January 19, 2015

If Matt Stafford was a Cartoon Character...

Just something I noticed.

You can't tell me it isn't true.

December 31, 2014


I haven't blogged much in 2014 but I have an excuse.

2014 was a crazy year. It was a year I could not have predicted. When 2014 started I was between ministries and in the middle of writing my PhD dissertation on the Providence of God. We were living off of savings and I had no idea what to expect except that God had a plan and that it would probably be something I could never have guessed in advance. I was right about that.

In January I stated teaching Christian Belief and History for Cornerstone University as an adjunct. In February, we learned that the church we were attending was suddenly losing their Senior Pastor along with much of their staff due to a conflict that we had no idea about. It was a very difficult time for this church, but the handwriting was on the wall that we were there for a purpose. By April I was teaching as a volunteer for their student ministry while continuing to teach for Cornerstone. In May, the congregation voted to bring me on as the Interim Associate Pastor, starting after I would teach Systematic Theology II for Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in June.

One thing led to another and by fall I was officially installed as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Middleville--a faithful and loving church that is a better doctrinal match for us, and two and a half miles closer to our home that our previous church. And by "coincidence" before my first regular sermon in November, I also finished and submitted all 301 pages of my doctoral dissertation on the Providence of God. (I will defend it in January.)

That's why I haven't been blogging much this year. I've been busy writing about God's Providence and living it out.

God is faithful.

June 5, 2014

The Most Beautiful Painting in the World

Imagine that you were the owner of the most beautiful painting in the world. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful work of art ever to be created. It brings joy and delight to everyone who looks at it. When people behold this magnificent work of art, their lives are forever changed because of the breathtaking beauty of this work.

Now, if you were the owner of this painting, what would be the more loving thing to do? Would it be more loving to take that painting and lock it in a big vault in your attic where it will be kept safe and where no one but you could every look at it? Or, would it be more loving to put the painting on display for everyone who is willing to come and delight in its beauty, and then to go out encouraging others to come and to behold the life-changing beauty of the painting?  

Now consider this: It’s not merely as if God has the most beautiful painting in the world; God is the most beautiful being in the world! Therefore, the most loving thing for God to do would be to put His magnificence on display for everyone to see. The most loving thing for Him to do would be to exalt Himself and insist that people come and find their delight in Him. God is the source of infinite and eternal joy.

God is glorified when people's hearts delight in Him. For God to be glorified is appropriate and God-honoring, because God deserves it. It is also the most loving thing for God to offer people.

"One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord..." 
-Psalm 27:4

May 29, 2014

Powerman and Mosquitoboy: Robot Invasion - Episode 3

Behold! Here is another video from back in my superhero days. This is part three in Powerman and Mosquitoboy: Robot Invasion. You can watch part one on the blog or on youtube, and you can watch part two on the blog or on youtube

In the previous episode, Powerman learned from The Designer that Princess Alethia's fiance, Prince Wimpe, is secretly behind the robot invasion and the robotic duplicates of Powerman and Mosquitoboy. Now, it is up to them to warn the Princess before it is too late!

Once again, we managed to smuggle a lot of theology into a superhero video for kids! This was originally used for a custom written VBS program. The teaching theme for this episode was Reboot: You must be born again. Verse: "In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'" -John 3:3.

This was fun to write and create. There was great acting from all those involved. I hope you enjoy it!

April 30, 2014

If Scripture is Clear, Why Don't We Agree?

The fact that Christians disagree about so many issues seems to be an argument against the clarity ("perspicuity") of Scripture. If Scripture is clear, then why don't we all agree?

[Click here for the previous article on The Perspicuity of Scripture.]

Something that helped me with this question was a section in Erwin Lutzer's book Doctrines that DivideLutzer lists four of the reasons why Christians don't agree: the limitations of men, the perversion of man, the unbelief of man, and the traditions of man. These are problems that each of us should recognize.

