Posted by: thefourwinds | March 23, 2011

A tremendous word from my greatest “hero of the faith”

George Mueller is the one man outside of Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets, who has given me daily inspiration in walking along the narrow way.  His nearly unparalleled trust in God for daily provision led him to amazing works of sacrificial love, charity, and gospel ministry to many thousands of orphans (and to thousands of other people as well) during his lifetime of ministry. 

So it may surprise some (though not I) that Mueller’s walk with Christ was profoundly buoyed by a distinct alteration in his theology, brought upon by simple study of the Scriptures themselves.  If anything speaks to the “eminent practicality of right theology” (as my pastor says), it’s this quote from Mueller’s autobiography:

 “Before this period I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption and final persevering grace.  But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the Word of God.  Being made willing to have no glory of my own in the conversion of sinners, but to consider myself merely an instrument; and being made willing to receive what the Scriptures said, I went to the Word, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths.

 “To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.

  “As to the effect which my belief in these doctrines had on me, I am constrained to state for God’s glory, that though I am still exceedingly weak, and by no means so dead to the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as I might be, and as I ought to be, yet, by the grace of God, I have walked more closely with Him since that period.  My life has not been so variable, and I may say that I have lived much more for God than before.”

George Mueller, Autobiography of George Mueller, (London: J. Nisbet and Co., 1906), 33-34, as quoted in John Piper, The Pleasures of God, (Multnomah Books, 2000), 122-123. 

What is shocking to me, but not at all surprising, is that the current, popular, abridged version of this autobiography has nothing of this information about Mueller, such that an entire generation of American Baptists (in a general sense, not a denominational sense) who revere Mueller, have no idea

1.  that he believed the doctrines of grace;

2.  that he came to his conclusions (and was even driven to the study itself) simply and finally from the Word of God; and

3.  that it had a tremendous impact for the good on his walk with Christ and his ministry for the rest of his life.

Posted by: thefourwinds | November 27, 2010

Why the Term “Analogy of Faith”?

To my fellow Reformed believers, I have a question.  Why do we continue to use the term “analogy of faith”? 

Let me preface this by saying I am not afraid of large words in general or specifically theological vocabulary.  For example, I am interested by debates on the difference between propitiation and expiation.  Rather, I’m coming from a pedagogical perspective.

The concept “Scripture interprets Scripture” (which is what the analogy of faith refers to, as I understand it) is a readily understood concept, and the title makes intuitive sense.  Nevertheless, even if I thoroughly understand the principle “Scripture interprets Scripture,” I may have no idea what someone may mean by the term “analogy of faith.”  It’s not an intuitive term. 

So I must create a new neural pathway that indicates “analogy of faith” = “Scripture interprets Scripture.”  But what is the value of doing this?  Is it only so that I can understand what the Reformers meant when they spoke of the analogy of faith?  Or is there another purpose I’m missing?

My 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter are growing up learning the concept “Scripture interprets Scripture.”  They can easily understand it (as could my 6-year-old, I expect, if I outlined it for her), and the 13-year-old could probably explain it pretty clearly if asked.  So why should I teach them the term “analogy of faith”?  Is the reasoning strictly historical?

As I begin, let me make it perfectly clear that I am not at all a fan of President Obama’s politics or policies, but I have to wonder how many Christians who routinely bash him publicly, using what they consider to be witty epithets, are at the same time obeying the command of our Lord through the apostle Paul in 1 Tim. 2:1-2, which calls us to give “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (emphasis mine).  These sorts of epithets do not become us as believers, and they certainly don’t give any glory to God, who is sovereignly responsible for Barack Obama being the current president of the U.S. (Daniel 4:25 – “… the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will”). This is all the more important for believers who have extensive influence, but anyone with a blog or a facebook account can have a wide reach, if not tremendous influence.

I am not saying we shouldn’t criticize his policies if we disagree with him. I’m not saying we shouldn’t work to get others elected we agree with more. Our form of government gives us great power and responsibility, and we need to be responsible. What I am saying is that Christians who do these sorts of things publicly ought also to be following 1 Tim 2:1-2 publicly at least as much as they follow the other practices, since 1 Tim 2:1-2 is actually a written command of God. And even though many might be saying, “I already do those things in private,” even if you are, I certainly don’t see anywhere near as much giving thanks and prayers for President Obama in public by believers as I see vehement invective. This is how we lead by example as believers, and it is why people with influence are held to a stricter account (James 3:1). Maybe you are praying as much in private as you insult in public, but for those you have influence over, what are they seeing? What is done privately or what is done publicly? Jesus Himself said it would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea than to lead one of His little ones astray.

I also believe that people who compare themselves to Christ and His rebukes of the Pharisees are missing that He rebuked the Pharisees directly, in person, not passively, in such indirect mass comments on Facebook. The language Christ spoke directly to them was a rebuke only after calling on them directly many times to repent.

Many would also say Martin Luther used far harsher language in criticizing leaders of his day than any believers today are using. Those people would be correct. However, in the same way that we cannot hold Luther and others of his day to our cultural standards today, by the same logic we cannot appropriate standards that were accepted in his culture and unilaterally claim they’re acceptable in our culture. One cannot have it both ways. At any rate, though I don’t have a primary source reference for this, I believe Luther had repented of having written too harshly of individuals.

Finally, here is a question for any professing Christian – which do you care about more? The U.S. Constitution, an excellent though man-made document, or the Holy Word of God, breathed by the Holy Spirit, a Word that cannot be broken? It seems to me we shouldn’t be compromising the Word for the sake of anything else, even the safety of the U.S. Constitution. If we cannot save the Constitution without breaking the Word of God, I’d have to say God cares more about us following His Word.

