Around every corner is the lure to consume. A desire to be satisfied. Unfortunately no human being has found anything under the sun that brings satisfaction. So we consume more, and more, and more.  Eventually, we overdose. However, there is hope–if Christianity is our Rehab. In Jesus, satisfaction can be found.
Grace, love, peace and hope can be found…and there is always more. Consume more of Jesus. Overdose. 

Rehab: The Overdose officially hits stores and online outlets 1.11.11.

Check out the promo video below.

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Get ready for The Overdose on 1.11.11!

Pennies from heaven

Posted: December 19, 2010 by Brian Andrews in Devotional, Theology
Tags:

I went to the grocery store yesterday to pick up some items on a list. We’re trying to pay cash for everything, so I headed to the ATM first to get some money. As you know, ATMs only give you $20 bills, which was fine with me.

When I parked my car at the store and got out, I decided to bring in some coins because I generally like to get as close as possible to giving exact change. Scrounging around the car, I found a few coins. I was just about to head in the store, when I looked down and saw a penny on the ground. I picked it up and then happened to notice two more rather scuffed up pennies under the car. Thinking to myself that I might need these, I shoved them into my pocket and entered the store. My youngest son was with me riding in the cart.

Now, you have to understand that I often have trouble making decisions. That day was no exception. Fruit was on my list, but I didn’t have any idea what type of fruit or how much to get. Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples, pears and kiwis passed the test and made it into the basket. I got some sweet potatoes for pies, but first had to make sure I had just the right weight. I picked up and put back a few of them until I was satisfied with my choices. A number of items made it into the shopping cart that weren’t on my list, but I felt like I should get anyway. For example, normally, I don’t buy things on a whim, but when my son asked for shells and cheese I got it for some reason. A little later he saw an apple slicer and reminded me that we needed one so I got it.

I know this may seem like a lot of boring detail–(I mean, how exciting can grocery shopping be?)–but that’s part of what makes the outcome so significant to me.

When I was finally ready to check out, I went through the self-checkout line, scanned and bagged all my stuff, and got the total: $60.73. At that point I remembered the change in my pocket and wondered how close I would be to having exact change. I reached into my pocket and found that I had exactly 73 cents, the three pennies I found on the ground having made all difference. Not only that, but since I had gotten all $20s from the ATM I had exactly what I needed down to the dollar and cent.

Another thing you have to understand is that I’m a math teacher and God often speaks to me through situations involving numbers. (BTW, the odds of the above happening are about 1/2000.) What I sensed God reminding me of through this whole thing is that He is in total control of my life. He is sovereign over all the choices I make. He is interested in even the most minute, unimportant details of my life, like buying kiwis and apple slicers.

Some people don’t like the idea of God being in control of everything, but this is a very comforting truth for someone like me who too often agonizes over “did I make the right decision?” He is with me; I don’t need to fear. Whether big things or mundane things, my Heavenly Father concerns Himself with the things that concern me. If you are His child, He has the same concern for and interest in you. You are not left alone in the tough decisions you face. He is with you and will in everything work it out for your good. He reminded me of that when He gave me His three cents.

Justin Taylor cites the findings of Robbie Low from Touchstone magazine about the father’s role in nurturing the faith of his children. I have read these findings before and want to note a finding that confirms how important the role of the father is in passing down the faith. If the father is absent from worship, then only 2% of the children will go on to become part of the church into adulthood. If the father is faithful, that number climbs to as high as 75%. That’s a 73% gap!  

Dads, if you name the name of Christ, the whole while devoting your Sundays to Nascar, football, and personal recreation, you are in serious sin. I admonish you to lead your family to Christ and His church lest you eternally regret leading your kids to the fleeting pleasures of this world.

Quoting from Low:

In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

I am so grateful to Zondervan for publishing this series and I commend them on their choices for commentators. All of the commentators represent a broad stream of solid Evangelical scholarship and exegesis. I chose to review the Ephesians commentary by Dr. Clinton Arnold (NT professor at Talbot seminary). I am familiar with Dr. Talbot’s previous work, especially his monograph, “Ephesians: Power and Magic”. He has done some great work on the topic of Spiritual warfare as well.

I can’t review this entire commentary or else my review would be hundreds of pages, so I will redact my feedback to that which I specifically like about the “Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament “ series itself.  As a point of reference, I own about 50 commentaries on Ephesians and will compare and contrast the Zondervan series with some of the others I own.

What’s to Like?

