Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dispatches from the Front--Book Review

There is much going on all around the world.  God has been actively spreading his Gospel to the ends of the earth for millennia and will continue to do so until our Lord returns to consummate his eternal reign.  One of the greatest benefits of living in the age in which we do is the access to global news.  Before, a believing pastor would be jailed in a hostile nation and we would not even know about it.  Today, we know Saeed Abedini.  We know his wife and his children.  We see his face.  Before, a sister in Christ would be tortured and sentenced to death for not embracing Islam and we would know nothing. Today, we know and pray for sister Meriam Ibrahim.  But even with 24-hour news cycles we still do not know even a portion of what is going on around the world, especially in the world of global evangelism and Gospel missions. 

Dispatches from the Front gives us a glimpse of what God is doing and introduces us to the people through whom he is working.  We get to meet brothers and sisters who are suffering, persevering, rejoicing, and winning lost sheep to the fold of our great Shepherd.  This book, along withthe video series, does a truly wonderful job introducing us to our brothers and sisters all over the world. 

Tim Keesee takes the reader all around the globe.  To Azerbajian and Uzbekistan to meet Galina Vilchinskaya.  When Galina was a twenty-three-year-old Sunday school teacher she

spent five years in prison for her gospel work; but prison, hunger, and beatings could not silence her. She led many in her prison to the Lord, so she was transferred to another prison—and after that, yet another. For her, these transfers were just new gospel opportunities. Finally, Galina was transported by prison train to the utter east of Siberia, along with scores of other prisoners—the worst of the worst. As the condemned in their cages rumbled on through the Siberian vastness, the din of cursing and fighting was broken by a clear, sweet voice of singing. It was Galina singing of her Savior. A hush fell over the train car. Even the most hardened criminals turned their faces away to hide their tears—and mile after mile, hymn after hymn, Galina sang the gospel.

Tim takes us to Hatay to meet

an old woman named Arro-kulano, who had for years been a sorceress until she heard the gospel and abandoned the service of demons. In anger over her faith, her Muslim son burned her house down! But the change in his mother’s life and the way the Christians loved her and rebuilt her house softened his heart—and the power of the cross did the rest.  He gathered with us to praise the Lord Jesus as we sat beneath trees thick with the nests of weaver birds. The songbirds seemed to join in as we lifted our voices and hands in praise.

In Ethiopia Tim introduces us to our brother Michael who works with AIDS orphans, being the hands and feet of our great God.  That is where we meet Yerus and her friend Lamrot. 

Yerus, which is short for “Jerusalem,” came here when she was four. Michael found her at the hospital—an orphan with full-blown AIDS, waiting to die. She had lost her hair, and her head was covered with sores instead. Michael made a little shashfor her and took her out shopping for clothes. Afterward he determined he had to help her. Because she was the first child with AIDS that he had ever taken into the orphanage, his heart was filled with fear and uncertainty. Still though, two things were certain: left alone, Yerus would soon die; and Michael had to do something.  So Jerusalem would be the beginning of taking care of AIDS orphans. Four years later, she has beautiful hair, which she had pulled back in a ponytail, and she has a strong faith and love for Jesus. There were seven other AIDS orphans at the orphanage when I visited. Michael said the children are the best therapy for each other—they take care of each other.

Tim goes and sees firsthand the persecution many of our brothers and sisters are facing.  In Pakistan he goes with some Human Rights attorneys to visit Pastor Indriaz in the hospital.  Indriaz was beaten by a group of Muslim men for his faith and his witness.  The beating had left him next to dead and his young wife and child facing the real possibility of life without him.

The left side of the young pastor’s head was smashed in. The beating severed his ear and left him blind in one eye. Because of convulsions, his wrists were awkwardly tied with cords, leaving him in a position of twisted agony. His wife, Shinaz, sat next to him, holding their three-month-old boy, Saman. She stared blankly at her husband with indescribable sadness in her eyes, as the baby nuzzled her and cried softly. 

In Cambodia we meet Lawn,

the Fanny Crosby of the Tampuans. Through her blindness, she sees the Savior, and the joy of that brightens her face. Lawm has already composed ten hymns, and now that J. D. has reduced Tampuan into written form, Lawm’s songs form the basis for the first Tampuan book—a hymnal. She invited us to sit on a reed mat with her. I asked her to sing one of her hymns, and after some coaxing, Lawm consented. She sang of light scattering darkness, of freedom in Christ, of him who has untied us from our sin. As she sang, tears trickled from her sightless eyes—and from my eyes, too.

