Dr. James White:
Sam Storms, the pastor at Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in an article entitled “Tornadoes and the Mystery of Suffering and Sovereignty” wrote this yesterday:
I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to the tragedy that struck our community today is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly?
I’m not certain I have the answer to that question, and I write the following with considerable hesitation. I can only pray that what I say is grounded in God’s Word and is received in the spirit in which it is intended.
Justin Taylor outlined his seven observations this way:
(1) It will not accomplish anything good to deny what Scripture so clearly asserts, that God is absolutely sovereign over all of nature.
(2) God is sovereign, not Satan.
(3) Great natural disasters such as this tell us nothing about the comparative sinfulness of those who are its victims.
(4) Events such as this should remind us that no place on earth is safe and that we will all one day die (unless Jesus returns first).
(5) We should not look upon such events and conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are at hand, but neither should we conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are not at hand.
(6) We must learn to weep with those who weep.
(7) Pray that God will use such an event to open the hearts and eyes of a city and a state immersed in unbelief and idolatry (and I have in mind not merely Oklahoma, but also America as a whole), to see the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and turn in faith to him, lest something infinitely worse than a tornado befall them: Eternal condemnation. Eternal suffering.
You can read the whole short article by Sam Storms here. And pray.
Justin Taylor put the following short article together on the subject of writing. What he wrote resonates with me very much. I believe there are great insights here.
On Writing Well: Four Suggestions
1. Read Slowly.
Most people ask three questions of what they read:
(1) What is being said?
(2) Does it interest me?
(3) Is it well constructed?
Writers also ask these questions, but two others along with them:
(4) How did the author achieve the effects he has? And
(5) What can I steal, properly camouflaged of course, from the best of what I am reading for my own writing?
This can slow things down a good bit.
2. Read a Lot.
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. . . .
It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but didn’t have time to read, I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
3. Write to Think.
Some people won’t write until they first know what they think about a subject. But good writers write in order to find out what they think. Here are a few examples:
Calvin, citing Augustine: “I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.”
Ed Welch: “I find that there are three levels of clarity. When I only think about something, my thoughts are embryonic and muddled. When I speak about it, my thoughts become clearer, though not always. When I write about it, I jump to a new level of clarity.”
John Piper: “Writing became the lever of my thinking and the outlet of my feelings. If I didn’t pull the lever, the wheel of thinking did not turn. It jerked and squeaked and halted. But once a pen was in hand, or a keyboard, the fog began to clear and the wheel of thought began to spin with clarity and insight.”
Arthur Krystal: “Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person. In fact, I am smarter when I’m writing. I don’t claim this merely because there is usually no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence, but because when the work is going well, I’m expressing opinions that I’ve never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me. Nor am I the first to have this thought, which, naturally, occurred to me while composing. According to Edgar Allan Poe, writing in Graham’s Magazine, ‘Some Frenchman—possibly Montaigne—says: ‘People talk about thinking, but for my part I never think except when I sit down to write.’ I can’t find these words in my copy of Montaigne, but I agree with the thought, whoever might have formed it. And it’s not because writing helps me to organize my ideas or reveals how I feel about something, but because it actually creates thought or, at least supplies a Petri dish for its genesis.”
4. Write and Rewrite.
“Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” — Roald Dahl
“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” — Raymond Chandler
“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” — Elmore Leonard, Newsweek, 1985
“I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” — Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory, 1966
“Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.” — Helen Dunmore
“Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in the edit.” — Will Self
Exposing heretics and those who are working in opposition is sometimes seen as an unbiblical activity. To some, it even seems to be a very unloving thing to do, especially when names are mentioned. Yet a vital function of a true shepherd is to protect the sheep from wolves, rather than allowing them open and unrestricted access to the sheep pen.
The Apostle Paul felt it necessary to point out those he wished his readers to be made aware of and avoid. Here is a list of six people named in 2 Timothy:
1) Phygellus (2 Tim 1:15)
2) Hermogenes (2 Tim 1:15)
3) Hymenaeus (2 Tim 2:17)
4) Philetus (2 Tim 2:17)
5) Demas 4:10 (apostate) (2 Tim 4:10)
6) Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Tim 4:14)
Referring back to Old Testament times, he names the two men who most stood in opposition to the ministry of Moses:
7) Jannes (2 Tim 3:8)
8) Jambres (2 Tim 3:8)
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luke 10:21–22)
This verse is one of the only two places in the Gospels where Jesus is said to rejoice. The seventy disciples have just returned from their preaching tours and reported their success to Jesus.
Luke writes in verse 21: In that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes: yes, Father, for thus it was well–pleasing before you.”
Notice that all three members of the Trinity are rejoicing here: Jesus is rejoicing; but it says he is rejoicing in the Holy Spirit. I take that to mean that the Holy Spirit is filling him and moving him to rejoice. Then at the end of the verse it describes the pleasure of God the Father. The NIV translates it: “Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”
Now what is it that has the whole Trinity rejoicing together in this place? It is the free electing love of God to hide things from the intellectual elite and to reveal them to babes. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes.”