  1.        The wide double-column format. I love this feature which you don’t find in many other series’. I personally read commentaries by keeping my thumb in a page and constantly looking back and forward to maintain a “Forest” view perspective on the text. With the double-column format, one has access to a total of 4 columns when viewing the open book with 2 pages open. I personally love this.
  2.        Literary Context Section. T. David Gordon suggests, in his book, “Why Johnny Can’t Preach”, that many pastors simply don’t know how to read and engage in basic literary analysis. The very first subsection within each passage section is dedicated to literary context. Surveying the commentary, I was pleased to find this section deal with such things as genre, type of speech, repeated words and themes, among other things. This is invaluable for the person who really wants to understand the oral culture and how the written text would be heard to the listeners. Our culture is becoming increasingly illiterate, not that we don’t know how to pronounce words per se, but that we don’t know how to perceive certain literary features within the text.
  3.        Main Idea. Many commentaries don’t distinguish the forest from the trees and leaves the reader thinking every single word is a really big deal, thus focusing on the trees and not seeing the forest, or flatlines the text in such a way that one only sees the forest and fails to acknowledge the beauty of particular trees.
  4.        Translation and Graphical Layout. This is my most favorite feature. Some commentaries may include some sort of chiastic structure outline of the text, but this series actually provides a true outline based on syntax, noting particular clauses within the pericope. This alone is worth half the price of the book (with the additional features making the commentary a good investment).
  5.        Structure. The structure section provides something of a chiastic structure of the text, noting parallelism, etc. At this point, you might think the commentary overkill on all the subsections dealing with the passage, but this just confirms how important it is to see the text on its own terms before you even get to Arnold’s exegesis. All good exegesis requires this preliminary work and Zondervan chose to enhance this often neglected preliminary work that is usually absent in many commentaries.
  6.        Exegetical Outline. Yes, there’s even more before you even get to the commentary on the text. The exegetical outline provides a good skeletal outline that could very well serve as a homiletical outline for the preacher/teacher.  Such an outline is pretty common in most commentaries, but I appreciate how this outline comes after the previous labors which point to the summation.
  7.        Theology in Application. This section is somewhat similar to what you would find in the NIV Application Commentary Series, however the NIV series emphasizes more of a hermeneutic “So What?” answer that is helpful in bridging the text to contemporary concerns, whereas this series engages in Biblical Theological and Systematic Theological applications. Compiling all of the “Theology in Application” could very well  serve as a Biblical Theology work on Ephesus as a standalone book that could well retail for $15 alone.

 

Bottom Line:

I admit that the $36.99 retail price may seem steep; however this is less than the comparable Pillar series ($44) and Baker exegetical series ($44.99). Note that this volume is over 500 pages and double columned in the commentary portion of the text, whereas the Baker series is the same in pages but single columned in the commentary section, making this essentially larger in raw word count.

I highly recommend this volume for all pastors and would commend it to a general lay audience as well. I will be purchasing this series as I preach through NT books in the future.

George Bryson wrote the following:

THE GOSPEL
ACCORDING TO
JAMES WHITE
OR
THE “REFORMED” DOCTRINES
OF
DOOM AND GLOOM

The First Point

The first side (the positive side) of the first point of Calvinism is that if you are one of those elected for salvation you will one day (in this life) inevitably be born again before the final judgment. When you are born again you will be given a new nature. As your old nature was an unbelieving nature so your new nature will be a believing nature. Here is how it unfolds. As a new born child of God you will (as a result of your new birth) believe in Jesus Christ. Because (and when) you believe in Jesus Christ you will be declared righteous and be guaranteed a place among the resurrection of the just-and at that time glorified for all eternity.

The second side (the negative or doom and gloom side) of the first point is that if you are not one of the elect, you will not and cannot born again. Here is how it unfolds. Because you are not born again and will forever be stuck with your unbelieving nature you will not and cannot believe in Jesus Christ. Because you cannot believe in Jesus Christ in your unregenerate condition, you will not be justified. If you are not justified you will eventually be raised with the unjust, and finally be sentenced to everlasting shame and torment. This to is according to God’s sovereign will and good pleasure.

The Second Point

The first side (the positive side) of the second point of Calvinism is that if God has chosen you for salvation He did so unconditionally. You do not have to believe to become chosen for salvation but you were chosen and created for salvation and so you believe as a result of being elected and created for salvation.

The second side (the negative or doom and gloom side) of the second point is that if God has not chosen you for salvation,-meaning He has chosen you for damnation-He did so unconditionally. You were chosen, decreed, and created for damnation. You cannot believe and are therefore damned for your unbelief because this is according to God’s sovereign will and for His glory and good pleasure.

The Third Point

The first side (the positive side) of the third point of Calvinism is that if you were chosen and created for salvation, Christ died for your sins so that the eternal decree for salvation would have an historical provision for salvation.

The second side (the negative or doom and gloom side) of the third point of Calvinism is that if you were not chosen and created for salvation-meaning you were chosen and created for damnation- Christ did not die for your sins because an eternal decree for damnation needs no historical provision for salvation.