In the midst of the suffering and hardship the Gospel is going forth.  Our great God is gathering his people to himself.  He is raising the dead to life and giving eyes to see.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the nation of China where China is

rushing the future—its rise rapid and impressive. Yet there is another power rising that is more impressive still—Christ’s kingdom. It is estimated that there are nearly one hundred million Christians in China. Here among our brothers and sisters, their vision is rising to the occasion. Jus a few years ago, the local house church here was reaching two campuses—now it is reaching twenty-two! And these house churches have increased ten-fold as well. The men who shepherd them seem tireless—operating “beneath the radar,” they are given to evangelism, discipleship, and now missions beyond their city. Their kingdom-dreams are as big as China!

Dispatches from the Front is one of the greatest Christian resources I have ever enjoyed.  This book complements the video series perfectly and is a must for anyone desiring to be encouraged and challenged by what is going on around the world. It is easy to become entrenched in the hum-drum of American life, not understanding what is going on around the world.  Christians are not at all exempt from this struggle.  So it is a blessing to take a trip with Tim and meet so many who are going through so much and being used so mightily to impact the world for the glory of God.   So come with Tim and meet Li Yun, Pastor Gennady, Misko, Chun-Yan, Roland, Baba George, and so many others who will be our co-heirs and eternal worship partners because of the mighty work of Christ and how it has and is impacting their lives and the lives of those around them.  Be challenged.  Be stirred.  Be convicted.  Be encouraged.  This is a work that God will use mightily.  Get a copy of this book and the videos and be blessed.

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

Tim Keesee talking about Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front: I Once Was Blind

Dispatches from the Front:The Power of His Rising

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”--Luke 6:5

We see two things clearly and beautifully in this passage:  Jesus is Lord of all and he cares greatly for you.  Reading this verse in context we can see the accusation brought by those opposed to the ministry of Jesus and his response.

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6:1-5)

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day.  They were self-appointed “fruit inspectors”.  They felt it was their duty to maintain the purity of Judaism, to let everyone know who the “real” Jews were.  (By the way, the “real” Jews were the ones who agreed with them and followed all of their man-made customs and traditions, along with agreeing completely with all of their interpretations of Scripture.)  They had a “passion for God’s Law” and a “love for their neighbor” that was so great that they saw need to add to God’s law in many, many ways in order to “protect” the neighbor they loved so and to ensure the “purity” of the assembly. (If your own tendencies to Pharisaical thinking are not leaping to the forefront of your mind at this moment, then hang out for a second and let the Lord of the Sabbath bring knowledge and repentance to your heart…this is a human temptation dating back to the garden and a temptation that only seems to intensify with your love of the Lord).

Jesus, however, when confronted with the pharisaical additions to the legitimately binding Mosaic Law, did not respond that the additions were illegitimate or not actually binding (although he could have).  Instead, he responds in a manner that cuts straight to the heart of any situation.  Rather than seek a loophole or a technicality to explain why he, and his followers, were not observing Pharisaic interpretation of the Mosaic Law, Jesus simply said he was above it.  He said, in essence, “It is my Sabbath.  It belongs to me to do with as I wish.”  How’s that for playing to an audience?  Either Jesus was not as concerned about being popular and well-received as we often are, or he was in a desperate need for a PR director on this and many other occasions.  I’ll let the discerning reader determine which way I lean on this subject. 
But Jesus seemed unconcerned with the Pharisees immanent rejection of his claim.  He could boldly say that he is Lord of the Sabbath because he is the Son of Man.  He is eternal.  He is divine.  He is Messiah, Christ, Savior.  He is Emmanuel, “God with us”.  And, all this considered, he is most definitely the Lord of the Sabbath.

When accused by the Pharisees of breaking the Sabbath law, Jesus did not point out that he was only breaking the oral tradition. Instead, he made the astounding claim that, just as King David and the priests were ‘above the law’ in certain respects, so he was not subject to the Sabbath law, but Lord over it (Luke 6:1–11; cf. Mark 2:23–28). Not only does this imply that Jesus has an authority at least as great as that of the Mosaic law, it suggests that Jesus is the one who will finally bring the blessings of the Sabbath to Israel.[1]
But, he is not simply Lord of the Sabbath.  It is interesting to take this position to its proper conclusion.  The Sabbath was an ordinance dating back to creation.  Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, in his claim of sovereign rule over the Sabbath, is making clear his claim to sovereign rule over all of creation.

