Monday, December 30, 2013

Sermon on Malachi 3:6-12

Here is my sermon from a couple of weeks ago.  I hope it is a blessing to you. :-D

Malachi 3:6-12
6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts
“For I the Lord do not change” is the basis of this entire passage and introduces some attributes of God.

“For I the Lord do not change”—God is a self-existent, eternal being in whom there is no shadow of change.

First, God is independent. Wayne Grudem offers a good definition.
God’s independence is defined as follows: God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy. This attribute of God is sometimes called his self-existence or his aseity (from the Latin words a se which mean “from himself “).

Lutheran theologian J.T. Mueller adds,
This means simply that God depends on no one for anything, that God is self-sufficient in His being and in His purposes. His divine aseity (aseitas), according to which God is absolutely of Himself and independent of anything outside Himself, Rom. 11: 36. ( 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.)
W.G.T Shedd points out that, “(w)hen applied to God, aseity means that he has his existence in and through himself (a se), rather than being dependent in any way on another for his existence.”

Beyond His aseity, God exists eternally. He is eternal.
Grudem again offers our definition. “God’s eternity may be defined as follows: God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time.”

In Psalm 90:2 the Psalmist tells us that, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

Edward Busch relays the teaching of Barth on this issue.
"Only God is eternal,"...The eternity of God means that he is "free to be constant," and the reason for this is that "time has no power over Him.... As the One who endures He has all power over time" (II/1 687 = 609). As the Eternal One, He "is not conditioned by time, but conditions it absolutely in His freedom" (11/1 698 = 619). He does not owe his existence to time, but all temporal being owes its existence to him.
Bruce Ware, in his great work on relaying deep theological truths to young minds, explains God’s aseity and eternity clearly.
God is eternal. This means that God’s life has no beginning, and it has no ending. Unlike everything else that has ever existed, God does not depend on anything else for his life, since he always lives and can never die. This is a very difficult idea for us to understand, since we do not know of anything like this—and that’s because there is nothing in all of creation that is like God. Your own life had a beginning, when you were first conceived, and then nine months later you were born into this world. And your mom and dad both began at some time, as has every dog, cat, lion, elephant, tree, and insect. Everything else has a beginning to its life. But this is not true of God. God has no beginning, since he always lives. And because life is part of what it means for God to be God, his life can never come to an end…When Moses speaks of God as living “from everlasting to everlasting,” he means that as far back as you can think (even before God created the universe and created time itself) to as far forward as you can think (imagine heaven that continues millions and billions of years from now), God has always lived and will always live. From the everlasting past to the everlasting future, God has always existed as God and always will. So, the true and living God has life in himself. No one has given him life, and no one can take away that life. Because God is God, he always lives.
Because God has life in himself, this also means that God has every-thing that he needs for his life in himself. After all, since God lives forever, it must be true that God has lived most of his life when there was nothing else. God lived before he created the world, and he was still fully God then. So, for God to have life in himself, it means that he also must have everything that he needs for his own life within himself. We can think of God, then, as being both self-existent (he has life in himself) and self-sufficient (he has everything he needs for his life in himself). This reminds us…that God has no need for the world, since everything God needs to be God is found in his own life. Because God is eternal, because he has life in himself, it also means that he has every good thing within his own life. Nothing can be added to the richness that God has because God has it all, without beginning and without ending.

A Systematic Theology for Evangelicals

Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic IntroductionEvangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction by Michael F. Bird
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Evangelical Theology by Michael Bird is a book that will grab readers early on and will not let them go for 800+, rich pages of theology, humor and worship.  Bird hooked me early.  From the outset, he cannot help but show his love for the church catholic and historic, freely citing authors from all walks of the Christian faith, from throughout two millennia of Christian history.  His implicit focus on the fellowship of the saints in studying theology made it feel like, and really become, a worshipful and communal event.

Hearing a bit of who Michael Bird is encouraged me even more to dive into this text.  He lays his “ecclesial and theological cards on the table” and shares a bit about himself early on.  

"On the church side of things, I did not grow up in a Christian home, but I came to Christ through a Baptist church in Sydney, Australia. I also attended a Baptist seminary (Malyon College) and have been a pastoral intern and itinerant preacher in Baptist churches. I taught for five years in an interdenominational theological college committed to the Reformed tradition in Scotland (Highland Theological College); more recently I spent three years teaching at an interdenominational college in Brisbane while being on the preaching team of a Presbyterian church (Crossway College). I am now a lecturer in theology at an Anglican College (Ridley Melbourne). Strange as it sounds, I would describe myself as an ex-Baptist postPresbyterian Anglican."

