Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
For the next ten days (Dec. 15-25), you have the opportunity to register to win all ten of my favorite books this year. Plus, an ESV Study Bible. That’s $260 worth of books!"
Monday, December 15, 2008
It has been called the Achilles’ heel of the Christian faith. Of course, I’m referring to the classical problem of the existence of evil. Philosophers such as John Stuart Mill have argued that the existence of evil demonstrates that God is either not omnipotent or not good and loving — the reasoning being that if evil exists apart from the sovereign power of God, then by resistless logic, God cannot be deemed omnipotent. On the other hand, if God does have the power to prevent evil but fails to do it, then this would reflect upon His character, indicating that He is neither good nor loving. Because of the persistence of this problem, the church has seen countless attempts at what is called theodicy. The term theodicy involves the combining of two Greek words: the word for God, theos, and the word for justification, dikaios. Hence, a theodicy is an attempt to justify God for the existence of evil (as seen, for instance, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost). Such theodicies have covered the gauntlet between a simple explanation that evil comes as a direct result of human free will or to more complex philosophical attempts such as that offered by the philosopher Leibniz. In his theodicy, which was satired by Voltaire’s Candide, Leibniz distinguished among three types of evil: natural evil, metaphysical evil, and moral evil. In this three-fold schema, Leibniz argued that moral evil is an inevitable and necessary consequence of finitude, which is a metaphysical lack of complete being. Because every creature falls short of infinite being, that shortfall must necessarily yield defects such as we see in moral evil. The problem with this theodicy is that it fails to take into account the biblical ideal of evil. If evil is a metaphysical necessity for creatures, then obviously Adam and Eve had to have been evil before the fall and would have to continue to be evil even after glorification in heaven.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
You can find the study at http://esvstudybible.blogspot.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=29771613373
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. (Proverbs 26:9)
Today we limit God at the drop of a hat: He couldn't have willed that sickness, or that explosion, or the death of that child! So he must not be in control. He is a limited God.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I suspect that many of the people reading this review will already be owners of at least one study Bible. I feel it is important to affirm that there is nothing innately wrong with the Reformation Study Bible, The New Geneva Study Bible, the MacArthur Study Bible and many of the other similar products. If you are currently using one of these Bibles and are happy with it, there may be fewer compelling reason to rush out and purchase the ESV Study Bible. I have used the Reformation Study Bible and its predecessor for many years with great benefit. I have no doubt that I will continue to refer to it.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
The story of the Prodigal Son is undoubtedly among the best-known and most highly-favored tales of all time. Even those who do not know the story itself are familiar with its outline or some of the words and phrases that arose from its King James translation. A powerful and heart-rending story, it is unforgettable to all who hear it. John MacArthur, with no hyperbole, says it is “hands down, the greatest five minutes of storytelling ever.” His most recent book, A Tale of Two Sons, is an examination of this, Jesus’ most memorable and most powerful parable.
Though most people know something of this parable, very few really understand it. We see this even in the name assigned to it—the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The story, after all, was not meant to be primarily a feel-good tale of a father’s love for his son, though certainly it is that, too. Rather, “it is a powerful wake-up call with a very earnest warning.” The purpose of the parable, as Jesus delivered it, centered on the elder brother—the very character who is so often overlooked in popular re-tellings of the tale.
In the book’s opening chapter MacArthur makes clear the central and culminating lesson of the parable: “Jesus is pointing out the stark contrast between God’s own delight in the redemption of sinners and the Pharisees’ inflexible hostility toward those same sinners.” Though the younger son is important to the story, his redemption is not the main point. Rather, this parable is to serve as “a mirror for every human heart and conscience” that will reflect either God’s love for fallen sinners or a human hardness and arrogance that would deny that such hardened sinners could ever know His love.
A Tale of Two Sons is classic John MacArthur. If you have read his other books, you’ll know what to expect here. It is consistent, methodical exposition of the passage and one that never misses an opportunity to provoke application. It looks to the past to provide historical context and setting that explain many of the story’s elements that would otherwise be obscure to people reading 2,000 years later. The book looks first at the parable in its context and then at the story through a wide lens. It then turns to the younger brother, to the father, and finally to the elder brother.
It concludes with an Epilogue that describes the shocking real-life ending to this parable—the very conclusion that is so often overlooked in modern adaptations and explanations of the story. Though the story itself has an open ending and Jesus never told whether or not the elder brother repented and discovered the joy of his father, the wider biblical context makes the ending clear. The elder brother, represented by the Pharisees, was hardened in his sin and turned on his father (who represents Christ). The son, in his unrepentant hardness, put the father to death. It is a tragic and sobering ending.
This book is a fine examination of the tale and an powerful explanation of its importance to each of us today. It is suitable for any reader—believer or skeptic, laity or clergy. Read it and you will be blessed!