Christ is described in language reserved for deity alone. It is interesting to compare the graphic description of Daniel’s Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9–10) with John’s description of the Son of Man in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:12–16; 5:11–12).The Son of Man is a figure of splendor and power. He is deity, as is seen in the Old Testament portrait and in Jesus’ self-understanding. Jesus links the Son of Man with creation by saying that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). To claim lordship over the Sabbath is to claim lordship over creation. The Sabbath was an ordinance given by the Lord of creation. Jesus made a point of forgiving a paralyzed man of his sins “that you [the Pharisees and the teachers of the law] may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Luke 5:24). Here was a privilege of God alone. The Jews did not miss the inference. They sought to kill Jesus because his claim to deity came through loud and clear.[2]

And the Lord of all, the one who owns all things, the one through whom all things live and move and have their being, he wants good for his people.  He is Lord of the Sabbath, and he made the Sabbath as a blessing for man. The Sabbath says two things: 1) You (and I) are not God, thus we need significant rest, and 2) The one who is God cares enough for us to bless us with the rest we need. 

Jesus audaciously (as far as the Pharisees were concerned) claimed that he was the Covenant Lord who instituted the Sabbath in the first place. He therefore offers the authoritative interpretation of the law. To turn the Sabbath into a burden is to utterly contradict its purpose, although to ignore it is surely to violate God’s stated will. The Sabbath is not concerned with a slavish observance of the day, as in the Pharisees’ practice. Rather, it focuses our attention on the gracious invitation to enter into the blessings not merely of Adam’s once-a-week rest but also the Second Adam’s(Jesus Christ) eternal rest that is enjoyed “through a glass darkly” in this age through the Christian Sabbath.[3]
The Sabbath of God is a gift given to man and it is a gift that is not to be neglected.  CH Spurgeon, in speaking about the benefit of this splendid gift, put it this way,

(Is it not to be expected) that the Lord of the Sabbath should specially display his sovereignty upon that day? May we not now expect that, on the Lord’s-day, the Lord of the day will magnify his own name, and make the day illustrious by his grace? The first day of the week was signalized by the giving of the light of nature, and it is most delightful that now it should be a chosen day for bestowing the light of grace. It is to us the Sabbath; should not the Lord give rest to wearied hearts upon that day? Men call it Sunday: we are happy when the Son of righteousness then arises with healing in his wings. Of old the week’s work was done, and then the Sabbath dawned; but now rest leads the way: we begin the week’s work with the Sabbath rest, because we first find rest in Jesus, and then labour for him. Blessed is the Lord’s-day when the Lord himself speaks rest in his own finished work, to those who otherwise would have laboured in vain..[4]

[1] Alexander, T. D., & Rosner, B. S. (Eds.). (2000). In New dictionary of biblical theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[2] Sproul, R. C. (2000). Renewing your mind: basic Christian beliefs you need to know (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Baker Books.
[3] Horton, M--. A Better Way.
[4] Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). My Sermon Notes & 4: Matthew to Revelation (Vol. 3, p. 135). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lord's Day 21

21. Lord's Day

Question 54. What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
Answer: That the Son of God (a) from the beginning to the end of the world, (b) gathers, defends, and preserves (c) to himself by his Spirit and word, (d) out of the whole human race, (e) a church chosen to everlasting life, (f) agreeing in true faith; (g) and that I am and forever shall remain, (h) a living member thereof. (i)
(a) Eph.5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Eph.4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; Eph.4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Eph.4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (b) Ps.71:17 O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Ps.71:18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come. Isa.59:21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever. 1 Cor.11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. (c) Matt.16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. John 10:29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. John 10:30 I and my Father are one. Ps.129:1 <> Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say: Ps.129:2 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me. Ps.129:3 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows. Ps.129:4 The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked. Ps.129:5 Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion. (d) Isa.59:21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever. Rom.1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Rom.10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? Rom.10:15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Rom.10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? Rom.10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Eph.5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (e) Gen.26:4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Rev.5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; (f) Rom.8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Rom.8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Eph.1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: Eph.1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: Eph.1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. Eph.1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (g) Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Eph.4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph.4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; Eph.4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, Eph.4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (h) Ps.23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. 1 Cor.1:8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor.1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 1 Pet.1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (i) 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 1 John 3:19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 1 John 3:21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. 2 Cor.13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? Rom.8:10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Question 55. What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?
Answer: First, that all and every one, who believes, being members of Christ, are in common, partakers of him, and of all his riches and gifts; (a) secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members. (b)
(a) 1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 Cor.1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom.8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 1 Cor.12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 1 Cor.12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 1 Cor.6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. (b) 1 Cor.12:21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 1 Cor.13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 1 Cor.13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Philip.2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Philip.2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Philip.2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: Philip.2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: Philip.2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Question 56. What believest thou concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?
Answer: That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long; (a) but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, (b) that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God. (c)
(a) 1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 2 Cor.5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 2 Cor.5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (b) Jer.31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Ps.103:3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Ps.103:4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Ps.103:10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Ps.103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Mic.7:19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Rom.7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Rom.7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Rom.7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (c) Rom.8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Rom.8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Rom.8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: Rom.8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Friday, May 23, 2014

