Monday, July 31, 2017

The martyr who saved the Reformation

The new issue of Credo Magazine is now here: The English Reformation.

The word “Reformation” immediately brings to mind a young Martin Luther, his 95 theses, and his memorable stand at the Diet of Worms. But did Luther’s writings have any influence in England? And what led certain English reformers to similar, sometimes identical, convictions about justification and biblical authority?

In this issue of Credo Magazine, “The English Reformation,” we are introduced to some of the key English reformers, men like William Tyndale, Thomas Cranmer, and many others. Outstanding pastors and scholars tell us how the Reformation took root in England under very different political circumstances than Germany and why many of these reformers were willing to be martyred for their faith.

Today we’d like to draw your attention to the feature article: “The martyr who saved the Reformation.” Matthew Barrett interviews Leslie Williams about the life and martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer. She is the author of Emblem of Faith Untouched: A Short Life of Thomas Cranmer. Leslie Winfield Williams is an English professor, writer, and three-time Fellow of Yale Divinity School. Her other books include The Judas Conspiracy and When Anything Goes: Being Christian in a Post-Christian World.

Here is the start of the interview:
You have just published a new book with Eerdmans called Emblem of Faith Untouched, introducing Christians to the life of Thomas Cranmer. Many Christians today may be far less familiar with Cranmer than with Martin Luther or John Calvin. Who was this sixteenth-century reformer who proved to be so critical to the English Reformation?

Thank you for asking about the book. Thomas Cranmer was an unlikely candidate to be a major player in the upheavals of the English Reformation. He was recruited because of a coincidental exchange over supper with two of King Henry VIII’s top advisors during the king’s crusade to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn. At age 41, Cranmer was a settled scholar and Fellow of Jesus College in Cambridge, one of the top three examiners for degree candidates, and a dogged and thorough student of Reformation ideas from the Continent.

Cranmer was appointed to be Henry’s first Archbishop of Canterbury over more obvious candidates for several reasons—first, his belief that the sovereign of the land should also be sovereign of the church. The king was king and had the right and the responsibility to dictate the religious views of his own country—the Pope should not control the English church from afar. Second, Cranmer’s personality. He was not strident and not bigoted; he was diffident yet held a strong undercurrent of conviction; he was able to bide his time when necessary and able to absorb and understand all sides of an argument; and he could get along with a king who lopped off the heads of those who disagreed with him.

Cranmer can be a controversial figure today. Some interpret his life in such a way as to dismiss him, believing he compromised far too much under Henry VIII. Others, however, are more sympathetic, believing he was carefully walking a nearly impossible political tightrope, namely, trying to institute the Protestant reform slowly under a king who could be unsympathetic and even violent towards those who were too aggressive in their advances. Tell us, how critical should we be of Cranmer and what was it about Cranmer that enabled him literally to “keep his head,” navigating Henry’s reign as a committed Protestant?

Cranmer had read, studied, and carefully assessed Reformation ideas and I believe that Cranmer got his hopes up when Henry became head of the English church and appointed him Archbishop. Cranmer realized fairly quickly, though, that Henry had no intention of reforming much of anything except the top of the church’s hierarchy—by substituting himself for the Pope and severing England’s ties with the church in Rome. For the most part, the theology, the doctrine, the worship, and the practices would remain “Catholic” in all but name under Henry….with threat of death to those who disagreed. The king’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell was a Reformation ally, working with Cranmer to secure Parliamentary approval for the transition. Cromwell tried to strengthen political ties with Reformation Germany by arranging a marriage with Anne of Cleves, but Henry found her unattractive and had Cromwell put to death. Before Cromwell died, he told Cranmer what a lucky man he was, because Cranmer could say or do anything he wanted and the king defended him.

Cranmer dared to disagree with Henry about how far reform should go, but he also knew when to keep his mouth shut. I wonder if he didn’t realize that he would be more valuable to the Reformation if he managed to stay alive and outlive Henry—which is exactly what happened. The real reforms in the church took place under Henry’s son, Edward.