The Limitations of Men
There are some doctrines that are difficult simply because human beings are limited in our knowledge and understanding. For example, discussions free will are notoriously difficult. The Bible is clear that God is sovereign over everything and that humans are morally responsible for their choices; but how to put those two truths together is a paradox. We simply don't have enough insight to understand how that works. We lack information and we lack mental ability. Our three-pound brains simply do not have the computing power for some problems. In addition, there are other truths that remain mysteries to us because God has not chosen to reveal them to us.

The Perversion of Man
What Lutzer means here is that we often twist the meaning of Biblical texts to suit our own desires or biases. We want something to be true, so we read the Bible in a certain way. This category doesn't merely include issues dealing with sexual perversion, although that would be one example. You need to work very hard to bend the Bible enough to say that sexual relations are blessed for anyone besides a husband and a wife who are married to each other. Yet, people write books to argue that. Of course, there are countless other examples of this category besides sexual issues. Sometimes people know full well that they are twisting Scripture, but often they want to see something in Scripture so badly that they see mirages.

The Unbelief of Man
Some people have a naturalistic worldview that absolutely rules out any involvement from God. There is no way to believe all of the Bible's teachings related to science, creation, prophecy, history, and miracles if you start with a precommitment to naturalism. The Bible is not anti-scientific, but it does include the core idea that God exists and that He can interact with the created world. For various reasons and pressures, some people refuse to accept that. Many professing Christians have been influenced by naturalism to one degree or another. There are Bible commentaries built upon a foundation of unbelief. It is a mistake to let our worldview shape our view of Scripture instead of letting Scripture shape our worldview.

The Traditions of Man
We all have inherited certain traditions about what Christians should believe. The only difference is that some people recognize their traditions and some people are blind to them. The person who says, "I have no traditions" may be like a fish that doesn't realize that it swims in water. In truth, many of our disagreements boil down to the fact that we swim in different ponds with different accepted beliefs. There is often little incentive to reexamine these beliefs, especially if it might mean having to find another pond.

In addition to these, let me add a few more:

The Desire to Please Men
We usually think about "traditions" being something old, but in reality any influence we have from the people around us can distort our view of God and the Word. For many people today, the new "tradition" is the desire to be seen as progressive. People want to be judged well by their peers. No one will be true to God's Word who craves the approval of the world.

The Failure of Men
Many Christians have no idea what they should believe because they are Biblically illiterate. Many churches have failed at discipleship. Many pastors have failed to faithfully preach God's Word. Many parents have failed to instruct their children. And many Christians have failed to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth. (Sorry to be so negative here! I wish I were wrong.)

In addition...
Beliefs are connected. One wrong belief often affects another. For example, if you have a low view of God's holiness, you will have a shallow view of man's sin. If you have a shallow view of man's sin, it would be difficult for you to see why sin is so awful that God should punish it with eternal condemnation. It would be difficult to see why it was necessary for the Son of God to come as a sinless sacrifice to pay an infinitely horrible price as our substitute. You see, false teaching leads to a chain reaction of error.

In conclusion, there are many reasons why professing Christians disagree. All of these reasons have one common core: man. The reason Christians disagree is not because God is a bad communicator. The problem lies with us.

[Note: The four original main points are from Lutzer but the comments are mine.]

See also: The Perspicuity of Scripture; and How to Silence God on a Subject You Don't Like

April 28, 2014

The Perspicuity of Scripture

Satan hates God’s Word and he will do whatever he can to keep people out of that book. One of his most successful lies is the myth that the Bible is too complicated to be understood by normal people. Don’t bother. Be afraid. Leave it to the experts. “Don’t try this at home.”

The word perspicuity is obscure, but what it refers to is the “clarity” of Scripture. (Ironic, isn’t it?) Perspicuity means clarity, plainness, transparency, or intelligibility. The perspicuity of Scripture means that Scripture is written so that it can be read and understood by ordinary believers.

Lie: The Bible is too complicated to be understood by normal people.

