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Category Archives: Theology

Let God’s wisdom guide your life

Book Review: The Wisdom of God: Letting His Truth and Goodness Direct Your Steps, by A. W. Tozer, compiled and edited by James L. Snyder

“Why is it that man, with drastically limited wisdom, insists on making all the decisions in his life while a good portion of the time he is wrong?” This question lies at the heart of A. W. Tozer’s book, The Wisdom of God: Letting His Truth and Goodness Direct Your Steps. Author James L. Snyder combed through 400 never-before-published audiotapes of Tozer’s sermons to compile this material on the subject of wisdom.

Tozer believed that far too often, we settle for man’s wisdom. In contrast, he presents the idea that we need to seek an “afflatus,” literally a breath, an inspiration of divine wisdom to invade our lives. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, making God’s wisdom a reality in their life.

The opening chapters describe the Hebrew idea of wisdom and demonstrate that wisdom is ultimately found in Jesus Christ.

Comparing these passages (Proverbs 9:1-4 and Matthew 22:1-4), it is almost word-for-word from the book of Proverbs. This indicates that the Lord Jesus Christ literally was the incarnation and the fulfillment of this voice of wisdom carried out to the sons of men. He is not only the Lord and head of the church; He is that, but that is not all. He is not only the coming King of kings and King of the world; He is that, but that is not all.

He is the Enlightener, the Illuminator, the Quickener, the Anointer. In every way, he is the absolute incarnation of wisdom as defined by the Hebrew doctrine of wisdom.

Tozer demonstrates that wisdom is not merely a philosophical concept, but also a practical tool for living the best possible life. Some of the chapters deal with important topics such as overcoming temptation, seeing and appreciating God’s hand in everything, and how not to be double-minded but fully committed to God.

Fans of A. W. Tozer will appreciate this volume.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Bethany House through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse/bookreviewers. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2017 in A. W. Tozer, Books, Quotes, Theology

 

Theology for Seekers

Book Review: Never Settle for Normal: The proven path to significance and happiness, by Jonathan Parnell

When I picked up Jonathan Parnell’s book, Never Settle for Normal: The proven path to significance and happiness, I expected a book addressing the search for success. However, I discovered a book of theology for seekers.

Parnell believes that each of us is searching for a normal, fulfilling life.

Each of us, in one way or another, is searching for the secret sauce, the silver bullet, whatever that thing is that will quench our thirst for significance and pleasure. We all want a “good, happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life.

But we’re not going to find that in the mainstream culture.

There is, however, another path, one different from the one most commonly traveled in this secular age. And that path is found in the Christian story.

After laying out his thesis in the introduction, Parnell spends 10 chapters explaining “the central parts of the Christian story, but not in the form of bland bullet points.” In so doing, he moves through the basic elements of theology, presenting them in a clear, engaging manner.

The author explains that God is a loving, happy creator who created us to reflect his glory. We are glory chasers and pleasure seekers. Because of sin, however, we search for glory and pleasure in the wrong areas. God sent Jesus to bring us back into a right relationship with the Father. He died for our sins and came back to life in the resurrection. When we believe the message of the gospel, we are born again and receive the Holy Spirit. We can experience more of Jesus in our lives by becoming a part of a local church community and by obeying the teaching of Scripture.

The author weaves together biblical teaching, historical illustrations, and personal stories to state his case. While the book was not what I expected, it turned out to be much better. The content is only 124 pages, followed by a study guide and notes to help you go deeper into the topics. It would be a helpful book for those exploring the Christian faith.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2017 in Books, Theology

 

Jack Gilbert’s Ordination Council

On Friday afternoon, we convened an ordination council at First Central Bible Church to examine Jack Gilbert, our church’s intern. We wanted to affirm God’s hand on his life and make sure he held to sound doctrine.