Cranmer never stopped pushing—subtly, sometimes overtly—for church reform. One of the reforms under Henry included the publication of “The Great Bible” in English instead of Latin, so the people could read it. Cranmer also most likely wrote the “Ten Articles” of the new faith, which were the first step in reforming the doctrine and worship of the church. Five articles concerned doctrine: (1) the Scriptures and three Creeds summarize the faith, (2) baptism is necessary for remission of sins and to receive the Holy Spirit, (3) penance (contrition, confession, and reformation) is necessary to be saved, (4) the elements of the Eucharist contain the body and blood of Christ, and (5) we are justified by the merits of Christ, but good works are important. Five articles concerned the saints and ceremonies. Cranmer objected to 82 of 250 of the king’s revisions to “the Bishops’ Book”—an attempt to put more teeth into the Ten Articles.

Finally, the Articles were whittled to the Six Articles, the “whip of six strings” reasserting Catholic doctrine against those with Protestant leanings. For three days Cranmer stood alone arguing against Parliament and the king, who was determined that the Articles be passed. The king had to ask him to leave when it came time to vote. Other records also indicate that Cranmer was not the wimp or the pushover his detractors claim he was.

When Henry died, Cranmer was at his side, holding his hand. In an almost symbiotic relationship, Cranmer may have been the only one who truly understood his monarch, and some have speculated that Henry was as influenced by Cranmer as Cranmer was by Henry. …

Read the rest of this interview today at The English Reformation.


John 13:8—11 // Fight Sin as a Sinless Person

Is Hell for Real?

Written by: Erik Raymond

is hell for realQuestions about hell continue to be among the most common questions I receive as a pastor. Many involve the existence, nature, and duration of hell. People also want to know the reason for hell. Is it really necessary? 

These are important questions. The Bible doesn’t dodge them. In fact, it answers them with compassionate clarity.

I wrote a little book that I think will be a useful tool for people asking these types of questions. Is Hell for real? is the latest addition to the Questions Christians Ask series from The Good Book Company.

Everything I write I try to write first for the local church where I pastor. This book comes from real questions from members of our church and people that I have been talking to about Christianity. My hope is this accessible book will serve those who are asking these types of questions and looking for what the Bible says. In addition to this, I’m excited about this book because I was able to set forth how the gospel shines so brightly, revealing the glory of Christ in the salvation of his people. The study of hell, while admittedly weighty, does drive you to see the powerful grace of God in the gospel.

Is Hell for real? is available today.

A video trailer is included below.


Is Hell for Real? is a post from: Erik Raymond

Ruth 2:2 - Morning Devotional for Aug. 1st

"Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn."

Ruth 2:2

Morning Thought

Downcast and troubled Christian, come and glean to-day in the broad field of promise. Here are abundance of precious promises, which exactly meet thy wants. Take this one: "He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax." Doth not that suit thy case? A reed, helpless, insignificant, and weak, a bruised reed, out of which no music can come; weaker than weakness itself; a reed, and that reed bruised, yet, he will not break thee; but on the contrary, will restore and strengthen thee. Thou art like the smoking flax: no light, no warmth, can come from thee; but he will not quench thee; he will blow with his sweet breath of mercy till he fans thee to a flame. Wouldst thou glean another ear? "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." What soft words! Thy heart is tender, and the Master knows it, and therefore he speaketh so gently to thee. Wilt thou not obey him, and come to him even now? Take another ear of corn: "Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will help thee, saith the Lord and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." How canst thou fear with such a wonderful assurance as this? Thou mayest gather ten thousand such golden ears as these! "I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thy transgressions." Or this, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Or this, "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely." Our Master's field is very rich; behold the handfuls. See, there they lie before thee, poor timid believer! Gather them up, make them thine own, for Jesus bids thee take them. Be not afraid, only believe! Grasp these sweet promises, thresh them out by meditation and feed on them with joy.

Ⓒ 1996-2017 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. Written by Charles H. Spurgeon.

4 Reasons to Teach Church History to Teens

Article by: Davis Lacey

For many who find themselves ministering to teenagers, teaching church history is not a high priority. At first glance, such neglect seems valid.

More than 90 percent of children 8 and older have encountered internet pornography. Shows like 13 Reasons Why dominate the entertainment landscape, and increasing numbers of young adults abandon the church after high school. It seems many topics and doctrines are far more urgent.

But it’s possible a false dichotomy exists between “studying church history” and “training up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). Far from being a stagnant collection of dates, movements, and odd-sounding names, the church’s past represents a treasure trove of God-exalting wisdom that helps us navigate the cultural realities of the present.

Why Teach Them

Accordingly, there has perhaps never been greater urgency for God’s family to study church history. And teens are by no means exempted from that need.  