To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy

Calvin and Missions: The Reformer's Great Commission VisionCalvin and Missions: The Reformer's Great Commission Vision by Michael A Haykin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy by Michael Haykin and C. Jeffrey Robinson has a personal feel for me.  As someone who called, in some manner, to foreign missions while simultaneously being one whom embraces a “theology of sovereign grace, complete with its doctrines of predestination and election”, I have often been confronted by church members who cannot fathom how my life and my theology are to be reconciled.  To many the doctrine of election and the activity of evangelism and missions are antithetical at best; hypocritical nonsense if bold enough to voice what is actually felt.

So I was excited to see this work available from Crossway.  Now, even as much as I enjoy history and historical theology, I was not really concerned with John Calvin in and of himself.  What I was interested in was seeing a good defense of the compatibility, really the necessary connection, of Calvin’s view of sovereign grace and the missional zeal with which he lived and taught.  Gratefully, that is what I found.  The aim of this work is “to lay to rest the charge that to be a Calvinist is to cease being missional. The leading subjects of this book are all Calvinists—and as shall be seen, all passionately missional.”

The charge consistently brought against those who embrace election, predestination, and the like is that Calvin’s theology necessarily impedes missions.  Haykin and Robinson argue to the contrary.

Calvin’s theology was actually no impediment to his own missionary activities, but, rather, served as a catalyst for transforming Geneva into a hub of missionary activity where Reformed ministers were trained and sent out to proclaim the gospel throughout Europe and beyond, especially France and Brazil. Despite his reputation, Calvin was no stay-at-home theologian, and his theology was by no means a do-nothing worldview.

Haykin and Robinson spend some time showing why Calvin was interested in missions and then showing how this moved from the theoretical to the practical in France, under intense persecution, and in Brazil, albeit in a rather unsuccessful way.  After looking at Puritan involvement in missions and Edwards’ “Humble Attempt” to unite the Christian world in missional prayer, the last chapter looks at the passion for missions of Samuel Pearce.  You don’t know who he is?!?  Neither did I, but this seems like one believer from history with whom we would all benefit becoming acquainted.

Though scarcely known today, Samuel Pearce was in his own day well known for the anointing that attended his preaching and for the depth of his spirituality. It was said of him that “his ardour . . . gave him a kind of ubiquity; as a man and a preacher, he was known, he was felt everywhere.” William Jay (1769–1853), who exercised an influential ministry in Bath for the first half of the nineteenth century, said of his contemporary’s preaching, “When I have endeavoured to form an image of our Lord as a preacher, Pearce has oftener presented himself to my mind than any other I have been acquainted with.” He had, Jay went on, a “mildness and tenderness” in his style of preaching, and a “peculiar unction.” Jay wrote these words many years after Pearce’s death, but still, he said, he could picture Pearce in his mind’s eye and feel the impression that he made upon his hearers as he preached. Ever one to appreciate the importance of having spiritual individuals as one’s friends, Jay made this comment about the last time that he saw Pearce alive: “What a savour does communion with such a man leave upon the spirit.”

The recounting of an episode where,“(n)ot afraid to appear as one lacking in homiletical skill, especially in the eyes of his fellow pastors, Pearce in his zeal for the spiritual health of all his hearers had sought to minister as best he could to this “poor man” who had arrived late,” quite nearly brought me to tears.  That page alone is worth the money and time you will invest in this work.

A “central aim” of To the Ends of the Earth is “to demonstrate that there is a Calvinistic tradition of missionary passion that goes back from pioneers of the modern missionary movement, like Carey and Pearce, through the Puritans to the Reformed fountainhead in the writings and labors of John Calvin and, as such, puts to rest the myth that one cannot be both Calvinistic and missional.”