Bird considers himself a “mere evangelical” and attempts to write his systematic from that perspective.

One of the things you will note in Evangelical Theology is the tone.  Bird writes deeply and lightly, using humor freely to make points and disarm the reader.  Is his use of humor good or bad?  It is hard for me to say, but I am sure that some readers will be put off by it and some readers will benefit from it and enjoy it greatly.  His tone makes this immense volume immensely readable but may leave it with a short shelf life due to pop culture references and whatnot.  Will it stand the test of time?  Who knows.  But, it does allow a broader range of believers to access his work and be ministered to by it here and now, so for that reason I tend to view his tone and humor as a benefit of the book.

Bird starts his text off, after a proper prolegomena, with  the Trinity.  He makes some valid points as to why the Trinity should be the launching point for theological study rather than Scripture.

"Whereas the medieval theological tradition began with the Triune God as the starting point for theology, it was the Second Helvetic Confession (followed by the Irish Articles and Westminster Confession) that broke the mold by putting the doctrine of Scripture first in the order of topics covered in theology. This Protestant move is understandable, opposing as it does the medieval Roman Catholic view of authority; yet it was a misstep that ultimately led to a shift from theology beginning with God-in-himself to theology beginning with human reception/perception of revelation. It was inevitably that Protestant theology, in some quarters, would move from theology to anthropology as the measure of religious truth."

Bird rejects the Bibliolatry that many Evangelicals can, and do, slip into and labors the supremacy of the incarnation as God’s ultimate revelation.   In his section on revelation as Bird argues for the “extra extra special revelation” of the incarnation, he writes:

"I am not denying the supremacy of Scripture as our witness to Jesus. Jesus himself said that the Scriptures testify to him (e.g., John 5:36 – 39; 7:38). Nor do I want to minimize the necessity of Scripture for knowing Jesus. Yet the Bible does not have a monopoly for giving us access to knowledge about the incarnation and the salvation that it brings. You can apprehend knowledge of Jesus Christ through the proclamation of the gospel, by the experience of him in baptism and Eucharist, and through catechisms and creeds that summarize the teaching of Scripture."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Updated Thoughts on Antinomianism

Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest?
I was uncomfortable with my thoughts on this book and noted so in the beginning of my review.  After receiving some negative, but not necessarily helpful, feedback on this review I contacted the author to get his thoughts on my thoughts.  He made some points that confirmed my reservations about my review.  I am still unsure about the points he presents, but felt I had done a disservice to him, the publisher, and anyone who read the review by posting it and commenting out of ignorance and emotion.  I took it down and apologize to Mark Jones and all for my poor review.  I plan on reading this book again and will share my thoughts after much more careful study.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Incarnation by Beeke and Jones

The work of Christ manifests the wisdom of God as both just and the justifier of the ungodly; but the person of Christ also reveals the preeminent wisdom of God, for in the incarnation the finite is united with the infinite, immortality is united to mortality, and a nature who made the law is united to a nature under the law, all in one person.  This union “transcends all the unions visible among creatures” and for that reason is incomprehensible.  And while the finite can never comprehend the infinite, not even in the union of the two natures, nevertheless the divine nature is united to every part of Christ’s human nature. Because of the incarnation the Son of God is able to mediate between God and sinful humanity. Charnock expresses this well in the following words:

He is a true Mediator between mortal sinners and the immortal righteous One. He was near to us by the infirmities of our nature, and near to God by the perfections of the Divine; as near to God in his nature, as to us in ours; as near to us in our nature as he is to God in the Divine. Nothing that belongs to the Deity, but he possesses; nothing that belongs to the human nature, but he is clothed with. He had both the nature which had offended, and the nature which was offended: a nature to please God, and a nature to pleasure us: a nature, whereby he experimentally knew the excellency of God, which was injured, and understood the glory due to him, and consequently the greatness of the offence, which was to be measured by the dignity of his person: and a nature whereby he might be sensible of the miseries contracted by, and endure the calamities due to the offender, that he might both have compassion on him, and make due satisfaction for him.

In short, the incarnation reveals the wisdom of God in appointing the Son as Mediator. Only the God-man could effect reconciliation between God and man, and communion with God is only possible for us because God became man. Indeed, the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity gave Him an experimental compassion that the divine nature was not capable of, and so the efficacy of Christ’s priestly office, in all of its aspects, depends upon the union of the two natures in one person. The incarnation, then, is one of the many ways God has revealed His wisdom to men. God’s wisdom, which brings together both mercy and justice, among other things, would not, however, be effectual if God were not powerful.

Beeke, J., Jones, M. Doctrine for Life: A Puritan Theology.

