‘Biblical theology in discipleship’ by Nancy Guthrie’

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In her article, Biblical theology in discipleship, Nancy Guthrie writes, “A number of years ago I was teaching a study of Genesis in my church when one of the discussion group leaders, an older godly woman, came and sat down by me. “How come I’ve never been taught this before?” she said with tears in her eyes. She was beginning to recognize that, as many years as she had spent studying the Bible, she had never seen how the story of the Bible fit together in a way that is centered on the person and work of Christ from Genesis to Revelation.”

Guthrie comments: “I’ve been on a mission not only to understand the Bible this way myself but also to introduce and infiltrate Bible studies —especially women’s Bible studies in the local church—with biblical theology. I often look at church websites to see what studies are being offered to the women of the church or in adult Sunday School classes. And I am often disheartened to discover studies that are felt-needs driven, studies with little biblical or theological rigor, and studies oriented around self-improvement. I am thrilled when I see studies of particular books of the Bible, as that indicates an expectation that what we need most is God’s Word and that we can expect it will speak to us. But sometimes even these studies can be oriented to jumping too quickly from what the text says to personal application, untethered to the larger story the Bible is telling that is centered on Christ.”

In her article, which you can read HERE, Guthrie gives five reasons why she believes that biblical theology should be woven into the fabric of discipleship in the local church.

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Guthrie traces nine themes as they develop through the Bible. The next post will give more information about this new book (you can read the publisher’s description HERE).

‘Genesis 1-11: Our Story of Origins’ by Bernard Bell

This commentary on the first 11 chapters of the Book of Genesis is the transcript of a series of sermons by Bernard Bell at Peninsula Bible Church Cupertino. You can download this thoughtful and insightful commentary for free as a PDF or ePub document from this page HERE. (Bernard Bells’ superb commentary on Revelation, which I highlight HERE, is also available for free download from this page.)

In the first chapter, Bernard explains, “I am entitling this series ‘Our Story of Origins’. . . . . In these chapters we’ll find foundational truths that explain why the world is the way it is. They also provide the backdrop for the call of Abraham, which we’ll see is God’s answer to the sin and death of chapters 3–11. Through Abraham God births his people, Israel. Genesis 1–11 is the account given to Israel for her to understand her origins. We as the church are still the children of Abraham, the people of God. These early chapters of Genesis are for us also. They are our story of origins.”

He comments, “The Bible begins, “In the beginning God.” It ends, “Come, Lord Jesus,” the prayer for the glorious return (parousia) of the eternal Word, to bring in the completion of the stories of creation and redemption. The story begins with the triune Godhead as a community of perfect love; it ends with God drawing his people into that communion of love. It begins with God in eternal glory; it ends with God and his people in eternal glory. At the center stands the cross where God revealed his glory through his Son—his Son on whom he periodically shone the radiance of his glory, declaring, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” At the end God will welcome us into his presence, saying, “I will be his God and he will be my son” (Revelation 21.7). He will shine the radiance of his glory on us and say, “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.” The love between the Father and the Son mediated by the Spirit is the engine which drives the stories of creation and redemption. He extends that love to his creation not because he has to but because he delights to do so.”

CREDITS Scripture quotations by Bernard Bell are from Today’s New International Version™ TNIV® Copyright © 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society®. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Friday Briefing 15 (5 October 2018)

Every story casts His shadow Watch this brief video and see how the whole Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. It is inspirational.

From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture Dr David Schrock writes, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.” Focusing on the office of priesthood as an example, Dr Schrock guides us to a better understanding of how the types found in the Bible story point us to Jesus and His Church.

What did Jesus have against goats? Ian Paul throws some clear Biblical light on the well-known but often misunderstood illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46)

A society without Psalms Mark Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, . . . .”

At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement Stephen Tan calls attention to grave errors in the theology and their practices of the hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California, and concerns about The Passion Translation of the Bible , which Bill Johnson, leader of the Bethel Church, enthusiastically endorses.

Every story casts His shadow.

Watch this brief video (a trailer for The Gospel Project) and see how the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. Trevin Wax comments: “I get chills every time I watch this . . . .” From the video’s narrator: “Sixty six books. Dozens of authors. A holy canon thousands of years in the making. Consider the works…accounts of history and law. Prophecy and poetry. Verses of wisdom and letters from friends. Now. Look again. What do you see? . . . . Every story casts His shadow. Every word, every verse, bears His testimony — the Holy Messiah. Jesus Christ. Eternal King.”

The video is a trailer for The Gospel Project, published by LifeWay. The home page for The Gospel Project is HERE and you can learn more about the project HERE.

Details of The Gospel Project’s current 3-year study plan is available for download HERE. This provides, in their own words, “a chronological, Christ-centered Bible study plan for every age group in your church: preschoolers through adults. These studies are age-appropriate, easy to teach, and aligned by Scripture to help your entire church grow in the gospel together.”

The Gospel Project has also published a poster that gives a succinct summary of essential doctrines of Christianity – there are 99 of them, covering God, God’s revelation, creation, fall, redemption, the Church, and restoration. You can download it in PDF form HERE – to print it, however, you’ll need at least A3-size paper.

The Gospel Project has also published these 99 essential doctrines available in booklet form. This could, for example, be used as a kind of ‘catechism’, a teaching tool for instructing believers in the elements of the Christian faith. There’s also a companion book available, called Devotional Doctrine: Delighting in God, His Word, and His World. These are excellent resources, and both are free. They’re available in downloadable PDF form HERE. To get them, all you need to do is to sign up to receive information about The Gospel Project and other LifeWay resources. By signing up, you’ll also have access to free sessions of The Gospel Project curriculum for kids, students, and adults.

Read Trevin Wax’s article HERE.

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From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture.

Dr David Schrock comments, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.”

Dr. Schrock explains: “. . . this essay will argue for a thicker reading of Scripture. It will argue that standing underneath any legitimate type is a covenantal topography, a biblical terrain that rises and falls throughout Israel’s covenant history, which all types follow in their own unique way as they run toward Christ and his Church. Therefore, in addition to the standard ‘tests’ for valid types, I will demonstrate how biblical types follow this covenantal topography from historical prototype, through covenantal ectypes, to their intended antitype — namely, the person and work of Christ. From there, by union with Christ, typology experiences a new birth, as supratypes share covenantal attributes with and carry out the offices assigned by Jesus Christ. . . . . Typology, therefore, must be understood in relationship to the biblical covenants that unify and organize the Bible. But biblical types must also, as I will argue, be seen in relationship with creation, fall, and process of redemption found in God’s covenant history.”