Saturday, August 30, 2008
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:3).
If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18).
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).
Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him (John 9:31).
“You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts. “But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts.
Thus says the Lord to this people: “Thus they have loved to wander; They have not restrained their feet. Therefore the Lord does not accept them; He will remember their iniquity now, And punish their sins.” Then the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for this people, for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence (Jeremiah 14:10-12).
Because I [Wisdom] have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke…. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me (Proverbs 1:24-25, 28).
One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination (Proverbs 28:9).
Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, Will also cry himself and not be heard. (Proverbs 21:13).
When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood (Isaiah 1:15; see also 59:2-3).
Therefore thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will surely bring calamity on them which they will not be able to escape; and though they cry out to Me, I will not listen to them. Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they offer incense, but they will not save them at all in the time of their trouble. For according to the number of your cities were your gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem you have set up altars to that shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal. So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of their trouble.” (Jeremiah 11:11-14; see also Ezekiel 8:15-18).
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-7).
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18:11-14).
You have also given me the necks of my enemies, So that I destroyed those who hated me. They cried out, but there was none to save; Even to the Lord, but He did not answer them (Psalm 18:40-41).
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Excerpt 1: To repent does mean a change of mind; but then it is a thorough change of the understanding and all that is in the mind, so that it includes an illumination, an illumination of the Holy Spirit; and I think it includes a discovery of iniquity and a hatred of it, without which there can hardly be a genuine repentance. We must not, I think, undervalue repentance. It is a blessed grace of God the Holy Spirit, and it is absolutely necessary unto salvation. …
Excerpt 3: It is a faith which produces works which saves us; the works do not save us; but a faith which does not produce works is a faith that will only deceive, and cannot lead us into heaven. …
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The following comes from Nathan’s new book, Reasons We Believe: 50 Lines of Evidence that Confirm the Christian Faith (Crossway). Today’s article is adapted from part of reason no. 13, regarding archaeological evidence for the Bible’s trustworthiness.
Recent interviews with leading archaeologists in Israel have again confirmed the historical and geographical trustworthiness of the Bible. “Serious scholars, even if they’re not believers, even if they do not think this is a sacred text, still consider it to be history, because things match up so well,” says archaeologist Steven Ortiz who has been working in Israel for over 20 years. He continues, “[T]here isn’t anything to contradict or anything to make me wary of the testimony of Scripture.” Speaking specifically of the Old Testament, Denis Baly notes that “the historical material in the [Old] Testament must be taken with great seriousness. It is primary evidence for the history of the time, and no honest historian or archaeologist should treat it as anything else.” Echoing this sentiment, Aren Maeier of Bar Ilan University acknowledges the fact that “You can’t do archaeology in Israel without the Bible.”
Their consensus on the importance of the biblical text to Israeli archaeology echoes the words of Yale archeologist Millar Burrows, who wrote over a half-century ago, “On the whole, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by experience of excavation of Palestine.” More recently, after an extensive study of Old Testament data, renown archaeologist and Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen (of the University of Liverpool) has written:
What can be said of historical reliability? Here our answer—on the evidence available—is more positive. The periods most in the glare of contemporary documents—the divided monarchy and the exile and return—show a very high level of direct correlation (where adequate data exist) and of reliability. . . .
In terms of general reliability . . . the Old Testament comes out remarkably well.
The testimony of archeology continually confirms the trustworthiness of the Bible. As Norman Geisler, Dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary, correctly points out, “While many have doubted the accuracy of the Bible, time and continued research have consistently demonstrated that the Word of God is better informed than its critics.” Henry Morris presses the point even further, asserting that there is “not one unquestionable find of archaeology that proves the Bible to be in error at any point.” On the other hand, notes Josh McDowell, “numerous discoveries have confirmed the historical accuracy of the biblical documents, even down to the occasional use of obsolete names of foreign kings.”
Those are statements no other religious book can make. Yet they correspond directly to the Bible’s own claim to be true.
* * * * *
 “The Archaeologists I”, video presentation, SourceFlix Productions (uploaded August 10, 2007) http://www.sourceflix.com/vid_arch_1.htm (accessed September 2, 2007). This clip highlights the testimony of a number of leading archaeologists who are currently working in Israel and who affirm the importance of the Bible to their work. It is part of a larger documentary to be released in 2008.
 Steven Ortiz, transcribed from “The Archaeologists I,” video presentation.
 Denis Baly, God and History in the Old Testament (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 19.
 Aren Maier, transcribed from “The Archaeologists I,” video presentation.
 Millar Burrows, What Mean These Stones? (New Haven, CT: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1941), 1.
 Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 499–500.
 Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 52. Cf. Thomas Lea’s commentary on 1, 2 Timothy, Titus NAC (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1992), 239, where he notes that “any errors in the field of history would undermine the confidence of the reader in the theological trustworthiness of Scripture.”
 Henry Morris, The Bible and Modern Science (Chicago: Moody, 1956), 95.
 Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 89. Along these lines, Jens Bruun Kofoed in Text and History (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2005), 4–5 responds to skeptics of the Old Testament by arguing that it is much more historically reliable than many scholars claim, and that “it must be included in rather than excluded from the pool of reliable data for a reconstruction of the origin and history of ancient Israel.”
Monday, July 21, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
It is possible, of course, that we might find some factual accounts about Jesus outside of the biblical gospels. The gospels do not claim to be exhaustive biographies of the life of Jesus. In fact, John closes his gospel by stating: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). What the gospels do claim, however, is that the information they provide is both accurate and sufficient, so that when you read them “you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4).
It is also important to recognize that the New Testament continually warns against the reality of false teachers—those who would distort the truth for their own gain. In their letters, the apostles warned their readers about the danger of certain heresies, including lies that might affect their understanding of Jesus and His redemptive work (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:13–14 Gal. 1:6–10; Col. 2:4; 1 Tim. 4:7; 1 John 4:1–3; 2 Peter 1:16; Jude 3–4).
Among these heresies, gnosticism was a growing concern. “The name gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning ‘knowledge,’ and stresses the character of this heresy. Gnosticism was a philosophical system built upon Greek philosophy that stressed matter was evil but spirit was good.” The gnostics believed that matter was evil, which caused them to reinterpret and distort the incarnation of Christ. If matter is evil but Christ is good, the gnostics reasoned, then He could not have possessed a physical body. To solve this problem the gnostics invented two possible explanations: “one view was that because matter was evil, Jesus could not have actually come in human form; He only appeared in human form and only appeared to suffer. The other view suggested that the divine Logos came upon the human Jesus [at His baptism] and departed prior to the crucifixion.”
In either case, the gnostic view of Jesus was completely incompatible with that taught by the apostles (cf. Titus 3:9; 1 Tim. 4:3). In the words of the apostle John, “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2–3). Paul likewise warned Timothy to “avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ [gnosis]” (1 Tim. 6:20).
The gnostic gospels, along with other grossly imaginative accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, were rightly rejected by the early Christians.
The emergence of documents with strange fairy-tale-like stories about Jesus and skewed theological ideas in works such as the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and indeed the Gospel of Truth (which in fact is not a gospel in the sense of Gospel genre but more of a theological treatise) bear witness to the necessity in the church for authoritative Gospels to combat the growth of deviant views and fanciful legends concerning Jesus. To peruse these noncanonical documents and reflect on the stories about Jesus preserved in them and other early documents gives the reader the immediate sense of the genuine reserve and feeling of authenticity that is present in the canonical presentations concerning Jesus.
Following the warning of the apostles, the early church rejected these gospels. They were either so fanciful or so theologically skewed (by gnosticism or the like) that their historical authenticity was clearly lacking. In some cases, such as the Gospel of Thomas, they are little more than a collection of sayings, and therefore not really “gospels” at all.
By contrast, the four New Testament Gospels all contain orderly accounts of the birth, life, deeds, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They also point to the glorious “good news” of redemption in Jesus Christ, and are therefore “gospels” in the truest sense of the word.
The New Testament gospels are clearly superior—both in terms of being straightforward accounts of Jesus’ life, and also by being theologically consistent with what the apostles taught in the rest of the New Testament. This again affirms the trustworthiness of the NT gospels, and helps explain why the early Christians, from the earliest points of church history, were able to distinguish between the true gospels and the counterfeits.
* * * * *
 Edwin Yamauchi, cited in Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 311.
 J. W. Drane, Introducing the New Testament (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2000), 227.
 Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1997), 415.
 Ibid., 416.
 G. L. Borchert, John 1-11 NAC (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 33.
 Ron Rhodes, “Crash Goes the Da Vinci Code,”
Monday, July 14, 2008
We must also remember that serious error can be extremely subtle. False teachers don't wear a sign proclaiming who they are. They disguise themselves as apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13). "And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (vv. 14-15).
In view of the current hunger for ecumenical compromise, nothing is more desperately needed in the church right now than a new movement to reemphasize the fundamental articles of the faith.
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks
often happened was a makeshift lifesaving
station. Its devoted workers went out day or
night, searching for the lost and saving many
lives. Soon the little station developed quite a
reputation for its unselfish work. Many people
joined the station, giving of their time, money,
and effort for the support of its work. They
bought new boats and trained new crews. The
little lifesaving station grew.
Then, some of the new members of the station
grew unhappy because the building was
crude and poorly equipped. So they enlarged
the building, replaced the emergency cots with
comfortable beds, and put in nice furniture.
Soon the station became a popular gathering
place for its members. Most of them lost interest
in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so
they hired a professional crew to do this work.
