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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Heaven

Smith, Colin S. Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross. Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus,     2015.

This book which is 95 pages is packed with ancient Gospel truth, but done in a fresh imaginative and dramatic writing style that does not compromise the veracity and integrity of the Gospel.  The author skillfully brings together sound doctrine, powerful theological accounts of the cross, and  historical accuracy concerning the drama of this account concerning the thief and Jesus Christ.  Here imagination is used properly for the glory of God.

The book covers different scenes that are categorized this way: breakfast, hatred, faith, hope, love, darkness, agony, triumph, and safety.  The main protagonist is the thief at the cross.  His thoughts, feelings, and volition gushes forth from this book.  The account of the thief’s thoughts although imaginative, except for his few words as recorded in Scripture, are sound words that echo Gospel centered truths of how a sinner maybe saved.  I have never witnessed a book that has approach the thief’s account in this manner.

Besides the profound imaginative features, what I found refreshing are some of the precise and deep-seated truths of the Gospel that emphasize the grace of God, the holiness of God, the justice of God, the sinfulness of man, and the intense reminder that the gates of Hell and Heaven are only inches away from us.  I don’t want to give out too much details about this book.  I recommend buying it and reading it.  It is a great book for an unbeliever who needs the Gospel and for believers who need a profound and refresh way of explaining the Gospel to sinners who are in danger of judgment and in desperate need of forgiveness.

Thief at the cross, “I endured the pains of crucifixion, but I did not experience the agonies of hell.  Jesus endured them for me, so that I would never know what they are like.  The more I think about this, the more staggering it gets” (71).

NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher Christian Focus Publications through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Purchase bookCFP or Amazon

 

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Ecuador-Quito-Street-L

Posting these a little earlier than usual in light of Evangel’s scheduled book review tomorrow. These are links gathered between March 15th-20th, 2015.

1.) Apologetic Methodology in Dialogue

2.) Why You Should Believe in God and Reject Atheism part I

3.) “Protective strategies”

4.) APOLOGETICS AND YOUR KIDS (2) – THE PRICE OF TRUTH

5.) The Futility of Autonomy

6.) Irony and Illegitimate Standards

7.) Author Interview with John Frame

8.) Covenantal Apologetics: Defending The Faith and Beyond

 

Missed the last round up?  Check out the re-blogged post from a friend

 

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RTS

About five months ago I shared on our blog a dissertation titled “The Self-Attestation of Scripture as the Proper Ground for Systematic Theology” that was completed at Southern Seminary.  Personally I find the self-attestation of Scripture to be a fascinating doctrine that has tremendous implications for how we do theology, counsel believers, evangelize non-believers and present an apologetics to those who ask for the reason for the hope that we have.

Today I want to share a thesis that was completed for a Masters of Arts that was completed over at Reformed Theological Seminary.  It is titled “The Self-Attesting Nature of the New Testament Canon” and written by John Gordon Duncan.  Duncan takes the approach of exploring how the self-attesting nature of Scripture has its contribution towards the canonicity discussion.  In his introduction he writes the following summary:

For the purposes of this paper, the canonization of the New Testament will be explored by examining the subject of criteria, including the early Fathers’ perception of scripture, inspiration, and apostolicity, with an emphasis on the self-authenticating nature of the New Testament. By taking a self-authenticating approach, such language as Eugene Ulrich uses when he talks of, “the historical development by which the oral and written literature…was handed on, revised, and transformed into the scriptures,”9 will be avoided. The scriptures were handed down. However, a revision or transformation from letter to scripture cannot be supported. Once that fact is established, this paper will offer a summary of the various lists and collections that led to the recognition in the late fourth century that the canon was closed.

For the PDF of this thesis click HERE.

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Mark Grant Osborne

Grant Osborne. Mark.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014. 352 pp.