In demonstrating his understanding of Biblical typology, Dr Schrock takes one concrete example – that of the priesthood. He writes, “. . . in what follows, I will show how the priesthood follows this covenantal topography moving from Adam to Christ through the peaks and valleys of Israel’s history. By following this one concrete example, my hope is to demonstrate a covenantal topography that all types follow as they move from the shadows of the old covenant to the substance of the new.”

Dr Schrock first present the Biblical texts and then shows the priestly office develops through the different periods of Bible history. He explains, “To give a sense of where we are going, I will first present in chart-form the biblical texts that serve as milestones for the priestly type. These priestly milestones will be accompanied by two other lines of personal milestones for the biblical offices of prophet and king. . . . . Second, I will provide hermeneutical commentary on each phase of covenant history that helps explain how the priestly office develops across the canon. These stages of development are: (1) Creation, (2) Patriarchs, (3) Law, (4) Prophets including (a) historical formation, (b) covenant-breaking deformation and (c) eschatological reformation, (5) Christ, and (6) the Church. It is the formation, deformation, and reformation in the period of the Prophets that I believe is most original to this article.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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What did Jesus have against goats?.

Ian Paul brings fresh insight into Jesus’s illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46), in which he describes the Last Judgment. He writes, “The most common interpretation of the narrative allocates the people groups in the following way. The ‘least of these’ are the poor in general; the sheep are those (probably followers of Jesus, obeying his teaching here) who care for the poor rather than just having a theoretical faith; and the goats are those who neglect Jesus’ teaching. Thus this becomes a general argument of the importance of caring for the poor. But this interpretation has only been around since around 1850 (which raises issues about how we should response to ‘novel’ interpretations…) and in fact has some serious obstacles to it.”

Dr Paul lights up our understanding of the illustration of the sheep and the goats. He does this especially by taking us back to the Biblical art of shepherding that he recently heard explained by Richard Goode, of Newman University in Birmingham, at the British New Testament Conference. Dr Goode’s paper was entitled, What did Jesus have against goats? Setting Matthew 25:32-33 within the context of caprid husbandry of Roman Palestine. (You can see an abstract of this paper HERE – it’s the third paper of session 1; just click the  View abstract  button to see it.)

Read the whole article HERE.

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A society without Psalms.

Mark Loughridge writes, “When contemporary poet Edward Clarke turned 40, he set himself the task of reading through the Authorised Version of the Bible in one year . . . . As Clarke spent time in the Bible he shared that ‘one does feel enthralled to something greater’, and that while he is not a regular church goer, there was an element of spiritual catharsis in trying to think and write from the space the Scriptures provide. This, however, was no mere exercise in subjectivity, but the outcome of convictions which Clarke has developed about the 21st century and biblical literature.”

Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, what our secular nation will look like without the bedrock of biblical categories through which to see the world, understand themselves, and articulate the things which most matter.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement.

Stephen Tan, pastor of Regeneration Church, a new church in Clayton, Melbourne, Australia, writes: “”Australia for Jesus” is the motto of Awakening Australia, an event that seeks to unite every denomination under one mission: to bring revival to Australia. . . . . While revival, unity and nationwide prayer are good goals for Christians to have, I am unable to support Awakening Australia. . . . . My main contention with Awakening Australia is that it is part of a hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California. In fact, the leader of Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, is the main speaker at Awakening Australia.”

Pastor Tan tells us: “If you log onto Bethel’s website (bethelredding.com), their mission is clear: to bring revival to Redding and to the whole world. They see themselves as having “a global impact” as “a revival resource and equipping centre”. They run “revival” conferences and rallies all over the world. Kingdom Invasion in Singapore draws thousands, as will Awakening Australia later this year. Bethel also runs their own ‘Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)’ which teaches people to perform miracles and bring revival. BSSM spawns hundreds of similar schools around the world, including in Melbourne and in other cities in Australia. But what exactly does Bethel mean by revival?”

Pastor Tan calls attention to grave errors in their theology and their practices. He also voices his concerns about the Passion Translation, which Bill Johnson enthusiastically endorses. Tan comments: “What makes the Bethel movement dangerous is that their reach is extended through their music ministry. Jesus Culture and Bethel Music have created a brand of worship music that can genuinely compete with Hillsong. . . . . I fear Jesus Culture serves as a gateway drug that draws young and inexperienced Christians into a world of false teaching, unbiblical practices and spiritual disaster.”

He comments, “I am concerned that the upcoming ‘Awakening Australia’ event also fits the description and has the potential to cause much confusion and spiritual damage to thousands of unsuspecting Australians. To those who are supporting this event in the name of revival, may I ask this question: “At what price, awakening?” Is it worth pursuing awakening if it means that the gospel is compromised and that false teaching is promoted?”

Read the whole article HERE.

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‘Clarifying the Bible’ by Mitch Maher

In this YouTube video, entitled Clarifying the Bible with Mitch Maher, Mitch Maher, Lead Pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Katy, Texas, takes use right through the Bible story. Clarifying the Bible summarises, clearly and concisely, the basic structure and storyline of the Bible. I recommend it to you.

View Clarifying the Bible’s website HERE. Here’s what the website tells us: “You long for clarity and confidence when it comes to the Bible, but its complexity often leaves you confused and uncertain. Mitch Maher’s Clarifying the Bible can help. . . . . The material is presented in a passionate, compelling fashion, and in the end delivers on its promise to help people see the Bible with more clarity than every before. You’ll engage the Scriptures with confidence, and feel well-equipped to help others dive into the Scriptures for themselves.”

The video is accompanied by a workbook that you can purchase from Amazon.com or other retailers. Section I of the workbook contains visual aids to accompany the presentation and space for note taking as you watch the video. Section II gives more information for further study. The video is around 2 hours 10 minutes long, but you can view it in sections, at your own pace.

Dr. Robert Lewis, author and founder of Men’s Fraternity, writes, “The more you understand the whole of something, the better you understand its parts. That’s particularly true when it comes to understanding the Bible, and few people offer a better ‘Big Picture’ understanding of Scripture than Mitch Maher in Clarifying the Bible. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting a firmer grasp on life’s most important book.”

Delighting in Leviticus

Image © Steve Creitz, Creitz Illustration Studio

An artist’s impression of the camp of Israel in the wilderness at night. The Tabernacle is in the centre of the camp. Above the Tabernacle is the pillar of fire, which was the visible manifestation of God’s presence.

Dr Jay Sklar, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, and who has written an excellent commentary on Leviticus (see the publishers’ description HERE), said this: “What happens when you study Leviticus for more than 10 years? I know the types of answers many people would provide:

“You get to know your psychotherapist really well.”

“People stop inviting you to dinner parties.”

Or perhaps the most common: “Is this a serious question? Who in the world would do this?”

