Unplugging from Technology

July 22, 2008

Many of you know, that my wedding is on July 26. That is this coming Saturday. Tomorrow I drive down to Pennsylvania to help with the final wedding plans before the big day. I made a promise to my soon-to-be wife that I would make sure I unplug from technology for our honeymoon. We’re headed to Florida and I promised I would not bring my laptop. I will have my cell but will only use it for emergencies. So, no updates here my friends. No Facebook updates. No answering e-mails. Nothing! So, this will be my last post for just a little while. Perhaps you too should unplug from technology for a little bit, and go enjoy your family! See you soon… with a new wife!

On Husbands and Wives in Preparation for my Wedding

July 15, 2008

“Husbands and wives should be as two sweet friends, bred under one constellation, tempered by an influence from heaven whereof neither can give any reason, save mercy and providence first made them so, and then made their match; saying, see God hath determined us out of this vast world each for other.”

Daniel Rogers (1573-1652)

Immanuel’s Child

July 15, 2008

Reaching out with the Gospel to Children in the CIS at Christmas

Many of the millions of children in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the other nations of the CIS have never heard about Jesus. They have never heard how God sent Him for their sake to be their Savior, our Immanuel—“God with us”.

Through Immanuel’s Child, Slavic Gospel Association’s special Christmas outreach, your church can join with believers in Russia to reach these hopeless children with this life-changing message of hope this Christmas.

Your free resource kit includes everything your church needs to have a part in Immanuel’s Child. Participation is easy and your church will experience great blessings as you help make lifelong disciples for Christ.

For more information visit the Immanuel’s Child website. Please seriously consider helping local churches in the CIS reach out into their communities with the life changing message of Jesus Christ to those most marginalized by society, children.

For the Moment…

July 15, 2008

Al Mohler has a penetrating post on Thomas Beatie, once formerly Tracy, who appeared on Oprah and just recently gave birth. It is claimed this is the first man to give birth, yet Thomas still has the complete reproductive system of a woman. Regardless, society is constantly trying to confuse itself over gender and is making a mess out of it. They continually confuse and abuse what God has created ultimately trying to remake what apparently God did wrong. The church needs to understand the issues going on in society around them and preach the good news that God is the creator, soverign, good God of the universe. Who are we to tamper with what He has done?

My favourite line though is Mohler’s take on Oprah: “the television equivalent of a London tabloid.” Right on my friend.

A Reissue of the Prayer Call

July 15, 2008

Prayer is the effectual means for accomplishing the will of God in this age. What does this mean? It means that God uses our prayers as ordained means for accomplishing His end. This means that prayer is the lifeblood of the church. It is through prayer, not through marketing agendas, that God brings revival and fresh movings of the Holy Spirit. Historically this has always been the case. It was always through renewed efforts of prayer amongst the churches that God used to move the Spirit and bring revival with men and women repenting and turning to Jesus Christ.

John Sutcliff of Olney (1752-1814) was the pastof of the Baptist church in Olney, Buckinghamshire. He was a close friend of Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) and helped in the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society which sent out William Carey (1764-1831) to India. In 1784 Sutcliff recommended that the churches in the Northamptonshire Association  add to their services a monthly prayer meeting devoted to seeking revival from God. He had been influenced by the great Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) work, An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and visible Union of God’s people in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, Pursuant to Scripture-Promises and Prophecies Concerning the Last Time (1748).

Sutcliffe called the churches to set aside the first Monday of every month to pray for God’s outpouring of His Holy Spirit and the resultant revival in Great Britain.

The prayer call was circulated to the churches in the association in the 1784 circular letter. Most likely attributed to Sutcliff, he wrote regarding the prayer call:

The grand object in prayer is to be, that the Holy Spirit may be poured down on our ministers and churches, that sinenrs may be converted, the saints edified, the interest of religion revived, and the name of God glorified. At the same time remember, we trust you will nto confine your requests to your own societies or to your own immediate connection; let the whole interest of the Redeemer be affectionately rememberd, and the spread of the gospel to the most distant parts of the habitable globe be the object of your most fervent requests. We shall rejoice if any other Christian societies of our own or other denomination will unite with us, and do now invite them most cordially to join heart and hand in the attempt.