This is a work that is a part of the Teaching the Text Commentary Series put out by Baker Books.  My overall review of this book is that this is a wonderful and helpful expositional commentary.  I read through this commentary for my own devotional but felt it would be good for an expositor to use as well.  The introduction of the book mentioned that the editor was intentional in making this volume accessible and helpful for the exegete and educated lay person and certainly I think they largely succeeded with the format of the book.  The author begins each section in the commentary with the big idea summarizing the periscope, then a section titled “understanding the text” that is broken down into “The Text in Context” followed by “Interpretative Insight” that goes roughly verse by verse.  After this is “Theological Insights” then “Teaching the Text” and ends with “Illustrating the Text.”  I appreciation the commentary’s attempt to give illustration even when at times the illustration was weak since it help the expositor jog his mind for sermon illustrations!

This is a commentary filled with good insights.  Here in this review I can only share some of those that stood out to me:

  • I especially enjoyed how the commentary shares background that helped enlightened the text; for instance, the Jews often saw that the further back in salvation history one can pull in one’s theological argument, the greater is its theological “weight;” thus when Jesus argues against the Pharisees concerning divorce the move by Jesus to go back to Adam and Eve and not just stay with Leviticus and Deuteronomy was a deliberate move to provide an argument with a stronger force than the Pharisees.
  • In the first century religious context, Jewish sages were often seen as being too important to have children bother them; yet Jesus turns this on its head when He welcomes children in Mark 10:13-16.
  • This commentary was also helpful for me in interpreting Jesus’ curse of the fig tree.  The author noted that fig trees in the area typically had early figs in early March even though the main season that it bloomed was in May; this was what Jesus expected from the fig tree even though it was “not the season for figs.”  The commentary makes the argument that the issue isn’t so much about the fig tree as it is about the spiritually barren temple (which the fig tree periscope is sandwiched between two periscopes at the temple) which the word “season” heavily suggests since it is not a botanical term for growing season but a religious term.
  • Background information is also important in appreciating the scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey.  The commentary noted that it was unusual for pilgrims to enter Jerusalem on a ride so Jesus entrance into Jerusalem bear some resemblance to Solomon’s entrance to Jerusalem on David’s donkey in 1 Kings 1:32-48.
  • The commentary’s explanation of how the Jews performed the Passover feast with its various steps also help illuminated what was going on during Jesus’ last supper.
  • There are some ironies during the night that Jesus was arrested.  The verb for “laying hands” is often used in Mark to describe Jesus healing people but now used to describe people grabbing Jesus.  Normally in Jewish custom it is the Rabbis who bestow the greeting of a kiss to his disciples and not the other way around as Judas did.

Although I read through this commentary as a devotional read I would also say that this commentary is definitely for expository preachers.  Several years ago I had a hard time finding a good commentary I can recommend on Mark to my church’s small group leaders.  Had this commentary came out then I would have also recommended this book as a tool for lay people leading Bible studies on Mark.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Baker Books and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Purchase: Amazon

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RTS

Here are some lectures on preaching the past few years at Reformed Theological Seminary.

2014 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Dr. Timothy Keller

Lecture 1- What is Good Preaching? [watch | listen]

Lecture 2- Preaching to Secular People and Secularized Believers  [watch | listen]

Q& A – Discussion on Prayer book  [listen]

Lecture 3- Preaching the Gospel Every Time [watch | listen]

Lecture 4- Preaching to the Heart [watch | listen]

2013 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Rev. Kevin DeYoung

Lecture 1-How Can a Biblical Sermon Be So Boring? The Case for Veracity and Clarity in Preaching

Lecture 2- How Can a Biblical Sermon Be So Boring? The Case for Specificity, Authenticity, and Ingenuity in Preaching

Lecture 3-How Can a Biblical Sermon Be So Boring? The Case for Spontaneity and Authority in Preaching

Q&A- Discussion on Crazy Busy

Q&A- Discussion on Preaching and Pastoral Ministry

2012 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Thabiti Anyabwile

Lecture 1 – November 7, Chapel

2011 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Reddit Andrews

Lecture 1 – October 26, Chapel

Lecture 2 – October 26, Lunch

Lecture 3 – October 27, Lunch

2010 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Dr. Steve Lawson

Lecture 1 – Nehemiah 8

Lecture 2 – Nehemiah 8

Lecture 3 – Nehemiah 8

2009 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Dr. Joel Beeke

Lecture 1 – Calvin’s Powerful Preaching

Lecture 2 – The Puritan’s Love for Preaching

Lecture 3 – Preaching Experientially Today

2008 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Dr. Ralph Davis

Lecture 1 – Why is the Old Testament Shut Out of Church?