The Woman, the Dragon, and the Baby Born King--James Hamilton

Can you imagine anything more vulnerable than a woman laboring to give birth? Women in labor are completely occupied with giving birth. They are not thinking about defending themselves. They cannot strategize about how to escape from danger. They are focused on one thing: giving birth. The process of giving birth is a colossal struggle for life. The whole of a woman’s mental energy, emotional strength, and bodily power are focused on what seems impossible and is nothing short of miraculous. A human being is about to come into the world out of her body, and the baby seems bigger than the birth canal. It looks impossible. It is a miracle of frantic human determination and astonishing divine design.
Can you imagine anything more frightening or threatening than a huge dragon? Let me suggest a way to make a dragon even more dreadful: give it seven heads. Put a horn on each head, and on three of the heads have two horns, so there are seven heads and ten horns.
Put the two images together and you have a drama. A pregnant woman in the process of giving birth, and she is threatened by a massive dragon who wants to eat her baby the moment he is born. She cannot run. She cannot hide. What hope does she have?
Do you want to heighten the desperation and urgency of the situation? The child about to be born, sure to be eaten by the dragon, is the world’s last hope. This is an epic pageant of intense, unprotected goodness confronted with a shocking evil that looks powerful, inevitable, devastating.
John writes in Revelation 12:1–2, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.” The first thing we should note is that this woman is a “sign.” She is a portent of symbolic significance. So the symbol is a pregnant woman about to give birth, and she is clothed with the sun.
Imagine a woman wearing the sun as a garment. She has the moon under her feet, and she has a crown on her head. The crown is of twelve stars. These heavenly bodies are reminiscent of Joseph’s second dream in Genesis 37:9, where Joseph says, “Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Joseph’s father Jacob, a.k.a. Israel, interprets the dream in 37:10 saying, “Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” So in Joseph’s dream, Jacob/Israel is the sun, Joseph’s mother Rachel is the moon, and Joseph’s eleven brothers are the eleven stars, with Joseph evidently the twelfth.
When God created the heavens and the earth he made the two great lights on the fourth day, the greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night with the stars (Gen 1:16), and they were “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (1:14). Portraying the family of Israel as these “ruling signs” seems to communicate that Israel will rule the world, and the patriarchal luminaries of Israel bow to Joseph. Revelation 12:1 seems to evoke Genesis 37:9–10 to portray Jesus as a new and greater Joseph.
As for the woman being pregnant, Micah 4:10 presents the “daughter of Zion” being in labor and it seems that Israel will remain in exile until the child is born in Bethlehem (5:2). Micah 5:3–4 says, “Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who was in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 72:8 and Zechariah 9:10 also speak of the Messiah reigning “to the ends of the earth.” So this woman seems to symbolize the nation of Israel in general and in particular Mary, the maiden of Israel, daughter of Zion, who gave birth to Jesus. The birth of Jesus is interpreted here as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that point to the birth of the child bringing redemption for God’s people and ruling over all the nations of the earth. This child is the hope of the world.

Click for full article.

Incarnation as the model of servant ministry.

The incarnation provides the model of servant ministry. The sending of the Son in his act of voluntary self-humiliation in his passion and crucifixion is a model for believers to follow (Mark 10:41–45; John 13:1–17; Phil 2:5–11). However, humility and service are not limited to the Son, but characterize the entire Godhead because “God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit in a community of greater humility, servanthood and mutual submission.”74 The Holy Spirit does not glorify himself but the Son (John 16:14), just as Jesus glorifies the Father (John 13:31–32; 17:1) and the Father also glorifies the Son (Mark 9:2–9; Matt 3:17; John 8:54; 12:28; Phil 2:5–11). So too must Christians seek the glory of God (Ps 57:5, 11; 1 Cor 10:31) and the honor of fellow Christians (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:3).

Bird, M. Evangelical Theology.  Purchase here at a great price!

The Incarnation by Odd Thomas

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Gospel Gold From John Calvin"

Calvin wrote:
Without the gospel
everything is useless and vain;
without the gospel
we are not Christians;
without the gospel
all riches is poverty,
all wisdom folly before God;
strength is weakness,
and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.
But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made
children of God,
brothers of Jesus Christ,
fellow townsmen with the saints,
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom
the poor are made rich,
the weak strong,
the fools wise,
the sinner justified,
the desolate comforted,
the doubting sure,
and slaves free.
It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.
It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone.
For, he was

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

By Faith Not By Sight

By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of SalvationBy Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation by Richard B. Gaffin Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have wanted to read something by Richard Gaffin for a while.  I had become familiar with N.T. Wright through critical works of his and basic bogeyman fear mongering.  I could not figure out why I didn’t like Tom Wright…I just knew I was supposed to.  Then I was turned on to some writers that encouraged me to look into Wright and I found him and his writing very approachable.  Around this time I found a video of a conversation with N.T. Wright and Richard Gaffin and was blown away by the approach Gaffin took, the respect Gaffin showed, and the critique of Wright’s position/positive argument for the traditional Protestant position on justification that he provided.