But, the authors are not content to prove that there is a historical basis for missions in a Reformed mindset, but that this work is also a “call to those who rejoice in their Calvinism to be sure that they are equally passionate about missions and evangelism.”  Right doctrine leads to right living.  And living a life focused on glorifying God to the ends of the earth is, most definitely, right living.

I received a copy of this book from Crossway for review purposes.

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Easy and Practical way to make a difference

Posted on Facebook

Hi All,
Writing letters to Saeed in prison is a great way to let the Iranian government know that there are many who are concerned about him and it helps keep him alive and treated better at the prison. Here is the address to Rajaei Shahr prison. Please join me in writing letters to him. It should cost $1.10 for postage. You can share scripture and about Jesus as long as you are not attacking Islam or the Iranian government.
Saeed Abedini 
Zendane Rajaee Shahr
Bulvare Moazen
Karaj, Iran
God Bless


Well worth the time and effort.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dispatches from the Front is out!! Get it

China, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq...

God is at work. Christians are testifying. The gospel is advancing.
In this captivating travelogue, Tim Keesee—a veteran missions mobilizer and executive producer of the popular Dispatches from the Front DVD series—leads readers to experience global Christianity, exploring the faith and lives of Christians living in some of the world's most perilous countries.
The incredible accounts recorded in Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World's Difficult Places highlight the bold faith and sacrificial bravery of God's people around the word, from China to Afghanistan.

Ultimately, this book magnifies Christ's saving work in all the earth and encourages Christians to joyfully embrace their role in the gospel’s unstoppable advance!



“Beware of Dispatches from the Front if you don’t like being moved and inspired and shaken out of the ruts of your life. These are kingdom stories that build faith in the present providence of God over his mission and stir up action for the sake of lost and hurting people near and far.”

John Piper, Founder,; Chancellor, Bethlehem College and Seminary

Dispatches from the Front is a thoughtful, moving, understated, and ultimately convicting narrative depicting the work of the gospel in some of the most challenging corners of the world. It tells of brothers and sisters in Christ who in God’s grace display faithfulness and transcendent joy, unflagging zeal to share the gospel, and an unfettered allegiance to King Jesus.”

D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Like a war correspondent, Tim Keesee has brought us to the front—to walk down bomb-shattered streets, along jungle paths, and into the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Their Christlike courage in living as ‘lambs among wolves’ is a striking witness to the power of the gospel.”

Jim DeMint, President, The Heritage Foundation

Dispatches from the Front is a fascinating look at how the gospel is penetrating some of the world’s neediest places. These are regions where all the worst agonies of human life are multiplied and magnified relentlessly by war, extreme poverty, sex trafficking, drug dealing, false religion, and disease . . . but your spirit will be encouraged by the triumphant power of Christ.”

Phil Johnson, Executive Director, Grace to You

Calvin on the Christian Life

Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God ForeverCalvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever by Michael S. Horton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crossway has been releasing books in a series of books, “Theologians On the Christian Life.”  Wesley, Schaeffer, Bonhoeffer, and Warfield have been featured and there is a list of upcoming volumes that look quite good.  Michael Horton was enlisted to look at John Calvin’s life and thought for this series and I think he did a great job.

The subtitle of this volume is “Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever” and that is a good tagline on the thought of Calvin as presented here by Michael Horton.  There is much, much to be enjoyed in this work.  Repeatedly, and for good reason, Horton focuses on the maxim “distinction without separation” as a summary of Calvin’s position on many issues.  

Especially for the Reformers and their successors, faith and reason, doctrine and life, sacred and secular were on speaking terms. It is striking to us in our contemporary context to discover the same theologian writing a sermon or a lecture, a poem on nature or a hymn to nature’s Creator and Redeemer, a Hebrew or Greek grammar, and some calculations on planetary movements—in the same week. Truth, goodness, and beauty drew all disciplines together in a unified body of knowledge. No less when exploring the heavens than when poring over Scripture, one was engaging in pious meditation upon God’s works.

Horton spends a good portion in the beginning of the work outlining some key tenets of Calvin's theology, which is perfectly reasonable since the reformer believed strongly that "sound doctrine is the soul of piety."  Horton also deals with Calvin’s emphasis on the corporate nature of Christian faith and piety, the idea of the Theatre of God with the creature living “coram Deo”, the "sensus divinitatis", Calvin’s understanding of proper political involvement, the role of work in the life of the Christian, the purpose of the arts, and much more.  The connection Horton shows in Calvin's thought between Christian liberty and justification is an area that I am looking forward to studying more.