Lecture 2 – Nuts and Bolts in Preaching Old Testament Texts

Lecture 3 – The Hard Ministry of the Word

2007 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Dr. Mark Dever

Lecture 1 – The Symbol and Significance of Preaching

Lecture 2 – The Use of Preaching

Lecture 3 – The Art of Preaching

2006 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Rev. Mark Johnson

Lecture 1 – The Call to Ministry

Lecture 2 – The Call to Preach

Lecture 3 – The Call to Pastor

2005 John Reed Miller Lecture Series – Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

Lecture 1 – Preaching Christ

Lecture 2 – Reaching Our Standards

Lecture 3 – Using Our Grids

2009 Special Preaching Conference

3/25/2010 Rev. Al Martin – “Pursuing Holiness and Likeness to Christ”

3/25/2010 Rev. Ted Donnelly – “The Preacher as a Man” Acts 10

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Abner Chou

Pay attention to the name Abner Chou as I believe he will be more well known in the larger Evangelical world of Scholarship in the next few years.

Abner Chou is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s College and Seminary. From what I understand he turned down his college acceptance to Princeton or some other Ivy League School to attend the Master’s College.  After the Master’s College he went on to the Master’s Seminary where he completed M.Div., Th.M., and Th.D.  This year he was a speaker for the Truth and Life Conference and was a seminar speaker for the Inerrancy Summit.  He is currently working on an exegetical commentary on the book of Lamentation for Logos’ Evangelical Exegetical Commentary.

Dr. Chou recently spoke at the Seminary’s Chapel from Acts 17 on the subject of the need for Christian Intellectual Engagement.

I’ve halfway through the video.  What is your thoughts on the message?

 

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Tony-Preaching

Hello Tony,

We at The Domain for Truth would like to first thank you for your ministry.  We have been blessed by your dedication and love for God, His people, and the lost.

Here are some of the questions we would like to ask you:

1) What caused you to write a book called: Should She Preach? Biblical Evangelism for Women?

There was an incident at a major outreach that really started me thinking about whether or not Christian women should engage in open-air preaching. I watched as a diminutive sister in Christ got in the face of a large male heckler. Well, more accurately, she got in the chest of the heckler. I remember thinking at that moment how my sister in Christ had set aside her God-given femininity as she postured, acted, and talked like a man.

As soon as I returned home from the outreach, I began to think hard about my long-standing position: while no woman should stand in a pulpit or exercise authority over a man in the context of the local church, that same standard did not apply to women preaching in the open-air. As I studied the Scriptures, I came to the painful realization that I had been wrong for years—that I had errantly encouraged, even trained, hundreds of women to preach in the open-air.

I decided to write Should She Preach—Biblical Evangelism for Women, not as penance, but as fruit of repentance. I had erred and I had to do what I could to make things right. I had been very public for years about my support of women preaching in the open-air. So, I felt I had to speak even louder and more publicly about the fact that I had been wrong.

I also wrote the book to encourage my sisters in Christ that while they should not preach the gospel in the open-air that in no way relegates them to a second-class evangelistic status. They can be fully engaged in evangelism and do so biblically, in keeping with God’s perfect design, while fulfilling their role in the Bride of Christ, without sacrificing God’s mandated gentle and quiet spirit for them.

Purchase book hereAmazon

2) Often times, people view open-air preaching as a pointless endeavor that brings no fruit bearing such as conversions. Do you hear that often?  If so, what is your response?  At times they discourage many of these godly men from not preaching open-air.