The ordination council consisted of:

  • Mark Wheeler, Senior Pastor at First Central Bible Church, Chicopee, MA
  • Stan Kulig, Joe Martin, Doug McVeigh, Doug Dolbow, Elders at First Central Bible Church
  • Brent Allen, District Executive Minister for Converge Northeast
  • Rich Ainsworth, retired Senior Pastor of Wintonbury Church in Bloomfield, CT
  • Jeff Chandler, Senior Pastor of Cottage Hill Church in Springfield, MA

The basis for the exam was an ordination paper that Jack wrote and presented to the council last month. Based on his paper, we asked him the following questions:

  1. Why do you want to be ordained?
  2. How does Simcha (Jack’s wife) feel about this process?
  3. Where are you in process of applying to SEND International?
  4. What will be your role with SEND in Spain?
  5. Why don’t we consider the Apocrypha books to be inspired?
  6. What principles do you use in interpreting Scripture?
  7. What Scripture translation do you use in preaching?
  8. What does “aseity” mean in relation to God?
  9. What does it mean that God repented and changed his mind considering that Scripture says God does not change?
  10. How do you reconcile all of God’s attributes with his love?
  11. How long did it take for God to create the world?
  12. How do you explain and/or balance Gods providence?
  13. Does Christ have a physical body in heaven? What difference does it make?
  14. What does it mean in Philippians 2 that Christ emptied himself?
  15. How can Jesus identify with us?
  16. Could Jesus sin?
  17. Was his temptation in Gethsemane real?
  18. What does it mean that Jesus became sin?
  19. How is the baptism of the Spirit different from the filling of the Spirit? Why is it not a second baptism?
  20. Does the gift of prophecy exist today?
  21. What does it mean that we are created in God’s image?
  22. What is the extent of the atonement? For whom did Christ die?
  23. How do you balance God’s sovereignty with man’s free will?
  24. How are regeneration and conversion related?
  25. Does being “drawn by the Father” refer to conviction?
  26. What elements of Calvinism do you disagree with?
  27. If you were to plant a church, what form of church government would you institute?
  28. What is the difference between a small group and a church?
  29. Can women serve as elders?
  30. What does it mean that baptism is an appeal to a good conscience?
  31. Would you baptize children?
  32. Can a Christian be possessed by a demon? What does it mean when Ananias (Acts 5) is filled with Satan?
  33. Can a person say, “the devil made me do it?”
  34. How would you work with others who hold a different conviction about the timing of the rapture?
  35. Is hell real? Eternal?
  36. Where do children go when they die? How would you counsel a young couple who lose a child?
  37. How do you decided what churches or denominations to work with?
  38. What is a shepherd? What does a shepherd do?

Throughout the exam, which lasted just under 3 hours, Jack demonstrated a command of the Scriptures and a commitment to sound doctrine. He passed the exam with flying colors. The members of the ordination council affirmed his call, character, understanding of Scripture and theology, and his clear communication. It was a very affirming and encouraging time.

On Sunday, June 11, we will hold a special evening service at 5PM to formally ordain Jack to the ministry of the gospel.

Congratulations, Jack! Keep up the good work.

 

Jack Gilbert’s ordination

Below is a letter sent to our congregation this week letting them know about the exciting prospect of ordaining one of our own people for ministry. Exciting things are happening at First Central Bible Church.

 

 

Christianity is Rational and Reasonable

Contrary to popular opinion, one does not need to check one’s brain at the door to believe in God. Rather, the truth of the gospel can be known and understood. That is the argument presented by the apostle John in his first letter. Throughout 1 John, the apostle uses two Greek words for knowing to emphasize that the true knowledge of God is available to all.