Calvin on the Christian life focused on an issue that was more important than simply seeing how Calvin dealt with the Christian life.  In the grand scheme of things, really, what does it matter how one man interacted with his world?  Where this work offers its greatest benefit is in displaying how all Christians can weave the truth of the Gospel throughout their everyday life and how God’s word guides our every waking moment.  The theology in this book was interesting.  The biographical aspects were fascinating.  But seeing how one can live as a Christian, a consistent life of obedience and faith, was encouraging and edifying.  This book is part historical theology, part biography, part Christian living….but it is entirely pastoral.  I would encourage everyone to be blessed by Dr. Horton’s work on Calvin and the Christian Life.

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

View all my reviews

Commentary on Lord's Day 20



Question 53. What dost thou believe concerning the Holy Ghost?

Answer. First, that he is true and co-eternal God with the Father and the Son: secondly, that he is also given me to make me, by a true faith, a partaker of Christ and all his benefits, that he may comfort me, and abide with me for ever.


There are six articles included in this part of the Creed. The first of these treats of the person of the Holy Ghost; the next of the church, which the Holy Ghost gathers, confirms and preserves; whilst the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting include the benefits of Christ, which the Holy Ghost confers upon the church.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ...

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him.” If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.


Psalm 86:11

Psalm 86:11

11    Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

The psalms are wonderful because in them we find the full range of human experience.  The psalmist can swing from utopic praise in one breath to the woe-est of woe-is-me’s in the next.  The Psalms cover joy, confidence, fear, victory, defeat, doubt, anger, peace, love, despair, and more…sometimes in the span of only a few verses. 
The psalmist deals with what we deal with.  He is no stranger to split affections and a wavering allegiance.  He knows the One who deserves all but has trouble, at times, remembering the fact that he deserves all.  Read Psalm 86 in context and it is almost hard to imagine why he would falter in this way.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
    All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10    For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.

But read it in the context of your own life, your own affections, your own heart.   Read it in the context of a fallen human who has encountered God but still so easily believes the lies of the world over the truth of the One.  Think of the Israelites.  Think of the Apostles.  Think of your own life. Believer, you have been encountered by the resurrected King of kings.  You have been filled with the very Spirit of the one true God.  You have been ransomed and resurrected and you still find yourself, on more occasions than you would care to recollect, lacking allegiance, lacking affection, lacking desire for the one who is most to be desired.  And so do I. And so do we all, on this side of eternity.

Why?  Because we are works in progress, as desperately dependent on the grace of God today as we were the day we cried out to him for salvation.  We are unfinished.  Lumps of clay that only distortedly resemble the image of God’s perfect Son.  But we are lumps of clay in the Potter’s hand, and he has promised to continue molding and shaping until we perfectly resemble the Perfect One(Rom 8:29).

And this includes our hearts.  We are in the same boat as the psalmist.  We want to love the Lord more and we know we should love the Lord more and we do not want to offer the affection and allegiance due to him to any other.  But we know that we are incapable of changing our own hearts.  We know that any lasting, genuine change is dependent on the work of the Lord. Hopefully we can be as wise as the psalmist as well and seek the change we desire from the One who is able to deliver it.

Notice though, quite importantly, that the psalmist does not simply request for his heart to be united.  This is not a prayer of “God fix me…now I’ll be over there sinning.  Page me when you are finished.”  Nope, God has prepared many things in our life through which he offers his grace to us.  The psalmist shows two in this verse: the study of Scripture and good works.

“Teach me your way, oh Lord,” the psalmist begins, expressing his desire to know what the Lord would have to teach him.  If we want to love the Lord, we must know the Lord.  If we want to know the Lord, we will meet him on the pages of his inspired Word.  If we want a faith that cherishes the Lord above all else we must be engaged in the study of his word since “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of the Lord.”

But we must not simply be “hearers of the word” but we must also be “doers of the word”(James 1:22).  This is the psalmist’s second plea, “that I may walk in your truth.”  The psalmist did not want to simply know the truth and for it not to affect his life.  This is for multiple reasons.  One, I am sure, is that he simply did not want to be a hypocrite.  There has never been a documented time in history where children of a culture said, “When I grow up, I want to be an utter and complete phony.”  Hypocrisy has historically, even in wicked societies, been look down upon.  But not only was the psalmist expressing a desire to not be a hypocrite, he also did not want a trivial knowledge of God.  He wanted an intimate knowledge of God and this type of knowledge would affect his entire being, including his actions. 