Yes. I hear this frequently. I’ve heard it in more than 20 states and in several foreign countries. Such a sentiment is born from an unbiblical understanding of “effectiveness.” And it often comes from an unbiblical theological construct known as “synergism”—the idea that man cooperates with God in salvation. This is antithetical to the biblical doctrines of “monergism”—the reality that God works alone in salvation. God causes a person to be born again. Repentance and faith, instead of being works that lead to salvation, are the first fruits of salvation, which are entirely gifts from God.

When people, most often professing Christians, question the “effectiveness” of open-air preaching, I tell them that every person with whom I have shared the gospel has made a decision. I tell them that I lead every human being with whom I speak to Christ. Everyone makes a decision. Sadly, 99.99% of people make the decision to continue to hate God and live in wanton rebellion against Him, in keeping with their sinful nature. I lead every person with whom I speak to Christ. I take them right to the foot of the cross and trust in the Sovereign Creator to do what He will with that person.

3) Why do you do open-air preaching?

For me, open-air preaching is an act of worship. I cannot think of a greater way to express my love for God than to make Christ known—to lift up the name of Jesus and to proclaim His gospel. Open-air preaching (as well as every other form of biblical evangelism) is also, in my estimation, the best way to fulfill the two greatest commandments—to love God and to love people.

I preach the gospel in the open-air because I want to bring glory to Jesus and I want to see lost people come to repentance and faith in Him.

4) What are your thoughts concerning those who would like to do open-preaching?

To any man who senses a desire to open-air preach, my advice is simple. Go talk to your pastors/elders. Talk to the leaders of your local church, men who should know you inside and out, and ask them to examine you to see if you are both called and qualified to serve as one of God’s heralds. The Bible gives no examples and lends no support to the erroneous idea that a man calls himself to be a preacher of any kind, including an open-air preacher.

I believe that any man who desires to be an open-air preacher, whether or not he aspires to the position of elder in the local church, should meet the spiritual and character qualifications of an elder, which includes the ability to teach.

5) There has been a growing movement of more and more open-air preachers who embrace the Doctrines of Grace (i.e reformed theology)? Has that been an encouragement to you?

Yes! This is very encouraging to me. Why? The Doctrines of Grace are the gospel. The Doctrines of Grace, sometimes referred to as Calvinism, are seen in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation. While Calvin may be credited for systematizing these precious doctrines, they were not his invention. These doctrines communicate man’s truly depraved condition and his only means for reconciliation with his Creator. These doctrines communicate God’s perfect, monergistic, and sovereign plan for salvation—His glorious gospel.

6) What are your thoughts concerning nomadic open-air preachers who are not part of a local church body?

Again, the Bible knows nothing of the man who calls himself to be a preacher. The Bible knows nothing of the Christian nomad, one who tries to live the Christian life while living independent of the local church. No, the Church is not a structure. But it most certainly is structured. God has provided a clear framework in His Word, for the local church—from appointment of leadership to supervisory and subordinate roles, to mutual accountability, to discipline, to the sending of evangelists and missionaries, and so on.

Show me a nomadic open-air preacher, and I will show you a man (or a woman) who has likely become a law unto himself, who likely believes he and his little enclave are the holders and guardians of truth, who has likely abandoned biblical doctrine for heresies, and who is may tragically be heading down the road of apostasy.

7) What type of messages are profitable for open-air preaching? Verse by verse exposition, topical, etc.?

I believe every qualified and called open-air preacher should preach with Bible in hand. I’m a bit of a purist, but I would even allow for a Bible on some of these new-fangled, electronic gizmos. Unless an open-air preacher has the whole counsel of God’s Word memorized, then he should humbly carry the Sword of the Spirit in his hand.

Open-air preaching must be just that—preaching. But the depth and breadth of the preaching can vary based on location, type of crowd, and time constraints. There are occasions, particularly at train, bus, and subway stations when I have a limited amount of time with the people in front of me. In such circumstances and environs, I will preach shorter, more general law and gospel messages. If I am in a location where people are milling about, sitting around engaged in conversation, etc. then I will exposit a passage of Scripture—one that includes elements of the law and/or the gospel. There are other times when I will simply open the Bible and engage in the public reading of Scripture.

