In the Beginning There Was the Fruit

One of the most embarrassing prayers I ever uttered in my entire life was the one I made when I was in high school. I remember being so convinced that I was near perfect that I ended up telling God he should really be proud of me. At least he didn’t have to do much overhauling with my life. He can focus his redeeming work with someone else’s life. Me? I was fine, thank you very much.

Continue reading In the Beginning There Was the Fruit

Are We Preaching Prosperity Gospel?

Every now and then, people would approach me and ask about prosperity gospel. The questions come in different forms but the gist always boils down to this: are we preaching prosperity gospel in Victory?

My short answer is “no”. My long answer is “Noooooo!!!” We  preach finance sermons from time to time because money is one of the common idols of our day and one biblical way to battle idolatry is to expose it in the light of the gospel.

Continue reading Are We Preaching Prosperity Gospel?

What Does the Bible Say About Dreams and Visions?

Last week I received a message from a victory group leader asking what the Bible teaches about dreams and visions. We know about people in the Bible having significant dreams (like Joseph and Daniel) but does God still reveal things to us that way?

One of the fascinating books I read more than a year ago was Nabeel Qureshi’s “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” where he recounted his dream of standing outside a narrow door and not being able to get into a wedding feast; a dream he later realized was taken straight out of the parable of Jesus in Luke 12:22-29. Qureshi was a Muslim who had been wrestling with the decision to accept Christ but was held back by so much intellectual doubting. Seeing a series of three dreams was his final confirmation of the divinity of Jesus. Today, Qureshi is one of the itinerary speakers at the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. (Edit: In September 16, 2017, Nabeel Qureshi died of stomach cancer). Continue reading What Does the Bible Say About Dreams and Visions?

This Ginormous Misunderstanding

When people talk about the Holy Spirit today, the conversation usually revolves around the question on spiritual gifts. Is speaking in tongues still operational today? What about prophecies? Why is the baptism of the Holy Spirit weird?

Few years ago, I had a friend who came out of a Victory Weekend session crying. When I asked her what happened, she told me she was scared of the speaking in tongues. She was ready to bolt out and go home but I convinced her to stay and read the Bible with me. We skipped lunch that day as we opened the Scriptures and did some digging about the gifts of the Spirit. She later returned to the afternoon sessions and got baptized the following day. Continue reading This Ginormous Misunderstanding

Of Blood Moons, Madonna Concerts, and the End of the World

A friend from church recently sent me a link about some signs of the times blog posts circulating the internet right now claiming that in September 2015 a confluence of world-shaking events will happen. The posts mentioned the end of the Jewish Shemitah year in September 13 and Isaac Newton’s prediction about the significant events that would happen in September 23. The posts sounded cryptic and scary. How do we think Biblically in the face of these issues?

Quite honestly, I simply ignore these kinds of stuff on the internet because most of what I read so far missed the point of the nature of Biblical revelation. God gave us the Bible for the purpose of revealing his plan of redemption for mankind through Jesus. All the other themes are secondary to this one big theme. While the Bible has types and symbolisms, it is not a book of mystery where we hunt for cryptic codes and hidden messages to interpret isolated world events.

I have in my email folder a long list of the events that are supposed to happen this month. I applaud the people who made that list for their desire to know what God is doing in the larger story of the world but I still could not figure out how anyone could make a connection between September 13 Shemitah, Isaac Newton’s mathematical formula on Daniel 9:25, a research facility in Switzerland trying to discover back holes, Madonna’s concert in Washington, D.C., the lunar phenomenon from AD70, a creepy sampling of Hollywood movies all referencing September 23, a tricky use of Hebrew numerology and calendar, and the Pope’s visit to the United States (the 266th pope to visit the US on the 266th day of the year creepily tied to the 266 gestation period of babies) and tie them all together to a confluence of eschatological events this September 2015. If that doesn’t make your head spin, good for you. Continue reading Of Blood Moons, Madonna Concerts, and the End of the World

The Order of Salvation

Ordo Salutis (Order of Salvation) from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology:

1. Election (God’s choice of people to be saved)
2. The gospel call (proclaiming the message of the gospel)
3. Regeneration (being born again)
4. Conversion (faith and repentance)
5. Justification (right legal standing)
6. Adoption (membership in God’s family)
7. Sanctification (right conduct of life)
8. Perseverance (remaining a Christian)
9. Death (going to be with the Lord)
10. Glorification (receiving a resurrection body)

Why Theology is Different from Other Sciences

Louis Berkhof:

In the study of all other sciences man places himself above the object of his investigation and actively elicits from it his knowledge by whatever method may seem most appropriate, but in theology he does not stand above but rather under the object of his knowledge. In other words, man can know God only in so far as the latter actively makes Himself known. God is first of all the subject communicating knowledge to man, and can only become an object of study for man in so far as the latter appropriates and reflects on the knowledge conveyed to him by revelation. Without revelation man would never have been able to acquire any knowledge of God. And even after God has revealed Himself objectively, it is not human reason that discovers God, but it is God who discloses Himself to the eye of faith.