And what is it that the Father hides from some and reveals to others? Luke 10:22 gives the answer: “No one knows who the Son is except the Father.” So what God the Father must reveal is the true spiritual identity of the Son.
When the seventy disciples return from their evangelistic mission and give their report to Jesus, he and the Holy Spirit rejoice that God the Father has chosen, according to his own good pleasure, to reveal the Son to babes and to hide him from the wise.
The point of this is not that there are only certain classes of people who are chosen by God. The point is that God is free to choose the least likely candidates for his grace.
God contradicts what human merit might dictate. He hides from the wise and reveals to the most helpless and unaccomplished.
When Jesus sees the Father freely enlightening and saving people whose only hope is free grace, he exults in the Holy Spirit and takes pleasure in his Father’s election.
- Dr. John Piper
In our zeal to get to the wonders awaiting us in reading through a book of the New Testament, we often dash through the opening remarks of greeting. Yet there is a wealth of insight available to us if we would just pause and reflect on the words.
In Philippians 1:2 the Apostle Paul wrote: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
GRACE TO YOU – In every man made religion, “grace” stands ready to meet you at the top of the mountain. Once you ascend the mountain of God, His grace is waiting to meet you and to confer on you the blessings and rewards your efforts have deserved. How different this is from the Biblical picture where our problem is revealed to be a lot worse than we thought, and the solution, more dramatic and amazing than our minds could have ever conceived.
The Biblical picture is this. Man is not well, nor is He sick; He is actually dead towards God. He needs much more than a miracle healing and far more than a moral or religious pep talk. He needs life. He needs resurrection. Writing to the Christians at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul explains their former condition and what God did to remedy it: Continue reading
In an article found here, Dr. Joel Kahn writes the following regarding the doctrine of perseverance:
Westmister Confession of Faith, Chapter 17.1. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally, nor finally, fall away from the state of grace: but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
Someone has said that a half-truth is often a great lie. Someone else quipped that you should beware of a half-truth, because you may have gotten ahold of the wrong half. Such is the case with the statement, “Once saved, always saved.”
Often people say “once saved, always saved” in the context of making a decision for Christ. They mean that if you ask Jesus into your heart or pray to accept Christ as your personal Savior, then no matter what you do, you are going to heaven. Famously, one advocate of this view has said publicly that all one needs is thirty seconds of saving faith! Many people concerned for the health and holiness of the church object to such an idea. They are right to do so because it is not biblical truth. It is also not the Reformed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.
Reformed Christianity teaches that God preserves His people so that they continue to follow Christ in faith and obedience all the way to glory. The Westminster Confession of Faith explains the promise, grounds, and necessary watchfulness of perseverance in its seventeenth chapter. The first paragraph of WCF 17 states the promise of perseverance. Those in “the state of grace . . . shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” To persevere is to persistently and patiently pursue Christ through pain and persecution, in spite of assaults, temptation, lapses into sin, and struggles with unbelief.
This promise is precious because you must persevere in order to be saved (Heb. 3:6, 14). Christ warned His disciples that they will face persecution. “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22; cf. 24:13). He said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:4). To abide is to continue in a vital relationship to Christ as your source of life. The apostle Paul wrote that you are reconciled to God and will be presented as blameless in His sight, “if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23). Perseverance is not optional to salvation. Rather, it is one of the surest marks of true faith.
God’s love therefore secures the perseverance of His people so they will enter the joys of His glory. As a term of the new covenant in Christ, He promises: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jer. 32:40). Everyone born again by God’s grace overcomes the world by faith (1 John 5:3-4). Even as his faith is tested by painful trials, God keeps him safe by using His power to preserve and purify his faith (1 Peter 1:5-7).
God’s grace creates a people who willingly persevere in faith. He does not drag people kicking and screaming into the kingdom or save anyone against his will: “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Rather, He draws them to come to Christ in faith, and Christ will never cast them out or lose even one of them, but will raise every one of them up to glory on the last day (John 6:37-40). Even when many who have professed to be Christ’s disciples turn back from Him, and some treacherously betray Him, true believers will not leave Him because they know only He can give them eternal life (John 6:66-71). They have a God-given appetite that only Christ can satisfy, and they will cling to Him forever.
Someone might object that both the Bible and experience show that some Christians do fall away from Christ. Yes, it is a sad fact that they do. The Confession wisely speaks of the perseverance of only those “whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit.” This is not everyone who comes to church or responds positively to the gospel. Christ Himself teaches that some “receive the word with joy” and “for a while believe,” but trouble or temptation cause them to fall away (Luke 8:13). However, they were not true believers, for in the same Scripture the Lord said that they “have no root”–the gospel never pierced their stony heart to create saving faith. They experienced God’s truth and Holy Spirit as soil that receives the rain but produces thorns and not good fruit, and so they ultimately fall away (Heb. 6:4-8). Apostasy among professing Christians should grieve us but not shock us. The promise of perseverance belongs to those whom God has called, justified, and sanctified, in the outworking of His sovereign election in love (Rom. 8:29-30).