Truth: The Bible is meant to be read and understood. Think about these words from Deuteronomy 6:6-7:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

These instructions are given to parents, not scholars. In order for this to make sense, God’s message must be clear enough that it could be understood by everyday parents and communicated to everyday kids.

Lie: You cannot understand the Bible without special teachers.

In the early church, the Gnostics claimed that they alone had secret knowledge that was the key to true understanding. If you wanted true understanding, you were held hostage to these teachers. Over the years, many other teachers and authorities have implied the same thing. Some church authorities have claimed that everyone must look to them for the official interpretation of Christian teachings. Some scholars love to give people the impression that they are the only ones skilled enough to analyze and understand the complex labyrinth of God’s Word. In addition, even evangelical teachers write books and publish videos claiming that they have discovered the keys to finally unlock God’s mysteries. You too can have these keys—if you buy their book or pay to go to their conference.

Truth: The Holy Spirit is given to all Christians to help them understand His truth. Read these words from the Apostle John in 1 John 2:27:

“But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true…”

John’s point was that believers didn’t need to be held hostage by the false teachers that were claiming that Christians needed them to give them the true interpretation of Scripture. Instead, John taught that all Christians have the anointing of the Holy Spirit and that part of the Spirit’s work is to illuminate the message of God’s Word to them. I don’t think that John is saying that teachers aren’t useful for Christians (there is a spiritual gift of “teacher” after all), but what he is saying is that Christians don’t need to be dependent on human teachers.

What Perspicuity Doesn't Mean

Having said that, we need to make sure we don’t swing to the opposite extreme. There are several things this doctrine does not mean:
·         The doctrine of perspicuity does not mean that nothing is difficult to understand. Some parts of Scripture are difficult. Even the Apostle Peter recognized this (2 Peter 3:15-16).
·         The doctrine of perspicuity does not mean that you will understand everything automatically. Effort is involved. Sometimes, a great deal of effort and practice is involved.
·         The doctrine of perspicuity does not mean that you will understand verses out of context. You couldn't even understand a sentence from a simple children’s novel out of context. Why would you think you could do that for Scripture?
·         The doctrine of perspicuity does not mean that you will understand everything.
·         The doctrine of perspicuity does not mean that you will understand Scripture infallibly. Be humble and open to correction.

However, this doctrine does mean that the most important doctrine of Scripture are clearly set forth for those who are willing to read it, seeking God’s help with a heart that is willing to hear and obey God’s Word. I believe some of these clear teachings include the deity of Jesus Christ, the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and basic instructions about God’s moral will for our lives.

Sometimes the real reason why people think God’s Word is unclear is because they do not want it to be clear. They don’t like what it says. They want to pretend that God’s Word is cloudy so that they do not have to obey it.

Is God is a competent communicator?

Ultimately, it comes down to either believing that (a) God is a good communicator, or (b) God is a lousy communicator. Yes, there are challenges for an infinite God to communicate to finite beings like us. And yes, there are problems even with communication between human beings—context, perspective and background information can all shape or distort the message that is heard. Still, the same people who write books about the impossibility of communicating truth still assume that you can understand  their books, blogs, and comments well enough. How arrogant it is to think that we can communicate better than God.

God does not have a speech impediment. We have a hearing problem. Our problem is that we have our hands over our ears to keep ourselves from hearing what God is saying. God’s Word is clear because the God who made us is a good communicator. Take your hands away and hear His voice through His written Word.

This article was part of a series, Five Things I Hope You Believe are True About Scripture: (1) Necessity, (2) Authority, (3) Inerrancy, (4) Sufficiency, and (5) Perspicuity. Also related: How to Silence God on a Subject You Don't Like and If Scripture is Clear, Why Don't We Agree?

March 31, 2014

The Sufficiency of Scripture

If you want to write a bestselling Christian book, tell people about hidden truth that isn't in the Bible. Write about your trip to heaven. Write about the personal information that Jesus channeled to you during your time of listening. Give people something newer and fresher than the dull pages of their dusty Bibles. A quick look at the top selling books at Meijers or Walmart will confirm that these are the books that fly off the shelves.

