21 December 2014

One sent forth

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from the New Park Street Pulpit, sermon number 57, "The incarnation and birth of Christ."
“Out of thee,” saith Jehovah, speaking by the mouth of Micah, “out of thee shall he come forth unto me.”

It is a sweet thought that Jesus Christ did not come forth without His Father’s permission, authority, consent and assistance. He was sent of the Father that he might be the Saviour of men. We are, alas! too apt to forget that while there are distinctions as to the persons in the Trinity, there are no distinctions of honour; and we do very frequently ascribe the honour of our salvation, or at least the depths of its mercy and the extremity of its benevolence, more to Jesus Christ than we do to the Father. This is a very great mistake.

What if Jesus came? Did not his Father send Him? If he were made a child, did not the Holy Spirit beget Him? If he spoke wondrously, did not his Father pour grace into his lips that he might be an able minister of the new covenant? If his Father did forsake him when he drank the bitter cup of gall, did he not still love him still? and did he not, by-and-by, after three days, raise him from the dead, and at last receive him up on high, leading captivity captive?

Ah! beloved, he who knoweth the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost as he should know them, never setteth one before another; he is not more thankful to one than the other; he sees them at Bethlehem, at Gethsemane, and on Calvary, all equally engaged in the work of salvation.

“He shall come forth unto me.” O Christian, hast thou put thy confidence in the man Christ Jesus? Hast thou placed your reliance solely on him? And art thou united with him? Then believe that thou are united unto the God of heaven; since to the man, Christ Jesus thou art brother, and holdest closest fellowship, thou art linked thereby with God the Eternal, and “the Ancient of days” is thy Father and thy friend! “He shall come forth unto me.”

Did you never see the depth of love there was in the heart of Jehovah, when God the Father equipped His Son for the great enterprise of mercy? There had been a sad day in Heaven once before, when Satan fell, and dragged with him a third of the stars of Heaven, and when the Son of God launching from his great right hand the Omnipotent thunders, dashed the rebellious crew to the pit of Perdition; but if we could conceive a grief in Heaven, that must have been a sadder day, when the Son of the Most High left his Father’s bosom, where he had lain from before all worlds.

“Go,” saith the Father, “and thy Father’s blessing on thy head!” Then comes the unrobing. How do angels crowd around to see the Son of God take off his robes! He laid aside his crown; he said, “My Father, I am Lord over all, blessed forever, but I will lay my crown aside, and be as mortal men are.”

He strips himself of his bright vest of glory; “Father,” he says, “I will wear a robe of clay, just such as men wear.” Then he takes off all those jewels wherewith he was glorified; he lays aside his starry mantles and robes of light, to dress himself in the simple garments of the peasant of Galilee. What a solemn disrobing that must have been!

And next, can you picture the dismissal! The angels attend the Saviour through the streets, until they approach the doors; when an angel cries, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and let the king of glory through!”

Oh! methinks the angels must have wept when they lost the company of Jesus—when the Sun of Heaven bereaved them of all its light! But they went after Him. They descended with him; and when his spirit entered into flesh, and he became a babe, he was attended by that mighty host of angels, who after they had been with him to Bethlehem’s manger, and seen him safely laid on His mother’s breast—in their journey upwards appeared to the shepherds and told them that he was born King of the Jews.

The Father sent Him! Contemplate that subject. Let your soul get hold of it, and in every period of his life think that he suffered what the Father willed; that every step of his life was marked with the approval of the great I AM.

Let every thought that you have of Jesus be also connected with the eternal, ever-blessed God; for “He,” saith Jehovah, “shall come forth to Me.” Who sent him, then? The answer is, his Father!



19 December 2014

Some Here, Some There — December 19, 2014

by Dan Phillips

NOTE: an important announcement about the conference is included below.

