3 LINES IN THE SAND by Stephen Nichols

At the turn of the twentieth century, the sciences supposedly knew better than the Bible. Now, the social sciences supposedly know better than the Bible. And we are seeing this new world-view presented artfully and entertainingly through a barrage of media and in the halls of the academy. A casual watcher and listener will be exposed to countless gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, acts, and ideas—and all without ever leaving mainstream media outlets. These are the times we live in (see TheStateofTheology.com).

These challenges have a cumulative effect. They become self-fulfilling prophecies. The promoters and producers of this material not only want to make room for these biblically aberrant views, they want to increase the tribe. They want to silence anyone who would stand up against them. They want to oppose anyone who would say, “What you are promoting and doing is wrong.”

The proverbial silver lining in these challenges to the Bible in our day is that they bring a great deal of clarity to the issue before us as Christians: Will our authority be the Word of God? Or will it be the sensibilities of our age? Is it the Bible? Or is it us?

These new challenges actually raise three questions we must consider. The first concerns how this affects us personally. Are we subtly influenced by all of this moral decay? To ask this another way: Have we moved the line because culture is trying to erase the line?”

The second question concerns us as a larger entity, as the body of Christ. Will we continue to hold to our biblical convictions in the face of increasing pressure and possible persecution? Beware of the leader who wants to “rethink” what the Bible says or how we apply the Bible to these current situations and contexts. We must reaffirm the truth of the past. We must reaffirm orthodox and historic theology and biblical understanding. But we must never rethink the Bible’s teaching. We would much prefer, for instance, that our boss reaffirm the decision to hire us rather than rethink it. The language of rethinking or accommodating should set off alarm bells in our heads. When you hear those bells go off, run.

On the other hand, we must show solidarity with those leaders who stand for biblical convictions. We must show solidarity with churches that stand for biblical convictions. This is a time for boundaries. Boundaries help us know who is not with us. But boundaries also help us know who is with us. And we need each other, perhaps now more than ever before. We need to encourage those who take strong stands on biblical convictions. Those who do take such strong stands get criticized, and that criticism can be sharp and cutting. Part of the beauty of the body of Christ is our care for one another, our encouragement for one another. As the surrounding culture turns more hostile, that mutual encouragement moves from being a luxury to a necessity.

The third question concerns our duties as a citizen, and as an ambassador of the truth and the gospel in this strange and foreign world. As Christians, we hold ourselves to biblical convictions and each other to biblical convictions. How do we, however, stand up for biblical convictions in the marketplace?

We must let the Bible be our guide. If it’s a gospel issue, then we must take our stand. If it’s a biblical truth matter, then we must take our stand. God has spoken on the nature of human identity and sexual identity. God has spoken on marriage.

All three of these lines in the sand are drawn in the opening two chapters of the Bible. God makes it clear that He created us, that He created male and female, and that He designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. Those three foundational truths are clear. All three are rejected today.

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This excerpt is taken from A Time for Confidence by Stephen Nichols; REFORMATION TRUST; 2017

 

IF IT WAS TRUE THEN, HOW MUCH MORE NOW ?

…it should, I think, be made much harder than it now is to enter the Church: the confession of faith that is required should be a credible confession; and if it becomes evident upon examination that a candidate has no notion of what he is doing, he should be advised to enter upon a course of instruction before he becomes a member of the Church. Such a course of instruction, moreover, should be conducted not by comparatively untrained laymen, but ordinarily by the ministers; the excellent institution of the catechetical class should be generally revived. Those churches, like the Lutheran bodies in America, which have maintained that institution, have profited enormously by its employment; and their example deserves to be generally followed.

J. GRESHAM MACHEN, What is Faith?)

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Taken from the blog of R. Scott Clark, THE HEIDELBLOG; August 3, 2017

4 WAYS TO ENJOY GOD by Sinclair Ferguson

While shaking hands at the church door, ministers are sometimes greeted with a spontaneous, “I really enjoyed that!”—which is immediately followed by, “Oh! I shouldn’t really say that, should I?” I usually grip tighter, hold the handshake a little longer, and say with a smile, “Doesn’t the catechism’s first question encourage us to do that? If we are to enjoy Him forever, why not begin now?”