Beyond simply showing our faith and knowledge to be genuine, the works prepared for believers beforehand by the Father are a means by which God grows the believer’s faith.  It is said of Abraham specifically that his works “completed” his faith. (James 2:22) The Spirit inspired psalmist would have certainly known this truth and, in his desire to know the Lord better, asked the Lord to make sure that he was not simply a hearer but also a doer of his word. 

While recognizing his responsibility in this matter, the psalmist is unwilling to bear the burden of changing his own affections.  He recognizes the fact that he is in the Potter’s hand and goes to the Lord with the desperate assurance this causes.  He implores the Lord to “unite” his heart, knowing that the Lord is capable.  He begs for the Lord to fix his affections, knowing that the Lord is willing.   He knows that he must be obedient to the Lord (that is, know his way and walk in his truth) but he also realizes that it is the Lord who changes hearts and molds affections and this is what he wants.  And this is what we want.  We desire, as redeemed children of God, to love the Lord with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength.  And this is what God desires as well, for our good and for his glory.

 “Unite my heart”--engage and knit my whole heart to thyself and service, and deliver me from inconstancy and wavering, that I may not at any time, nor in the least degree, be withdrawn from thee, either to any corrupt worship, or to the love and pursuit of the lusts or vanities of this present evil world.”[1]

[1] Poole, M. (1853). Annotations upon the Holy Bible (Vol. 2, p. 137). New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


God the Holy Spirit


53  Q.  What do you believe concerning “the Holy Spirit”?

A.  First, that the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God.1
Second, that the Spirit is given also to me,2 so that, through true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his benefits, 3 comforts me, 4 and will remain with me forever. 5

1 Gen. 1:1-2; Matt. 28:19; Acts 5:3-4
2 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; Gal. 4:6
3 Gal. 3:14
4 John 15:26; Acts 9:31

5 John 14:16-17; 1 Pet. 4:14

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Return of Christ, by Martin Lloyd-Jones

The Return of Christ
By: Martin Lloyd-Jones

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
—Acts 3:19–21
In this one sermon here in Acts 3, we have a very wonderful summary of what constitutes the essence of Christian preaching. Why should we be interested in that? As we have seen, it is because of the state of the world in which we live and because of our own state and condition by nature. None of us would be considering this were it not that we had found life hard, full of problems and trials. We have tried everything else and have found it to fail. We know that what the world has to offer is no solution, and we want to know what the Christian church has to say to us and to the whole world in which we live. In a world that in so many respects is collapsing all around us, it is urgently important that we should know exactly what the Christian message is and what it has to offer us. And in this sermon the apostle gives us the answer.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Imagine a world that is truly and intrinsically and explosively accidental.