Here are four reasons parents, pastors, teachers, and youth workers should teach church history to teenagers.

1. Teen Christians belong to the church.

Church history is their history, too. Though in a stage of life marked by unique opportunities and challenges, teenagers are first and foremost human beings. They bear God’s image, and are in need of both the saving grace of Jesus and the redemptive, multi-generational community of the local church. Teenage believers have the same share in Christ’s body as do the foremost heroes of the faith, and are therefore equally responsible to keep advancing God’s kingdom on the blood-bought foundation of the church’s past.

Ultimately, this first reason lays the groundwork for every other benefit of teaching church history to teenagers.

2. Church history gives teens a vision to live boldly for Christ.

The contemporary concept of “adolescence” is informed far more by cultural expectations than biblical revelation. Proverbs 20:29 states, “The glory of the young is their strength.” The pages of church history are filled with teenagers who have leaned into that proverb’s truth. Studied carefully, these examples give today’s teens vision and inspiration to live in surrender to Christ.

Some scholars think it’s possible that teenagers were numbered among Jesus’s disciples—which, if true, shows teens are capable of deep devotion and missional service.

Jonathan Edwards’s resolutions, which he began to write at 19, underscore teenage capacity for discipline and the pursuit of holiness. Moreover, Charles Spurgeon began preaching in his teenage years, demonstrating the important impact gifted teens can have within the body of Christ.

3. Church history provides examples that help us navigate broken cultures.

Any broken cultural reality we might experience in the present has likely been recognized by those who have gone before us. Examples of God’s people throughout the ages are invaluable resources for discipleship, with particular usefulness for teenagers.

For example, Augustine of Hippo has taken on new relevance in light of the sexual revolution and the rise of “gender dysphoria”—the effects of which intersect with teens’ everyday lives. Often considered the most influential theologian in church history, Augustine had a long personal history of sexual sin. His conversion demonstrates the forgiveness and freedom that are byproducts of Christ’s saving work. His lifelong journey toward sexual purity and growth in godliness underscore the Spirit’s power to overcome innate desires and “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).

4. Teens are the church’s future leaders, and leaders need to engage church history.

From the pressing task of racial justice and reconciliation to the preaching of the gospel to the globe’s 7,000-plus unreached people groups, the ministry entrusted to the church is too vast to be completed by a single generation. While continuing to pray for Christ’s return to make all things new (Rev. 21:5), we would do well to prepare younger believers to care for Christ’s bride in years to come.

Whether in the home, the workplace, the pulpit, or among the unreached, today’s teen members of Christ’s body will tomorrow be called to lead God’s people in God’s mission. An invaluable part of any leader’s development, then, is gleaning from the mistakes and triumphs of the past. From William Wilberforce’s lifelong battle to abolish the British slave trade to the zealous missionary strategies of John Calvin, William Carey, Lottie Moon, and Elisabeth Elliott, church history offers a sure foundation on which to continue God’s global work.

How to Teach Them

So how do we convince teens that one key to the future is studying the past? Here are some practical ways:

  • Consider using examples from church history as teaching illustrations. Granted, history doesn’t carry the same authority as Scripture, but we would be wise to “connect the dots” regarding how God’s Word has accomplished his purposes through the ages.
  • Facilitate an overview of church history as a supplemental discipleship opportunity, or as a pathway for leadership development.
  • Challenge students to read a particular biography or historical survey, and offer an appropriate reward for completion of a written follow-up report.
  • As a church or student ministry, plan a weekend retreat to a nearby church history-related site. Research sites as a family that may be visited on vacation, or choose a getaway to a destination of historical significance.
  • Take heart: You don’t have to know church history to lead your family or students in studying it. As a family or youth group, watch a movie like Amazing Grace or read an age-appropriate historical biography. You’ll be amazed by the ensuing discussions as you learn together about our rich theological and missiological heritage.

Let’s not forget teenagers when it comes to handing down Christianity’s rich and powerful heritage. After all, church history is the story of how God is building his church—and that knowledge is vital for us all. 

Davis Lacey serves as the student and early career pastor for Grace Fellowship Church in Kinston, North Carolina. He is also pursuing an MDiv through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his desire is to lead young people to pursue Christ above all else in life. He is fortunate to be married to his childhood sweetheart, Charis, and the two of them love having adventures with their adorable pet rabbit, Wilson.