Another person might object that true believers still fall into sin. Again, we must agree. However, the Confession says that God’s children cannot “totally, nor finally” fall from grace. Yet they may experience partial and temporary falls. David fell into adultery and murder until the Lord broke his heart with repentance (Ps. 51). Peter denied his Lord when Satan was sifting him as wheat. How frail we are! But we also remember Christ’s words to Peter, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). Christ guaranteed that Peter’s faith would not totally or finally fail, but would turn back in repentance (which is what “converted” means in this context). The intercession of our Mediator guarantees that not one of His people will be finally lost. We will discuss the rock-solid grounds for the perseverance of the saints in more detail when we consider the second section of this seventeenth chapter.
Dr. Joel Beeke is president and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I came across this just now. Just what I needed at the end of a long day:
Are all those who are raised either in a non-Christian culture or by non-Christian parents (with little to no exposure to the Christian gospel) condemned to hell?
Ravi Zacharias responds to this emotional question:
A related question is “can all religious views be true at the same time?” Here’s Ravi’s answer:
Regarding truth claims and the law of non-contradiction: There is a theoretical possibility that all the religions of the world are wrong, but it is logically impossible that all the religions of the world are right.
“The Law is for the proud and the Gospel for the brokenhearted.” – Martin Luther
“…as the pulpit goes, so goes the church. Never has this been more true than it is in this present hour. The fact remains, no church can rise any higher than its pulpit. The spiritual life of any congregation and its growth in grace will never exceed the high-water mark set by its pulpit.” – Steven Lawson
“I believe every Christian man has a choice between being humble and being humbled.” – C. H. Spurgeon
“Our generation is surely at a greater disadvantage than any previous age. We have been force-fed the doctrines of self-esteem for so long that most people don’t really view themselves as sinners worthy of divine wrath. On top of that, religious liberalism, humanism, evangelical compromise, and ignorance of the Scriptures have all worked against a right understanding of who God is.” – Unknown
“I don’t think ministers are to be blamed for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond a proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection. I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth.” – Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts, 387
“None of you can be the people of God without provoking envy; and the better you are, the more you will be hated. The ripest fruit is most pecked by the birds, and the blossoms that have been longest on the tree, are the most easily blown down by the wind. But fear not; you have naught to do with what man shall say of you. If God loves you, man will hate you; if God honors you, man will dishonor you. But recollect, could ye wear chains of iron for Christ’s sake, ye should wear chains of gold in heaven; could ye have rings of burning iron round your waists, ye should have your brow rimmed with gold in glory; for blessed are ye when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for Christ’s name’s sake; for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you. ” – C. H. Spurgeon
“In many Roman Catholic churches you see Mary and, somewhere behind her, there He is on the cross! Or look at their pictures. Very often Jesus is represented as a baby; He is either that or someone who is far removed! Mary is always central and prominent. And this is an utter denial of Paul’s teaching. We do not need her. Nor do we need the saints… Do not be mislead, dear Christian people, by niceness. Realise what their teaching is, what Roman Catholic doctrine says, and you will see, as Luther saw, that it is a denial of the plain teaching of the Scripture.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Romans – Saving Faith)
“Men, your primary responsibility in your home, after your wife, is you to disciple your own children. And if you don’t do it, you’re in sin; you are in sin. And if you turn it over to a Sunday school teacher, you are in sin. And you are to be teaching these children more than just stories about animals that went into Noah’s ark. You’re to be teaching them about God, about radical depravity, about blood atonement, about propitiation, expiation, justification, sanctification; you are to teach your children!” – Paul Washer, sermon, “The Christian Life,” part 1.
“No one among us would like to see his true history inscribed on his forehead. . . . If the sins known to my heart were published to the world, I would deserve the gallows. To be sure, the world now respects me. But if it really knew me, it would spit on me; for I would deserve beheading.” – Martin Luther, Luther’s Works 22:403
“There is no better test of growth than that a man desires God because he is God.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“The moment we dare to speak about God the question arises: How can we? We are human and he is the Lord our God. Between him and us there seems to be no such kinship or communion as would enable us to name him truthfully. The distance between God and us is the gulf between the Infinite and the finite, between eternity and time, between being and becoming, between the All and the nothing. However little we know of God, even the faintest notion implies that he is a being who is infinitely exalted above every creature. While Holy Scripture affirms this truth in the strongest terms, it nevertheless sets forth a doctrine of God that fully upholds his knowability. Scripture, one must remember, never makes any attempt to prove the existence of God, but simply presupposes it. Moreover, in this connection it consistently assumes that human beings have an ineradicable sense of that existence and a certain knowledge of God’s being. This knowledge does not arise from their own investigation and reflection, but is due to the fact that God on his part revealed himself to us in nature and history, in prophecy and miracle, by ordinary and by extraordinary means. In Scripture, therefore, the knowability of God is never in doubt even for a moment. The fool may say in his heart, “There is no God,” but those who open their eyes perceive from all directions the witness of his existence, of his eternal power and deity (Isa. 40:26; Acts 14:17; Rom. 1:19-20). The purpose of God’s revelation, according to Scripture, is precisely that human beings may know God and so receive eternal life (John 17:3; 20:31).” – Herman Bavinck from, “Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation”