TACTICS

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Copyright 2009

Gregory Koukl

I thought learning more biblical facts will help me to be better equipped to answer my critics — I was wrong.  Koukl provides believers will practical tactics to help defend and share our faith.  I have used some of his methods, and it has really helped so far.  It is an easy read but the tactics will take time to master.  It takes practice.  This book will benefit all Christians, but it is especially helpful for those who work and play around scholars and/or study among those in the science field.  Koukl provides a framework for argument, and most importantly, he flooded his book with practical examples.  A must read for students and young adults.  Read it and let me know what you think.

 

Brian (D.O.C.)

Prepared to Stand Alone

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Imagine —  curling up on a cold wintry snow blizzard day, with a big cup of tea, in a warm place with a good book.  Usually that would conjure up images of a fiction book, but I recommend Iain H. Murray’s biography of J.C. Ryle. The tea and warm place may energize your body, but that fiction book will probably not be as edifying to your soul as “Prepared to Stand Alone” will be.

I am always intrigued and amazed at how God’s saints (biblical definition) stood firm in their faith in spite of the ‘fiery trials.’  The setting of this biography was set in England, during the 1800’s.  This is a different time from our day with different challenges, but I was still encouraged that time period and distance did not erase the common faith and challenges I share with those believers from the past.  There were two things from this book that resonated in my soul at this particular time in my life

(1) The common faith: “Who does not know that spiritual religion never brings a man the world’s praise?  It never has done, and never does.  It entails the world’s disapprobation, the world’s persecution, the world’s ridicule, the world’s sneers.  The world will let a man go to hell quietly, and never try to stop him.  The world will never let a man go to heaven quietly — they will do all they can to turn him back.  Who has not heard the nicknames in plenty bestowed on all who faithfully follow Christ? — Pietist, Methodist, saint, fanatic, enthusiast, righteous, overmuch, and many more…” p. 67.  This reminded me of Hebrews 12:1.

(2) My own inadequacy as an Elder: “However eloquent or apparently knowledgeable a preacher may be, there will be something seriously lacking the man who is not to be found in the homes of his people.  Sermons which only come from the study are not likely to be messages which bind speaker and hearers together in a common bond of affection and sympathy.  A preacher must be a visitor and be ready to preach everywhere.”  During the two years of his seclusion there he acquired, it can be stated, an entire pastoral knowledge of every man, woman, and child, under his charge.”

May God help us to bring glory to our Lord and Savior

 

Brian L. Spivey (D.O.C.)

One Purpose of Church Attendance

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” Revelation 1:3

How many times have you read and heard sermons about this passage?  I have heard it many times.  I have also heard the phrase, “Context is King.”  Although I spent most of my adult life learning how to read and preach the Scriptures, I am reminded how easy it is to detach a verse from its original context. The principle, ‘Context is king,’ helped me understand a Bible passage this afternoon.

Have you ever wondered why it says, “the one who reads ALOUD the words of this prophecy”?  I haven’t until recently.  The context of this book is a letter that travels to seven different churches.  The one who reads aloud would naturally be the Elder or Pastor.  When John writes,  to the “angel,” he is referring to the pastor or elder.  Wow!  Now this makes so much sense.  The pastor would read it, and the congregation would listen and KEEP the words.  Those who do, will be blessed.  I guess this would be one of the main purposes of church attendance… not to get our ‘praise on.’  I didn’t think I would find it in The book of Revelation, but I am glad I did.

 

Brian L Spivey D.O.C.

A Sad Departure

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181 pages, copyright 2001

In an age where things are not built to last; fixing something cost more money that buying a new one, and the average lifespan of newlyweds is three years, it seems more difficult to remain faithful. How difficult would it be to leave a local church? For many that would not be hard at all. And what about a denomination? That would probably be easier for many Americans. When ‘church’ is so easy to obtain with mega churches, online streaming and cell groups by Skype, remaining faithful to a denomination seems archaic at best. So it was a tough job for someone to write a book about how difficult it would be to leave a denomination and not vilify other Christians, but David J. Randall found a way. How could someone with a different background understand this? I was not raised in a denomination, I am not from Scotland, and so it is not my reality. But Randall was victorious. He captured the affective aspect of leaving a denomination that ia so woven in the fabric of that nation and families to the fourth and fifth generation. How do we hold strongly to our convictions and still behave in a way that honors Christ? Randall wrote the textbook. Read it. It will be time well spent.

Brian – D.O.C.

 

Love or Die – Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church

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by Alexander Strauch

copyright 2008

Among the stack of books I “have”to read, this one was the easiest to understand but hardest to practice!  Strauch expounds on Revelation 2:4 and the church at Ephesus.  The order of his chapters were just as important as the content.  Chapter three of this book is entitled, “Teach Love.”  My eyes immediately went to that chapter, and I wanted to camp out there first, but I read the book in order and the chapter before it was “Pray for Love.” This was important and after incorporating this in my quiet time, it has really helped.  The chapter about teaching love was so difficult to rush through.  It was convicting on many levels, but especially the sentence that read, “Thus the Christian home should be characterized by Christ’s unselfish, giving love–a love that is initiated by the husband.”  The word ‘initiated’ was what caused me to pause and repent.  The other highlight of this book was his focus on the local church.  In the age of the so called, “virtual church,” Strauch helps church leaders and members consider how we learn how to biblically love one another when he writes, “If you are not a participating member of a local church, then you are not in God’s school of love.”  If you are brave enough to read this book, let me know what you think.

Brian Spivey — D.O.C.

A Memorial

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I don’t think you meet too many great men in life, but I’ve had the privilege of knowing a couple. Eivion Williams had been a member of my church since 1983 and was a successful business man before coming to Christ. Once he became a Christian, he phased out his business interests so that he could serve the Lord in other ways. He ran the Schenectady City Mission for five years, then served a local Christian school, then was President of the Alpha Pregnancy Center for several years until he passed away last Sunday, April 17.

I learned a lot from him, mostly by example. He had great faith in God’s goodness, trusted God’s Word, and believed His promises. Eivion really had a heart to see sinner’s come to Christ, especially his friends and family. He also had a passion to save unborn babies from abortion and to help young mothers make the right decisions. He was a guy who prayed, then took action.

Clifton Park Community Church is going to miss him greatly. He was a faithful deacon, brother, and friend, as well as a godly father and husband. Even though he wasn’t saved until later in life, he was used by God to do great things in the church and in the community he served. Eivion was “all in”, and that’s primarily how I’ll remember him.

One can only wish to leave such a Christ-like legacy.

C.M. Granger

A Sermon Preached Without Words

I came across the story of this Christian couple who are country singers, Joey and Rory Feek, through my wife.  Joey was a new mother when diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014, she recently passed away in March of this year.  The backstory is Joey was a huge fan and admirer of Dolly Parton, and a family friend had arranged for Dolly to give her a special message, slipped into the middle of a favorite movie, as she was in Hospice care at her childhood home in Alexandria, IN.

What struck me very deeply in the video of Joey’s joyful reaction is the way Rory, her husband, wept over her joy (although I’m sure those tears contained sorrow as well).

I can tell you the video clip embedded in this blog post preached to me like no sermon ever has.  It’s a living example of godly marital love, and I was deeply convicted of how far short I fall with regard to loving my wife as I should.  Since this is living theology, I thought it most appropriate for a theology blog.

C.M. Granger

 

Theological Trajectories from Eden & Sinai in Habakkuk 3, concluded.

  1. Themes of Habakkuk 3 in the Rest of Scripture

The latter books of the Old Testament

The physical city of Jerusalem, home of the throne of David and the temple (the throne of God), was fundamental to the plans of God as unfolded in the Old Testament. But with the holy city destroyed and the people of Judah taken away from the land, concerns arose about the future of God’s plans as the Old Testament era drew to a close. Yet, the writing of Habakkuk set forth a foundation for faith and trust in the Lord in the face of grim circumstances.

A careful reading of the book demonstrates, however, that an eschatological promise for Israel remains. Babylon will ultimately be judged for its evil, and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” … The book concludes with Habakkuk waiting for ‘the day of trouble to come upon those who invade us” (3:16), which almost certainly also involves salvation for Israel.[1]

Writing later in the sixth century to encourage the returned exiles and their leaders in the work of rebuilding and restoring the temple, Haggai echoes the triumphant language of Habakkuk:

Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. (2:21-22)

The other minor prophets “were aware of one another, with earlier prophets influencing the language and the imagery of those who came later.”[2]  In various ways they “recast the fulfillment of God’s objectives in an apocalyptic and eschatological light.”[3]

It seems as if Babylon has the last word at the end of the canon. But, just as God descended at the beginning of the canon to judge Babylon [Babel] and so to bring to nothing human pretensions to unite heaven and earth, so, through a foreign king [Cyrus], He commands an exiled Judah to go up from Babylon and build the temple, from which blessing will proceed. God is not finished with Abraham. There has been a setback, but the blessing will come through the Davidic house. Hope remains.[4]

As unexpectedly as the Lord raised up a people to punish His own (Habakkuk 1:5), He would summon a king named Cyrus into His service to return them (2 Chronicles 36:22) — even calling him His anointed (Isaiah 45:1). Habakkuk 3:13 spoke of an anointed one, but this was not a reference to an individual, and not the future Messiah. Habakkuk correlates this term with your people (3:12) and it refers to Israel as a whole, as Daniel Block confirms.[5]

Ultimately, the whole narrative shape of Israel’s completed Scriptures (Old Testament) show the Lord’s “overriding concern to reveal Himself, that is His character and His intentions, to His people and through them to the world.”[6]

The Gospels

Are there connections in the New Testament with the Habakkuk themes? Yes, primarily in the Epistles and the Book of Revelation, yet some subtle connections can be seen in the Gospels and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. For instance, the descriptions of Jesus’ power and authority over the waves of the sea (e.g., Matthew 8:23–27), recall Habakkuk 3:15. When the disciples ask “Who is this?” the scene portrays Jesus as the divine LORD — for “in the Old Testament only Yahweh triumphs over a stormy sea.”[7] In the passion narratives, Christ crushes and conquers the seed of the serpent as foreshadowed of the language of Habakkuk, You crushed the head of the house of the wicked (3:13c), and, You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors (3:14a).

Through the judgment of the enemy, the crushing of the head of the seed of the serpent, Yahweh saves His people. …. [as] in Habakkuk, Yahweh is glorified in salvation through judgment.[8]

In a fascinating line of thought, Schreiner sees the emphasis on divine sovereignty found in John’s Gospel as having a connection to the conclusion of Habakkuk 3, and the prophet’s resulting calm trust and submission to the unfolding ways of God (yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength, 3:18-19) —

Since Jesus’ death fulfills God’s plan, John especially emphasizes divine sovereignty during the Passion Narrative. What happened to Jesus cannot be ascribed to the cruelty of fate or to events spinning out of control. Instead God supervised and superintended every detail. Hence, when Jesus knew death was about to befall Him, [c.f., Habakkuk’s situation] He did not flee in fear and even offered Himself to His captors, knowing that God was ruling even in such a dark hour.[9]

The Epistles

References to Habakkuk 3 are few in the New Testament Epistles, but of course the great truth of Habakkuk 2:4 plays a significant role in several letters (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; and, Hebrews 10:38). Reflecting on these New Testament references to 2:4 opens a conduit to recall the wider context of Habakkuk, including the psalm-prayer of chapter three — which itself is a precious illustration of the way of living by faith.

Aspects of Habakkuk 3 are seen in Hebrews. For example, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the attendant desolated (3:17) seem to stand behind Hebrews 13:14, For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come, and, similarly 11:10, For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. The status of exile is mentioned in Hebrews 11:13 — These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth —and resonates richly with the resolve of the prophet Habakkuk at 3:18-19, who will wait for his removal but rejoice that his feet are made strong for the pilgrimage ahead. Finally, 2 Peter 2:9 alludes to two themes from Habakkuk 3, rescue for His people and delayed-but-certain judgment for the unrighteous. Peter declares that, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. Habakkuk, who mentions both (3:2, in wrath remember mercy), would say, Amen.

The Book of Revelation

Certainly Habakkuk 3, broadly considered, is one of the many contributing threads in the tapestry of the “city” theme — traceable from Eden, to tabernacle, to Jerusalem, to temple, to exile (loss of city and temple), to return from exile, to the church[10], to the New Jerusalem. There are specific portions of Habakkuk 3 that come to mind as Revelation is read. The role of horse and chariot in God’s work of salvation (Habakkuk 3:8), seems to be fulfilled with the appearance of the rider on the white horse (Revelation 19:11-16). The majestic glory/light imagery of the presence of God from Habakkuk 3:3-4, (His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand…) appears fulfilled in Revelation 21:23 (And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb).

The climactic announcement of Revelation 21:3, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God,” is the glorious fulfillment to the great storyline of the whole Bible, including the desired resolution of Habakkuk in his psalm-like prayer. Lister concurs and summarizes —

In this simple yet profound phrase, God’s mission is complete. It is what we as Christians all long to hear. It tells us that God’s presence to redeem is successful; it has removed the barriers of Eden and reconciled us to His glorious, eschatological presence. At the center of this functional work is the presence of God in Christ. He comes to change us and prepare a way for us to draw near to God. …Finally, we see that Christ has come to serve and save; He comes again to judge and destroy God’s enemies and to make a way to the fulfillment of God’s redemptive promises for His people. As the warrior-king, God will wage His final battle to culminate the goals of redemption (Ex. 15:2; Deuteronomy 20; Isa. 59:16–18; Ezek. 38–39; Hab. 3:8-15; Zech 12:1-9; 14:3-5).[11]

 

[1] Thomas Schreiner, 413.