How Is the Trinity Central to the Gospel?

Article by: Gavin Ortlund, Ligon Duncan, Scott Swain

In this new 9-minute video, Ligon Duncan (TGC Council member and chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary), Scott Swain (president and professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando), and Gavin Ortlund (research fellow at the Carl Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) unpack the Trinity’s relationship to the gospel. Audio available below.

Books highlighted:

Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and writer, currently working as a research fellow at the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.

Ligon Duncan is chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, convener of Twin Lakes Fellowship, editorial director of Reformed Academic Press, chairman of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and a Council member for The Gospel Coalition.

Scott R. Swain is associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and author of the forthcoming book, The God of the Gospel: Robert Jenson’s Trinitarian Theology (IVP Academic, 2013).

On My Shelf: Life and Books with Nathan Finn

Article by: Ivan Mesa

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.

I asked Nathan Finn—dean of the School of Theology and Missions and professor of Christian thought and tradition at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, and co-author of The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement—about what’s on his nightstand, his favorite fiction books, the biographies that have influenced him the most, and more.

What’s on your nightstand right now?

Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy

Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves

Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary Theologian: A Reader edited by Paul Weston

What are your favorite fiction books?

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?

I love biographies of US presidents. My all-time favorite is David McCullough’s John Adams, a book that convinced me that biographies ought to read like novels. Plus, John Adams just wasn’t that interesting of a figure to me until I read the book. That’s the power of a good biography. I recently had a similar experience with Ronald White’s stellar new biography of Ulysses Grant, a good man (and evangelical!) who gets a bad rap because of some errors of judgment during his second term.

Courtney Anderson’s To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson is my favorite explicitly Christian biography. I’ve recommended it to literally hundreds of students and pastors over the years. Judson is a seminal figure in missions history and in my own ecclesial tradition, and I especially appreciate how Anderson humanizes the famous missionary while still maintaining an empathetic tone. Missionaries aren’t evangelical superheroes—they’re ordinary believers who obeyed God’s call to proclaim Christ cross-culturally.

Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor: A Memoir is an outstanding pastoral autobiography, written by a master storyteller. Though I’m not a pastor at this time, I was captivated by his commitment to everyday faithfulness in the ongoing work of preaching and pastoral care in particular. I’ve tried to apply his insights to my own calling as a professor who teaches a lot of future pastors.

What’s the last great book you read?

Earlier this spring, I read Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, which is a delightful book that I’ve been recommending to others. She takes insights from monasticism, the spiritual formation movement, and her own Anglican tradition and applies them to everyday activities. It’s a modern-day counterpart to The Practice of the Presence of God, and while a lot of the material is especially relevant to women, I found it very easy to translate Warren’s insights into my own context as a husband, father, and academic.

What’s one book you wish every evangelical read? 

Every evangelical should read J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. It’s the only book I can think of that I’ve read closely more than three times, and each time I find it helps me grow in my walk with Christ. That book is such a gift to the body of Christ.

What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

I’m learning that I’m not nearly burdened enough for reaching the unbelievers around me with the good news of Christ. As a professor, I have periodic opportunities to share the gospel with unbelieving students—even at a Christian university. As an itinerant preacher and speaker, I have loads of opportunities to share the gospel in public venues.

But I live in a Christian bubble, and I rarely think strategically about how to get outside of that bubble to build relationships with lost men and women who live in my city. I’m praying for greater intentionality in personal evangelism and boldness in sharing. I also have an evangelism accountability partner—he’a a pastor in another state who lives in a similar bubble. We talk every month and try to encourage each other to be faithful in sharing Christ.

Also in the On My Shelf series: Jennifer Marshall • Todd Billings • Greg Thornbury • Greg Forster • Jen Pollock Michel • Sam Storms • Barton Swaim • John Stonestreet • George Marsden • Andrew Wilson • Sally Lloyd-Jones • Darryl Williamson • D. A. Horton • Carl Ellis • Owen Strachan  • Thomas Kidd • David Murray • Jarvis Williams • Gracy Olmstead • Matthew Hall • Drew Dyck • Louis Markos • Ray Ortlund • Brett McCracken • Mez McConnell • Erik Raymond • Sandra McCracken • Tim Challies • Sammy Rhodes • Karen Ellis • Alastair Roberts • Scott Sauls • Karen Swallow Prior • Jackie Hill Perry • Bruce Ashford • Jonathan Leeman • Megan Hill • Marvin Olasky • David Wells • John Frame • Rod Dreher • James K. A. Smith • Randy Alcorn • Tom Schreiner • Trillia Newbell • Jen Wilkin • Joe Carter • Timothy George • Tim Keller • Bryan Chapell • Lauren Chandler • Mike Cosper • Russell Moore • Jared Wilson • Kathy Keller • J. D. Greear • Kevin DeYoung • Kathleen Nielson • Thabiti Anyabwile • Elyse Fitzpatrick • Collin Hansen • Fred Sanders • Rosaria Butterfield • Nancy Guthrie • Matt Chandler