I am not opposed to topical messages in the open-air. Current events are often excellent segues for the law and the gospel. But I always make sure that I am ready to exposit a verse or passage that speaks to an aspect of the current event to which I refer in my message.

8) It seems intuitive that you would receive verbal assaults, but have you received many physical attacks while evangelizing? If so, are the attacks being generated more from open-air preaching or from one-on-one evangelism?

While every conceivable situation cannot be anticipated, physical assaults are less likely during one-to-one conversations than they are during open-air preaching. One reason is that in a one-to-one conversation the Christian most often chooses who he or she will talk to. In an open-air setting, the preacher has relatively no control over who is in the crowd, or what happens upon the preaching.

Open-air preaching, like pulpit preaching, is an authoritative act. The open-air preacher exercises a certain amount of authority over his hearers. And let’s not forget, the Bible from which he preaches is the ultimate authority. The open-air preacher does not simply carry the Sword of the Spirit, sharing it with others. The open-air preacher wields the Sword of the Spirit. To wield such power, to exert such authority is yet another reason why any man who contemplates open-air preaching should be examined and qualified by his pastors and elders, to determine if he has the spiritual maturity, character, and temperament for such heavy responsibility.

Open-air preaching can be far more confrontational than sharing the gospel with someone in a one-to-one conversation. And it is confrontational evangelism in which Jesus and the apostles engaged most of the time.

With confrontation comes the very real possibility of negative, even violent reactions. While open-air preaching, I’ve been assaulted many times and in many ways: hot coffee, water, water bottles, various food items, spit, rocks, and fists. I was even heckled once by two very old rabbis with a shofar.

9) How can open-air preachers best serve their local churches while at the same time, not ignoring remote areas either when opportunities that are feasible arise?

An open-air preacher’s service begins, it does not end, with the local church. Any man who is unwilling to clean the toilets in the church, any man who is unwilling to vacuum his pastor’s office, any man who is unwilling to serve in the nursery, any man who is unwilling to participate in a weekly Bible study, any man who sees service within and to his local church as beneath him is unfit to serve God as an open-air preacher.

As the sheepdog is subservient to the shepherd, the open-air preacher should see himself as subservient to the leaders of his local church. He should see himself as a servant to every member of his local assembly. He should strive to see himself as least among the brethren and to mature to the point of being willing to wash the feet of every person in his church family.

Open-air preachers don’t struggle with being too committed to and submitted to the local church. Open-air preachers struggle in the opposite way. They struggle with maintaining their commitments to the local church. If the open-air preacher is going to err, let him err on the side of serving the church. He cannot over-serve the Bride of Christ.

10) What are the some of biggest mistakes you have made in evangelism and what have you learned from them?

I would say the biggest mistake I’ve made in evangelism is not bathing my efforts in enough prayer. Whenever Ray Comfort got into the car, as we were set to head to engage in evangelism somewhere, he would always ask this question: “So, are we going to pray, or are we going to do this in the flesh?”

The open-air preacher cannot pray too much. He can only fail to pray as he should. The open-air preacher must pray before, during, and after every evangelistic endeavor. The prayer-less evangelist is an unarmed evangelist.

11) Has the law enforcement experience helped you in anyway concerning evangelism?

Yes. In many ways. As I mention in my book, Should She Preach—Biblical Evangelism for Women, one thing that law enforcement helped me to develop was command presence—the ability to act and speak with authority, and the ability to exert meekness, which is power under control.

My 20 years in law enforcement also taught me how to read people, how to assess real and present dangers, and how to talk my way out of more fights than I was actually engaged. All of these qualities necessary for survival for a street cop have benefited me greatly as a street preacher.

12) Do you believe Presuppositional Apologetics can play an important role in our evangelism?