I talked myself into overpaying for Wright’s new book, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, and realized that my reading By Faith Not By Sight, where Gaffin deals with Paul’s ordo salutis and historia salutis, the Protestant view of justification and salvation in general, was preparing me to read Wright’s work with Reformational lenses. By Faith Not By Sight is a great primer on Pauline soteriology especially if you plan on diving into the coral reef (beautiful, entangling, and possibly dangerous) of Wright’s New Perspective on Paul.

Gaffin has a rhythm to his writing that you have to, and I mean have to, get into.  If you don’t you will have a very hard time reading his work.  By Faith Not By Sight is only about 120 pages of reading, if that, but it is rich.  The constant depth of writing reminds me of reading some of the Puritan authors who immediately took you to the depths and held you down there until the position was exhausted.  Stylistically I do not know if the comparison fits, but as far as my own reading experience, this work reminded me of my reading of Owen.  As with Owen, By Faith Not By Sight was hard for me to get started in and I could not give it any less than all of my attention.  But, also like Owen, when I did give this book its due focus and effort, it repaid me more than I could have expected.

Gaffin made many points that were novel to me and, I have to admit, I am not at level of study to pass judgment on the veracity of much that he wrote.  Three points he made, however, were extremely convincing and quite thrilling to read.

First off, maybe terms like “ordo salutis” and “historia salutis” are somewhat new to you.  Gaffin distinguishes between the two for the reader as “salvation applied” and “salvation accomplished”, respectively and spends a good part of the book looking at both aspects in the total soteriology of Paul.
(T)he distinction between the application and the accomplishment of salvation may be expressed by distinguishing generically between ordo salutis(the order of salvation){“salvation applied} and historia salutis(the history of salvation){“salvation accomplished”}… as we raise the question of the ordo salutisin Paul, we need to keep in mind that his controlling focus is the historia salutis, not the ordo salutis.

Gaffin argues that Paul’s theology is centered on the whole work of Christ saying, “at the center of Paul’s theology are Christ’s death and resurrection, or, expressed more broadly, his messianic suffering and glory, his humiliation and exaltation.”

The aspect of the book that resounded most with me, and the part that will be subject of much further study, is the eschatological aspect of Paul’s soteriology.  That is the “now and not yet” or, to use Gaffin’s language, the “By faith, not(yet) by sight” of Paul’s teaching on salvation.
Part of the recent consensus in Pauline scholarship that emerged over the course of the twentieth century, just noted, is that Paul’s eschatology has a dual or elliptical focus. For him, the concept of eschatology is to be defined not only in terms of Christ’s second coming, by what is still future at his return, but also by his first coming and what has already taken place in Christ, especially his death and resurrection. Paul teaches an eschatology that is, in part, already realized.

In my view, looking over the history of the interpretation of Paul as a whole, the relatively recent pervasive recognition of his realized eschatology represents the truly “new perspective” on Paul, one that is far more important, with wider-ranging implications, than the developments of the past several decades that have been given that designation. My perception is that a commensurate impact of this rediscovery is still to be had in the doctrine and life of the church, in its preaching and teaching.

Along with that, Gaffin highlights the critical role of union with Christ in the theology of Paul, something that itself is in a “now and not yet” state.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What is Evangelism?

What Is Evangelism?What Is Evangelism? by George W Robertson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What is evangelism?  That is an important, and debated, topic.  What is Evangelism? is a booklet in the Basics of the Faith series from P&R Publishing that seeks to answer this question.  This is the first of the series that I have had the chance to read, but there are quite a few titles available that look very intriguing.

George Robertson starts off by giving the 3 P’s of evangelism, proclaim, persuade and pray.  I would have been quite comfortable with him maintaining this alliteration as an outline and looking at the “practical” aspects to follow all under the persuasion heading.  Looking at the practical as a subset of the whole leads to some confusing points and applications.

When Robertson began to look at the practical,  I began to read this book with much skepticism, due in large part to the fact that it was not initially made clear that these practical aspects (testimony, being invitational, intentional, compassionate and intellectual), listed in the remainder,  was part of, to large degree,  the persuasion aspect of evangelism, not part of the proclaiming.  Even with that bit of clarity from the conclusion, I still have some substantial reservations.  Here is what I mean.