Browse dozens of book recommendations from The Gospel Coalition’s leaders and sign up your church at Hubworthy.

Ivan Mesa is an editor for The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Sarah, live in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

God’s Grace in My Anorexia

Article by: Emma Scrivener

If you’d met me 13 years ago, here’s what you’d have seen: A “successful” Christian, newly married to a pastor in training. The leader of a thriving children’s ministry with a bright future ahead. Someone who seemed to have it all together.

But there’s one part you might have missed: a young woman gripped by an eating disorder that would nearly take her life.

So how did I get there—and what has changed? 

Hidden Story

It started when I turned 13. Until then I’d had an idyllic childhood. I knew who I was and where I belonged. But almost overnight, that started to change. My grandfather died. I moved schools.  My body felt out of control—like a tanker, spilling flesh and hormones. In search of answers, I even started going to church.

The God I heard about was real and personal, and I resolved to follow him. But in retrospect, we were never properly intro­duced. My brand of Christianity had space for God, but not for Jesus. It talked about sin and rules, but less about grace. Sure, it paid lip service to God’s work on my behalf. But in practice it was up to me to prove myself.

So that’s what I did. I worked hard and won prizes.  I resolved to be smart and pretty and, above all, “good.” Yet nothing—whether clothes or friends or money—was ever enough. Instead of finding satisfaction, I was filled with hungers. I didn’t know what they were called or where to put them. I just knew this: They were too much. 

I was too much—too needy, too intense, too messy, too fat.

Deadly Struggle

So I made a decision. Instead of my desires killing me, I would kill them. I would squash my hungers and I would fix myself. I would be thin. Anorexia looked like a way of negotiating the world and making it safe.

In reality, it almost killed me—twice.

The first time, I was a teenager and professionals forced me to eat. I put on weight, but though I looked better on the outside, on the inside I felt the same. Ten years later, my old habits returned. My husband and I were finishing Bible college and I was overwhelmed by the prospect of a new church and my role as a pastor’s wife. Unable to cope, I stopped eating. By the end I could barely walk. This time, I was an adult and it seemed that nothing and no one could help.

Then came a phone call from my parents. My beloved grandmother had died and I was too weak to attend her funeral. That night, faced with the reality of my choices, something in me finally broke. In desperation, I cried out to the God I’d tried to flee: I’ve exhausted my own resources. But if you want me, you can have what’s left.

I had always pictured God as a scary headmaster, slightly disapproving and far away. Someone with rights over my soul, but not my body. Someone who wanted me to perform and keep his rules. This God would surely strike me down or turn me away.

But there was no blinding flash of light. No smoke or lightning. Instead, I discovered something far more exciting.  

Earlier in the day I’d been looking at readings for Granny’s funeral and my Bible was still open. I read these words:

Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered. (Rev. 5:5)

My fingers gripped the page as I prepared to meet this lion: a glorious, roaring conqueror. But that’s not how the passage continues: “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6).

New Understanding

As I read, I felt I was meeting Jesus for the first time. Instead of the far off slave master I had imagined, I encountered someone completely different. Strong and powerful, but also broken and loving. The Lord of the universe, yet someone who understood what it was to be weak. 

Instead of the God I thought I knew, in Jesus I met the one who knew me. This Jesus confronted me, not as a tyrant or heavenly taskmaster, but as a gift. He came offering himself. On the cross, my badness and my attempts at goodness were taken away, rendered irrel­evant by his sacrifice. 

Here was a Lamb who met me in my brokenness. A Lion who vanquished all my foes. A God who turned his face toward me and called me his child. Enough fighting and striving and hiding and running. Enough starving. Not a question. Not a request. An unalterable fact.