Who can tell what the consequences of such an united effort in prayer may be! Let us plead with God the many gracious promises of His word, which relate to the future success of His gospel. He has said, “I will yet for this be inquired of by the hosue of Israel, to do it for them, I will increase them with men like a flock” (Ezekiel 36:37). Surely we have love enough for Zion to set apart one hour at a time, twelve times in a year, to seek her welfare. (The Nature, Evidences, and Advantages, of Humility [Circular Letter of the Northamptonshire Association, 1784], p. 12).

So, my call today is to recommit to prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit and the bringing of revival. I call all pastors to institute at least an hour of prayer in their churches the first Monday of every month for the purpose of revival. God can use this prayer to accomplish His will. Do you want to see revival today in North America and around the world? Then we must as a people pray! Let us come together and seek the Lord’s face! Let us ask Him to bless us and use us to bring people to Christ!

 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. (1 Tim 2:8)

Pray continually. (1 Thess 5:17)

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Eph 6:18)

Preaching and Representing Slavic Gospel Association at Your Church

July 10, 2008

Part of my role here at Slavic Gospel Association is to help spread the exciting news of what God is doing in the Commonwealth of Independent States. On that note, I am available to speak at churches in Ontario to that end. I can come and speak in an adult Sunday School class, a morning or evening worship service, or even a mid-week prayer service. Different services will have a different focus, but every message I bring ties in the Word of God with what is happenning here at SGA.

On an adult Sunday School class I would do something like “How God Used the Communists.” Sunday morning worship would be a regular exposition of the Word of God with a focus on church planting, missions, or other such biblical concepts. Evening worship services would have a more “nuts and bolts” focus on SGA and what we do. Mid-week prayer services would be a combined time of focus around the Word and about SGA and its ministry.

I am booking currently for the fall. If you are interested in having me come to your church please contact me. I would love to come, minister the Word, and share the exciting message of God’s dealings with the Slavic people in the former Soviet Union. May all of our global perspectives be enlarged!

The Church is Bigger than you Think

July 9, 2008

One of the most frequently asked questions by unbeliever and believer alike is “why are there so many denominations.” There are simplistic and overly complicated answers to this question. One could take people on a biblical study of the purity of the truth to a historical study of schism and separation. But, can we get so focused on our differences that we do miss the call to be a unified body of Christ?

Many of us, whether we say it or not, often believe that our particular group is the only one that God is using in this age. Coming out of a Fundamentalist background, while I appreciate the focus on the purity of the truth, there is a tendency to have sort of the Elijah complex (1 Kings 19:10) who believe they are the only group still truly faithful to the Gospel. There is a tendency to therefore separate over non-fundamental issues. I would now consider myself more or less part of the Reformed camp (although a solid dispensationalist!). We, in our over zealous state, try to encourage people to embrace the doctrines of grace so fervently, that we often believe that the idea of an Arminian believer is an oxymoron! How quickly do we allow ourselves to become fixated on ourselves or on one particular theological idea that we neglect what unites us together, specifically, the cross work of Christ!

The church is bigger than you think. It is not just Baptists, or Presbyterians, or Methodists, or Pentecostals or such. In fact there would be people in each group that could hardly be called Christians! There are members of the body of Christ in the Anglican church and I would dare say it, some even in the Roman Catholic church. Not all have bowed the knee to Baal.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one (John 17:21-23)

Jesus’ high priestly prayer was for the unity of the body of Christ. People would know we are followers of Christ by our love for one another. Yet, we divide over petty issues, issues that while important, do not have bearing on the essential core message of the Christian faith. Frankly, I can have fellowship with my brother the covenant theologian, my sister the paedobaptist and not feel like I have compromised the faith. I can have fellowship with one who believes tongues still operate today or who do not believe in unconditional election. These aspects are not fundamental core aspects of the faith.

What then are the core doctrines of the faith? What should be that which we divide over to maintain the purity of the Gospel? Historically there were five major fundamentals of the faith (these have been sub-divided into larger groups, but this should suffice).

(1) The literal inerrancy of the Scriptures.

(2) The virgin birth and deity of Christ.

(3) The substitutionary view of the atonement.

(4) The bodily resurrection of Christ.

(5) The literal return of Christ.