Of course, we cannot enjoy God apart from glorifying Him. And the Westminster Shorter Catechism wisely goes on to ask, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” But notice that Scripture contains the “rule” for enjoying God as well as glorifying Him. We know it abounds in instructions for glorifying Him, but how does it instruct us to “enjoy him”?

Enjoying God is a command, not an optional extra: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). But how? We cannot “rejoice to order,” can we?

True. Yet, Scripture shows that well-instructed believers develop a determination to rejoice. They will rejoice in the Lord. Habakkuk exemplified this in difficult days (see Hab. 3:17–18). He exercised what our forefathers called “acting faith”—a vigorous determination to experience whatever the Lord commands, including joy, and to use the God-given means to do so. Here are four of these means—in which, it should be noted, we also glorify God.

Joy in Salvation

Enjoying God means relishing the salvation He gives us in Jesus Christ. “I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:18). God takes joy in our salvation (Luke 15:6–7, 9–10, 32). So should we. Here, Ephesians 1:3–14 provides a masterly delineation of this salvation in Christ. It is a gospel bath in which we should often luxuriate, rungs on a ladder we should frequently climb, in order to experience the joy of the Lord as our strength (Neh. 8:10). While we are commanded to have joy, the resources to do so are outside of ourselves, known only through union with Christ.

Joy in Revelation

Joy issues from devouring inscripturated revelation. Psalm 119 bears repeated witness to this. The psalmist “delights” in God’s testimonies “as much as in all riches” (Ps. 119:14; see also vv. 35, 47, 70, 77, 103, 162, 174). Think of Jesus’ words, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Does He mean He will find His joy in us, so that our joy may be full, or that His joy will be in us so that our joy may be full? Both, surely, are true. We find full joy in the Lord only when we know He finds His joy in us. The pathway to joy, then, is to give ourselves maximum exposure to His Word and to let it dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). It is joy-food for the joy-hungry soul.

Joy in Communion

There is joy in the Lord to be tasted in the worship we enjoy in church communion. The church is the new Jerusalem, the city that cannot be hidden, the joy of the whole earth (Ps. 48:2). In the Spirit-led communion of praise and petition; soul pastoring; Word preaching; psalm, hymn, and spiritual song singing; and water, bread, and wine receiving, abundant joy is to be found. The Lord sings over us with joy (Zeph. 3:17). Our hearts sing for joy in return.

Joy in Tribulation

Here, indeed, is a divine paradox. There is joy to be known in the midst of and through affliction. Viewed biblically, tribulation is the Father’s chastising hand using life’s pain and darkness to mold us into the image of the One who endured for the sake of the joy set before Him (Heb. 12: 1–2, 5–11; see Rom. 8:29). We exult and rejoice in our sufferings, Paul says, because “suffering produces … hope” in us (Rom. 5:3–4). Peter and James echo the same principle (1 Peter 1:3–8; James 1:2–4). The knowledge of the sure hand of God in providence not only brings stability; it is also a joy-producer.

All of this adds up to exultation in God Himself. In Romans 5:1–11, Paul leads us from rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God (v. 2) to joy that comes in tribulation (v. 3) to exulting in God Himself (v. 11; see Ps. 43:4). The unbeliever finds this incredible, because he has been blinded by the joy-depriving lie of Satan that to glorify God is the high road to joylessness. Thankfully, Christ reveals that the reverse takes place in Him—because of our salvation, through His revelation, in worship’s blessed communion, and by means of tribulation.

Enjoy! Yes, indeed, may “everlasting joy … be upon [your] heads” (Isa. 51:11).

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This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

 

10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE BIBLE’S TEACHING ON MEN AND WOMEN

10 Things You Should Know about the Bible’s Teaching on Men and Women

August 01, 2016 by: Andreas J. Köstenberger, Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger

1. We were created male and female by divine design.

According to the Genesis creation account, God created humanity male and female (Gen 1:26–28). Maleness and femaleness are creational, not contractual. They are divinely instituted rather than socially defined. Thus our gender identity cannot simply be renegotiated the way in which we refinance a mortgage or reschedule an appointment. God created us, and we are his creatures, both men and women.

2. We were created male and female in God’s image.

Humanity’s binary gender design as male and female reflects in some mysterious way the nature of God. While sharing a common humanity, the man and the woman are unique and complementary rather than identical. This complementarity, in turn, reflects a facet of God’s own nature. God, too, is a unity within diversity (three in one, equal in personhood, distinct in role). This unity in diversity is beautifully reflected in human marriage, where the two become one flesh (Gen 2:24–25).

3. The man was created first and given the responsibility to lead.

Scripture teaches that first the man was created by a direct divine act of creation and given the responsibility to lead; subsequently, the woman was created by God from the man (Gen 2:5–9) and for the man (Gen 2:18–20). He is to subdue the earth and is given the name “Adam,” which also serves as the name of the entire human race. God calls the man to account and holds him responsible for the fall.

4. The man and the woman are partners in exercising dominion over God’s creation.

The man and the woman jointly receive God’s mandate to multiply and fill the earth, and to subdue it, exercising dominion. God creates the two as genuine partners, and this partnership envelops the man’s leadership and the woman’s support and participation in such a way that the two work in tandem, with complementarity. This genuine partnership can be fully reflected today where men exercise godly leadership without domination and encourage women’s robust participation within biblical boundaries.

5. Who we are as men and women defines the core of our existence, not merely its periphery.

Having been created male and female, we are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Thus the way in which we live our lives is in and through our divinely created gender identities. These gender identities, in turn, are not merely superficial but run deep, affecting who we are as persons, family members, church members, and citizens. While the gospel extends to all of us, we do not cease to exist as men and women.

While the gospel extends to all of us, we do not cease to exist as men and women.

6. The fall distorted, corrupted, and confused who we are as men and women.

Men and women are meant to live out gender diversity in unity. The fall destroys this prospect. Male and/or female domination are some of the extremes resulting from fractured gender relationships. It is only those redeemed in Christ who can hope to recover and live out God’s intended design. We should remember that the ultimate problem is sin, not a faulty gender design or a corruption of a perfect original. That said, even in its fallen state humanity still displays glimpses of the divine design.

7. God’s design is best.

God’s design of humanity as male and female cannot be improved upon! God’s ways are far superior to our own. God’s design for man and woman—expressed in male leadership with male-female partnership—is an expression of his beauty, wisdom, and goodness. Through faith, and faith alone, we can appropriate God’s power to live out this design individually and in relation to each other.

8. The Bible’s teaching on God’s design for man and woman is consistent and coherent.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible paints a unified picture of what it means to be a man or a woman. The dual pattern of male leadership and male-female partnership pervades all of Scripture: from creation to the fall to redemption in Christ and to the final consummation. For a thorough discussion of this, see our book God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey.

Husband-and-wife biblical scholars set forth a robust biblical theology of gender, examining key texts, employing sound hermeneutical principles, and considering important historical influences related to the Bible’s teaching on manhood and womanhood.

9. Every generation must model and explain God’s design for man and woman to the next.

God’s way is for men to lead their families, fathers to mentor their sons in biblical, God-honoring masculinity, and for mothers to mentor their daughters in biblical, God-honoring femininity. Not only is this to happen in the natural family, it is also to take place in God’s family, the church (e.g., Titus 2), especially where family structures are broken. How are you and I preparing our sons and daughters for living out their God-given design as men and women? How are our churches equipping those without role models?

10. Current cultural trends reflect humanity’s brokenness and deep-seated rebellion against the Creator and his design for men and women.

Current cultural trends such as same-sex marriage or transgenderism are only symptoms—the result of humanity’s rejection of its Creator (Romans 1). Autonomous, libertarian human reason insists on its right to define itself in opposition to and rebellion toward God. Sadly, this root rebellion will incur eternal judgment unless people trust in Christ. As believers, by grace and through faith, we have the privilege to point to God through living out his wise and beautiful design before a world that languishes in sin and desperately needs salvation.

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Andreas J. Köstenberger
Andreas J. Köstenberger (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is a prolific author, distinguished evangelical scholar, and editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. He is the founder of Biblical Foundations, a ministry devoted to restoring the biblical foundations of the home and the church. Köstenberger and his wife have four children.

Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger
Margaret E. Köstenberger (ThD, University of South Africa) serves as adjunct professor of women’s studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. She is the author of Jesus and the Feminists and the coauthor (with Andreas Köstenberger) of God’s Design for Man and Woman. She and her husband, Andreas, live in North Carolina with their four children.

 

THE IMPOSSIBLE FLIGHT OF MOSQUITOES

It may be hard to imagine the pesky little vampires that like to ruin summertime fun as examples of God’s design, but it turns out mosquitoes are more complex than they appear.

Until recently, scientists had been unable to figure out how mosquitoes fly. Most flying insects are able to lift off because of what scientists refer to as the Bernoulli effect, an aerodynamic principle that when air movement speeds up, air pressure decreases. Airplane wings generate lift because air goes faster over the top of the wing, creating an area of low pressure. The difference in pressure between the top and bottom of the wing pushes the airplane upward. Birds and most flying insects use this principle, Jerry Bergman, a biologist and professor at the University of Toledo, explains on the blog Creation Evolution Headlines.

But mosquitoes can move their long, slender wings only in a very limited arc and cannot take advantage of the Bernoulli effect. Now researchers have discovered the mosquitoes’ secret: they use a mechanism “unlike any previously described for a flying animal,” according to an article in the journal Nature.

The researchers found mosquitoes use three different properties of aerodynamic motion, two of which are unique to the insects.

“For this complex system to function requires not only the hardware, including the wing and neuromuscular design, but also the software, in this case, the brain,” Bergman wrote.

The complex system shows the weaknesses of Darwin’s theory of evolution. If mosquitoes evolved through random mutations, they would not have been able to fly until the entire system was in place. Mosquitoes would not have been able to access the plant nectar that provides their food nor the proteins and lipids female mosquitoes need to breed and lay their eggs.

“The design of just the system that allows a small insect to fly is a wonder to behold. It took some of our brightest Oxford University scientists, and the latest technology, to unlock its secret,” Bergman said.

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Julie Berg, WORLD MAGAZINE; July 28, 2017

PUTTING AN END TO THE MYTH–CHRISTIAN HYMNS DON’T COME FROM DRINKING SONGS

by Jonathan Aigner; PATHEOS

No, the melodies of our beloved hymns weren’t borrowed from drinking songs, bar tunes, and tavern music. I’ve had about ten comments on my blog posts this week alone trying to use the bar song myth as their smoking gun in the case for commercial worship. It’s an argument many love to make, but it didn’t happen.

Those most often implicated in this myth are Martin Luther and the Wesleys. Luther did use German Bar form, a musical style in an AAB pattern having nothing to do with the suds. There is no indication John John and Charlie ever suggested such a thing, and knowing their position on imbibing and the importance placed on proper text/tune pairing, it’s unlikely the would have even considered the idea. Tunes were occasionally borrowed from existing folk songs, but they weren’t simply extracted from whatever people were singing at the local watering hole and paired with jesusy poetry. And even if they were, it was not, as commercial worship apologists are wont to say, in an effort to borrow from culture for the purpose of evangelism or getting butts on the stools…er…in the pews.

This rumor has been thoroughly debunked by both scholars and laypeople. So why do people still believe it? I’m not entirely sure, but it seems like the “Grassy Knoll” theory of Christian hymnody. There’s no evidence for it, but dang it, it’s just more interesting than the truth.

Irresponsible? Yes, absolutely.

Difficult to suppress? You bet.

This is why I’ve decided to take to Twitter with a more active and annoying approach. I searched for tweets containing “hymns,” “drinking songs,” and “bar songs,” and left some drive-by education for those who perpetuate this dumb myth. The results are…interesting, to say the least.

THE EARLIEST CHRISTIANS HAD A RURAL MISSION TOO

The Earliest Christians Had A Rural Mission Too

“To be clear, Robinson’s point is not that early Christians prioritized rural over urban. Rather his point is that the rural dimension of early Christianity has been routinely overlooked due to a reigning paradigm that has insisted Christians were predominantly urban.

In reality, early Christians were both.

Robinson’s study thus has an obvious implication for modern church planting. We should be careful not to insist that we must focus on the urban because early Christians focused on the urban. It turns out, according to Robinson, that this is not what the earliest Christians did. Of course, we may decide to focus on urban locations for other reasons, and that is perfectly fine. But, we can’t insist that it has always been this way.”

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MICHAEL J. KRUGER, “Remembering the Rural: Do Modern Church Plants Focus too Much on the City?”; CANON FODDER; June, 2017