Here you go:
  • Last week I mentioned the "celibate gay" Christian Wheaton hired to be... well, I guess to be a "celibate gay" Christian, and I made and linked to commentary. Now see also Robert Gagnon's comments.
  • Through the one-way glass: on the subject of "gay Christians," Owen Strachan says much that we've said, and more, and very very well.
  • If you missed last Monday Music — well, for shame. And here.
  • Reviewing anti-Christian filmmaker (is that a tautology?) Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods & KingsBrian Mattson says that if Scott's target had been Islam, he'd spend the remainder of his life in a bunker in an undisclosed location. 
  • It is interesting to note how those brave Hollywood liberals (is that an oxymoron?) pretty invariably target those whose very religion prevents violent response.
  • I think of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary as the little (?) seminary that could and does. Were I seeking a seminary today, I'd look very closely at them. The DBTS journal is excellent, and its blog is always worth checking. In this article, Ben Edwards notes one of many TGC inconsistencies, this one relating to dispensationalism. You don't have to be a dispie to nod. Another case of natural co-belligerents being split by the unreasoned prejudice (or elitism?) of one party.
  • BIG NEWS about the Sufficient Fire Conference. Providential turns have resulted in our moving the conference from the Berry Center to Copperfield Bible Church. The program is unchanged. But this move brought us substantial financial savings, which we've translated into offering free registration. If you already paid for your tickets, your money will be refunded in PayPal. The conference is not free to the sponsor, of course, and your financial support would be right and appreciated. But note carefully: only register if you will come, God permitting. Seating is limited, so don't take the seat of someone who would come if one were available.
  • What is the one sentence pastors most dread hearing? Thom Rainer offers his opinion, explains it, and offers a solution. I think he's made an excellent pick. Another would be when someone faults you for not accomplishing, in your sermon, what you never set out to accomplish — but I can't reduce that to words. Like you've pulled out all the stops and poured your heart out to glorify God's eternal gracious love, and someone says he didn't see how that helps him be a better WalMart greeter, or something. What's your nominee?
  • Do you know anyone who's just too darned happy? Try sharing some Werner Herzog Inspirationals.
  • You may be aware that there was a panel discussion ostensibly on racial relations chaired by a very scary-looking Ed Stetzer. Here it is (a sort of registration is required). It evidently was called by Bryan Loritts; if you don't know who Bryan is, you need to know this, and this as well. Anyway, it may quite astonish you — you particularly — to hear Loritts say, in the context of racial reconciliation, how he "wondered aloud, 'Where are the conservative, evangelical voices?'"
  • If you were watching, you may have said back to the screen, "Well, I know where two of them are, at least: on Pyromaniacs! One recent post at least was a sweeping Gospel-centered address the whole situation. In fact, didn't Thabiti Anyabwile say he was in agreement with that post?" Indeed he did:
  • So (I continue) you may have thought, "Pyromaniacs is high-traffic, hardly invisible. How can Loritts say 'silent'?"
  • One could hazard a guess:
  • Re. Bell: as usual, you-know-where was well ahead of the curve, and more than once. Sadly, this gracious entreaty and invitation from Frank Turk was ignored.
  • Because, you know, the important thing today isn't that these timely warnings, if spread and heeded at the time, might have prevented much misery and harm. The really important thing is not to note that fact, so that nothing will improve going forward.
  • Because nowadays people seem to celebrate folks who come on a burnt building and intone sage, measured, nuanced, judicious remarks about the ruinsmore than they do people who say of the still-standing building, "Say... I smell smoke."
  • Because you know, these days, only shielding the elitist celebrity culture from even the most obvious criticisms and calls for accountability and reform is deemed conduct becoming us Christian serfs.

  • If you tweeted a snatch from a cult's hymnody as if expressing your own words, wouldn't you want to know? Yeah, me too.
  • On to another cult: on the 12th we reminded you that the Piano Guys were Mormons. A few days later Challies offered some very good expansions and warnings about Mormons and their prosyletizing methods. (I can't call it "evangelism"; there's no evangel there.)
  • So, amid the bad news, wouldn't some good news be nice? Here you go: reader "Rowdie Jones" pointed me to a series of posts (beginning here) in which former Assemblies of God charismatic Dan Michael Cogan explains his journey from the mess that is charismaticism to affirming the sufficiency of Scripture.
  • Courtney Reissig has a good word for wives, but it works just as well for husbands. Be grateful for the 80%, trust God with the 20%.
  • Dear bro David Murray (who himself has a wonderful Scottish accent) shows us what "a depressed Scottish S'more" looks like:

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17 December 2014

An Arclight of Hope

by The Late Frank Turk

So here's the point: Christmas is not a celebration of everyday life.  The purpose of Christmas is not to celebrate your middle-class life and ethics, or even to enjoy simple human good will, or to inspire it.  It's not even to give thanks for a decent year past -- however good and godly it might seem to try that.  The point of Christmas, if I may say it this way, is that God is fully aware that the world and the lives of those living here are all headed for a sad and sober end if nothing changes.

Because let's face it: things don't really change.  You might make a case for all manner of improvements in law or economics or standards of living, but our core complaint this week is that innocent people die all the time for no reason.  That never changes -- it's the status quo of the world.

That is: until Christmas.

Look: a few years ago I made a point of telling everyone that God's view of Christmas is a strange and amazing balance between his threat to bring justice to disobedient people and his promise to save them from their utter disregard for him.  Another time I made it a point to tell you that the miracle at Christmas is not that a legion of fantastic beings sang out to God's praise in a field -- it was that a baby was born and laid in a manger, fulfilling the promises of God with God Himself.  That was a pretty good one.