Posted by: thefourwinds | November 16, 2009

Inextricably linked

A concept to absorb:

“No truth more loudly calls for pastoral holiness than the linkage of a preacher’s character and the sermon’s reception.  I must recognize that if I were to return to churches I have pastored it is unlikely that people will remember many specifics I said.  They may remember a particularly vivid illustration, the way a verse had a telling effect at some crisis moment in their lives, or the impression a particular message left on their minds.  Yet, not one person will remember a dozen words of the thousands I have spoken through the years.  The people will not remember what I said, they will remember me and whether my life gave credence to the message of Scripture.”

Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching (p.29)

Posted by: thefourwinds | November 5, 2009

Jesus came to be our bread, not to give us bread

I just heard the most succinct and beautiful condemnation of the prosperity gospel in John Piper’s sermon, “The All-Providing King Who Would Not Be King.”  (You have to listen to the sermon to get this exact quote).

Referencing John 6:26, Piper says,

“The essence of the prosperity gospel of every shade is that it leaves people unchanged in their old appetites and then provides Jesus to meet them, which is what the gospel of John is all about not doing.   God help us.  Are your existing appetites just the same as they always were before you came to Jesus, and He’s just useful now?  Better business, better marriage, better kids, better everything I wanted before?!  Then you don’t know Him.  He didn’t come to serve your unregenerate appetites; He came to give you new appetites.  That’s the meaning of being ‘born again.'” 

“…And so many leave people untransformed in what they crave, and then add the power of Jesus to get it.  That’s not the gospel.  It’s the kind of acclamation that Jesus walks away from.”

I’ve never heard it said better.

Posted by: thefourwinds | October 29, 2009

Evolutionary Equivocation

Haven’t had much of an opportunity to write for CMI in a long while.  Here’s my latest article on the PZ Myers talk I attended in Minot, ND, a few weeks ago. 

Evolutionary Equivocation

Posted by: thefourwinds | October 24, 2009

Why creation evangelism?

That’s the question I was asked by an online friend/acquaintance yesterday.  It was a sincere attempt from another Christian believer to understand why I feel called to focus on creation evangelism.  Why not just evangelism? 

I’ve included my response just after the break.  Of course, I’ve edited out a few personal comments and the dreaded typo (one of which drastically changed the meaning of what I had intended to say!), and done some editorial cleaning up here and there.  There are few passions as near and dear to my heart as this one. Read More…

Posted by: thefourwinds | September 15, 2009

Not your average seminary training!

For the last week, I’ve been reading The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun, an amazing story of God’s miraculous provision and sustaining power in the lives of some truly heroic believers in the Chinese house churches. 

There have been many times while reading this book when I’ve had to put it down to pray, thank the Lord, and then pray again.  But tonight, while reading, I just had to put it down after being completely overwhelmed, not emotionally, but intellectually, by this section, in which Brother Yun is describing the training certain missionaries receive from their efforts:

Each…missionary receives training in several main subjects.  These include:

1.  How to suffer and die for the Lord.  We examine what the Bible says about suffering, and look at how the Lord’s people have laid down their lives for the advance of the gospel throughout history.

2.  How to witness for the Lord.  We teach how to witness for the Lord under any circumstance, on trains or buses, or even in the back of a police van on our way to the execution ground.

3.  How to escape for the Lord.  We know that sometimes it is the Lord who sends us to prison to witness for him, but we also believe the devil sometimes wants us to go to prison to stop the ministry God has called us to do.  We teach the missionaries special skills such as how to free themselves from handcuffs, and how to jump from second-storey [sic] windows without injuring themselves.

This is not a normal seminary or Bible College!
(p. 290)

I should say not!  I literally had to put the book down at this point because I just couldn’t get my mind around the difference between this training and what the typical Western seminary training involves.  Is there any wonder why their lives are filled with the awesome power of the Holy Spirit and the rapid spread of the gospel?  Their hearts are set on the spread of the gospel no matter the cost to themselves.  This is a far cry from most American Christianity, especially the health/wealth gospel.

However, I don’t want to just take shots at the health/wealth folks here.  All American Christians need a healthy dose of seeing what being a Christian means in many parts of the world.  This book has been eye-opening in that regard, and for some reason, it hit home to me in the above section.

Posted by: thefourwinds | September 5, 2009

All I can say is, “Wow.”

This is, in one way, one of the most encouraging aritcles I’ve read in a while.  I’m not sure this is the absolute best way of solving this problem, but it appears to be a huge leap in the right direction.

Wrongly Convicted in Texas Paid $80G for Each Year Spent in Prison Under New State Law

Posted by: thefourwinds | July 18, 2009

Orwell nailed it

I couldn’t help but shake my head when I read this gem of Orwellian doublespeak online today:

“So the only way to tell the truth is to lie.”

Now this wasn’t a politician, believe it or not.  Let’s give a bit more context from the quote:

“Everyone lies online. In fact, readers expect you to lie. If you don’t, they’ll think you make less than you actually do. So the only way to tell the truth is to lie.”

I suppose this makes it not even one’s own fault.  It’s everyone else’s fault that we have to lie online!

Who is this brilliant pundit, this social commentator, this wise philosopher, this moral giant?

Our revered Brad Pitt.  Somewhere, George Orwell is saying, “I told you so.”

You can read the entire article here.

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