I did. And it changed my life in ways far different from those just named. In my experience, at least four profound things happen when this book begins to seep into your soul.”

Read the whole article HERE.

And in the brief video below, Dr Sklar also introduces his commentary on Leviticus:

But why exactly would anyone study Leviticus for such a significant period of their life? Why is it so important?

We’ll begin by setting out the background to this book. After the Exodus from Egypt, God’s people Israel didn’t go straight to the Promised Land. They went through the wilderness to Mount Sinai to meet with God (Exodus 19.4). A few weeks’ journey from where they crossed the Sea of Reeds, God’s people were encamped at the foot of this mountain.

There at Mount Sinai, God brought His people into covenant relationship with Himself. This covenant was like a marriage. God became their Husband (see, for example Isaiah 54.5, Jeremiah 31.32). And, in Peter Leithart’s words, “Moses is the minister officiating at the wedding.” Firstly God made a solemn covenant with His people – just as a man and a woman make vows to each other at a wedding. Then God and representatives of His people ate and drank together – just like a wedding reception. And after their marriage ceremony, a husband and wife live together. Accordingly, God made arrangements to live together with His Bride, Israel.

God showed Moses the blueprint for a beautiful new home where He planned to live among His people. This home was a tent; it was called the Tabernacle. God Himself was going to live there. When all was complete, God moved into His new home: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40.34-35 and see Numbers 9.15).

The tabernacle was God’s home among His people. One of the two primary designations for the Tabernacle is the Hebrew word miškān, which means dwelling place. Jay Sklar, in his commentary on Leviticus, imagines an Israelite asking this burning question: “How in the world can the holy and pure King of the universe dwell among his sinful and impure people? How can he live here, in our very midst, without his holiness melting us in our sin and impurity?” ”

But there’s more. God also called His Tabernacle “the tent of meeting” (for example Exodus 27.21, 30.16, 31.7). He said to Moses: “There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites . . . “ (Exodus 29.42-43, NIV). God – as far as possible under that covenant – welcomed people into His home. Only selected representatives could enter, and they had to be prepared and, where necessary, offer the appropriate sacrifices. But they could come. Once a year Aaron was even able to enter the Most Holy Place, the very presence-chamber of God (Leviticus 16.11-15, see Hebrews 9.7).

It was astonishing that God could live among His people at all. But how in the world could He go one step further and actually allow people to come into His home and meet with Him there? In other words, how could the dwelling place of God become “the tent of meeting” – a place where the holy God met with His sinful people?

The Book of Leviticus answers these questions. In his commentary, Jay Sklar writes: “Leviticus . . . . . . . begins by explaining the sacrifices that address sin and enable the Israelites to worship this King rightly (Leviticus 1-7). It provides the people with priests to intercede on their behalf and lead them in worship before the King (Leviticus 8-10). It gives them laws to teach them how to deal properly with impurity (Leviticus 11-15). It provides a yearly ceremony to remove every last ounce of sin and impurity from the kingdom (Leviticus 16). It provides a whole series of laws in other areas to direct them in living as a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Leviticus 17-27), that is, in setting up a society where God’s character and wishes for humanity can be seen in the corporate life of the nation.”

But the Book of Leviticus goes even further than this. Sklar explains: “But Leviticus does more than answer questions raised by its immediate literary and historical context. It also casts a vision rooted in the Bible’s larger story and, in particular, in creation. Indeed, God’s purpose for his people in Leviticus is in many ways a return to his purpose for humanity in creation. This may be seen in terms of separation, blessing and calling. . . . . In Leviticus, the Lord once again brings order to the world by ‘separating’ . . . things into their proper place and calling his people to do the same (Leviticus 10.10; 11.46-47; 20.25). Indeed, he separates his people from the rest of the world (Leviticus 20.24,26) and promises to bless them as he did Adam and Eve, whether by shining his favour on them to make them fruitful (Leviticus 26.9; cf. Genesis 1.28), placing them in a lush land where all their physical needs will be met (Leviticus 26.4-5,10; cf. Genesis 2.8-25), giving them Sabbath rest (Leviticus 23.3; 25.1-7; cf. Genesis 2.3), or, most of all, ‘walking’ . . . with them as their God (Leviticus 26.11-12; cf. Genesis 3.8). And, as in creation, the blessings are again accompanied by a calling. He has separated them from the peoples of the earth in order to reflect his image in the world: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy’ (19.2; see also 11.44-45; 20.7,26). The Israelites are the ones who are to represent the Lord in this earth, thus fulfilling the purpose the Lord had for humanity in creation, as well as showing the rest of the world what that purpose is, how to live in keeping with it, and therefore how to experience the abundant life God intended for his creation . . . . Simply put, the Israelites are not only to be a signpost back to Eden; they are to become a manifestation of it and a people who extend Eden’s borders to every corner of the earth.”

In the video below, Dr Sklar explores why should we think more highly of Leviticus (it’s one of a series of seven available HERE):

Covenant Theological Seminary has also uploaded seven free audio talks by Dr Sklar on Leviticus. As well as an introductory talk, he teaches about atonement, the burnt, grain offering and fellowship offerings, purity and impurity, and curious laws found in Leviticus. Dr Sklar is an engaging speaker and these are very much worth listening to. The talks can be accessed HERE. The first two are available without creating an account. To access the other five, you just need to create a free account.

CREDITS Text copyright © 2018 Robert Gordon Betts Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (other than those in quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked ‘NIV’ are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). UK trademark number 1448790.

“Just a beginning?” A guest post by Ron Bailey

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Earlier this year, Ron Bailey posted a reflection on our work for God’s Kingdom HERE. Here it is in full, with Ron’s kind permission.

”Just a beginning…?

Frequently in my Bible reading I am surprised by a word I hadn’t noticed previously. It happened again this morning. How well do I know the story of Samson? Not as well as I thought!

The angel of Jehovah explains to Manoah the purpose of Samson’s birth. Manoah is clearly a godly Israelite ready to believe what God speaks to him. He is a praying man and one who is ready to take instructions. Samson was richly blessed in God’s choice for his father and mother. The angel describes the mission of the promised child. “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13.5 NKJV)

In other words, he is to be a Nazirite from conception to the grave; wholly given over to the will of God. Surely an entire life is sufficient to accomplish the purpose of God? The word I had never noticed previously is the simple word ‘begin’. The angel explained that Samson’s mission was to begin something for God. There was no word here of Samson completing the mission only of his need to begin it. Sometimes God commissions a man or woman to begin an enterprise without promising that they will complete it. Samson was to be such a man. His life was to begin something that would be completed by another. That is a humbling commission. Here’s another.

King David had a vision for a temple that would do justice to the glory of God. It was in his heart. He was given the plans of the Temple. His conquests provided the resources to build the temple. And then, it seems, he received the prophetic word, through Nathan, to begin the process. The vision, the passion, the design, the physical resources were all due to David and yet we refer to this ‘exceedingly magnificent’ building as ‘Solomon’s Temple’. A second word came to David that was a fatal blow to his soaring aspirations. Another was to build the temple; his son Solomon. It’s a measure of the greatness of David that he embraced this new word eagerly with not a single complaint. In the case of David his previous behaviour had disqualified him from this unique role, but his contribution to the ‘beginning’ made the Temple possible. It will not always be some personal disqualification, sometimes it will not be disqualification at all but simply the purpose of God to begin with one servant and to complete the mission with another. Paul must sow and Apollos must water.

It may be a humbling experience to realise that what we conceived as our ‘great life work’ will be completed by another but is also a source of great comfort. The world doesn’t depend on me after all. That great work may not depend on me either. It is simply that God frequently completes through one what he has begun through another. Is that a disappointment or a relief? I suspect it depends on our disposition. Paul would lay the foundation but another must build upon it. How he builds is his responsibility, not Paul’s.

“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption;” (Acts 13.36 NKJV).

For the servant of God ‘Let it go’ is not the squalid temper tantrum of a Disney character but a wise counsel.

There is wiser, if sombre, counsel in Ecclesiastes: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9.10 NKJV).

While it is ‘within reach of your hand’ give it all you’ve got, afterwards let it rest on the bosom of the one who watches over all his works…and his workers.

“. . . for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1.12 KJV).

The Friday Briefing 14 (7 September 2018)

Born in the dead of night (Exodus 12:29-51) In a sermon on the Passover narrative, Brian Morgan, a pastor at Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino says, “Today we arrive at the climactic moment when, after nine intense labor pains, God gives birth to his people. . . . . The story of Israel’s birth is even more significant since it gives shape to our birth narrative in Christ, and tells us who we are and what is undeniably ours as our birthright.”

The music and meaning of male and female Dr. Alastair Roberts – drawing on the creation account in the first two chapters of Genesis – explains how our creation as male and female is fundamental to what it means to be human. He briefly explores the significance of this for the same-sex marriage debate and for the transgender movement.

Watchfulness requires wakefulness Brian Hedges writes, “As people who belong to the day, we must be mentally sober and morally alert, dressed in the Christian armor of faith, hope, and love. To be watchful is to be wakeful.“

Why we all need printed Bibles Ian Paul gives a number of important reasons why it is better for us to read printed Bibles than electronic texts on a computer screen, tablet or ‘phone.

Stop making hospitality complicated Brandon McGinley comments, Having guests, we feel, means putting on a show; we set up the stage and put on costumes and are the stars of the production. It sounds intimidating and exhausting—because it is. But here’s the thing: Real hospitality—the sharing of everyday life with friends, current and soon-to-be—is even more frightening. . . . allowing others to see and experience the everyday imperfection of our lives is simply unacceptable. Until, one day, it isn’t.”

Born in the dead of night (Exodus 12:29-51).

Brian Morgan, a pastor at Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino gives an outstanding exposition of the Passover narrative in Exodus chapter 12. He says, “The emotions experienced at birth are perhaps the most intense that a couple will ever experience. Yet I wonder if such emotions can even approach what God felt when he gave birth to his people Israel. Today we arrive at the climactic moment when, after nine intense labor pains, God gives birth to his people. A nation is born in a day! With a father’s pride, God exclaims, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). Our text this morning, Exodus 12:29-5, reads like a birth announcement. First, we are invited into the delivery room. The atmosphere is one of extreme urgency to get this baby out of the womb “in haste”. Then we are told the time of delivery (midnight), and we hear a great cry. We learn the sex of the baby (it’s a son!). A spontaneous baby shower follows, where the newborn is lavished with gifts. Then comes the first baby portrait, and we look for family resemblances and characteristics that will shape the future of the child. And finally there is the christening or dedication of the baby.”

He comments, ”Birth narratives are extremely important to nations, families and individuals. They are rehearsed at every birthday as a family’s most treasured memories. If we do not know our birthright, we wander aimlessly, without roots or secure identity. The story of Israel’s birth is even more significant since it gives shape to our birth narrative in Christ, and tells us who we are and what is undeniably ours as our birthright.”

Read the whole article HERE – click on the PDF icon near the top of the page to download the transcript, and on the MP3 icon just below it to hear the audio.

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The music and meaning of male and female.

Dr Alastair Roberts writes, “Although the Scriptures address the topic of the sexes on many occasions, it is within the opening chapters of Genesis that its foundational treatment of the subject is to be discovered.”

He explains, “Men and women are created for different primary purposes, purposes which, when pursued in unity and with mutual support, can reflect God’s own form of creative rule in the world. The man’s vocation, as described in Genesis 2, primarily corresponds to the tasks of the first three days of creation: to naming, taming, dividing, and ruling. The woman’s vocation, by contrast, principally involves filling, glorifying, generating, establishing communion, and bringing forth new life – all tasks associated with the second three days of creation. Hence the differences between us as men and women are not merely accidental or incidental, but are integral to our purpose and deeply meaningful, relating to God’s own fundamental patterns of operation. God created us to be male and female and thereby to reflect his own creative rule in his world.”

Finally, Dr. Roberts briefly explores the significance of the creation account for two current debates on sexuality. He writes, “Within Genesis 1 and 2, we discover a foundation for reflection upon gender and sexuality more broadly, with surprising relevance to many pressing questions of sexual ethics within a contemporary context. In these concluding remarks, I want to highlight ways in which the teaching of these chapters can be brought to bear upon two key questions in contemporary sexual ethics: same-sex marriage and transgender identity.”

Read the whole article HERE, where you will find a link to the downloadable PDF article.

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Watchfulness requires wakefulness.

Brian Hedges, author of Watchfulness: recovering a lost spiritual discipline. writes, ”Watchfulness demands wakefulness.  . . . . There is, therefore, a physical dimension to this discipline.  . . . . But wakefulness in Scripture is more often a picture for mental and spiritual watchfulness. . . . . Believers live in the overlap of the ages. We are children of the future day, children of the light, and yet we live in the present age of darkness, the age of night. But since we are children of the light, we are to “cast off the works of darkness, and . . . put on the armor of light.” [Romans 13.12] We are to throw off the nightclothes and get dressed for the dawning day.”

Hedges concludes, “As people who belong to the day, we must be mentally sober and morally alert, dressed in the Christian armor of faith, hope, and love. To be watchful is to be wakeful.“

Read the whole article HERE.

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Why we all need printed Bibles.

Ian Paul writes, “It’s not uncommon in churches, when the time comes for the Bible reading, to see people reach not for a printed pew Bible, but for their phones, to read the Bible on a phone app. When I was in a session at New Wine this summer, the speaker at the morning Bible study (Miriam Swaffield) commented that she thought it was better for people to read print Bibles than read them from a screen. It made me sit up, since I say this frequently when teaching in different contexts, but this was the first time I had heard someone else say it from ‘up front’.”

He explains, “Apart from avoiding the distractions of really urgent text messages and social media notifications . . . there are other really important reasons why print Bibles . . . offer a better reading experience.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Stop making hospitality complicated.

Brandon McGinley comments, “Everyone wants to be seen as the type of posh and popular person who ‘entertains’—slicing cheeses and popping corks and carving tenderloins and so forth. But the truth is that there aren’t as many dinner parties as there are people talking about dinner parties: . . . . . Yes, the decline in friendship and the rise of busyness account for some of the retreat from hospitality, but much of the problem is embedded in how we think about sharing meals in our homes. . . . . Having guests, we feel, means putting on a show; we set up the stage and put on costumes and are the stars of the production. It sounds intimidating and exhausting—because it is. But here’s the thing: Real hospitality—the sharing of everyday life with friends, current and soon-to-be—is even more frightening. . . . allowing others to see and experience the everyday imperfection of our lives is simply unacceptable. Until, one day, it isn’t.”

McGinley concludes “Habits of hospitality . . . are downright subversive in our culture of independence and calculation. They demonstrate that it is not only possible but fruitful and beautiful to share life in a substantive way outside the confines of the nuclear family. And, in so doing, they point to the reality of the common good, not just as a theoretical concept but as a practical one that can animate an authentic Christian community.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The Friday Briefing 13 (3 August 2018)

Why catechesis now? Tim Keller writes, “The more the culture around us becomes post- and anti-Christian the more we discover church members in our midst, sitting under sound preaching, yet nonetheless holding half-pagan views of God, truth, and human nature, and in their daily lives using sex, money, and power in very worldly ways.” He concludes: “Our people desperately need richer, more comprehensive instruction. Returning to catechesis—now—is one important way to give it.”

”Do this in remembrance of Me” Bernard Bell gives us a brilliant overview of the Lord’s Supper.

The beauty of complementarity goes beyond gender Brett McCracken asks, ”What is lost when gender becomes merely a fluid social construct with no ‘compass points’, or simply one among many accoutrements of expressive individualism? What is lost when the idea of ‘complementarity’ is abandoned or demeaned because (like anything good) it can be abused or applied in problematic ways? Among many other things, beauty is lost.”

Aging in hope! Johan Tangelder writes, ”I am 68 years of age and retired, so I suppose I am considered old. In our politically correct times, I am called either a “senior citizen” or “chronologically gifted.” What is aging? How do we react to it? These questions are no longer academic for me.” After surveying the world’s attitude to old age, he asks, “So how do we face the twilight years of life? With feelings of dread… or of hope? Let’s delve further into God’s Word and see.”

The virtue of unread books Scott James writes, “. . . the array of books in our home is intended for ongoing, well-rounded usefulness. They’re there to show us what’ s possible, not venerate what’ s already been.”

Why catechesis now?.

Tim Keller writes, “The more the culture around us becomes post- and anti-Christian the more we discover church members in our midst, sitting under sound preaching, yet nonetheless holding half-pagan views of God, truth, and human nature, and in their daily lives using sex, money, and power in very worldly ways. . . . . This is not the first time the church in the West has lived in such a deeply non-Christian cultural environment. In the first several centuries the church had to form and build new believers from the ground up, teaching them comprehensive new ways to think, feel, and live in every aspect of life. They did this not simply through preaching and lectures, but also through catechesis. . . . . In the heyday of the Reformation, church leaders in Europe again faced a massive pedagogical challenge. How could they re-shape the lives of people who had grown up in the medieval church? The answer was, again, many catechisms produced for all ages and stages of life. . . . . But in the evangelical Christian world today the practice of catechesis, particularly among adults, has been almost completely lost.” Dr Keller concludes: “Our people desperately need richer, more comprehensive instruction. Returning to catechesis—now—is one important way to give it.”

Read the whole article HERE.

For a helpful summary of what catechesis is, read Joe Carter’s article 10 Things You Should Know about Catechesis available HERE.

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”Do this in remembrance of Me”.

Bernard Bell explains the Lord’s Supper clearly, simply and comprehensively in this sermon preached at Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino. He writes, “We focus our attention today upon Communion. Although the whole Church acknowledges the central importance of communion, there is tremendous confusion over most aspects of the event. . . . . . . . I want to attempt to bring some order and understanding. I will do so in three stages. First we’ll look at the Last Supper which Jesus ate with his disciples, then at how the New Testament shows the early church repeating certain aspects of that meal, and finally at what the Church has done with the meal in the past 2000 years.”

After quoting Matthew 26.17-30, he explains, ”Jesus ate a final meal with his disciples in Jerusalem just hours before he was betrayed into the hands of the Jewish authorities. The meal was significant for three reasons: it was a fellowship meal between a rabbi and his disciples; more specifically, it was a Passover meal; and during the meal a new covenant was inaugurated.”

In his conclusion, Bell sums up what the Lord’s Supper means, ”Communion is a fellowship meal between Christ and his people. We are welcome at the Lord’s Table to eat his Supper. It is not the ‘right people’ that Christ has invited to his table, but us, the last, the least, the lost and the dead. The meal spread by him consists of bread and wine, which symbolize unseen realities with which we identify by faith. They require us to tell a story: why at this table do we eat the bread and drink the cup? Because by the body and blood of his servant Jesus God redeemed his people from bondage, bringing them out into freedom to be his people. With the poured-out blood of Jesus he sealed a covenant with us, and invites us to the table to eat a meal in his presence, a meal which demonstrates the reconciliation between God and man. By drinking the cup we participate vertically in, we have koinonia with, the blood of Christ. By breaking the one loaf we participate horizontally, we have koinonia with, the one body of Christ which is his Church. We have communion with Christ and communion with one another.”

Read the whole article HERE. (Near the top of the page there is a PDF icon – clicking this will download a nicely formatted 4-page printout of this sermon.)

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The beauty of complementarity goes beyond gender.

Brett McCracken writes, ”When God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18), he did not just create a clone of Adam. He created a complement. God’s solution to Adam’s “not good” problem was not two of the same flesh, as if company was all Adam needed. It was a one-flesh union, two distinct halves together making a whole. As much as contemporary Western culture tries to suggest otherwise, the difference of male and female exists and matters. And it is not just random difference, but complementary difference—a difference that indicates the two were made for each other. Woman and man are sort of like a lock and key. A lock and a key are meaninglessly different unless they are made to go together. But when together, their difference opens something up, unlocking something fuller and deeper about the human experience. . . . . We see the beauty of male-female complementarity not only in marriage but also in how the two sexes interact in other relationships, whether in the church, workplace, community, or extended family. As Barth suggested, there is a sense in which the fullness of being ‘male’ is realized only in relationship with ‘female’, and vice versa. Marriage is a powerful way this fullness is manifest, but it is not the only way. Male and female are not fluid, easily interchangeable constructs we fashion from below. Rather, they represent a complementary unity from above: one that goes beyond bodily or even gendered polarity. It is a complementary unity that reflects the structure of the wider world and the God who created it.”

McCracken asks, ”What is lost when gender becomes merely a fluid social construct with no ‘compass points’, or simply one among many accoutrements of expressive individualism? What is lost when the idea of ‘complementarity’ is abandoned or demeaned because (like anything good) it can be abused or applied in problematic ways? Among many other things, beauty is lost.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Aging in hope!

Johan Tangelder writes, ”I am 68 years of age and retired, so I suppose I am considered old. In our politically correct times, I am called either a “senior citizen” or “chronologically gifted.” What is aging? How do we react to it? These questions are no longer academic for me.” After surveying the world’s attitude to old age, he asks, “So how do we face the twilight years of life? With feelings of dread… or of hope? Let’s delve further into God’s Word and see. In the Old Testament we find that God regards great age as the supreme reward of virtue. The aged were shown respect and honor. Old age is a blessing and not a curse. Scripture says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God” (Leviticus 19.32).  . . . . In the New Testament the attitude towards aging is no different from that in the Old Testament. Those who reached an advanced age were honored and esteemed in the community. Aged saints have a significant role in the opening chapter of Luke’s Gospel. The first characters to appear on the stage are the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who were both “advanced in years” (Luke 1.7). They are the instruments of God’s purposes and the first interpreters of God’s saving acts. Simeon and Anna are the prophetic chorus welcoming the child Jesus on the occasion of his purification in the Temple (Luke 2.22-38). . . . . As people who have clung to God’s promises over many years, they embody the virtues of long-suffering patience and trust in God’s ultimate faithfulness. They also exemplify faith and hope, even when circumstances seem hopeless.”

Tangelder comments, The youth simply cannot do without the older generation. In our culture, for a few years young adults may pretend (egged on by social and cultural forces) that they can live forever as autonomous, self-reliant, self-fulfilling beings. The pretense, however, collapses soon enough. The presence of the visible vulnerable elderly is a reminder that we are not our own creators. All of us will age; dark and blond hair will turn grey. Consequently, young Christians need the elderly so they will not take their lives for granted. I will say it again: the Church cannot be the Church without the elderly. That’s why throughout history the Church has frowned on separating the young from the old through conducting youth services. I have even read about a Church where no older people were expected to attend. But according to Scripture old and young belong together. They are all part of the great family of God.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The virtue of unread books.

Scott James writes, “My oldest son stood spellbound in front of shelves that must have seemed endlessly high and wide from his small vantage. The Study was a familiar room to him, one he often requisitioned for all manner of creative projects and mischief. The surrounding mass of books had been nothing more than background scenery. I’m not sure what triggered it, but today he took them all in spine by spine. . . . . Just when I began to self-indulge in the sentiment of the moment, he posed the question that had been brewing in his head. “Dad, have you actually read all these?” There was no effort whatsoever to hide his incredulity. . . . . Taking the accusation in stride, I confessed that no, I have not read every book in our library. Sensing his disapproval, I felt the need to defend myself use this as a teachable moment.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The Friday Briefing 12 (6 July 2018)

What I’ve learned from preaching through the Book of Revelation Sam Storms writes, “This past Sunday, June 24, 2018, I concluded a series of sermons in the book of Revelation. There were 38 of them! As I reflected on my time in this remarkable book, ten truths stood out to me above all else.”

The violent showdown: the Exodus in Isaiah Andrew Wilson gives us a dramatic, insightful overview of the Exodus theme in Isaiah. He writes, “Isaiah is a prophet of the Exodus. His rich and beautiful prophecy contains a dramatic exodus triple-whammy, as he promises first rescue from Assyria, then redemption from Babylon, and finally redemption from sin itself, in a fashion that echoes the exodus but turns it completely on its head.”

5 reasons why visitation is vital for your pastor Andrew Roycroft shares 15 incentives to keep going at pastoral visitation.

Five simple steps to mentor new believers (without overworking the pastor) Karl Vaters writes, “If you’re not happy with your small church’s discipleship program (or it may not even exist), I have some good news. . . . . After a few hit-and-miss attempts, our church has discovered a simple five-step process that can work for any small church. And it looks suspiciously similar to what Jesus, Paul and many other early church leaders did.”

The essence of femininity – a personal perspective Elizabeth Elliot, pioneer missionary and author, wrote “Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions.”

It’s time to teach the Bible in public schools [i.e. state schools] David Marcus writes, “The Bible as comprised of the Old and New Testaments is, simply put, the most important and seminal work of literature in Western Civilization. While for millions of people it is also the revealed word of God, for everyone it is an indispensable font from which springs the art, history, philosophy and governmental structures of our society. Biblical literacy, which is to say a basic, functioning knowledge of the stories of the Bible, is essential to have a full understanding of how our society works and why it differs so dramatically from others. This is why it must be thoroughly taught in the public schools.”

What I’ve learned from preaching through the Book of Revelation.

Sam Storms writes, “This past Sunday, June 24, 2018, I concluded a series of sermons in the book of Revelation. There were 38 of them! As I reflected on my time in this remarkable book, ten truths stood out to me above all else. Unlike some, the things in Revelation that had the greatest impact on me had nothing to do with numerical symbolism or 666 or the Beast or the Great Prostitute or the millennium. Here are the primary lessons I learned.” Storms concludes, “So remember: although some will tell you that you are wasting your time reading and meditating on Revelation because it is too difficult and obscure, Jesus tells us otherwise: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). . . . . This book is not beyond your ability to understand it and believe it and obey it. Don’t miss out on the blessing that is promised for those who keep what is written in it!”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The violent showdown: the Exodus in Isaiah.

Andrew Wilson gives us a dramatic, insightful overview of the Exodus theme in Isaiah. He writes, “Isaiah is a prophet of the Exodus. His rich and beautiful prophecy contains a dramatic exodus triple-whammy, as he promises first rescue from Assyria, then redemption from Babylon, and finally redemption from sin itself, in a fashion that echoes the exodus but turns it completely on its head. Those who know the story of Moses and Pharaoh, plagues and Passover, will recognize the shape of what Isaiah prophesies—but they will also be astonished by the way he presents the denouement. . . . . The arm of Yahweh, as we know, is about strength, power, even violence: the mighty hand and the outstretched arm that rain hailstones like fists and split the ocean. So as Isaiah begins to celebrate Judah’s redemption, we are not surprised to hear that it comes about because “Yahweh has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all nations,” and that his servant will be “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 52:10, 13).”

Wilson continues, “Here it comes: the violent showdown we have all been waiting for. We can hear Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries beginning in the background. But the orchestra goes silent. Suddenly, the concert hall is deathly quiet. . . . . The only sound we can hear is a plaintive cry, and as we peer at the stage in astonishment, we notice that it is coming from a manger, or the graveside of a friend, or a hillside garden, or even a cross. . . . . Here, we learn, is what the arm of Yahweh actually looks like in person: one who bears our griefs, carries our sorrows, is pierced for our transgressions, and is crushed for our iniquities (53:5). That is how Israel will be accounted righteous. . . . . We didn’t think the new exodus would look like that at all. We were so busy looking for God in the plagues or chariots hurled into the sea that we missed him in the fragile baby drifting downstream in a basket, and in the lamb’s blood smeared across the doorpost, and in the two goats who face death and exile to take away the sins of the people.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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5 reasons why visitation is vital for your pastor.

Andrew Roycroft comments,”Recently Thom Rainer posted some reflections on church member visitation, providing 15 reasons why those in pastoral ministry ‘shouldn’t visit much’. While the risk of being viewed by one’s congregation as a sanctified social worker or life coach is ever present, and while some local churches impose utterly unreasonable visitation demands on their Pastor, there are also significant dangers in neglecting this vital work. Here, rather than critiquing Dr Rainer’s reasoning, I share 15 of my own incentives to keep going at pastoral visitation. I read Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor once every year, and am forcibly reminded from its pages just how far short I fall in this area of ministry. The following are, however, offered as aspirational statements.” Not all churches, of course, have pastors in the sense Andrew Roycroft uses that term. But these 15 reasons apply to all those who exercise spiritual oversight of a local church.

Read the whole article HERE.

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Five simple steps to mentor new believers (without overworking the pastor).

Karl Vaters writes, “If you’re not happy with your small church’s discipleship program (or it may not even exist), I have some good news. You don’t need an expensive, staff-heavy curriculum to do great follow-up with new believers. And it doesn’t need to kill your already-over-busy schedule either. After a few hit-and-miss attempts, our church has discovered a simple five-step process that can work for any small church. And it looks suspiciously similar to what Jesus, Paul and many other early church leaders did.”

For example, the third step is this: “Connect them with a mature believer and the right resources.” Vaters explains: “Right now there are a handful of new believers in our church who meet regularly with mature believers to learn, grow and be discipled. Each one of them does it differently, depending on their circumstance.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The essence of femininity – a personal perspective.

Years ago, Elizabeth Elliot wrote these words – words that are not only as relevant now, but doubtless need to be heard and heeded even more urgently. She wrote, “Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions. It is unfathomable and indefinable, yet men and women have tried ceaselessly to fathom and define it. It is unavoidable and undeniable, yet in the past couple of decades earnest and high-sounding efforts have been made in the name of decency, equality, and fairness, at least to avoid it and, whenever possible, to deny it. I refer, of course, to femininity-a reality of God’s design and God’s making, His gift to me and to every woman-and, in a very different way, His gift to men as well. If we really understood what femininity is all about, perhaps the question of roles would take care of itself.” She concludes, “To gloss over these profundities is to deprive women of the central answer to the cry of their hearts, “Who am I?” No one but the Author of the Story can answer that cry.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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It’s time to teach the Bible in public schools.

David Marcus writes, “The Bible as comprised of the Old and New Testaments is, simply put, the most important and seminal work of literature in Western Civilization. While for millions of people it is also the revealed word of God, for everyone it is an indispensable font from which springs the art, history, philosophy and governmental structures of our society. Biblical literacy, which is to say a basic, functioning knowledge of the stories of the Bible, is essential to have a full understanding of how our society works and why it differs so dramatically from others. This is why it must be thoroughly taught in the public schools. Sadly, almost two decades into the 21st Century, biblical literacy is slipping away from us.”

Marcus concludes, “But it is no longer enough to rely on social osmosis or home study of the Bible to give our children the framework needed to study our culture and civilization. Our school systems needs to . . . provide students with the Biblical literacy needed to be ‘decently educated’. Our culture has roots that are powerful. They exert influence on almost every aspect of our daily lives; they nourish our social fabric. No root runs deeper than the Bible, our kids to need to know and understand it.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in writings quoted from other authors) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 11 (1 June 2018)

The Friday Briefing is now appearing monthly rather than weekly, on the first Friday of each month. This will allow more time for revision of some existing material on this site, and for further writing projects.

10 things you should know about being reconciled to God Sam Storms asks, “What does it mean when we appeal to non-believers to be reconciled to God?”

The New Testament, the ring of truth, and the difference with mythological legends J.B. Phillips (1906-1982) produced a translation of the New Testament, entitled New Testament in Modern English. In a memoir, Phillips wrote : “I found again and again that the material under my hands was strangely alive; it spoke to my condition in the most uncanny way. I say ‘uncanny’ for want of a better word, but it was a very strange experience to sense, not occasionally but almost continually, the living quality of those rather strangely assorted books.”

The local church as a counterculture Brett McCracken comments, “The local church was never meant to be a cultural, comfortable, bourgeois social club . . . . On the contrary, it was meant to be a counterculture, a set-apart community embodying a radically different vision for human flourishing. What would it mean for local churches to embrace their countercultural identity?”

How history’s revivals teach us to pray David R. Thomas writes, “From 1949 to 1952, . . . . . . . a spiritual awakening swept across the islands of Lewis and Harris, . . . . . . . I met 11 eyewitnesses—in their 80s now—who agreed to interviews in the sanctuary of the very church where the awakening began. . . . . They told of the attitude of brokenness and desperation that stirred Christians in that day, a spirit of necessity and audacity, a manner of prayer that could be daring and agonizing. . . . . A stream of this manner of praying flows from the early church all the way through the Reformation. . . . . But travailing prayer finally found a widespread voice at the dawn of the Great Awakenings in America, . . . .”

Rescuing Christian masculinity Alastair Roberts writes, “It is profoundly depressing to witness the tendency to respond to the Church’s failures to engage men with some puerile masculine rebranding exercise. . . . . Behind all of these things, it seems to me, there lies a deep crisis in contemporary masculinity, which in turn is a symptom of a crisis of contemporary society. Unfortunately, few people have put their finger upon this.”