The Fourth Point

The first side (the positive side) of the fourth doctrine is that if you were chosen and created for salvation, God will irresistibly draw or efficaciously call you (applying saving grace to your life and circumstance) to Himself, first giving you a new life, which in turn brings with it a new nature, which is a believing nature, resulting in your certain and immediate justification and eventual and everlasting glorification.

The second side (the negative and doom and gloom side) of the fourth doctrine is that if you were not chosen and created for salvation-meaning that you were chosen and created for damnation-you will not be irresistibly drawn, efficaciously called, and no saving grace will be extended to you, which means you will not and cannot be born again, which in turn means you cannot have faith in Christ and thereby be justified in this life or ultimately glorified in the next life. Instead you will suffer the torments of the everlasting lake of fire in accordance with the sovereign will of God because this is according to His good pleasure.

The Fifth Point

The first side (the positive side) of the fifth point of Calvinism is that if you were chosen and created for salvation, the new nature you receive when you are born again, and the saving faith that comes with that new nature, and the justification that immediately follows faith insures that you will live (however imperfectly) a sanctified, holy, or righteous life in faith (practically speaking) for the most part, from the time of your regeneration until the time of your glorification. This perseverance in sanctification, holiness, or righteousness in faith, while not perfect is inevitable for the truly born again and will be to the end of this life for the elect. It is not as though the elect should not fail to persevere (for the most part) but they cannot do so. If therefore a person appeared to be a saint earlier in life, but failed to persevere in faith and righteousness until the end of life, it proves he was never a saint or never born again, never had faith in Christ, and never had a holy and righteous life in faith to persevere in.

The second side (the negative and doom side) of the third point is that if you are not elect and created for salvation-meaning you are elect and chosen for damnation-you cannot be born again, have faith in Christ, live a holy or righteous life in faith for even one day, much less to the end of your life. Because God is sovereign and can do as He pleases with His creatures, God is free to mislead a person into thinking they are one of the elect, help them live much like the elect, but at the judgment reveal that they were convinced by God that they were one of the elect even though they were not. No matter how convinced someone is in thinking he is one of the elect, assurance of salvation and eternal life is impossible to secure. How could anyone know for certain that they will persevere to the end proving they were elect without actually having persevered to the end.
After many years (actually decades) of studying the Calvinist doctrines of grace, I am convinced that the best refutation of the five points of Calvinism is an accurate and honest explanation of the five points of Calvinism. Unfortunately most new converts to Calvinism are not aware of the flip side to the five points of Calvinism early on. Those who introduce Calvinism to the non-Calvinist believe that the new believer is not ready for the meatier stuff of Reformed theology. That, they say, should come only later when they can handle it. They reason that the positive side of each point is like simple arithmetic. The negative side is more like algebra or some other more complicated, difficult and higher form of math.

The truth is this; the negative side is not more difficult to understand for the new convert to Calvinism, it is more difficult to accept. The positive side seems more palatable whereas the negative side is difficult to swallow and some even choke on it. Full disclosure, early on and sometimes even later on, is a major hindrance to those committed to winning the non-Calvinist over to Calvinism. Admittedly, sometimes proponents of Calvinism do not lay it all out on the table because they themselves have not turned the coin over to see what is on the other side. Sometimes they ignore it. Sometimes they deny it. They are on the Reformed road and are trying to get others to join them. However, they have not gone very far and sometimes do not choose to go but a few blocks down the Reformed road. Some would like to believe that each of the five points of Calvinism are only five points of grace. It is too much (for them) to think that these five points also represent a very hard and harsh message of doom and gloom. In fact, John Piper happily concedes that:

The “Doctrines of Grace” (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints) are the warp and woof of the biblical gospel cherished by so many saints for centuries.

I responded as follows:

George, thanks again for chiming in on my blog. I just want to say in short that you are not representing the “Confessionally Reformed” tradition fairly. You may have met some obnoxious “5 pointers” and I can almost guarantee you that most have not actually read Calvin’s Institutes, nor the Confessional tradition that emanated from him (Belgic Confession, Canons of Dordt, Heidelberg Catechism). Calvin, along with the confessions, are very pastoral and present the doctrines of Scripture in a clear, yet necessarily nuanced form with regards to some doctrines that transcend our full ability to comprehend. Here’s an example from the Belgic Confession (emphasis mine):

Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence

We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.
Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground^20 without the will of our Father.