1 John

Text

Commentary

2:3 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. There is no assurance apart from obedience.
2:4 The one who says, “I know him,” and does not keep his commands is a liar, and the truth is not in them. There is no true knowledge of God apart from obedience.
2:5-6 This is how we know that we are in him: the one who says, “I remain in him,” ought also himself to walk just as that One walked. There is no true knowledge of God apart from discipleship.
2:13 Fathers, I am writing to you because you do know the One who is from the beginning. Christian maturity entails personal knowledge of the eternal God.
2:14 Little children, yes, I write to you because you have known the Father. Fathers, yes, I write to you because you have known the One who is from the beginning. To be a child of God and to become a mature Christian means to know God truly.
2:18 Children … even now many have become antichrists, and so we know that it is the last hour. Knowledge of God provides discernment.
2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you know also that everyone who lives righteously has been born of him. True knowledge of God is the basis for Christian ethics.
3:1 For this reason, the world does not know us, because it did not know him. “The world” is all those who do not know Jesus.
3:6 Everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him. True knowledge of God requires obedience.
3:16 In this way we have known love, because that One laid down his life on our behalf. True knowledge of God allows true love.
3:19 This is how we will know that we are of the truth. Assurance requires true knowledge of God—that One “belongs to the truth.”
3:20 … whenever our heart convicts us. For God is greater than our hearts, and knows everything. True knowledge of God allows us to put our guilt to rest.
3:24 In this way we know that he remains in us: from the Sprit, whom he gave to us. True knowledge of God requires the Spirit.
4:2 In this way you know the Spirit of God. True knowledge of God requires true knowledge of the Spirit.
4:6 We are of God; the one who knows God hears us, [but] whoever is not of God does not hear us. True knowledge of God means accepting the teaching of his apostles.
4:7 Everyone who loves has been begotten of God and … knows God. True knowledge of God motivates love.
4:8 The one who does not love does not know God. True knowledge of God motivates love.
4:13 In this way we know that in him we live and he in us: because he has given to us of his Spirit. Assurance requires the Spirit.
4:16 And we have known and have trusted the love that God has for us. True knowledge of God means we know God loves us.
5:2 So this is how we know that we love the children of God. Assurance requires love.
5:20 We know that the Son of God has come and he has given understanding to us to that we might know the True One. We cannot know God truly apart from knowing the Son of God.

Chart taken from Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1, 2, & 3 John. By Karen H. Jobes. Grand Rapids, MI: 2014, p.239-240.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in 1 John, Quotes, Scripture, Theology

 

Are heaven and hell real?

Book Review: Answering the Toughest Questions about Heaven and Hell, by Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz

What happens when we die? Are heaven and hell real places? If God is loving, how could he send anyone to hell? Have you ever wrestled with questions like these? Have you ever wondered where to find the answers to these and other questions about the afterlife?

Authors Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz encourage their readers to ask tough questions and wrestle with doubts. In this volume, Answering the Toughest Questions about Heaven and Hell, they asked the young adults from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA, to articulate their most important questions about heaven and hell. They then grouped the questions into broad categories which provided the ten chapters and four appendices for this book.

  • Is there an afterlife?
  • What happens when you die?
  • Are heaven and hell for real?
  • Can I believe what the Bible says about the end of the world?
  • Do all roads lead to heaven?
  • If God is loving, how could he send anyone to hell?
  • Is hell a divine torture chamber?
  • How do you get into heaven?
  • What will heaven be like?
  • How can I be sure about heaven?
  • Will there be animals in heaven?
  • Can my loved ones in heaven see me?
  • Will there be rewards in heaven?
  • Are near-death experiences for real?

In answering the questions, the authors combine humor, illustrations, real-life stories, and philosophical arguments. After exploring the questions from various angles, they always ask, “What does the Bible say about this question?” The result is a practical, helpful, biblical exploration of some very real questions.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Bethany House through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse/bookreviewers. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Books, Heaven, Scripture, Theology

 

Finding unity in the gospel

Book Review: Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie that Binds Evangelicals Together, by R. C. Sproul

In the late 90’s, evangelical theologians and Roman Catholic scholars tried to find common ground in order to promote unity. They worked together to craft a document, Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) and a subsequent document, The Gift of Salvation (GOS). Rather than promote unity, it tended to divide evangelicals.

R. C. Sproul was one who was deeply concerned about both of these documents. He wrote the book, Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie that Binds Evangelicals Together. It was originally published in 1999 and has been repacked in 2017. In part 1, he explains the background of the controversy and the need for unity on the meaning and details of the gospel. In part 2, he analyzes The Gift of Salvation (GOS) in detail and points out the flaws. In part 3, he analyzes a document entitled, The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration. This document was crafted in an attempt to restore evangelical unity regarding the gospel and justification by faith alone.

While the book is short, 226 pages, it is meaty, weighty, and detailed. If you can work your way through it, you will come away with a more accurate understanding of the gospel and why it is important to “get it right.”

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Books, Theology