roman world, in particular the male part of that world tasked with obtaining, maintaining and sustaining the honor of his family and their family name etc. “Uppermost in a father’s mind in the ancient world was not whether his son would be happy (in the modern sense) or make money or live morally [or tell the truth], but whether the boy would bring honor to the family, especially to his father, and to himself.” (p. 86). One was to seek to build respect and garner praise for one’s family and its name. The greatest fear in such a society was being publicly shamed— such as Jesus was on a cross. (source)

Ali's "I am the greatest" speech. Photo source
So imagine Peter and Paul and Silas and Titus, preaching humility to Greeks and Romans who not only have a flesh nature which loves pride, but have a family pressure to boast, a culture that exalts boasting, and a pagan religion that sanctifies personal achievement. Imagine how difficult it was for them to hear, "Pick up your cross and follow me." They were being asked to behave in the opposite manner of everything they knew and were taught, to drag around the very emblem of shame, and follow the most humiliated Man of the ancient world, Jesus hung on a tree.

Jesus turned the ancient world upside down.

He still does. We battle with our flesh nature and find it hard to be humble. I know I do. I want to tell people and the world of my achievements. Yet any of my achievements before I came to the cross are really as dung to Jesus, and anything I achieved after the cross was done for Him and in Him and because of Him. So what do I have to boast about? Nothing.

O THOU TERRIBLE MEEK,

Let not pride swell my heart.
My nature is the mire beneath my feet,
the dust to which I shall return.
In body I surpass not the meanest reptile;
Whatever difference of form and intellect is mine
is a free grant of thy goodness;
Every faculty of mind and body is thy undeserved gift.
Low as I am as a creature, I am lower as a sinner;
I have trampled thy law times without number;
Sin’s deformity is stamped upon me,
darkens my brow, touches me with corruption:
How can I flaunt myself proudly?
Lowest abasement is my due place,
for I am less than nothing before thee.
Help me to see myself in thy sight,
then pride must wither, decay, die, perish.
Humble my heart before thee,
and replenish it with thy choicest gifts.
As water rests not on barren hill summits,
but flows down to fertilize lowest vales,
So make me the lowest of the lowly,
that my spiritual riches may exceedingly abound.
When I leave duties undone,
may condemning thought strip me of pride,
deepen in me devotion to thy service,
and quicken me to more watchful care.
When I am tempted to think highly of myself,
grant me to see the wily power of my spiritual enemy;
Help me to stand with wary eye on the watch-tower of faith,
and to cling with determined grasp to my humble Lord;
If I fall let me hide myself in my Redeemer’s righteousness,
and when I escape, may I ascribe all deliverance to thy grace.
Keep me humble, meek, lowly.

Valley of Vision, PRIDE. (p. 88)





Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Resources about the sin of homosexuality for believers, parents, and gay folks wanting to emerge from their sin

With the Supreme Court decision legalizing homosexual marriage in every state of the US last Friday, many people have come forward to me and others with questions on how to help those on bondage to it, or how to help parents struggling to come to grips with their child's sin of homosexuality, or how to respond in apologetics to those Christians waving a rainbow flag in affirmation of the decision, or many other issues concomitant. As I saw good and trustworthy resources come across my laptop, I saved them and systematized them into groupings. I hope any of this may help as you witness to the truth regarding this particular sin.


SECTION 1: Help for those emerging from homosexuality

1. Rosaria Butterfield is probably the number 1 exhibit of the post-gay lifestyle of a former feminist and lesbian. She seems like the real deal, an honestly sinful lesbian who honestly is now a Christian. As an adult in 1999, a tenured professor at a liberal university teaching post modernism, feminism, and actively promoting and involved in the lesbian lifestyle, Rosaria is now a married woman to a pastor and mother to children, most important of all, a liberated Christian, freed from her bondage of sins, including homosexuality.

Her book: "The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into the Christian Faith"

Article: "My Train-Wreck Conversion"

New book: "Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ"

In the new book she addresses these issues:
  • Conversion: the Spark of a New Identity
  • Identity: the Flame of Our Union in Christ
  • Repentance: the Threshold to God and the Answer to Shame, Temptation, and Sin
  • Sexual Orientation: Freud’s 19th Century Category Mistake
  • Self-Representation: What Does It Mean to Be “gay”?
  • Conflict: When Sisters Disagree
  • Community: Representing Christ to the World
There are additional resources at her website.

2. This article at Piper's Desiring God website outlines four tactics for the ex-lesbian, or anyone struggling with a besetting sin, to live their life under God in an ever-increasing sanctification.
The Dead End of Sexual Sin

3. Setting Captives Free
I am not familiar with this website/program until someone I trust on Facebook posted about it. I looked it up and apparently they have been counseling for 15 years. I found no negative reviews to speak of, no scandal, and nothing of ill-repute.

They focus on helping people with online and telephone mentoring through structured 30 and 60 day classes, for a fee. Not all classes are for fee, some are free. It is a non-denominational, Biblically based set of courses. They help people who are struggling with--

adultery
pornography
masturbation
homosexuality

They offer a couples class in purity.
They offer a class for spouses whose spouse is struggling with sexual addiction.

Recently they have added two other classes, Self-injury and gluttony. In addition, they offer general devotionals and bible studies. On the website also, there are many resources, some for pay and many for free.