In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

George, on a personal note, I really wish you and CC would stop attacking Calvinism. I am meeting more and more former CC folks who have left because they were ostracized after claiming to like guys like John MacArthur, John Piper, and C.H. Spurgeon. It has gotten ridiculous out there. Do you seriously wish to continue to attack the Calvinistic understanding of God that MacArthur, Piper, Spurgeon, and the historical Church has held? Stop proclaiming that you are neutral on the Calvin-Arminian debate if you are going to continue to attack Calvinism and run very Godly pastors and “members” out of your churches and missions support because they share such convictions. I have met exCC folks who said that they would have remained in the fellowship with their Calvinisitic convictions if they weren’t attacked so vigorously. One gentleman told me that he was receiving correspondence from his CC friends about attending our church, whereas the concern was that we were heretical almost on the level of Mormonisn and JW. This is sad and I think you are partly responsible, unless of course you truly think we are borderline heretics, which means you should do everyone a service and tell all the CC bookstores to stop selling Tozer, MacArthur, Piper, Spurgeon, etc. My convictions are hardly any different from Spurgeon and yet his works are sold in most CC bookstores, whereas some CC members think that we as a church are almost heretical. Would you say the same about Spurgeon and his congregation? Consistency would definitely help, not only for your CC folks, but also for the church universal.

Grace and Peace…Rick

A Book Review of William P. Farley’s, “Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting”

William P. Farley is pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship in Spokane, WA, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace Ministries network of churches.

Farley strikes the balance beautifully between the absolute freedom of God in His sovereignty to regenerate the heart of the elect along with God’s sovereignly prescribed means for parents in raising their kids. This balance protects parents from being negligent and passive in the name of God’s sovereignty (“My kids salvation rests completely in God and has little or nothing to do with me”) or presumption that the prescribed means operate as an assembly line where we simply create Christians by pushing the right buttons (“If I parent exactly how God wants me to, then my kids will absolutely be Christians”).

We, therefore, don’t parent as if it completely depends on God, nor as if it completely depends on us. These complexities of means and God’s overarching Sovereign purposes have long confounded God’s people. Godly parents may see their children rebel, whereas Godless parents may see their children radically regenerated by God’s Spirit. Having said that, Farley acknowledges that God generally works through means and that negligent parents will generally see the consequences in their children, whereas Godly parents will generally see greater evidences of grace operating in their children.

If anything, Farley advocates parenting that is completely dependent upon God’s grace in the discharge of the prescribed means He calls us to.

The most striking and insightful aspects of the book for me personally can be summarized in the following points:

–          We must parent with one eye on eternity. Farley states, “…the Christian does not parent for this life only”.  We have 18 short years to not only influence their short time in this life, but also for all eternity.

–          Our aim is not to create “moral” kids. We ought not solely seek behavioral modification in our children. This alone will create nice little hypocrites who are further away from the Gospel of grace. While we must discipline and certainly condemn certain behaviors, we must always be pointing our kids to the cross and the Gospel.

–          Theology is enormously practical in how we parent because we should seek to emulate the “communicable” attributes of God towards our children. If we don’t know God, then we will paint a distorted picture of His nature to our children.

–          Regardless of schooling convictions (Christian school, public school, home school), the one factor that most influences our children’s Spiritual wellbeing is the faithful and consistent attention of parents. Farley concedes that public school might be too harmful for some and that all parents must use discretion. Having said that, a particular “method”  won’t work apart from parents who honor God above all.

–          Marriages preach the Gospel.

–          Dads matter more than any other factor in the perseverance of children’s interest in Spiritual things and church attendance into adulthood.

–          Lastly, Farley said, “Love God more than your children”. He cites many examples from pastoral ministry where families placed their kids above God and have gone on to pay a dear price with the apostasy of their children. If the parents weren’t valuing God more than the weekend soccer games, etc., why should we expect our kids to honor God more than __________ (fill in the blank).

Bottom Line:

I commend this book for parents. There is no shortage of books on parenting, but I think Farley brings out many good points and pastoral life illustrations that will be helpful and hopeful for most parents.

As I work through Galatians, I found this comment from John Stott very insightful about the contrast of the Judaizing Burden-Imposing ministry with the directives that the Christian community is a Burden-Lifting ministry:

Human friendship, in which we bear one another’s burdens, is part of the purpose of God for His people. So we should not keep our burdens to ourselves, but rather seek a Christian friend who will help to bear them with us.

By such burden-bearing we ‘fulfil the law of Christ’ (verse 2). Because of the interesting link in this sentence between ‘burdens’ and the ‘law’, it is possible that Paul is casting a side-glance at the Judaizers. Certainly some of the law’s requirements are referred to as a burden in the New Testament (e.g. Lk. 11:46; Acts 15:10, 28), and the Judaizers were seeking to burden the Galatians with the observance of the law for their acceptance with God. So Paul may be saying to them, in effect, that instead of imposing the law as a burden upon others, they should rather lift their burdens and so fulfil Christ’s law.