This year, let me say this: in this world where your home may seem empty because of a gigantic loss, and where the death of innocents seems to be an insurmountable sign of how the times have turned, God has already taken it upon himself to change the status quo.  The point here -- the actual reason that there is a Christmas, actually a moment when the world affected by the church of God stops and stares, expecting to see something completely amazing -- is that Jesus, who is God, didn't try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything, and was born in a manger to became a slave, when he became like one of us. Jesus was humble the way only God can be humble, surrendering the Glory which Isaiah saw in the throne room of God to become a miracle wrapped in rags. He obeyed God -- and his obedience didn't stop at being born in a barn.  His obedience took him lower still, to a death on a cross when he deserved worship and honor and power, so that the death of innocents would, in an eternal and permanent way, be defeated forever.

Jesus is not just some ephemeral housekeeper who can tidy us up right now -- or at least until we toss ourselves back into the filth. He's not someone who merely helps us avoid the worst right now, as if God has nothing better to do than to stop us from doing exactly what we want to do.  His story is not just a story about truth: he's the one guy who understands our weaknesses because he has suffered through them all, refusing to sin, and then he died for them all so that they can all not only be defeated, but forgiven.

And here we are -- worried that the something was ruined because the sins of our society are more obvious this week than they are most other weeks. I think something was ruined when the angels sang, "Glory to God in the Highest! And on Earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests," -- and what was ruined was the status quo.  Since then it has been our problem to catch up with that -- to live as if that really happened, so we can make much of this Jesus, and enjoy him forever.

This is the true meaning of Christmas, dear reader, and tossing out another example of human moral destitution which tears down our illusions about how safe and civilized we are doesn't harm even one thin angel hair of tinsel in that kind of Christmas: it causes the brilliance of Christmas to shine like an arclight of hope which leads us to our one and only savior.

This Christmas, I beg you: look for him, find him, and throw yourself on him, because in that stable, and at his cross, and ultimately at his empty tomb and his seat at the right hand of God, is your only hope in this world where death is the common end.  Let nothing you dismay: for Jesus Christ our savior was born upon this day to save us all from death and sin's power when we had gone astray.  Those are the tidings of comfort and joy.

I wish you good tidings of great joy this Christmas, and true prosperity and eternal life in the New Year.









16 December 2014

Short Christmas sermon: How not to find Jesus

by Dan Phillips

For our annual Christmas program, I was to bring a brief message. The program lasted well over an hour before my time came, and it was wonderful — piano, banjo, saxophone, flute, guitars; songs, recitals; little tiny kids and adults. Really great.

I'd puzzled and pondered on what to bring. Such events bring believers and unbelievers. We have many such events at which I'm asked to speak; and I know unbelieving friends and relatives are there. So I invariably preach the Gospel as pointedly, plainly and powerfully as I know how. And, to date, there has not been one conversion or even further contact from these events. This is a matter of intense, ongoing prayer for me, and I do all I can to urge my dear ones here at our church to do the same.

That said, I had no interest in offering a soothing, tranquilizing, boilerplate intonation of familiar imagery. So I took a different approach on a familiar passage. I focused on Matthew 2, but announced my topic is "How NOT to Find Jesus."

I'll do for you what I never do. These are my preaching notes:

Introduction:
1.      Every Sunday I stand in the pulpit and tell people how to find Jesus, how to know God, how to walk with Him
a.       Those who come, want to know these things
b.      Those who do not want to know these things do not come
2.      So I thought for a change, I’d preach a short sermon on how not to find Jesus
a.       King Herod will be our example
b.      I’ll draw out three main points, briefly 

I.          When You Hear of Jesus, Don’t Look for Him Yourself
A.       Wise Men Told Herod
1.        He was troubled – making him both smarter and dumber than some
a.         He saw Jesus as a threat, and he was right
b.         But not the way he meant
c.         Still, he did not welcome God’s Messiah
2.        He did not join the Magi himself, but turned to the Experts – a dodge
B.        Bible Experts Told Herod
1.        They found in Scripture where Jesus would have been born
2.        This would have been just six miles
a.         Yet Herod did not go
b.         And the religious experts did not go!
TRANSITION:  this method will work every time: don’t look, and you won’t find

II.       When Your Non-Searching Results in Non-Finding…
A.       First: Blame Others
1.        Herod was angry at the wise men…
2.        angry, at them, for not being caught by his lie, and helping him destroy the Christ Child!
B.        Second: Believe Absurdity Instead
1.        So Herod believes this is God’s Messiah, and a threat to him…
2.        …but he thinks he can kill him?
C.       Third: Lash Out
1.        What did the babies do? Nothing
2.        Yet little god Herod is desperate in preserving his little god universe…
3.        …and a few innocent babies aren’t going to stop him
TRANSITION:  Keeping the issue everything-but-me also always works; but…