Robertson argues that testimony is one of the primary means of Evangelism and clears it up slightly at the end by putting it in the category of persuasion but it is still a bit off.    The author seems to argue in a way that would imply you can win converts simply with your testimony and that you can be basically ignorant of Scripture but “everyone can have a testimony.”  But that is the problem, everyone can have a testimony.  Stories of changed lives are fruit of any worldview.  What makes the Gospel so profound is the objective nature of its truth.  Christ is risen regardless of whether your life is changed or not.  He is Lord whether you suppress or or rejoice in that truth.

Our testimony is not primarily our changed lives, it is the Gospel.  Robertson uses the story of the blind man healed by Jesus as evidence of the effectiveness of personal testimony.  The only problem with that was that it was not his personal testimony that warranted the scorn of the religious leaders.  His “I was blind now I see” is not what got him kicked out of the temple; it was his attributing it to a “sinner” like Jesus and asking the leaders if they wanted to be His disciples as well.  It was the truth about Christ, not his changed life that got him excommunicated by the leaders.  If personal testimony is simply used in a manner of persuasion, rather than proclamation, I have no problem with it.  Often, too often, it is not simply a support proof of the proclamation, it is the entirety.

The second practical part of evangelism was that it needed to be invitational, like those being invited to the wedding feast in Christ’s parable, but the author presents this as inviting to church rather than inviting someone to repent of their sins and enter into the family of God, the Kingdom of God.  I agree that evangelism must be invitational, I just do not think that “You wanna come to church with me?” is sufficient.  This may be embryonic in the development of invitational evangelism, but it is far from fully developed.

The other three practical aspects, I thought, were excellent.  Evangelism must be intentional.  ”One must be willing to place limits on his or her rights to win some for Christ” becoming “slaves to all” so that some might be won.  Robertson encourages the reader, to quote Andy Mineo, to “go where the wild things are.”  He argues that,
Most contemporary Christians are surrounded by those who have few conscientious scruples and little religious training. What will becoming a servant to them for the gospel’s sake look like? It may mean sitting in the break room with people who tell off-color jokes and use the Lord’s name in vain. It may mean going to a concert of an artist you do not appreciate, because an unbeliever has invited you. It may mean attending a party where no one shares the same values as you and the talk is all of getting ahead. It may mean listening to someone’s syncretistic spiritual ideas. The Christ-like evangelist must go where unbelievers are and expect to come out smelling like the sewer that engulfs them. He or she must not insist on conversing only after the unbeliever cleans up his mouth or changes her ways or comes to church or sits well behaved in the living room.

I could not agree with him more.  His point that the evangelist must be compassionate is also spot-on.  “Compassionate and practical acts of service open doors for the gospel.”  Beyond being compassionate and intentional, evangelism is intellectual.

“The Christian faith can withstand whatever question or attack is brought against it because the truth of the gospel empowered by the Spirit is able to penetrate, convert, and renew the will of any unbeliever. Out of love, the evangelist must not back down from any challenge. Listen carefully and lovingly to questions. Pray for insight into what is provoking the questions. Gently probe to find the points of suppression and expose the inconsistencies. And then compassionately but firmly surround the friend with the evidence of the resurrection and call him or her to repentance that leads to life.”

This booklet has much in the positive column and some significant negative marks as well.  I wish Robertson had been clearer on the testimony and invitation aspects of evangelism.  Those shortcomings aside and especially when viewing the rest of the book through the clarity offered in the conclusion, I feel this is a pretty decent little book.

I received a review copy of this book.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors

Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors: Reading an Old Story in a New WayJoseph and the Gospel of Many Colors: Reading an Old Story in a New Way by Voddie Baucham  Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly, what took me so long?!?  I was so excited when I got the new book, Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors, by Voddie Baucham in October.  I love Baucham as a speaker and a writer and the topic of reading the Old Testament from a distinctly Christian perspective has been persistently exciting and intriguing to me, but I still somehow allowed myself to let this work drift to the back of my mind and then almost slip into the dreaded abyss of my To-Be-Read list, a virtual Bermuda Triangle of good books and good intentions.  Thank God that it did not.

Literally, “Thank God” that it did not!  This book deserves a wide audience and I enjoyed it immensely.

First, Baucham is a brilliant writer.  He is humorous and bright, and the manner in which he lays out information--organized, clearly presented, points building upon previous points—really speaks to me.  This is not a long book at all and, especially in the hands of Baucham, 170 pages fly by.

But, more importantly for me, this is a subject worth investigating.  If there is a character or story in the Old Testament that gets more of an Aesop’s Fables/Veggietales treatment from the pulpit and Sunday School lectern than Joseph and his technicolored bed-jacket I would be surprised.  When we really begin to trust the words of Christ, that Moses wrote about Him(John 5:46 ) and all of the Old Testament is about Him(Luke 24 ) we begin to look at the Old Testament in quite a different manner.  We guard against preaching a sermon or sharing a devotion or leading a small group where an unconverted Jew could praise and enjoy how we handled the Old Testament text, like the situation Voddie experienced.  We are wary of reading these narratives through the lenses of “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” and instead seek to read them as pointing to the person and work of Jesus Christ, the full revelation of God.

We look at the world through a lens that is calibrated for legalism.  We see something sinful or unjust, and we know immediately that (1) that is wrong, and (2) what ought to be done instead.  This is not wrong, per se; it’s just not enough.  Sure, Joseph’s brothers were wrong to be filled with such hatred toward him.  That’s a no-brainer.  However, did we need the story of Joseph to show us that?  Certainly there’s another point to be made.

But maybe you’re like me.  Maybe this process and this perspective is relatively foreign to you and the idea of seeing Christ in the Old Testament, apart from prophecies, types and Christophanies, is a bit complex, confusing, and some other “C”-word that says basically the same thing and completes my tri-alliteration.  Maybe you just have a hard time reading the text and not just grabbing the “low-hanging fruit” of Aesop-like morals that are right before your face.  If any of that resonates at all with you, then this book will be a great blessing.

Baucham, beyond just explaining the need for a Christ-centered hermeneutic to read the Old Testament, actually demonstrates it with the brilliant story of Joseph.  He takes the reader through the entire narrative, showing just how the story, the characters, the setting, everything points to Christ.  He uses the New Testament references to the Joseph narratives and the fact that Christ said that the Old Testament was about Him, to tell this old, old story in a way that is, sadly, quite new for most of us.  Baucham leads the reader to see the story about Joseph in the Genesis framework of “land, seed, covenant” and as a continuation of the story of Jacob that culminates in, not the restoration of Joseph but, the emergence of Judah, with an eye always looking for the Christ makes this a story worth retelling again and again.

I have always enjoyed the story of Joseph.  I enjoy it even more now that I can see clearly that it is, and how it is, about Christ.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher to review.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

From Heaven He Came and Sought Her

From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral PerspectiveFrom Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective by David Gibson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Read the first chapter online here.

Definite atonement is one of the hardest doctrines for people to accept, Christian or non, Reformed/”Calvinistic” or not.  There is something about this doctrine that offends many who reject it and embarrasses many who hold to it.  Others would argue that the doctrine of definite atonement is not a central doctrine and it cannot be proven from Scripture so we shouldn’t even fool with it.  People from all walks of theological life have been trying to prune the L out of the Reformed TULIP bed for centuries, claiming that it is a doctrine that assaults the very character of God by limiting His love.  So, a fair question to ask might be, “Why even hold to a doctrine that is, apparently, so awful and not even that important to begin with.”

From Heaven He Came and Sought Her not only sets out to show that this doctrine is not “awful” or peripheral, but that it is actually beautiful and central, one that is “at the heart of the meaning of the cross”.

For this reason, along with the list of notable scholars quite apt to explain and defend thoroughly this position, this is a book that I, and many, have looked forward to with great anticipation.  There is much to be praised about this massive volume and relatively little that would leave the reader frustrated or shorted in any way.

This text is thorough…thorough!  Regardless of whether you think the conclusions drawn are sound or every aspect of thought is covered fairly, you have to acknowledge that just about everything you could want covered is covered.  The major players and major events get many pages and all of the Scriptures you would want to see addressed seem to be.  This is a 700 page beast of a book and it will take some time to get through, but due to the quality of scholarship and writing, it will be time well invested and an enjoyable experience to boot.

It is important to remember that this is a collection of essays.  While the essays build on each other in parts, they can be read individually.  This leads to a bit of overlap and some repetitiveness at times.  For example, many of the authors, for good reason, were determined to point out what a poor label “limited atonement” is…and I agree.  But it got to a point where I was a bit battle-worn at how many shots needed to be fired at this acronymical enemy.  Add to that the fact that no one addressed how silly TUDIP would sound and I felt time would have been better spent not kicking this dead flower.  However, and this is key, I am convinced that some of this weariness is in large part due to my reading strategy.  I really wanted to finish the book and I read, for the most part, in order and one immediately after another.  I think it would be wiser, for numerous reasons, to spread out the reading of these essays and spend more time on each individual one.  That would have made the repetition not a negative at all, but quite beneficial.