While I have always been partial to Presuppositional Apologetics, I credit my dear friend Sye Ten Bruggencate for making the theoretical practical—for taking high-brow, academic, theological conversation and making it accessible to and useable by laypeople like me.

I believe a turning point in my evangelism in general, and my open-air preaching in particular, was when I came to the realization that any effort on my part to prove to an unbeliever that God exists was to deny the truth of Scripture and to literally blaspheme the God who wrote the Scriptures. To try to prove to someone that God exists, to literally play God’s defense attorney in the unbeliever’s courtroom is to make the unbeliever God’s judge. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that there are no atheists, agnostics, or skeptics. There are simply people who know God exists, but they suppress that truth by their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-25). They love themselves and love their sin more than they love God, so they create delusional, religious constructs like atheism and Darwinian Evolution.

So these days, when I open-air preach, and a heckler wants to argue about the existence of God, I declare to them that it is not God who is on trial. I authoritatively assert to the heckler that he is on trial. I love and fear God too much to participate in the unbeliever’s blasphemous act of putting God on trial, but submitting to their demands for evidence. Every unbeliever knows that God exists the same way I do. The issue is never one of evidence. Every human being works off the same evidence. The issue is one of worldview. The Christian lives in submission to the God of whom he has always known. Everyone else lives in rebellion to the God of whom they have always known.

13) Since you and The Domain for Truth went to The Inerrancy Summit recently, we can share many truths we heard. In terms of inerrancy’s relationship to evangelism, what would be some negative implications if one subscribes to limited inerrancy or denied biblical inerrancy?

Anyone who subscribes to limited inerrancy or who denies inerrancy outright when it comes to the Word of God should examine himself to see if he is even in the faith. I don’t see how a person can truly be born again while denying the inerrancy of God’s God-breathed Word. How can any open-air preacher open his mouth while denying the perfect reliability of his only authority—the Scriptures? When a heckler questions him about the Scriptures, how will the denier of inerrancy respond? Will he say? “Ya know, you could be right. After all, the Word of God isn’t inerrant.” Can any man standing on such a sandy foundation really be a Christian? I can’t see how.

You make a very good point.  I recommend our readers watch the video by Dr. Farnell, whereby there are some who wear the sleeve of the Christian heritage, but hold unto limited inerrancy or deny biblical inerrancy.  He exposes some very dangerous teachings going on inside our circles.  Here is the link for our audience“Responding to the New Attacks on Scripture” by Dr. David Farnell

14) I recently was reading from Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon and he laid out the qualifications for an open-air preacher from the chapter entitled, “Open Air Preaching–Remarks Thereon.” What are your thoughts on his list of qualifications?

QUALIFICATIONS FOR OPEN-AIR PREACHERS:

  • A good voice.
  • Naturalness of manner.
  • Self-possession.
  • A good knowledge of Scripture and of common things.
  • Ability to adapt himself to any congregation.
  • Good illustrative powers.
  • Zeal, prudence, and common sense.
  • A large, loving heart.
  • Sincere belief in all he says.
  • Entire dependence on the Holy Spirit for success.
  • A close walk with God by prayer.
  • A consistent walk before men by a holy life.

How can I possibly improve upon the wisdom of the Prince of Preachers, who required all of the students of his Pastor’s College to engage in open-air preaching? The only thing I would add, a qualification I’ve already mentioned, a qualification I’m sure Spurgeon assumed would be the case with every open-air preacher. The open-air preacher must have not only an internal call to preach, but also an external call from the Church to preach. And the open-air preacher must be examined by his shepherds (elders/pastors). Those who serve as his leaders in the local church must examine him to see if he has the maturity, ability, and character to serve as one of God’s heralds.

15) Anything else you want to add that were not asked in this interview?

I think I’ve said enough to get myself in trouble. Thanks for the opportunity.

Thank you, Brother Tony.  We have enjoyed our time with you in this interview.  We pray that the Lord will use this interview to help shed some light in the topic of evangelism, the role of evangelism within the doctrine of ecclesiology, and sound doctrine.  May the Lord continue to bless your ministry.

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