10 things you should know about being reconciled to God.

Sam Storms writes, “We hear and say much about redemption justification and adoption and forgiveness of sins. But when was the last time you heard a sermon about the doctrine of reconciliation? What does it mean to say we are reconciled to God? What does it mean when we appeal to non-believers to be reconciled to God? In this post we’ll look at ten things we all should know about this glorious truth.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The New Testament, the ring of truth, and the difference with mythological legends.

Justin Taylor writes, “J. B. Phillips (1906-1982) . . . was . . . a periphrastic Bible translator, working from the Greek text to put the New Testament into a breezy, British, mid-20th-century vernacular. . . . . In 1958 he published the entire New Testament in Modern English with revisions in 1961 and 1972. In 1967 he wrote a memoir describing the experience, entitled Ring of Truth: A Translator’s Testimony. In it he [wrote] “. . . for years I had viewed the Greek of the New Testament with a rather snobbish disdain. I had read the best of Classical Greek both at school and Cambridge for over ten years. . . . Although I did my utmost to preserve an emotional detachment, I found again and again that the material under my hands was strangely alive; it spoke to my condition in the most uncanny way. I say ‘uncanny’ for want of a better word, but it was a very strange experience to sense, not occasionally but almost continually, the living quality of those rather strangely assorted books. To me it is the more remarkable because I had no fundamentalist upbringing, and although as a priest of the Anglican Church I had a great respect for Holy Scripture, this very close contact of several years of translation produced an effect of ‘inspiration’ which I have never experienced, even in the remotest degree, in any other work.””

Read the whole article HERE.

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The local church as a counterculture.

Brett McCracken writes, “Friedrich Nietzsche was perhaps the most towering figure among 19th century philosophers and thinkers, those whom Richard Lints has called “secular prophets.” . . . Neitzsche leveled new critiques against religion and positioned Christianity as a sort of idolatry—a made-in-man’s-own-image mythology to cope with the challenges of existence. . . . . He called Christianity the “religion of pity”—or, worse, the “religion of comfortableness.” . . . . Certainly we must admit that in many times and places in history—like in his own 19th century European context—Christianity has been rather comfortable, uncourageous, and unwilling to truly embrace the costly call of Jesus Christ. And for many in the American church today, Christianity is indeed a religion of escape and comfort, a faith that doesn’t ask much and doesn’t cost anything. It’s a religion of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. So in that sense, perhaps Nietzsche’s critique is right. But Nietzsche is wrong to suggest there’s something inherently comfortable about Christianity, that it in its very essence Christianity is a convenient, disingenuous system of consolation for the weak people of the world. . . . .”

McCracken comments, “The local church was never meant to be a cultural, comfortable, bourgeois social club that affirms people in their idolatry and helps them along on a journey to their “best life now.” On the contrary, it was meant to be a counterculture, a set-apart community embodying a radically different vision for human flourishing. What would it mean for local churches to embrace their countercultural identity?”

Read the whole article HERE.

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How history’s revivals teach us to pray.

David R. Thomas writes, “From 1949 to 1952, the unthinkable unfolded on Scottish islands known as the Hebrides: revival! Seemingly out of nowhere, a spiritual awakening swept across the islands of Lewis and Harris, . . . . Some historians believe this was the last genuine awakening in the western world. When I came across a book detailing the Hebridian Revival, I wanted to know how a community was transformed from spiritual freefall to stunning renewal. So I booked a flight to Scotland, hoping to meet anyone who might remember what happened in those days. To my amazement, I met 11 eyewitnesses—in their 80s now—who agreed to interviews in the sanctuary of the very church where the awakening began. . . . . While they admitted strong preaching and other measures had played a role in the revival, to a person they described something more essential when God moved: a kind of spiritual posture among those at the core of the awakening. They told of the attitude of brokenness and desperation that stirred Christians in that day, a spirit of necessity and audacity, a manner of prayer that could be daring and agonizing. . . . .”

“A stream of this manner of praying flows from the early church all the way through the Reformation. . . . . But travailing prayer finally found a widespread voice at the dawn of the Great Awakenings in America, introduced primarily by Jonathan Edwards, colonial America’s greatest thinker. . . . . The First and Second Great Awakenings overflowed with stories of an agony in prayer, of petitioners becoming unrelenting in their heart cries. . . . . Most important to the leaders of awakenings was that none of this audacity and determination in prayer could be self-generated. An outpouring of the “spirit of prayer” was to them the key spiritual gift, the essential charism, of awakening: God himself, by his Spirit, providing the discernment and faith, the energy and language and very breath of awakening. . . . .”

Thomas comments, “I must admit that all this has occasionally left me feeling guilty about my own praying. Who of us, if we’re honest, doesn’t deep down feel like we could be praying more, that we should in one way or another be praying better? . . . . My encounter with travailing prayer moved me closer to what I believe God is looking for.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Rescuing Christian masculinity.

Alastair Roberts writes, “It is profoundly depressing to witness the tendency to respond to the Church’s failures to engage men with some puerile masculine rebranding exercise. We are told that we need MAN hymns and MAN faith, just as we need MAN crisps, or MAN chocolate bars, . . . . Behind all of these things, it seems to me, there lies a deep crisis in contemporary masculinity, which in turn is a symptom of a crisis of contemporary society. Unfortunately, few people have put their finger upon this. . . . .”

“It is important to see, I believe, that the malaise of masculinity is a symptom of a deeper and more profound contemporary social and existential malaise, a malaise that affects everyone. It is one of the principal effects of a maternalistic society . . . . This society infantilizes us in many ways. . . . . In order to sustain this social order, masculinity must be domesticated and infantilized. . . . . Any masculine urge for world-engaging and world-changing action must be expended in the ersatz realities of sports, entertainment, games, and porn, thereby reduced to impotence. . . . .”

Dr Roberts concludes, “This spiritual malaise in the Church, just as in the wider cultural order, depends in large measure upon the emasculation and domestication of men. As I have argued in the past, a strong male—and masculine—pastorate can have the salutary effect of bringing to light spiritual realities that the modern order seeks to exclude from our vision.  . . . . In our concern to recover a lost masculinity, we easily forget that masculinity will only ever be recovered indirectly—as we recover the reality that masculinity was about. The recovery of Christian masculinity will only occur as we commit ourselves to the restoration of biblical Christianity and the recovery of the weight and stakes of its moral universe. It is only within this moral universe that a healthy Christian masculinity—far from the macho posturing of many contemporary parodies—will thrive.”

This is a penetrating commentary on this pressing issue.

Read the whole article HERE.

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