III.    Most Importantly: Never Intend to Find Him in the First Place
A.       Herod Never Meant to Find Christ for Himself
1.        By “find” I mean know, worship, love and embrace Him
2.        Herod just wanted Christ gone so he could carry on as before
B.        Remember: Christ Was There To Be Found
1.        As for Herod and the Experts…
2.        …so for you and me
C.       What If Herod Had Repented?
Psalm 2:10–12 — Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. 
1.        As for the kings of the earth…
2.        …so for Herod…
3.        …and so for you and me

I expanded a good deal, gave some additional historical anecdotes about Herod... buy hey, did you expect everything?

Now I've given you a gift for Christmas, or so was my intent. Would you give me one? Pray for the church I serve and for me, for these things:
  • That unbelievers present for this message find themselves unable to put it out of their mind, their thoughts turned to Christ afresh by the Holy Spirit
  • For the power of the preached Word in our church
  • For God to use His Gospel as His power for salvation, converting and redeeming the lost in our ministry
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14 December 2014

Jesus in the midst

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Gospel of the Kingdom, page 154, Pilgrim Publications.
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

There is no excuse for giving up prayer-meetings while there are two praying people in the place; for two can prevail with God. 

The presence of Jesus is the fixed centre of the assembly, the warrant for its coming together, and the power with which it acts. The church, however small, is gathered in his name. Jesus is there first: I am in the midst of them. 

We are gathered together by the holy impulses of Christian brotherhood, and our meeting is in the name of Jesus, and therefore there he is; near, not only to the leader, or to the minister, but in the midst, and therefore near to each worshipper.

We meet to do him honour, to hear his Word, to stir each other up to obey his will; and he is there to aid us. However small the number, we make a quorum; and what is done according to the laws of Christ is done with his authority.

Hence it is that there is great power in united prayer from such persons: it is Jesus pleading in his saints. This should prevent Christian men from giving or taking offence; for if Jesus be in our midst, our peace must not be broken by strife.



12 December 2014

Some here, some there — December 12, 2014

by Dan Phillips

If you're one of those misguided souls who only drops by on Fridays, be sure to see the extra-edition SHST posted last Tuesday. I think many missed it.

So, let's see... what day is it today? Oh yeah.

On with it:
whether she's struggled similarly to put her finger on just what she believes about rape, murder, Arianism, Roman Catholicism, lying, theft and other sins. Like when she mentions a "celibate homosexual Christian" friend — does she have child-molestor-Christian friends, atheist-Christian friends, murdering-Christian friends, Sabellian-Christian friends?

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11 December 2014

"From You Shall Come Forth..."

by Phil Johnson


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Phil back in December 2010. Phil offered his thoughts on Micah 5:2, noting that it is both a messianic prophecy and a Christmas text.


As usual, the comments are closed.
One of the most famous and important Old Testament messianic prophecies is also a Christmas text. It foretold that Christ would be born in Bethlehem: "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days" (Micah 5:2).

That promise loomed large in the minds of expectant first-century Jewish leaders—so much so that many of them were prepared to reject Him because they did not know His birthplace and assumed, naturally, that he had been born in the region of his parents' home: "Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee" (John 7:52).

But I think the most amazing thing about Micah's prophecy is the way the deity of Christ is expressed in the verse's final phrase. Israel's Messiah would be One "whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days."

The clear implication of that expression is that the birth of Christ in Bethlehem was not the beginning of Christ as God's Son and our Sovereign. He is eternal. He "came forth" from Bethlehem, but He did not come from there in the first place. His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting"—to use the familiar phrasing from the King James Version.

Notice also that the words of this prophecy are spoken directly by God the Father. Some clear threads of Trinitarian doctrine are woven into the fabric of the text. God the Father is speaking, and in speaking about the One who would come forth out of Bethlehem, He says this: "from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel."

Don't miss the importance of those two words "for Me." God the father is sending this eternal Person to be born and to rule and to redeem His people, and to make righteousness reign over all the earth.

The language is of course reminiscent of John 3:16John 10:36Galatians 4:4, 1 John 4:9-10, and 1 John 4:14.

That is the gospel, and it's embedded in our text by implication. Christ—God the Son—came to this earth at the behest of God the Father, on a mission of mercy and redemption. He calls us to repent of our sins and believe in Him—and He does all the work of redemption Himself. It's not up to us to atone for our own sin—we simply lay hold of His grace by faith.