How humbling. Whatever knowledge we have of God is only possible because he revealed himself to us. Apart from revelation, we are in the dark.

Let Me Introduce You to God

Greg Gilbert in his book What is the Gospel?

Let me introduce you to god (note the lowercase g). You might want to lower your voice a little before we go in. He might be sleeping now. He’s old, you know, and doesn’t much understand or like this “newfangled” modern world. His golden days— the ones he talks about when you really get him going—were a long time ago, before most of us were even born. That was back when people cared what he thought about things, and considered him pretty important to their lives. Of course all that’s changed now, though, and god— poor fellow—just never adjusted very well. Life’s moved on and passed him by. Now, he spends most of his time just hanging in the garden out back. I go there sometimes to see him, and there we tarry, walking and talking softly and tenderly among the roses…

Anyway, a lot of people still like him, it seems— or at least he manages to keep his poll numbers pretty high. And you’d be surprised how many people even drop by to visit and ask for things every once in a while. But of course that’s alright with him. He’s here to help. Thank goodness, all the crankiness you read about sometimes in his old books —you know, having the earth swallow people up, raining fire down on cities, that sort of thing— all that seems to have faded in his old age. Now he’s just a good -natured, low-maintenance friend who’s really easy to talk to— especially since he almost never talks back , and when he does, it’s usually to tell me through some slightly weird “sign” that what I want to do regardless is alright by him . That really is the best kind of friend, isn’t it?

You know the best thing about him, though? He doesn’t judge me. Ever, for anything. Oh sure, I know that deep down he wishes I’d be better— more loving, less selfish, and all that— but he’s realistic. He knows I’m human and nobody’s perfect. And I’m totally sure he’s fine with that. Besides, forgiving people is his job . It’s what he does. After all, he’s love, right? And I like to think of love as “never judging, only forgiving.” That’s the god I know. And I wouldn’t have him any other way.

Alright, hold on a second. . . . Okay, we can go in now. And don’t worry, we don’t have to stay long. Really. He’s grateful for any time he can get.

Theologians on the Christian Life

Dane C. Ortlund:

Augustine gave us a theology of will- transforming grace that liberates the Christian life by replacing our loves. Luther left us the utter settledness of God’s favorable verdict over our morally fickle and despair- prone lives. Calvin gave us the majesty of God over every detail of the Christian’s life. Owen brought us into the joy of loving communion with the triune God. Bunyan left us with hope and courage in battling through the ups and downs of the Christian journey. Bavinck’s legacy is the restorative dimension to divine grace, grace opposed not to nature but only to sin. Spurgeon gave us in unparalleled language the gratuity of the gospel against a backdrop of an utterly sovereign Lord. Lewis expanded our imaginations in seeing the Christian life as a painfully joyous longing to be part of the larger story that makes sense of all things.

And Edwards has given us the beauty of the Christian life— first, the beauty of God, beauty that comes to tangible expression in Christ, and second, the beauty of the Christian, who participates in the triune life of divine love. Divine loveliness, enjoyed and reflected in his creatures: this is Edwards’s legacy. Sinners are beautified as they behold the beauty if God in Jesus Christ. That is Edwards’s theology of the Christian life in a single sentence. If Luther was a St. Paul, terse and punchy and emphasizing faith, Edwards was a St. John, calm and elegant and emphasizing love.

Why Jesus Had to be in the Tomb for Three Days

Because it has to be made certain that Jesus was really dead. If he was resurrected few hours later, modern Bible readers would think that he was just in a coma and he was not really dead. 

The three day period is one good way to make sure, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Jesus did die and was later resurrected. The truthfulness of the Christian faith rests mainly on the resurrection. If Jesus didn’t die, he could not be resurrected. And if he was not resurrected, our faith is useless (1 Corinthians 15:14). 

Continue reading Why Jesus Had to be in the Tomb for Three Days

How to Detect Prosperity Gospel

In this episode of Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper identified six ways to detect prosperity gospel.

1) The absence of a serious doctrine of the Biblical necessity and normalcy of suffering. Acts 14:21, Romans 8:23, John 15:20

2) The absence of a clear and prominent doctrine of self-denial. Rom 8:13, Phil 3:8

3) Absence of serious exposition of Scripture. The pastor has favorite topics he goes back to over and over. Be suspicious of topical preaching.

Continue reading How to Detect Prosperity Gospel

The Rise of New Calvinism

Roger Olson:

Much of the blame for the rise of the “new Calvinism” is ours—Arminians. We have failed to provide our young people with our theology. So naturally they think Calvinism is the only biblical, evangelical theology when they encounter it preached and taught by attractive, persuasive, young men like Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, Louis Giglio, et al. And when they fall under the spell of John Piper who is simply a magician at persuasion.

Continue reading The Rise of New Calvinism