Now, if a brother and sister holds to these core truths, have embraced Jesus Christ as saviour, then we can be united in fellowship together around these core doctrines of the faith. Now, does that mean we can fellowship on the same level in each instance? No. For instance I would not have a paedobaptist come into my church and do a baptismal service! But, I would have him come in and preach in a regular service perhaps. This thinking about levels of fellowship is important as we seek to apply practically our theology to those of different positions yet together in faith.

So, my point? The church is bigger than you think. Just as Elijah thought he was the only one, the Lord reminded him there were 7000 that did not bow the knee to Baal. There are many of our brothers and sisters in the faith around the world that we can rejoice with in our shared salvation. We should not back ourselves in little corners thinking we are the only bastions of the faith, but should embrace those who too are not bowing the knee to Baal! They will know we are Christians by our love! Do you love the brethren in all its forms?

See Bob Hayton’s “Minimizing the Gospel through Excessive Separation” for a helpful discussion of the problem of excessive separation.



Book Review: Engaging with the Holy Spirit by Graham A. Cole

July 8, 2008


It has been said that the last century was the century of the Holy Spirit. This of course comes in the context of the rise of Pentecostalism and charismatic theology which puts a greater emphasis on the third member of the Triune God, than other theological traditions. Many have spent considerable amounts of time studying this area of pneumatology out over the last number of years. I spent my own time in seminary doing this as I was assigned the topic of Holy Spirit Baptism in a pneumatology seminar.

Yet, through all this study there is still incredible confusion over the Holy Spirit. Questions about about the deity and personality of the Spirit of God, His work in the past, His work in the present, and His work in the future. How are we as believers to relate to the Holy Spirit? Thankfully Graham A. Cole, in a simple but profound book has helped us to better aquaint ourselves with the Holy Spirit.

Cole is professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL. He is an anglican minister and formerly served as principal of Ridley College, University of Melbourne. He is the author of a more indepth look at the Spirit in his volume, He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Crossway). His new book, Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers (Crossway) helps to answer the questions that people in the pew have about the mysterious Spiritus Sanctum.

Cole answers a number of questions about the Spirit in his book. He writes,

The questions are both crucial and real. People ask them. In fact, one of them in particular, blasphemy against the Spirit, has been discussed from the earliest centuries of Christianity. And our answers ought to affect the practice of the Christian life, whether individual or corporate. As the wise say, theology without application is abortion (p. 17).

Cole then begins to ask and answer 6 key questions regarding the Holy Spirit. These are 1) What is Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, 2) How May We Resist the Holy Spirit? 3) Ought We to Pray to the Holy Spirit?, 4) How Do We Quench the Holy Spirit?, 5) How Do we Grieve the Holy Spirit?, and 6) How Does the Holy Spirit Fill Us? Looking at these questions I know I personally have sought out answers to them. Cole is right, people are asking these questions. Where are the answers? Cole has given us a great place to start.

Now, I do not agree with every one of Cole’s conclusions. For instance, in contrast to Cole, I believe blasphemy against the Spirit could only occur during the time of Jesus earthly ministry and had to do with the Jewish leaders rejection of Christ. Now, Cole’s position is strong though for a possibility of blasphemy today, but rightly notes that it can only be committed by a non-believer (p. 33). They keep the believer walking in a godly state though similar to the warning passages in Hebrews.

Resisting the Spirit has to do with resisting the Word of God which the Spirit has inspired and its faithful interpretation and application (p. 49). He concludes we may pray to the Spirit becaues God is Triune but we must be careful because there is no Scriptural warrant for it (p. 66). Quenching the Spirit today involves ignoring the preached or read Word of God that stirs our consciences or to oppose ministries that show us our failure to line up with the revealed will of God (p. 81). We grieve the Spirit when there is moral disparity between what we say as God’s people and what we do (p. 97). Finally, being filled with the Holy Spirit has to do with congregational life instead of personal sanctification. In the congregation gratitude, reverence, proper speech, song, and submission, are involved with being filled. (p. 113).

I am in sympathy with much of what Cole writes. It is sane, sober, and lacking the typical approach to understanding much of the Holy Spirit’s work. Even where I disagree, I appreciate and respect Cole’s study of the Word. He makes it clear and understandable. And of course, he does not leave it simply in the intellectual realm, but shows how the work of the Spirit is where the rubber meets the road in how Christians are to live. I would challenge all of us to read and reflect on this and on the person and work of the Spirit this year. Our lives and churches will be transformed. Cole serves as an able guide in our journey to better understand the third member of the Triune God. Every Christian should read this book.