What does it say about Christianity that these are our most popular books? I’m afraid it indicates that we are enamored with the novel. We are more interested in privileged information than in the public record of the Bible. Our attentions are more perked by fresh finds than old truths. 

In the early days of the church, the Gnostics were a major problem. The word “Gnostic” means “knowing ones.” The Gnostics taught that salvation came from receiving hidden wisdom. They believed they had secret, insider knowledge that was only known by the privileged few. Men and women were drawn to Gnosticism because they were attracted to the idea of getting the inside scoop. People in those days had the same tendencies as people today.

In contrast to this, I hope that you believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. The sufficiency of Scripture means that the Bible contains everything we need to know to be saved and to live the Christian life. Everything that God meant to tell us for this age is written in the completed pages of Scripture. It is the full measure of revealed truth that God intends for humanity for this stage in redemptive history. Until Christ returns, it is all that we need.

There are no extra-biblical Easter eggs to go looking for. Scripture is enough.

Many of you will go camping this summer. If you go to a store to be outfitted for your camping trip and they have a sign in the window claiming they carry "Everything You Need!" then you shouldn't have to go to another store to buy something else for your trip. If they can give you everything you need, then you would be thoroughly equipped. If they didn’t have everything you need, then you wouldn’t be thoroughly equipped. With that in mind, think about what Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15-17:

…and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Paul tells Timothy that Scripture is able to make him thoroughly equipped for every good work. Timothy did not need revelation from another source to equip him thoroughly. Neither do we.
The sufficiency of Scripture does not mean that the Bible tells us everything there is to know about how to build nuclear reactors or how to remove someone’s appendix. However, it does mean that everything we need to know about God, salvation, and the Christian life is found in Scripture. It means that we don’t have to look to someone’s (very doubtful) trips to heaven for a secret glimpse behind the curtain. It means that we don’t have to buy someone’s book to get their secret knowledge. It means that we shouldn’t look for spiritual short-cuts. There are no divinely inspired Cliff-Notes for Scripture. There are no deleted scenes. It means that we don’t have to feel like “there’s gotta be something more.”
Satan will do anything he can to get us away from the Word of God. If he can make something else seem more interesting, more fresh, more authoritative, or easier... he will do it.

Years ago Rene Pache wrote this wisdom:

Why be tied to a book out of the past when one can communicate every day with the living God? But this is exactly the danger point. Apart from the constant control of written revelation, we soon find ourselves engulfed in subjectivity . . . Let each remind himself of the prohibition of taking anything away from Scripture or adding anything to it (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19). Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework. 
James Montgomenry Boice once warned that the great issue of our day would not be the authority of Scripture, but its sufficiency. The alternative to the sufficiency of Scripture is the insufficiency of Scripture. Either you believe that Scripture is enough, or you will turn to other experiences and teachings to supplement it. 

Remember, God is omniscient. When the Holy Spirit inspired the words of Scripture, He knew exactly what we would need today—even in the 21st century. Our world didn’t catch Him by surprise.

Be satisfied with what God has chosen to reveal. He could have revealed more, but He didn't. God has His reasons for that.

My advice to you is to disregard books on trips to heaven, special messages, and secret wisdom. Don't give it a market. Don't be fascinated by novelty. Instead, appreciate all that God has revealed in Scripture. Read it! Read all of it. Meditate on it. Appreciate the fact that the Holy Spirit is with us to illuminate the truths that He had written down long ago. He makes it come alive to us and shows us how it applies, in glaring brilliance, to our lives today.

I hope you believe that Scripture is enough. I hope you are satisfied with the sufficiency of Scripture. 

Next up: The Perspicuity of Scripture

Others in this series: The Necessity of Scripture; The Authority of Scripture; The Inerrancy of Scripture
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