      Imagine a world that is truly and intrinsically and explosively accidental. Explain time in that world, in the world with no narrative and no narrator. Why time? Why progression? Before hydrogen had its alleged and infamous cosmic hiccup, did something aphysical and philosophically flammable snafu first? Perhaps nirvanic nothingness is more unstable than we thought; after all, it would have to spontaneously generate progression and causation (as laws and/or authoritative patterns) before hyper-hydrogen could get flatulent and before that flatulence could begin seeking radically sophisticated order. (Sidenote: By nirvanic nothingness I mean nothingness—nothingness as in what your teeth see only less, nothingness as in take a glass and empty it, erase the glass, remove the table on which it sat, part the electrons in the air where it once was and step between them into the black coldness of space, and then remove the cold and the blackness, remove the ability of anything to take up space, remove space, remove causation, and while you’re at it, remove God.)
      But we’re not done. We need an emptier grasp of this concept. Nothingness (no space, no time, no spirit): Grab a book about talking mice. Stare at the cover. Ready? Turn to page number –77. Right. Now set a bowl of fruit at its feet or pull the beating heart out of a slave on top of a ziggurat in its honor because that bit of nothing (all nothing is one in its noneness) invomitvented causation, space, time, you, me, and herpes. And if it could do that, there’s no telling what could come from its nonexistent bowels next. Nonexistence is the squirreliest of b$%^gods. Any nothing any nowhere could suddenly become any something any somewhere—and it could arrive with new laws for its new reality. Watch out for –77. It gave and it can taketh away.
     Atheist Fortune Cookie: There is only the material world. Don’t ask me where hyper-hydrogen came from, but I am pretty sure it blew up because I’m here (I think). The “laws” of nature and reality and logic and morality are non-binding and are merely internal descriptions of the accidental explosion by another part of that same explosion and are likely to further explode or implode into something else as stuff continues to splatter around. You have no soul, and love and loyalty are chemical by-products of the accident and have no authority as the explosion neglected to accidentally create any. You have no purpose, no deeper meaning, and are no more valuable than any other mobile composting machine, engulfing and expelling until you are engulft and expelt. Also, as you have no soul, the concept of you is itself shaky, as your self-identity is simply the result of an arbitrary atomic boundary imagined by static electricity in spongey tissue inside a spherical bone that appears to be proud of any carbon-based meat that happens to be electronically connected to it. You’re not important. Your molecules prefer fragmenting to binding and will inevitably and absolutely fly apart. So suck on that, sucker of thatness. Also, you should be open to new opportunities this month.
     Atheists trapped in an exclusively physical philosophy must maintain that what we have dubbed Time is just one part of a physical entity (thus, wormholes and bad TV). Time is just another part of the shock wave perpetually spreading out from an explosion, ever impregnating nothing with something as the growing anti-crater we call a universe does its from-everlasting-to-everlasting belching.
       My atheist friends: You aren’t taking this seriously.
       Me: What was your first clue?
       Mystic Docs and Post-Docs of the Most-Low Goo: You are petty, simplistic, and ignorant.
       Me: Page number –77 made me that way. Accept me.

Wilson, N. D.--Death By Living: Life is Meant to be Spent.

5/15 Devotional from Tabletalk

Sinful Beyond Measure

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.”
Romans 7:13
Moving forward in our study of Romans 7, we are endeavoring to determine why Paul says such seemingly negative things about God’s law when old covenant people seem to have had nothing but positive things to say about the law. Knowing something of the corporate nature of Jewish thought and the history of ancient Israel will help us in this effort. Historically, the Jews have shared a significant group consciousness. The best way to illustrate this is to consider the Jews’ celebration of the Passover. In retelling the Passover story, Jews today speak as if they came out of Egypt under Moses even though they live thousands of years after the exodus. This is how the Passover has been celebrated for generations, reflecting a corporate solidarity that means every Jew who has ever lived has, in a sense, participated in all that has ever happened to the Jewish people.
Corporate solidarity shapes the approach of the Apostle Paul—a Jew himself—to the Mosaic law. Passages such as Galatians 3:15–29 indicate that Israel’s life as a collective nation under the law of Moses determines Paul’s theology of the law. His negative statements about the law’s stimulation of sin are not primarily about the many Jews before Christ who loved the law rightly as a guide to holiness. Such statements do not refer to those who trusted in the Lord alone for their justification and obeyed the Lord by His Spirit in order to thank Him for His grace. The Apostle’s teaching reflects what happened to old covenant Israel as a whole, and his use of the pronoun I in Romans 7:7–13 is his very Jewish way of putting himself in the experience of the nation. All people have a basic sense of right and wrong, but Israel alone had the benefit of additional light from God via the inscripturated Mosaic law. However, instead of living more righteously than the pagans, the nation of Israel sinned greatly after receiving the law of the Lord. Sin came alive for the nation in a new way after it received the Mosaic law. For proof of this, we need look no further than the worship of the golden calf, which occurred as God was giving the commandments to Moses (Ex. 32).
Israel’s collective experience with the Mosaic law is a microcosm of what happens when the fallen nature of humanity comes into contact with God’s moral law, whether people discern it from nature or have it in written form. Sin takes the law, encourages us to break it, lowers its requirements, and turns it into a means for self-justification. None of this is the law’s fault. The law is good; it is sin that twists it (Rom. 7:13).

Coram Deo

Augustine of Hippo writes, “The law is given not to take away sin nor to deliver us from it but to reveal what sin is before grace comes. The result is that those who are placed under the law are seized by an even stronger desire to sin and sin even more.” Sin’s twisting of the law means we cannot obey it truly if we put any stock in our ability to do so. But if we confess our sin and rest in Christ alone for salvation, He empowers us to keep it truly, but imperfectly, in gratitude for His grace.

Passages for Further Study

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: | Phone: 1-800-435-4343