DNA of a New Testament Church

July 8, 2008

Our director at SGA, Allan Vincent, shared with me an illustration regarding the state of the church today. A farmer in St. Jacobs, ON once told him that not all potatoes labeled Yukon Gold are actually Yukon Gold. You see, with all the genetic changes being made to food, there are a number of things that are labeled one thing, but in reality are something different. A bag of Yukon Gold potatoes that you pick up at the grocery store may in fact not be Yukon Gold! Scary stuff indeed.

Now what does this have to do with the church? In reality, much of what is called “church” nowadays is really in fact not church. What we see today with our consumer, marketing, program driven approach to church is really, a genetically altered form of the church. It was designed to “sell” the church even though it was no longer the church. We see a watered down form of the church. Most believers today are really looking at churches with a consumeristic attitude (does this church meet my needs, does it have what my kids need, will I get what I want out of it). The attitude of “you get what you put in” is foreign to most church goers today. And the churches have changed their genetic make-up in order to appeal to these church goers today.

What then does the mapping of the DNA of a New Testament Church look like? Well, in reality the Word of God gives us a clear understanding of what the local church did in New Testament times. Acts 4:42-47 reads,

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

There are some very key points here which can show what the focus of the church was. Essentially, the focus of the church was 1) preaching and teaching the Word, 2) prayer, 3) fellowship of the saints, and 4) partaking in ordinances of the church.

Clearly, one important aspect of their time was devoted to the Apostle’s teachings. They yearned to hear the Word of God preached and taught and applied to their lives. They knew that a Word saturated ministry is a life changing ministry. Only through the power of the Word which revealed the Word, that is Christ, could they hope to attain the promise of life eternal. The Word changed hearts and brought people to Christ, and it changed lives as people were becoming more like Christ.

The second item was prayer. They devoted themselves to prayer. Prayer is that divine work where we communicate with the Sovereign God of the universe. We have the privilege of being agents of His divine will through prayer. God accomplishes His will through our prayers. We are the ordained means to the end. Plus, we grow in our relationship and fellowship with the Triune God through prayer. It is our lifeline to our life giver! Without prayer, we will wither and die!

A third thing the church was committed to was fellowship. While we might not embrace the communal living they did, we can appreciate the close relationships these beleivers had with each other. We live in a segregated world where we know of nor care about our neighbours let alone our church family. These people though faithfully met together and cared and loved for each other in such a way that they met each other’s needs. Imagine what churches would look like today with this kind of level of fellowship!

Finally, they devoted themselves to the ordinances of the Lord. There is debate here, but I believe at least a part of what is being referred to here is the Lord’s Supper. The church regularly “broke bread” together as they celebrated the finished work of Christ that united them together and looked forward to the glorious return of Christ when they would celebrate the meal with Him! They also of course took part in the other ordinace of baptism which served as the initiatory placement of the person into the community of faith. Therefore, when the church came together, they added those to their number through baptism, and they fellowshipped around the Lord’s Table.

This is the DNA of a New Testament Church. This is how the churched looked then, this is how it should look now. How far have we gotten off the beaten path through our programs and our marketing and everything else. The church was simple. United around the preaching and teaching of the Word, prayer, fellowship, and the ordinances. If more of our churches today focused on these aspects and less on “meeting needs” we would live in a world of greater conformity to Christ in our churches. We would be a close knit family united around Christ.

What a privilege it is to be a part of the body of Christ. May we pray for our churches to better reflect the New Testament picture of the church. Let’s remove the genetic engineering that has happened to the church and get back to the simplicity of it all!

Sovereignty, Grace, and Salvation

July 2, 2008

“There can be no grace when there is no sovereignty. Deny God’s right to choose whom He will and you deny His right to save whom He will. Deny His right to save whom He will, and you deny that salvation is of grace. If salvation is made to hinge upon any desert or fitness in man, seen or unseen, grace is at an end.”

Hoartius Bonar (1808-1889)

Originally from the preface to Abraham Booth’s, The Reign of Grace (Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1844). Found in Christ is All: The Piety of Horatius Bonar, ed. Michael A. G. Haykin and Darrin R. Brooker (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), p. 89.