SECTION 2: Help Understanding what the Bible says about homosexuality

These resources from Pastor-Teacher John MacArthur (and Voddie Baucham) cover a range of issues related to homosexuality. This is just a sampling. There are additional resources available at gty.org on the topic.

Q&A, it's available in written, audio, or video form.
Answering the Key Questions about Homosexuality
"2004: I think the topic touches all of us in one way or another because it intersects with all of society's most basic institutions...home, marriage, government, and of course, religion and our faith. And so the questions that I have for you today are going to explore all of those areas. This debate over homosexuality is an emotional one and it hasn't diminished over time, only the opposite."

Sermon, available in written, audio, or video form.
Thinking Biblically about Homosexuality
"Well, tonight I want to talk to you on the subject of what God thinks of homosexuals. It is not a particularly enjoyable subject to discuss, nor would any sin be enjoyable to discuss, for that matter. But it has become pertinent and essential and necessary for us to get a biblical view of this rapidly increasing and normalizing effort to accept homosexuality in our culture. We need to understand what the Word of God has to say."

CD, free until July 5. Click on link to order.
Homosexuality, Cultural Decay, and the Only Hope
"But be encouraged, because even in the face of the cultural slide, there still is hope—a hope tied to believers like you, the Body of Christ. John MacArthur recently sat down to talk about “Homosexuality and Today’s Moral Slide.” It’s an hour of Bible-based discussion on same-sex marriage, transgender issues, and other evidences of profound cultural decay—and how you and believers like you need to respond to what’s going on now, and to what’s to come if the Lord tarries."

Sermon, available in written, audio, or video form.
What the Bible teaches about Homosexuality
"Tonight we're going to return, at least to begin with, to Romans chapter 1 for our study. We really finished last week looking specifically at the text of Romans 1. But there was much interest and reaction as we discussed the issue of homosexuality as it is mentioned by the apostle Paul in this text. I really feel that God used our study of Romans 1 in a very unique way. During the time we were in that chapter many people gave their lives to Christ. I think many of us have a greater understanding of why God is angry with men who reject His revelation, sink into rationalization, religion, and ultimately reprobation, as we saw in our last study. But we noted last time that in the process of Paul's defining the sinfulness of man and the utter fallenness of man, he gives an illustration of the depth of man's sin by pointing out what is the worst earthly expression of man's fallenness, and that is homosexuality."

In this 4-minute video clip, Pastor Voddie Baucham biblically refutes the comment "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality" and in so doing, teaches Christians how to think about the comment and what to say in response.
https://youtu.be/bAOCjKqzAKk



SECTION 3: Help for parents, families

In this essay, Kevin DeYoung poses 40 thoughtful questions to the Christians celebrating gay marriage. These can be used in a counseling situation, or if meeting face to face in counseling, via email... whatever. The questions get the Christian to consider their position using the Bible as a mirror.
40 Questions for Christians now Waving Rainbow Flags

In this pair of essays, in one a supposedly Christian father was shockingly heartless in response to his son's coming out. It is Exhibit A in what NOT to do.
Father disowns his gay son in shockingly heartless letter
"5 years ago, I was disowned via letter when I came out to my father," writes Redditor RegBarc."

David Murray read the heartless dad's letter and mused upon the issue. What letter would he write if his son came out as gay?
What would you write to your gay son?
"As I find it hard to believe that a true Christian would ever write such a letter, I’ve drafted a letter that I hope a Christian father would write (although I’m sure we all hope we’ll never have to write it)."

Todd Friel read both letters and commented on them here in this 4 minute video.
https://youtu.be/f4o0o8a1Sng

How to respond to a homosexual child
"The challenge of responding to homosexuality used to be “out there.” Now it’s in our denominations, our churches, and for some, in the home. Many Christian parents are beginning to wonder, “How should I respond if my child claims to be a homosexual?” For some parents, that question is no longer theoretical. How should believing parents respond to their homosexual children? How do they deal biblically with their children’s sexual sins—particularly if the children claim to know Christ?"



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

EPrata photo

Does it feel to you that the darkness has grown so dark it's unmanageable, unalterable, unassailable? I read someone's comment that 6/26 is the American Christian's 9/11. That was the day that the Supreme Court of the United States legalized homosexual marriage in all 50 states, on a ruling that the Justice dissenters said was not founded on law but on personal will, foreboding ill for the Republic, for Christians, and for marriage itself.

After that day did it feel to you like the darkness was deep and your own light puny against it?

Does it feel like there are simply no solid Christian around you with whom you can commiserate? Or that there is not a good local church in which you can even half-way trust the teachings from the pulpit or Sunday School? Or if there is a Christian around you, that he or she is flying in a different direction than you are?

It is not so! None of it!

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8b-10)

It seems that secular society has segmented into ever smaller bits and groups and factions as each group seeks its own agenda. No one is for anyone else and all are against each other. Yet for Christians, this is the opposite of the truth. Paul wrote,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

We are one in Him, aligned into one Body for one common purpose- to glorify Jesus. Society splinters as sin rises yet Jesus keeps His Bride whole and united. Stark contrast. We might feel all over the place, alone in the darkness with only a puny light to shine, but we are One in Christ.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

A lot of 'ones' there:

One Body
One Spirit
One Hope
One Lord
One Faith
One Baptism
One God

ONE

You might feel like a little, ineffective firefly, but no matter where you are, remember that you are not in Light, you ARE the Light, because you are one with Jesus, who is the Light. So don't fear any ineffectiveness of your light in this great darkness. You and I were darkness itself but when we came into Jesus we came into His light.

But now are ye light in the Lord; either in, or by the Lord Jesus Christ, the light of men, from whom all spiritual light comes; or by the Lord the Spirit, by whom the eyes of their understandings were enlightened, to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin, in heart and life; the insufficiency of their own righteousness and moral virtues, to justify them before God; and the true and right way of righteousness, life and salvation by Christ; and to have some light into the several doctrines of the Gospel, and even a glimpse of the invisible glories and realities of another world: and this light is so great, that they are not only said to be enlightened, but to be light itself; and this they have not of, and from themselves, but the Lord; and therefore should walk as children of light; not in sins, which are works of darkness, but in faith, truth, and holiness. Gill's Exposition of Eph 5:8.
We are one with Him, who is this:




Monday, June 29, 2015

John MacArthur: An Honorable and Trustworthy Shepherd

Wikipedia
The Lord sends us honorable and trustworthy overseers, no matter the generation in which we live. He sent the early church fathers, the generation after the Apostles, many of them martyrs: Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement...and He has sent us men from then until now. I'd like to focus on the now and one of these trustworthy and honorable men: Dr. John F. MacArthur

Dr John Fullerton MacArthur was born on June 19, 1939, last week he turned 76 years old. He has been serving as a pastor continuously since 1964. He is pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley California, part of LA and has been the senior pastor-teacher there for 46 years.

He has preached over 3000 sermons. He has written over 150 books. He has authored innumerable essays. He is currently President of The Master's College and The Master's Seminary, the seminary he founded specifically to raise up men in the faith and strengthen them in solid doctrine. He has participated in countless conferences, one of which he founded, The Shepherds' Conference, a gathering designed to minister to men.

I could list all his accomplishments and activities but this isn't a reproduction of his resume. Instead, this bare listing of achievements and activities is presented to illustrate a commitment, diligence, and a Godly effort all in the sphere of tasks in which God has put forth in certain, specific men of the faith.

From Grace Community Church website
I consider him part of the theological genealogy of extraordinary men the Lord has raised up, and many others do as well. This is a line that includes Hus, Edwards, Spurgeon. Moreover, Jesus not only planted him in a place where ministry flourished, but He then allowed MacArthur to stay and stay and stay. In these years of church-hopping, ambitious pastors whose length of term usually only lasts 3-5 years, staying at one church and preaching 30, 40, 50 years is unheard of. During a sermon some years ago, MacArthur joked that the Lord led him to Grace Community Church in 1969 and "sort of just left me here." As a result, we are blessed with sermons explaining each and every verse of the New Testament. To my knowledge MacArthur is the only preacher to have taught expositorily through the whole New Testament, and from one church no less. Even more of a blessing, each and every one of those sermons are recorded and transcribed. And best of all, they are all available for free online for the edification of the body.

Here is a first-hand account of the unprecedented achievement of having preached through the entire New Testament verse-by-verse from a congregant who was there as MacArthur closed in on the last verse.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
John MacArthur - Unprecedented Preaching Achievement
By any standard Grace Community is a big and successful Church, and with good reason, for sound fundamental Christianity is taught there verse by verse every week. The teaching of John MacArthur feeds the need for honest down to earth understandable exposition of God's Word. You can doubt all you want, but once you have heard it you will know the truth of it.

Today was a milestone in the history of this amazing worship center. In a sanctuary packed as usual, John MacArthur brought to a close what can only be described as a nearly unprecedented achievement in his or any other preacher's long career as shepherd of his flock. Today as he brought to a conclusion his study of the Gospel of Mark, he completed a forty three year sojourn through the entire New Testament. All these sermons were from the same pulpit.

John MacArthur is firm and forthright, never wavering in his criticism of sins of our time. He fully recognizes that Christianity is under attack and teaches us the basic truths to which we must attend if we are to achieve the gift of eternal life with our Lord.

His sermons are packed with substantial insights into the real meaning of every verse. Never have I enjoyed the Word of God so clearly explained.

Together with his unfaltering teaching style there is a humor that is playful and understanding of our human foibles. Showing his humanity and ongoing love for his wife, John presented Patricia with a beautiful rose to thank her for all her support during this academic and preaching epic.

I asked John how he managed to collect and collate all the information he has used to produce the over three thousand five hundred sermons, which are all recorded and available on line through Grace To You, and how big his staff was. His answer, "Neil, I mine all my own data."

Dr. MacArthur, President of the Master's College, and pastor of Grace Community Church is nothing short of phenomenal.
His Spirit-led ministry has delivered spiritual blessings to me and many others, as the above testimony attests. The emails and comments my sisters send me that bring me to tears the most are the ones where someone says they found MacArthur through my site or another's, and were led out of a Charismatic church...or their faith was strengthened, or they now understand the Doctrines of Grace, or they have been blessed spiritually in some other way from material MacArthur has preached or written. He has touched countless lives for the betterment of the faith, more than any other one person in this generation, I maintain.

He is not only learned, but he lives the life that is expected of pastors. He's wise, kind, and humble. There has never been a hint of a scandal nor a waver of one inch, not even an hour, from solid doctrine. Those qualities are in such short supply it is refreshing to be given opportunity to revel in preaching that is from God's heart and not man's pride or the devil's error.

