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Category Archives: Theology

Heaven is for good people

Heaven is for good people, or so we want to believe.

We see this belief portrayed in comic strips like Broom-Hilda. God lets the good people in but closes the gates to the really bad people.

We see it in our own attitudes. We believe that God grades on a scale. If your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you get into heaven. But if your bad deeds are greater, well, then you go to that other place (that is, of course, if you believe in hell.) We are skeptical of a deathbed, jailhouse conversion. Could God really save _______?

We even see this attitude in some of God’s servants. The book of Jonah in the Old Testament tells the story of a prophet of God who did not want to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh precisely because he knew God was gracious and would forgive them if they repented. He thought they did not deserve God’s grace.

Contrary to popular belief, heaven is not for good people. Heaven is for sinners who have been forgiven. Romans 5:8 explains that Christ died for us while we were his enemies. “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that salvation is not earned or deserved. It is a free gift of God’s grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Heaven is not for good people. Heaven is for those who acknowledge their sins, seek God’s forgiveness, and enjoy the free gift of his grace.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Heaven, Scripture, Theology

 

The Power of God

It never ceases to amaze me how various parts of Scripture all dovetail together to communicate the same theme. I am preaching this Sunday on Numbers 11. I am teaching Awana T&T next Wednesday on “God is All-Powerful.” I am also studying Jonah for our next elders & wives Bible study. All three point to the power of God.

In Numbers 11, Moses listens to the complaints of the Israelites and begins to doubt God’s ability to provide for Israel’s needs. God rebukes his lack of faith with the statement, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23).

In the Awana lesson, God’s power is displayed over nature (Jesus calming the storm, Matthew 8:23-27), sickness and disease (Jesus healing a blind man, John 9:1-12), and death (Jesus being raised from the dead, Matthew 28:1-8).

In his commentary on the book of Jonah, Dr. Charles L. Feinberg explains why the story of Jonah is often rejected.

Ridicule has especially centered around the swallowing of Jonah by the fish and his preservation in it. The root of the difficulty is the denial of the miraculous. But if we exclude the miraculous from our Bibles, how much of it do we have left? And more important, what kind of a God do we have left? It is nothing less than shortsighted unbelief to think that the difficulty is solved by the removal of this miracle from the book of Jonah.

Scripture speaks volumes about our almighty God, for whom nothing is impossible. As Dr. Feinberg so rightly pointed out, if we remove all the miracles from the Bible, we don’t have much left, and we certainly don’t have a God worth following. No thing and no one is more powerful than our God.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2017 in Quotes, Scripture, Theology

 

Does God still speak today?

Book Review: Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, by Mark Batterson

Does God still speak today? If the answer is, “Yes,” then what language does he speak? How can I train myself to hear his voice? These are the questions posed in Mark Batterson’s latest offering, Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God.

The author’s premise is that the God who spoke the universe into existence still speaks today. The title of the book comes from 1 Kings 19:12 where God spoke to Elijah in a whisper, or a still small voice. Batterson suggests that God has seven love languages that he uses to communicate to his people—Scripture, desires, doors, dreams, people, promptings, and pain. The author weaves together numerous stories, illustrations, personal examples, and biblical principles to communicate his ideas.

While I agree with his basic premise and while I enjoyed and was encouraged by his illustrations, I have three reservations about the book. One reservation is that he tends to put desires, doors, dreams, people, promptings, and pain on the same level as Scripture. While he argues that Scripture is the most important, the “key of keys,” he tends to elevate the others to equal or greater importance. In so doing, he makes experience equal to or more important than Scripture.

A second reservation is that he takes a single example, such as how God closed a door for the apostle Paul in Asia (Acts 16:6), and makes it a standard practice we should follow today. In contrast, Hebrews 1:1-2 says that in times past, God spoke in various ways but now he speaks through Christ and his Word.

A third reservation is that the premise of the book is more based on experience than it is on Scripture. His chapters start and end with illustrations, stories, and examples with Scripture used to support his ideas rather than teaching Scripture and using stories to illustrate his points. The bulk of the stories are personal ones about how God led the author and his church. By the end, you become a little weary of him always being the hero or focus of the tale.

A more biblical study would be Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. Blackaby argues that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Bible and prayer and confirms it through circumstances and people. Blackaby’s approach keeps Scripture primary and circumstances and people secondary.

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 September 7, 2017 in Books, Theology

 

Racism, Supremacy, & Terrorism

The events of the past week—Charlottesville & Barcelona—should break our hearts and drive us to our knees. They should motivate us to repent of our pride and arrogance and beg God to pour out his Spirit and send revival.

Rather than turning to God, however, we spout rhetoric and criticize “the other side.” We use human logic, saying that black and white athletes should stand together. We denounce political leaders when they don’t denounce the ones we think they should. We spout slogans, call for hearings and debate, and ridicule those who don’t agree with our viewpoint.

Racism, Supremacy, and Terrorism are complex issues without easy answers. Or so we tell ourselves and those who will listen to us. Like any problem great or small, complex or simple, there is a two-fold solution—Identify the problem and Fix it.

The core issue at the heart of racism, supremacy, and terrorism is SIN. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). When Adam and Eve chose to do what they wanted rather than obey God, sin entered the world. The first casualty was their son, Abel, who was murdered by his brother, Cain, who thought he was superior to his brother (Genesis 4:1-16). By the time the book of Genesis closes and the book of Exodus opens, the Israelites have been oppressed and enslaved by the Egyptians for over 400 years (Exodus 1:8-14). Not only does the Egyptian Pharaoh enslave the Israelites, he also issues a decree to kill all the male children under the age of two years old, practicing genocide (Exodus 1:15-22). Racism, supremacy, and terrorism are running rampant.

Racism, supremacy, and terrorism are ultimately an assault on God’s creative activities. Rather than acknowledging that all races and genders are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; 9:6), we allow pride to rear its head and shout, “I’m better than you are.” We echo the pigs who control the government in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Since sin lies at the heart of racism, supremacy, and terrorism, the only answer is the gospel. It is in Christ that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female (Galatians 3:28). It is in Christ that men and women are joint heirs of the grace of God (1 Peter 3:7). Heaven will be populated by “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).

True equality will not come through political debate, athletes standing together, protest marches, Facebook posts, or social engineering. True equality only comes when we acknowledge our sin, ask Jesus for forgiveness, and become part of the family of God. Far too often, we focus on the symptoms rather than addressing the root cause.

If you want to bring an end to racism, supremacy, and terrorism, denounce evil and call sin, sin. But don’t stop there. Take the next step and share the message that Jesus Christ can forgive sin and change hearts. Hope and healing is only found in Jesus Christ.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Bible Study, News stories, Scripture, 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.