One day a large ship was wrecked off the
coast. The hired lifesaving crew brought in
boatloads of people. They were wounded,
dirty, and sick. The beautiful new building
was soiled and damaged. So the property
committee had a shower house built outside
the club where shipwreck victims could be
cleaned up before coming inside. At the next
meeting, club members got into a big dispute.
Most wanted to stop the lifesaving work because
it interfered with their regular activities.
But some members insisted that lifesaving was
still their primary purpose. However, they
were voted down. The majority told them
if they wanted to save lives, they could start
their own station down the coast. They did.
As the years passed, this new station also
developed into a club, and a third lifesaving
station was founded. If you visit that area today,
you will find a number of exclusive clubs
along the coast. Shipwrecks still happen, but
most of the people drown in the stormy waters
just off the shore.
by Frank G. Voight.
From the site of www.heartcrymissionary.com
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Excerpt from John MacArthur's article of the same title.
Here are some questions that need to be answered biblically:
Do we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, or as Savior only?
Some say a person who refuses to obey Christ can still receive Him as Savior. They teach that the gift of eternal life is available by faith even to one who rejects the moral and spiritual demands of Christ. They accuse others of teaching "lordship salvation," implying that it is novel to suggest that submission is a characteristic of saving faith.
Until relatively recently, however, no one would have dared suggest a person can be saved while stubbornly refusing to bow to Christ's authority. Nearly all the major biblical passages calling for saving faith refer to Jesus as lord (cf. Acts 2:21, 36; Romans 10:9-10).
Is repentance from sin essential to salvation?
Some say that turning from sin is a human work and therefore cannot be part of salvation. To accommodate the biblical call to repentance, they redefine repentance as nothing more than a change of mind about who Jesus is.
Biblically, however, repentance is a total about face--turning away from sin and self and unto God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9). That is no more a result of human effort than faith itself. Nor is it in any sense a pre-salvation work required to prepare a sinner for salvation. Real repentance is inseparable from faith and, like faith, is the work of God in a human heart. It is the response God inevitably generates in the heart of one He is redeeming.
What is faith?
Some say faith is merely believing certain facts. One popular Bible teacher says saving faith is nothing more than confidence in the divine offer of eternal life.
Biblically, however, the object of faith is not the divine offer; it is the Person of Jesus Christ. Faith in Him is what saves, not just believing His promises or accepting facts about Him. Saving faith has to be more than accepting facts. Even demons have that kind of faith (James 2:19).
Believing in Jesus means receiving Him for all that He is (John 1:12). It means both confessing Him as Savior and yielding to Him as Lord. In fact, Scripture often uses the word obedience as a synonym for faith (cf. John 3:36; Acts 6:7; Hebrews 5:9).
What is a disciple?
In the past hundred years or so, it has become popular to speak of discipleship as a higher level of Christian experience. In the new terminology, a person becomes a believer at salvation; he becomes a disciple later, when he moves past faith to obedience.
Such a view conveniently relegates the difficult demands of Jesus to a post-salvation experience. It maintains that when He challenged the multitudes to deny self, to take up a cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34); to forsake all (Luke 14:33); and to leave father and mother (Matthew 19:29), He was simply asking believers to step up to the second level and become disciples.
But how does that square with Jesus' own words, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matt 9:13)? The heart of His ministry was evangelism, and those difficult demands are evangelistic appeals.
Every believer is a disciple and vice versa. A careful reading of Acts shows that the word disciple has been a synonym for Christian from the earliest days of the church (cf. 6:1-2, 7; 11:26; 14:20, 22; 15:10).
What is the evidence of salvation?
In their zeal to eliminate good works as a requirement for salvation, some have gone to the extreme of arguing that good works are not even a valid evidence of salvation. They teach that a person may be genuinely saved yet never manifest the fruit of salvation--a changed life.
A few have even taken the absurd position that a born-again person may ultimately turn away from Christ into unbelief, deny God, and become an atheist--yet still possess eternal life. One writer invented a term for such people: "unbelieving believers"!
Scripture is clear that a saved person can never be lost. It is equally clear that a genuine Christian will never fall back into total unbelief. That kind of apostasy proves an individual was never really born again (1 John 2:19).
Furthermore, if a person is genuinely saved, his life will change for the better (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is saved "for good works" (Ephesians 2:10), and there is no way he can fail to bring forth at least some of the fruit that characterizes the redeemed (cf. Matthew 7:17). His desires are transformed; he begins to hate sin and love righteousness. He will not be sinless, but the pattern of his life will be decreasing sin and increasing righteousness.
You need to settle these critical questions in your own heart. Study the gospel Scripture presents. Listen with discernment to every speaker you hear. Measure everything by the Word of God. Above all, make sure that the message you share with unbelievers is truly the gospel of Christ.