In example of his wisdom and caring for his flock and the flock in general, on May 24 he preached a sermon called "Hope for a doomed nation." He usually goes on vacation in June for three or four weeks. He prepared this sermon for his flock just prior to his departure, saying,
So as we look at our nation – and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks when I’m not here. I’m just kind of preempting that a little bit by helping you to be able to think through whatever happens.
Since that date we as a nation have experienced the Charleston SC church shootings, the embarrassing mega-pastor Tullian Tchividjian adultery and resignation from one of the most famous churches in America, and the Supreme Court's nationalization of homosexual perversity and with it, opening the door to actual Christian persecution in the US.

Even then, on vacation but never vacating his duty as an under-shepherd, MacArthur issued a sensitive and wise statement on the Charleston church shooting, prescient blog essays just days before the Tchividjian resignation naming Tchividjian as a hyper-grace addict and warning us of it, and sent an open letter to all Master's Seminary alumni comforting and advising them in the aftermath of the SCOTUS decision. He is a calming influence.

In addition, there is solace in trusting a man who has continued to live a holy life and is a leading example of godliness right before our eyes. We mourn but are also saddened and angry when authors, theologians, professors and pastors we had trusted fall, one after another.

MacArthur with his wife Patricia on the day he completed
preaching the New Testament verse by verse. 43 years! Source
MacArthur preached at the 2001 Ligonier Conference titled Holiness. The sermon MacArthur delivered is "A Call to Holiness". It is one of those sermons where the listener feels even after years have passed since it was spoken, the strength of the Spirit's presence within the words uttered is tangibly felt. There is no transcript but I transcribed the part which speaks to a pastor persevering in a long, well-lived, holy life. He said:
"People come to me so often, if I can be personal for a moment, and say, "I'm praying for you". A lady stopped me out in the hall and said 'I'm praying for you. We're praying that you don't fall into some sin... as so many have and disappointed us so greatly. People will ask me, how do you live your life to prevent that? To whom are you accountable? Do you have an accountability group? Let me tell you something. I have a group of elders that surround me. Among those elders are some very precious friends. They spend a lot of time with me day in and day out. They're exposed to everything there is to see and know about me. I'm a fairly transparent person. They are there and I want them to tell me whenever I've overstepped a line that would bring dishonor to the Lord.

Even tighter than that, I have four children that love Christ and walk with Christ. The three older ones are married. The three older ones and their spouses have these immense and probably unrealistic expectations of me. My son who lives in Chicago called me a few months ago. "Dad I've just been thinking about you and praying about you and I called to tell you, 'don't mess up.' " [audience laughter]. This is my son, this is what I told him. "Dad do you know what it would do to me and the other kids if you ever messed up your life and did something immoral?" I told him, Mark, thank you for your prayers and your concern. It means everything to me."

And then, I have 11 little grandchildren. They expect their Papa to live the way God expects us to live. I look into their little faces and I read them bible stories and I pray with them so often as Patricia and I gather with them around our kitchen table. And I look into their shining faces and I cannot find it in me to do anything to destroy their trust in Christ. It would kill me.

But the most intimate point of accountability humanly speaking is my beloved treasure Patricia. She is right here in the second row. Most of you don't know her, you should. [gesturing for her to stand]. Honey let them see how God blessed me. Now, this lady expects me to live what I preach all the time. I want to be Christ to her. I don't want her to be disappointed in her pastor. I don't want her heart turned away from Christ. I don't want the standard lowered. That's the accountability. Her expectations and my love for her is the accountability.

But you know in the end, as precious as all those people are, as intimately as they are connected to my life, even they don't know what I think. And if you are going to be holy, my friends, you have to win the battle on the inside.

Screen shot from MacArthur's testimony
He continued the sermon from the text explaining just how to do that. And for the last 58 years since he committed his life to Christ, MacArthur has remained above reproach, with no scandal. You notice in the text his focus was first on not bringing reproach onto the Lord, and also being an example to his children, grandchildren, and to properly lead his wife. His life as a witness is powerful and his credibility as a preacher of the holy word is thus credible in the highest order.

This last one is a double blessing because over time, one can listen to sermons from MacArthur from every decade since he arrived at GCC in February 1969 and bask in the pure, unadulterated Word of God. I've done so, having listened to sermons from every era in which he has preached, and have not found any major threads of apostasy, error, or swerving from the narrow path the Lord has laid out to us in His word. Oftentimes pastors have a blind spot or some kind of error in one area. Sometimes they start out well, like Andy Stanley, and then just kind of collapse in front of our eyes, descending into liberalism and then error. Not so John MacArthur. The Lord has kept him.

My friend R. Craig Fulford wrote in an email (and gave permission for this to be excerpted and published):
Dr. MacArthur's Grace to You Website has always been amazingly good but over the last year they have made huge efforts to increase the user friendly aspect.

When you have made the many contributions he has, it becomes quite difficult to archive those efforts. However, his staff has really improved on how to search his efforts in any number of different ways. Frank Barker told me once that Dr. MacArthur was the most prolific contributor to the Reformed Doctrine he had ever seen. But with that comes the difficult task of making sure all of those wonderful efforts do not get lost in the shuffle.

Over the last several months, I have spent a great deal of time just examining his web site and discovering the many different ways to locate what I'm interested in whether it be by exposition, topic, scriptural reference or any other of the myriad of ways we might want to examine Scripture. You would think with the amount of his available documentation, created over almost a half a century of time, you would see a number of contradictions within his teachings but that is just not the case. There is, however, a notable growth in the level of his discernment and Christian maturity, as you might expect.