That also would make it much easier to digest the contents of this behemoth.  Don’t get me wrong, this book is quite readable.  The authors are quite capable writers and the text is very readable, but it is VERY meaty.  There is not much soup and salad on this buffet, it is pretty much steak from beginning to end.  For me, the historical essays were especially readable and the OT theology essays, especially over Isaiah, were especially tough, along with the whole of section IV.  I have a feeling that this has to do with my interests and what I am familiar with.

Certain things stood out to me as I was reading:
The introductory essay by Gibson and Gibson was quite good and set a high standard for the remainder of the book.  Thankfully, the essays that followed consistently lived up to this standard.

There was a good historical essay on the age-old(see “tired”) argument of “Calvin wasn’t even a Calvinist…thus you cannot have an L in your TULIP!”  Paul Helm gives a good defense of why his theology and Calvin himself would probably hold to definite atonement.  It is definitely more thorough and probably quite a bit more convincing reply to this argument that my standard response of “So?!?”

The essay on Moyse Amraut is excellent.  Simply superb.  Djaballah gives a good, interesting biography of the man and then provides the reader with comprehensive coverage of his “Brief Traite”, a chapter by chapter summary and exposition of this influential work.

Carl Trueman commenting on Baxter vs Owen was quite interesting and going in, due to the author and the subject, I figured this would steal the show for me.  Trueman the historian is not quite as sarcastic and cutting as Trueman the blogger or current events/political thoughts author.  While it is probably more appropriate how he engaged the subject here, I certainly missed some of his biting British humor.  That being said, Trueman’s essay was excellent.

Moyter’s essay on Isaiah left me in the dust.  It looked really good and I tried my best to work through it, but I think I will have to return to it after a bit of study.  This should be more of a critique of my OT prophetic writings knowledge than a testimony of any deficiency in the essay.  I have a feeling, though, that many readers will be in the deep end of the pool with this one.

Both of Gibson’s essays on the Pauline literature were great.  I enjoyed his discussion of Col 1:20 and the parallel reading of 1Tim 2:4/4:10 and especially enjoyed his essay on Definite Atonement in Paul’s soteriological paradigm, about how Definite Atonement is a “biblico-systematic doctrine.”

I was less than impressed with much of Schreiner’s arguments in the chapter on “problem texts”.  I agreed with his conclusions, but did not think he gave a good account of how arrived at his destination.  Too often he simply contradicted the opposing view he had just presented without much explanation of how he reach his position.  He even brings up one opposing view, says it would take too long to explain but “suffice it to say” the opposing position “is unpersuasive and lacks exegetical and theological support from the remainder of the NT.”  I disagree that this, in any way, “suffices”.  In a book of 700 pages, it would have been ok to devote a couple more to fleshing this out a bit more, or not bringing it up at all.  (At the very least maybe this could have been relegated exclusively to a footnote and an encouragement for any who were willing to chase down this rabbit, but to include it in the body of the text in this manner just did not sit right with me.)

Section 3, Definite Atonement in Theological Perspective, was a tough section for me to read.  The content was deep and rich, but at times hard to get through.  This is, for the most part, an academic-level book so it is not a bad thing at all to find parts that the reader will need to spend time with and work through.  Wellum’s essay was particluarly enjoyable for me, partly due to content, the necessity of definite atonement in regards to the priestly office of Christ and His intercession for believers, and partly due to the format, a series of very clearly outlined lists in response to lists in response to lists…it was incredibly comforting for a person who processes things the way I do to have such deep and complex thoughts presented in such an organized and simple way.

The book ends on an upswing with Sinclair Ferguson and John Piper presenting passionate and pastoral essays on McLeod Campbell’s assault on penal substitutionary/definite atonement and how the doctrine of definite atonement particularly glorifies God.

From Heaven He Came and Sought Her is a hard read and deserves to be soaked in and enjoyed, not rushed through.  This will be the definitive text on definitive atonement, at least at a popular-to-academic level, for some time to come.  It warrants a spot on every pastor and thinking Christian’s shelf, regardless of one’s position, in order to better understand and articulate this important doctrine.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher to read and review.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 2, 2013

Romans 8:1---A Study on Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”   There is no better news that I could give to you right now.  For you, personally, to know that for those who are in Christ Jesus, for those who know Him as their risen Lord and Savior, there is no condemnation!  When I first typed the verse reference it said “Romans 8:!”...and I think that might be just as accurate.  Typing on a keyboard I cannot think of anything more appropriate than a “!” to express this verse.  It is “!”, undoubtedly. The fact that the God of the universe has made it where sinful rebels can come into fellowship with Him, enjoying the knowledge that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!  That definitely warrants a “!”, if not two or ten.  You must, as a believer, know and remember this wonderful truth.

We must also know and remember that there may not be a truth that Satan will attack more in the mind of a believer than this glorious fact.  He will do anything he can to get you to doubt, ignore, or abandon this truth.  Because if he can get you to feel condemned, he renders your faith virtually powerless and your fellowship with the Father hindered and weak.  You will find yourself not living joyfully in the peace that surpasses all understanding but rather you will find yourself conceding the victory that Christ has already won and returning to the burdensome yoke of trying to earn God's approval by being “good enough”.  Any ground that Satan gains in the life of as believer is ground that the believer gives to him.  And this may be Satan's most desired lot of property, the believer's confidence that because of Christ he is eternally right with God.

So how does Satan attack this truth in the thoughts of a believer?  How does he attack the believer's peace, the believer's assurance of God's forgiveness and fellowship?  He does so in many, many ways but there are four that I have found especially prevalent, with remedies for these devices found in Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome.

Device 1
First, a device Satan loves to use to get a believer to abandon this beautiful truth is to entice the believer to focus more on his sin that he does on his Savior.  He works to ensure that the believer will look at and focus on his sin much and focus on his Savior little, if at all. 

Now, to be clear, it is imperative that the believer spend time looking at and examining his life and his heart, his affections and his actions.  The believer must seek out unconfessed sins and enjoy the repentance that God will grant, forsaking these sins actively and violently.  But this staring into the depths of our sin is only appropriate as a means unto worship and affection and reverent awe of our great Lord and Savior.  Anything that we fixate our time, attention, efforts, and emotions on more than our Lord is an idol and I cannot think of a more inappropriate idol than our own sinfulness.  

Romans 6 provides a beautiful remedy for this device of our enemy.  Verses 6-14 remind us that while the presence of sin in the life of a believer is real, the power of sin has been stripped away by the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:6–14
6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
 Because of what Jesus Christ did, the Christian is no longer “enslaved to sin”.  The believer has been set free from sin because of her being “in Christ”.  Note the passive voice of verse 12.  “Let not sin reign”.  Sin has no reign in the life of a believer and the only authority it has is authority the believer hands over.  So, knowing therefore that sin has no authority, it is crucial that the believer does not let it have some sort of illegitimate authority in her life by fixating all her time and attention and focus and effort on her sin when her Savior deserves all that and more.
Romans 3 offers another remedy to this device of the enemy.  Verses 23-26 remind believers that not only has a payment been made for the penalty of sin, it has been made in full! 

Romans 3:23–26 
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
There is a gold mine of great Biblical truth in this passage that the believer could spend the rest of his or her life unearthing!  But what is specifically shown, in relation to the device of the enemy to tempt believers into focusing on their sin rather than their Savior and thus disbelieving the great truth of Romans 8:1 is this, God put forward Christ as a “propitiation by His blood”.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Embrace Brasil Sponsorship Program

Review teens listed to begin your Deliverance journey

Be a part of Deliverance and share the love, grace, and hope Jesus offers by committing to pray daily for your child or teenager. You will commit to communicating by email at least twice a month with your chosen Deliverance child/teen. All emails will be filtered and translated by Embrace Brasil before sharing with recipients. Join and be blessed as you pour your heart into the life of one in need.

Choosing Your Sponsored Child/Teen

Review the participating students. Pray about which child/teen God wants you to sponsor. Complete the form. DELIVERANCE
Wait to receive your email and begin blessing the life of your chosen participant!

GROUP 1 (Age 6-10)

Wendeo da Silva


  8 years old


10 years old

Italo da Silva


14 years old

Wesley Luis


9 years old

Group 2
(Age 11-15)


Crislane Evilen


12 years old

Mateus Dantas


 1o years old

Reinan dos Santos

15 years old

Caio Vitor de Souza 


11 years old

Venicius de Jesus


10 years old

Rodrigo dos Santos

12 years old

Erica dos Santos Bispo

13 years old

Caio Vitor da Silva


15 years old

João Vitor


14 years old

Rafael Ramos


12 years old

Felipe Dantas


12 years old

Eduardo Francisco


13 years old

Thalia Batista

13 years old

Erica Lima

13 years old

Camila dos Santos

15 years old

Camila Batista

11 years old

Lucas da Conceição


13 Years old

Gleidson Cruz


15 years old

Leandro da Silva


14 years old



12 years old


Group 3 (Age 16+)

João Paulo


20 years old


Project Leader


Project Daycare Worker

Join us as we Embrace Brasil!