[2] James Hamilton, 231.

[3] J. Ryan Lister, 221.

[4] Stephen Dempster, 226-227.

[5] “Although the Latter Prophets (according to the Jewish canon) tell us a lot about the prophets’ understanding of the messiah, it is remarkable that the noun māšîaḥ occurs only in Habakkuk 3:13 and Isaiah 45:1. But neither text may be construed as a technical reference to the anointed one.” Daniel Block, in Hess & Carroll (ed.s), Israel’s Messiah in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 24.

[6] Rikk E. Watts, in From Creation to New Creation, Daniel Gurtner & Benjamin Gladd, eds. (Hendrickson, 2013), 207.

[7] Thomas Schreiner, New Testament Theology:  Magnifying God in Christ, (Baker, 2008), 181.

[8] James Hamilton, 253.

[9] Thomas Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, (Baker, 2013), 524; emphasis and comment added.

[10] R.J. McKelvey explains the role of the church in this theme, “as much more than a type of the divine indwelling in the old sanctuary or the fulfillment of the prophecy that God would again dwell with his people after the exile…. God no longer dwells with his people in a sanctuary which they make for him; he dwells in them, and they are his temple.” Cited in Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem, (Kregel Academic, 2008), 64.

[11] Lister, 323-4.

 

posted on behalf of Pastor Dave Bissett

C.M. Granger

Simeon Trust Workshop

This was a conference I’ve heard of before, but it was different that any conference I’ve ever attended before.

It is a conference for those who are serious about the authority and sufficiency of the Bible, and just as serious about preaching/teaching it.  Most of these men were full-time pastors.  For the pastor/teacher, seminary is like medical school, but just like a doctor, a pastor must continue to refine his skills — this conference was just that for those in full-time ministry.

It is a three-day conference and it was broken into three components — “the big meeting,” “the small meeting,” and the individual time in God’s Word.  I was only able to attend for one day, and as an observer I was still able to glean many things from this conference.  There were two speakers: David Jackman and Chris Spano.  Jackman spoke first and he stressed the importance of “Staying on the line.”  He started with the question, “What is expository preaching?”  His definition was clear: “The Bible text drives the sermon!”  It is hard work but if the Bible drives the sermon then it is God Himself who speaks to His people.  The other take-away from his presentation was the fact that the Bible interprets itself.

Chris Spano then came and showed us how to stay on that line by explaining the importance of context.  He used Mark 8 and we all did it together in our “big meeting.”  One of the things he stressed was the reading and re-reading of the book to understand the purpose of the author.  He said, “Biblical context is the king but the cultural context is the prince.”  We get into trouble when we enlarge the cultural context over the biblical context.  It was so rich.  I would encourage anyone who is in full-time ministry to find a workshop and attend it.  I know for me, as soon as I get into full-time ministry I will sign up right away.  Hope to see some of you there.

Brian — D.O.C.

Divine Duo

Did you ever see the Dynamic Duo – otherwise known as Batman & Robin? It first aired on T.V. from 1966-1968. Sometimes Batman would get captured and Robin would have to save him, but most of time, it was Batman that came to the rescue of Robin. This was done to emphasize the point – they worked best together. It just didn’t seem right if the two of them were not fighting along side each other. You can’t have one without the other and still have a Dynamic Duo.The apostle Paul also wanted to etch this theme in the minds of the Christians in Crete – you can’t have one without the other. The one difference between the Dynamic Duo and the Divine Duo is that Batman can be a superhero all by himself, but the two elements of the Divine Duo never operates separately.

In the last post I explored the first part of chapter one, verse one –“servant hood & apostleship.” The second part of verse one explores theme of the knowledge of the truth and godliness. This is the Divine Duo. This theme is one of the themes that help us understand the whole Book of Titus.

Christianity is not a religion of head knowledge only. The purpose of learning is to obey. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” This helped the believers in Crete avoid false teachers; but this was written for our edification as well. When we are evaluating a Christian leader, the question is not just how much he knows, but how much he grows. Paul doesn’t only admonish us to examine our leaders, but to examine ourselves – does your biblical/theological knowledge match your biblical/theological maturity?

Brian L. Spivey D.O.C.