There is also a conspicuous lack of “fund raising” activities and over a period of time there are few resources left with any cost, except for his most current publications. That is particularly impressive when you stop and consider the millions and millions of dollars that could have been generated by his efforts. As a matter of fact, when “The Gospel of Jesus” was first published, the only book that out sold it under the category of Christianity was the Bible itself.

And now Dr. MacArthur has completed decades of work on his 33 volume commentary of the New Testament. It is available in print and in a Kindle format. I have both and don’t know why every Christian on planet earth doesn’t if they don’t. Especially at its hugely discounted price.
Do you get the idea that MacArthur is a gift to us, a blessing of manifold and untold reverberations throughout Christendom? I do not exaggerate. In listening to many of his sermons, occasionally he offers a small glimpse of his behind-the-scenes work. He doesn't say much about himself or his interactions with others, lay-people or fellow pastors. Only once in a while. His call to Mark Driscoll after the Scotland debacle where Driscoll shocked the people with his profane and lascivious "sermon" on the Song of Solomon...an encounter with Robert Schuller, counseling a prostitute, dealing with an unwarranted lawsuit, holding the hand of a homosexual man in the hospital dying of AIDS, flying hours upon hours to remote nations to teach new pastors in closed countries eager for the word, smuggling bibles into China... his tireless work seen and unseen for the cause of Christ is an example to us.

In 2010, a brand-new volume by Hughes Oliphant Old was published. It is titled, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 7: Our Own Time, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), The guys at TeamPyro (at that time led by Phil Johnson, Executive Director of John MacArthur's Grace To You website and one of the preachers at MacArthur's Grace Community Church, published an excerpt from Olds' book. Between pages 551 and 558, one of the pastors the book highlights is the preaching of Dr. John MacArthur.

Now, the Hughes Olds is kind of a strange duck. He openly admits to disbelieving in satan, demons and demon possession. He admits to having doubts about the authority of scripture. Yet he marvels at the authority that MacArthur preaches, noting "part of the foundation of his effectiveness as an interpreter" is that his "basic assumption [is] that the text of Scripture is reliable." His review should be taken as someone who is perhaps an unbeliever or a weak believer astonished at the preaching of a man with a settled belief in the integrity, authority, and reliability of scripture. From that perspective, Olds' review is remarkable. Here is an excerpt.

In the review, Olds wrote in his conclusion,
Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools? How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged? Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm. Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging. No one would suggest that he is a master of the art of oratory. What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears. It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest. That is why one listens.
Now, I am not a sycophant. I'm not an uncritical flunky mindlessly parroting plaudits. I still do test what he says against scripture. I do listen to other pastors, my own, of course, and Phil Johnson, S. Lewis Johnson, Adrian Rogers, Lloyd-Jones, Don Green, Paul Washer... I do read other commentaries besides his, including Gill's Exposition and Matthew Henry. I do enjoy other authors on the topics of scripture besides MacArthur, including Bridges, Spurgeon, Flavel, and Edwards. I think it would be a problem to follow one man alone and proclaim him to the world, that would be idolatry.

But I do adore John MacArthur for all the right reasons. I commend him and his vast ministry to you. I proclaim him in the strongest possible terms as trustworthy and edifying. When Charles Haddon Spurgeon died in January 1892, a Memorial Edition of his Life and Works was published that same year. I am serious when I say MacArthur is in a genealogical line of specially empowered raised up men who edify the brethren and advance the faith. Here is one of the tributes to Spurgeon written in the biography:
You ask a brief estimate of Mr Spurgeon's life and work. Volumes would not do them justice. The world is his debtor. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was called a Baptist, but was one of those men too great to be claimed by any denomination. Millions of believers of every name were edified by his words, and quickened by the example of his wonderful life.

Among his many admirable traits, and at the root of them, lay his clear apprehension of divine truth, his firm grasp of it, inflexible loyalty to it, and incessant proclamation of it. He was a man of a whole Bible. From Genesis to Revelation it was to him "the true Word of the true God."

If he was conspicuous for anything, he was conspicuous for his unswerving allegiance to 'the Word.' His theology was as broad and as narrow as the Bible. With him, "thus saith the Lord" settled everything.

With a warm heart and a very clear head, a very busy hand and a supreme devotion to the Master he served, men may call him narrow if they please. God has set the seal of divine approval, passing contradiction, on the work of the London Tabernacle pastor, and called him to his reward. What a reward!"
In 2006 I was a new Christian, having moved from my home environment in New England all the way to Georgia, where I knew no one. I was alone. I began attending church for the first time in my 43 years of life, and I had not a clue as to how to study the bible, much less read it. I mentioned before that prior to moving to Georgia I had not gone to church but had relied on radio and TV for preaching. I listened to Joel Osteen, the biggest and most popular tv preacher in the US, which I thought was the proper barometer for assessing the ministry of preachers. I also listened to Endtime Ministries' radio prophecy personality Irvin Baxter. After a short while, Baxter's fervent fixation on the post-tribulation rapture began to bother me. The Spirit graciously led me away from that man's erroneous and personally unique interpretations of eschatology. However I began to realize that it was a wild and woolly, sometimes scary, world of preaching out there and I felt adrift and exposed. I had not known that there were different interpretations of scripture and that many men preaching it were just plain wrong. This was a new idea to me. I sought the Holy Spirit's wisdom to know whom to listen to and whom to trust.

That was when He led me to John MacArthur. It was, as so many sisters have commented and emailed me, literally a God-send. I tested what was being preached against scripture and happily found it to be true. The reliability of his preaching, his humble and clean life, and frankly, the free or nearly free resources at his website were a boon to my impoverished but seeking heart and my poor battered checkbook. From there, I grew. I found Phil Johnson, his editor and executive director of Grace To You, and I found S. Lewis Johnson, a pastor of a former generation MacArthur recommended. And so on, the circles widened.

The tribute I posted above which is dedicated to Spurgeon contains similar if not exact words that can be applied to the life and ministry of Dr John F. MacArthur. Too much? Hardly. The benefit we as Christians have received from this tireless man's Godly dedication and efforts in Christ's name are uncountable, and manifold. I can't wait for the day they will be revealed in the throne room of heaven. He is the Pastor for our generation.

I believe that recognizing this and affirming this glorifies Christ because it acknowledges His Spirit's work in the Body. I began this essay by saying "The Lord sends us honorable and trustworthy overseers" and I end it with praise and thanks by saying the same thing. He used MacArthur to snatch me from the jaws of a wolf like Osteen and confusing men like Baxter and only the Lord knows who else if I had stayed on that muddled path. Who knows what other wolf would have dragged me off in false doctrine and poor Godly examples. Raising up good men is the Lord's doing because He has care and concern for the people of His church. Peter wrote of overseers,

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

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Further Reading

Website, many resources: Grace To You

Church: Grace Community Church

John MacArthur's Biography (and book list)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

An encouraging day in Christ!

What a wonderful wonderful day. We are so blessed as Christians, BLESSED!

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

EPrata photo

I sing praises to the Savior who hears prayer. I thank the Holy Spirit for moving in the two people at our campground ministry to be baptized in the river today. There is nothing greater than a regenerated heart, saved by grace.


The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

EPrata photo

I praise and thank the Savior for drawing many to Him, some of whom are emerging from besetting sins to once again live a holy life in these last days.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)


I praise Him for raising up good pastors who preach the word from the Living Water and edify their sheep.

EPrata photo

What a refreshing, encouraging day. The Holy Spirit is moving in the world, maybe not widely, but deeply, soul by soul.

He is as ever, open for business.

EPrata photo

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Psalm 145:21)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

‘Outrage and Panic’ Are Off-Limits, Say Evangelical Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage

Last words on the national perversity of the SCOTUS decision, I promise. I have other things in the hopper for the next few days I want to write about. One can only opine so much, lol.

Yesterday I avoided all photos and news and social media regarding the terrible Supreme Court decision to allow legalized sodomite marriage in the US. However this morning I was listening to Reformation Network (Refnet.fm, a must listen-to radio station online! By Ligonier). I heard a great sermon and was eager for the next sermon, but in between was Al Mohler's The Briefing. I rolled my eyes but I stayed with the channel. I'm so glad I did.

Dr Albert Mohler, Jr. is an "American theologian and the ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky" according to Wikipedia. He also has a radio broadcast called "The Briefing," a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. He has an exceptional knack for distilling a wide range of news and drilling it down to what it means for Christians.

I listened to his analysis of the SCOTUS decision and it is superlative. I learned, sadly, that the news from the Court is even worse than we thought. The three streams of thought I gleaned from Dr Mohler's article "Everything has changed and nothing has changed" analyzing the SCOTUS decision:

1. It's worse for Christians. "Justice Clarence Thomas warned in his dissent of “ruinous consequences for religious liberty.” ... Justice Samuel Alito stated bluntly that the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”

2. It's worse for marriage. "The Kennedy opinion opens wide a door that basically invites looming demands for the legalization of polygamy and polyamory. As Chief Justice Roberts observed: “It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.”

3. It's worse for the Republic. "The Supreme Court’s over-reach in this case is more astounding as the decision is reviewed in full, and as the dissenting justices voiced their own urgent concerns. The Chief Justice accused the majority of “judicial policymaking” that endangers our democratic form of government."

Listen to Special Edition of The Briefing or read the above article (it's not the transcript) for context as to why each of those three will soon no longer be recognizable.

I know, no one wants to hear that the decision is much worse than we thought, because it's already pretty bad. We want good news, we want to stay above the fray. I personally believe that this was a significant advance for satan, however. God lengthened the leash satan is on and it extended almost to the limit, perhaps. We are not to be unaware of his schemes, and we MUST be prepared. It is a spiritual battle after all, and though we don't have to absorb every crumb of satan's doings nor read every piece of news, this one above all is important to understand. The Briefing does that. Listen to it.

That said, I'm going to reverse myself. The culture at Sodom was worse than it is in America. The culture at Corinth was worse than it is currently in America.

I truly believe that in listening to The Briefing Special Edition, however, and/or reading the transcript (when it's up) or the linked article, that we are WELL on our way to becoming Sodom or Corinth.

James R. White posted on Facebook this morning
God: We do not want You, Your ways, or Your law. We are our own creators, we are autonomous. We hate your good gifts---the gift of marriage, the gift of gender. We no longer want the joy of motherhood, fatherhood. We will make women husbands, men wives. We will twist and pervert everything that gives us life and light. Go away. Leave us alone.

God's answer: as you wish.
He also posted this collage of iconic buildings or places in the US that celebrated and applauded (Romans 1:32) the nationalization of sodomy by splashing rainbow colored lights on them:


Really brings it home when you see rainbow-gay splashed coast to coast...Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.

However there is no need to panic.

‘Outrage and Panic’ Are Off-Limits, Say Evangelical Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage
For most evangelical leaders, today's discussion of the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage revolves around how best to express their dissent amid the legal uncertainties for churches and pastors.

“Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus,” read a joint statement organized by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and signed by more than 100 evangelical leaders, including David Platt, J. I. Packer, Richard Mouw, Jim Daly, Al Mohler, and Ron Sider.

“While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children,” the group stated. [Full text]
Someone asked me about what to do in these last days to warn people about the era seemingly coming to a close. How do we warn? What should be our next steps? I responded this way:

I firmly believe that as the world darkens, the Light of Christ will shine brighter. To that end, I also firmly believe our responsibilities are still the same as they always have been since Pentecost, but to be pursued diligently and fervently knowing that we are that much closer to the rapture than Simon Peter was.

1. To remain prayerful. Connection with Jesus through prayer is our energy and power. It's also commanded.

2. To remain in the word. Reading of and meditation on the word of God is how we keep our sword sharp. The word of God is the ONLY way to break the hardness of a Gentile's heart and mind. It pierces. We plant the word and the Spirit grows it. But we can't plant it if we don't know it, and if we don't know it we are exposed in this pitched battle that is life on earth. It pierces them, and protects us. And the battle is terrible these days, don't leave your bible alone for even a day!

3. To find a local congregation, become a member, and to consistently worship there. Make sure to do our parts to use the Spiritual Gifts for the edification of the body. Every platoon at Boot Camp has soldiers who rely on each other, you would not want to para-jump from a plane where you know the person packing your parachute had skipped the class that day. So we go to church without skipping, involve ourselves in fellow believers' lives, and we use the gifts the Spirit gave us for their edification and they for ours.

4. Speak frequently of prophecy. Not Illuminati/conspiracy/newspaper exegesis. But credible biblical prophecy. Many churches don't want to or aren't familiar with prophecy. I speak of the rapture often, and matter-of-factly. I also speak of the wrath a lot. Just because other people DON'T. I study the prophecies in Revelation and talk about them. I bring it up in conversation. The end matters!! If the creation in Genesis 1 is important to the faith and making one wise for understanding, so is Revelation's UNcreation. As a matter of fact it is the only book of the bible that promises a blessing for reading it. So I try to be an example in fervency to diligently study all of God's word (so when I exhort biblical truths people will listen because they know I've studied and I'm serious about living a holy life). Bring prophecy back into the mainstream, but not sensationally, not by date-setting, but by including it as a normal part of the bible student's readings and interest. It's been ignored too long.

5. Live a holy life and not one of hypocrisy. This is all-important, the more we are moral in Christ (not of our own strength) the more we will stand out in the world.

6. Be joyful! If we are just as worried about the way things are going as the pagans are, then we are no different! We have the joy of knowing the future, the peace in being reconciled to God, and the wonder of knowing Him through His word. Show it. That will speak loudly!

7. Witness with urgency, not just because of the last days, but because the person you're speaking to may die in the next hour. Death (or rapture) comes suddenly and usually unexpectedly. Therefore don't be afraid to say things like sin-wrath-judgment. God isn't ashamed of His wrath, we should not be either. Removing all talk of wrath and sin and judgment takes the News out of the Good News. Witnessing is not "God loves you and has a great plan for you life." If God already loves them then why change, and many people already like the plan they have for their life, again, no impetus to change. But every person has a conscience, understands morality and sin, and secretly wonders about heaven.

So how we act in these last days in the face of looming fulfilled prophecy is not sexy nor mystical. It is really no different than a person would have in 1843 or 1721 or 1698 or 1400 or 65AD.

As for prophecy, I'm not writing books about last days signs and I'm not doing numerology to count secret codes and I'm not receiving new revelation prophecies from some kind of trumped up not-Jesus and I'm not on nationwide speaking tours or doing anything that's any different than the usual Christian's slog through the bible via hard work and application. Living to His glory is hard but we persevere in joy, and simply growing in holiness is the toughest of all in these days but if and when we do do, it is a beacon to the lost!

So in order to keep our light bright, we continue to look at Jesus. It's very simple and it's never changing.

What does Birmingham's gay pastor, churches in debt, free speech, and the SCOTUS decision have in common?

I found this news article a few days ago and saved it for when the Supreme Court decided. Here are some of my personal thoughts on the nationalization of homosexuality in America.

Birmingham church hires gay pastor; he's ready to do same-sex weddings
The Rev. Paul Eknes-Tucker was named senior pastor
of Pilgrim Church on June 1
and preached his first sermon on June 14.
The historic Pilgrim Church in Birmingham [a UCC denomination] has hired an openly gay senior pastor who is ready to officiate same-sex weddings. ... He is ready in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court rules to make gay marriage legal nationwide, which could happen next week. "I'm cautiously optimistic that it's going to happen," Tucker said.

The United Church of Christ has been a pioneer among Protestant denominations in ordaining women pastors and openly gay ministers. It's a historic, predominantly white denomination that embraced the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Tucker married his partner, Bill Eknes-Tucker, in Toronto in 2005. Bill is a retired nurse. Tucker said he knows first-hand how his marriage not being legally recognized in Tennessee and Alabama has been a hardship. ... The congregation could serve as a major hub for gay weddings. "We're ready Day One (that gay marriage is ruled legal in Alabama)," he said. "They wanted someone who was ready to do that.
The first gay marriage in my adopted state of Georgia took place at 12:31 pm on the day SCOTUS ruled. This is the "Bible Belt", the "Deep South".

 We can see that the homosexual lobby is ready to advance their banner. Are we ready to advance ours? The Banner of Christ? (Exodus 17:15)

I see a few things ahead. Not prophetically, lol, just following the train tracks to the horizon. It's pretty clear. It is only going to become harder from here on out.

OK, first this SCOTUS ruling allowing gay marriage for all the land will usher in a new phase that will ramp up persecution in America toward churches and Christians. For one, free speech will be squelched. It started already-

Newspaper editorial page bans op-eds opposing gay marriage
Second, as churches and pastors speak out, or refuse to perform homosexual weddings, they will lose their tax-exempt status. This is a problem. Through the early part of the 2000's, many churches went emergent and in a frenzy, bought bigger buildings. Thus they unwisely (in my opinion) became saddled with a mortgage and/or construction debt, or otherwise chained themselves to capital plans they could not afford. I pray that any upcoming decisions to be made regarding homosexual pressure infiltrating the local churches will not have this reality factored in. However, it is equally true that many pastors are pragmatic and I fear that pragmatism will pollute or at least influence faithful decision making.

Randy Alcorn said it well: [HT to Glenn]
Many churches spend more on interest payments than on world missions. Debt ties the church’s hands. If attendance drops, the economy suffers, or giving dips, then pastors or missionaries must go unpaid. The building completed eight years ago, already needing repairs, keeps demanding those monthly payments, mostly going to interest. . . . When a church overextends itself financially, it inevitably spends time during services trying to persuade people to give to the building fund. This changes the focus from worshiping Christ, studying the Scriptures, and meeting the needs of the community, to concerns about buildings, mortgages, and money.
Third, this ruling has brought out many who believe that homosexuality is not a problem, and I'm not talking about pagans. Self-professed Christians by the droves are applauding it. I have had more than one solid sister or brother in the faith marvel at the number of people who say they are in the faith but exalted a different Jesus and a different Gospel when the Supreme Court decision was handed down. Those who are not with Jesus are scattering for sure.

An aerial photograph showing opposing trenches
and no man's land between, during World War I. Wikipedia
Fourth, the Birmingham church ready to marry gays by a married, gay pastor. The true church will shrink, become invisible in all the hullaballoo of false "churches" making much of this lifestyle. A cultural Christianity represented in the Birmingham church will take over and surround the true church. The Birmingham church will be seen as the real church of Jesus Christ, (blasphemously).

The true church is not in danger, mind you, I'm not saying that. But the cultural churches like the one in Birmingham will become visible, and if the the true church is seen at all, it will be seen as outdated at the least, and dangerous at the most. The timid pastors unwilling to stand for the faith will become absorbed in the flow, which yesterday became tsunami force. Fearing their position, or their paycheck, or their liberal deacons, or the neighborhood...they will change their position and weaken. Many churches will become like the Birmingham church, sadly. If it only took satan 20 years to fully change America's position on homosexuality so that the highest court in the land would nationalize perversity. What hay do you think satan can make of false churches now that the pendulum has swung so far?

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (Matthew 12:30)

Gill's Exposition on Matthew 12:30,
and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth: Christ is the good shepherd, that gathers his sheep to himself, and into his fold, by the external ministry of the word, and internal efficacy of his grace; Satan is the wolf, that catches and scatters the sheep, and seeks to kill and destroy them: and since there is such an open war proclaimed and carried on between Christ and the devil, none ought to be neutral; whoever is not on the side of Christ, is reckoned as an enemy; and whoever is not concerned by prayer or preaching, or other means to gather souls to his word and ordinances, and to his church, and to himself, is deemed by him a scatterer of them.
There is no middle ground. There is no No Man's Land where no trench is dug from one side or the other. A person is either in one trench, or the other. Even those who declare their neutrality are actually with satan because they are not overtly with Jesus, as the Matthew 12:30 verse reminds us.

My advice is:
  • To remain prayerfully vigilant, in prayer, by praying. Do you see the theme? Pray! Our connection in Jesus is our strength, His strength, energized by prayer.
  • Prepare to have your views challenged and be ready to answer all with a meek but firm response. 1 Peter 3:15 REALLY comes into play now more than ever.
  • Thus, read the Bible. If you have been woefully neglectful of late, stop it. Soldiers do not ignore orders, policemen do not neglect what their Captain tells them. Jesus is our Commander-in-Chief. His battle plan IS the Bible. Neglect it no longer.
  • Believe the spiritual battle is real. Believe you are a target.

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32).

Did you catch that? 'when you have turned again'. Jesus was predicting Peter's denial and restoration. Blessedly, our enemy's plans are also in Jehovah-Nissi's Bible! We are not unaware of satan's schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11)
  • Therefore pray for each other that our faith may not fail when put to the test.
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)

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Further Reading:

The faithful in the Lord's warfare--

The LORD is our Banner, Jehovah Nissi, a study by Alexander MacLaren

Precept Austin: The LORD is our Banner, an inductive study of Exodus 17:8-16. (Scroll down a bit)

Focus on the Family: Prayer and the Spiritual Battle

GotQuestions: What does the Bible say about spiritual warfare?