This was the gospel that finally brought me to my knees. I expected God’s anger—but I was floored by his grace. Here at last was someone who could satisfy all of my longings, and all of my hungers. Jesus didn’t want apologies, resolutions, or assurances that I would do better.

He wanted me.

Instead of making me perform, he lifted me clean out of the arena. In return, he asked only one question: Would I receive him? I was the girl who always said “No.” “No” to relationships and food. “No” to risk and desire and vulnerability and need. But as I looked at him—the Savior who knew me and still loved me—I said “yes.” 

Recovery is a long process. We learn not just how to eat, but how to live. My healing began when I met Jesus, the Lord who is more beautiful than anorexia. Whatever we face, he’s the Lamb who understands and the Lion who overcomes.  

Emma Scrivener was born in Belfast. She now lives in Eastbourne with her husband Glen and their daughter. Emma blogs about identity, faith, and mental health at She’s the author of several books, including A New Name and A New Day

John 13:8—11 // Fight Sin as a Sinless Person

We cannot fight sin with our hands tied in condemnation. In this lab, Pastor John reminds us that only when Christ has set us free can we truly conquer our sin. For the study guide, visit

“Where Are You Really From?”

Ethnic background shouldn’t determine someone’s worth or place in society, but sometimes it does — more than we care to admit.

Watch Now

Martin Luther King, Conformity, and the “Age of Jumboism”

Written by: Thomas S. Kidd

In late 1954, Martin Luther King had just been installed as the pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He preached a sermon on Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (KJV) In the sermon, he addressed the spirit of conformity that marked the 1950s, but his words seem immediately relevant to the church today.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Library of Congress, Public Domain.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Library of Congress, Public Domain.

Instead of making history we are made by history. The philosopher Nietzche once said that every man is a hammer or an anvil, that is to say every man either molds society or is molded by society. Who can doubt that most men today are anvils, continually being molded by the patterns of the majority?

Along with this has grown a deep worship of bigness. Especially in this country many people are impressed by nothing that is not big – big cities, big churches, big corporations. We all are tempted to worship size. We live in an age of "Jumboism" whose men find security in that which is large in number and extensive in size.

Men are afraid to stand alone for their convictions. There are those who have high and noble ideals, but they never reveal them because they are afraid of being nonconformist. I have seen many white people who sincerely oppose segregation and discrimination, but they never took a real stand against it because of fear of standing alone.

I have seen many young people and older people alike develop undesirable habits not because they wanted to do it in the beginning, not even because they enjoyed it, but because they were ashamed of saying "no" when the rest of the group was saying "yes." Even the Christian church has often been afraid to stand up for what is right because the majority didn't sanction it.

In King’s day, it was embarrassing and risky for many white Christian leaders to speak out about civil rights. Even today, Christians who keep talking about the need for racial reconciliation, or who point to ongoing instances of racial injustice, are likely to hear “why can’t you just move on?” (If they’re on Twitter, they are also likely to get hit with a flood of alt-right abuse.)

We also know that as orthodox Christianity becomes a minority view, it is becoming more and more uncomfortable to maintain biblical stances on issues such as sexuality. The temptation to be an anvil rather than a hammer becomes ever more pressing for the church.

King’s note about Jumboism, conformity, and the worship of bigness has cascading implications for a church today that struggles to understand its minority status in western culture. Respect for bigness entails a pressure to conform to the expectations of mass culture and media. Thirst for popularity can also fatally distract the average church and pastor from the one main thing: faithfulness to God and to the Word of God, and loving care for the flock that God provides, however big or small that flock may be.

Working Together: How a Shared Gospel Vision Leads to Healthy Partnership in Missions

You may not think of Germany as an unreached area of the world, but the reality is one out of every thousand people in my city of Frankfurt attend a gospel-teaching church. There is an urgent need for the gospel here. But when my team and I began trying to work with existing churches in Frankfurt to plant new churches, we quickly learned that such an endeavor would require partnership.

Who Do You Think You Are?

I imagine that if I had been approached by a missionary church planter from Germany back when I was a pastor in Memphis, Tennessee—especially one who was offering to train me to reach those in my home community—I would’ve probably viewed it as a sign of arrogance. After all, I was a native. I had biblical training. I poured blood, sweat, and tears into my work as a pastor. What could I possibly gain from a foreigner who struggled to speak English?

A win-win situation is achieved when groups of believers realize that they need one another—not only for their own benefit but also to fulfill the Great Commission.

But that’s exactly the situation I find myself in now. I’m the outsider struggling to speak German and wanting to form meaningful partnerships to reach people in my city with the gospel. Finding a way forward with my German brothers and sisters has been challenging at times. But, by God’s grace, we are seeing progress as we seek to multiply churches in Frankfurt and the surrounding area.

Here’s what we typically see from churches that minister in the same geographic area.

Working Against One Another

Let’s face it—believers sometimes work against one another. The root cause is often insecurity, or worse, believing their work is superior to that of other believers.

Church planters sometimes have this attitude toward existing churches. Missionaries can have this attitude with national believers. Existing churches are not immune. The gospel, however, does not create ignorance, arrogance, insecurity, or personal superiority. The gospel offers confidence in Jesus, what he has done, and what he will accomplish in and through his people.

Working Parallel to One Another

In these cases, missionaries or church planters and local churches do their own work but they ignore one another. This position is preferable to working against one another, but it lacks the depth of gospel reconciliation that Paul describes in Ephesians 2:11–22. Simply working beside one another without reconciliation just leads to isolation and breeds apathy for one another’s work.

Simply working beside one another without reconciliation just leads to isolation and breeds apathy for one another’s work.

Working With One Another

A true gospel vision allows believers to work toward a shared kingdom vision for their city, not just the visions they have for their individual ministries. By working with such a vision, believers combine resources and training to start new projects, missional groups, and churches.

A win-win situation is achieved when autonomous groups of believers realize that they need one another—not only for their own benefit but also to fulfill the Great Commission.

Having been reconciled with Christ, we now not only benefit one another, but, because of the grace Christ gave us through the cross, we can actually sacrifice our desires, plans, and resources to unite around the gospel together (Phil. 2:19–30). It’s this mutual desire that motivates believers toward a healthy interdependence.

Practical Ways to Build True Gospel Partnerships:

Here are a few practical ways that we have found for a missionary in a new cultural context to build true gospel partnerships with others:

  • Know the biblical principles behind the work to which God has called you. For instance, have a clear biblical understanding of why missional living, evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and raising up leaders are key to your calling and work. This includes knowing how the gospel affects every aspect of life.
  • Seek out a gospel-believing local church (if one exists in your context) and share the biblical principles behind the work to which God has called you. Instead of coming to them as an expert, recognize that they are the cultural experts. Let them share the ways they are already leading their people to follow biblical principles in their context, and listen to their ideas about effective ways to partner together.

Instead of coming to them as an expert, recognize that they are the cultural experts . . . listen to their ideas about effective ways to partner together.

  • Draw clear lines between methodology (the how of gospel ministry) and gospel theology (the why of gospel ministry). Don’t allow differences between valid methods extinguish the gospel fire that exists for reaching a city.

These practical steps have helped me as an outsider appreciate various local leaders and view them as true partners. It has also helped my partners understand the motivation for my own ministry goals in this city.

In my experience, developing a gospel vision with local partners strengthens the reach of the gospel in our city, brings biblical principles to the forefront, and helps us pursue a healthy approach to multiplying disciples and churches.

Kelly Seely serves with his wife, Janice, and their two daughters in Frankfurt, Germany, as a church planter. He enjoys a partnership with the Center for Church Planting, a group of local churches and pastors who desire to see a movement of the gospel that would result in multiplying disciples and churches.

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The Perils Facing the Evangelical Church

The distinctions of the seven churches of Revelation are set forth clearly in that book. They manifest different greatnesses and frailties, but they all faced perils. Each confronted the dangers that assaulted the church in the first century. They faced hazards of varying proportions, but there was a common threat to the health of the New Testament church from many sides. Those dangers manifested in the first century are repeated in every age of the church. They certainly loom large at our time in the early years of the twenty-first century.


When we consider the predicament that the evangelical church of the twenty-first century faces in America, the first thing we need to understand is the very designation “evangelical church” is itself a redundancy. If a church is not evangelical, it is not an authentic church. The redundancy is similar to the language that we hear by which people are described as “born-again Christians.” If a person is born again of the Spirit of God, that person is, to be sure, a Christian. If a person is not regenerated by the Holy Spirit, he may profess to be a Christian, but he is not an authentic Christian. There are many groups that claim to be churches that long ago repudiated the evangel, that is, the gospel. Without the gospel, a gathering of people, though they claim otherwise, cannot be an authentic church.

In the sixteenth century, the term evangelical came into prominence as a description of the Protestant church. In many cases, the terms evangelical and Protestant were used interchangeably. Today, that synonymous use of the adjectives no longer functions with any accuracy. Historic Protestants have forgotten what they were protesting in the sixteenth century. The central protest of the Reformation church was the protest against the eclipse of the gospel that had taken place in the medieval church.

When we turn our attention to the first century, to the churches about which we learn from the biblical record, we know that all of the churches addressed in the New Testament, including the churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, and the seven churches of Revelation, were evangelical churches. They all embraced the biblical gospel. Yet at the same time, these churches were different in their strengths, in their weaknesses, and in their compositions. An evangelical church is not necessarily a monolithic community. There may be unity among evangelical churches but not necessarily uniformity. The distinctions of the seven churches of Revelation are set forth clearly in that book. They manifest different greatnesses and frailties, but they all faced perils. Each confronted the dangers that assaulted the church in the first century. They faced hazards of varying proportions, but there was a common threat to the health of the New Testament church from many sides. Those dangers manifested in the first century are repeated in every age of the church. They certainly loom large at our time in the early years of the twenty-first century.

Among what I see as the three most critical perils the church faces today are, first of all, the loss of biblical truth. When the truth of the gospel is compromised or negotiated, the church ceases to be evangelical. We live in a time of crisis with respect to truth, where many churches see doctrine merely as something that divides. Therefore, they stress relationships over truth. That is a false distinction, as a commitment to truth is a commitment that should manifest itself in vital, living relationships. Relationships can never be a substitute for embracing the truth of God. So the either/or fallacy of doctrine or relationship cannot be maintained under careful biblical scrutiny.

A second widespread peril to the church today is the loss of any sense of discipline. When the church fails to discipline its members for gross and heinous sins, particularly sins of a public nature, that community becomes infected with the immorality of the secular culture. This occurs when the church so desperately wants to be accepted by the pagan culture that it adopts the very morality of the pagan community and imitates it, baptizing it with religious language.

The third crucial peril facing the church today is the loss of faithful worship. There are different styles of worship that can be pleasing to God. However, all worship that is pleasing to God is worship grounded in Spirit and in truth. We can have lively worship, manifesting great interest and excitement, with doctrine and truth eliminated. On the other hand, we can have what some call a dead orthodoxy, where the creedal truths of the historic Christian faith remain central to the worship of the church, but the worship itself does not flow from the heart and lacks spiritual vitality.

Another element that threatens the evangelical church is the ongoing erosion of evangelical faith by the impact of liberal theology. Liberal theology saw its heyday in the nineteenth century and raised its head again with the neo-liberalism that captured the mainline churches of the twentieth century. Yet it is by no means dead. Perhaps the place where liberalism is manifesting itself most dangerously is within the walls of churches that have historically been strongly evangelical. David F. Wells describes the crisis of the twenty-first century church as “vacuous worship.” A vacuous worship is one that is empty of content. It is satisfied with platitudes, pop psychology, and entertainment. Such worship is devoid of the Word of God and of the authentic sacrifice of praise.

Dr. James Montgomery Boice, before his death, lamented his concern that the church was being enticed “to do the Lord’s work in the world’s way.” We try to transfer principles of success drawn from Madison Avenue and from other secular institutions and imitate them in the life of the church. Such a process is deadly.

In every generation, including our own, the same perils to the spiritual strength that Jesus rebuked in the seven churches of Revelation threaten us anew. These include such things as a lack of love, a lack of truth, a compromising spirit with the world, a lukewarm devotion, and a double-minded conviction, to name but a few. There were rebukes and encouragements given to these churches by our Lord that every church in every age must take seriously, examining ourselves to make sure that we are not manifesting the same departures from biblical truths that these churches were. We must be vigilant and diligent if we are to maintain a godly witness in our day.

© 2017 Ligonier Ministries

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Faithful Ministry Will Bear Fruit

For 9 1/2 years (2000-2009) this young man labored to bring about biblical faithfulness. He was wounded and weary from battle. But the Holy Spirit gave him power and he fought for Jesus. The congregation continued to decline in numbers. But the seeds of righteousness and repentance were sown. I think he left feeling a little defeated. Today, we enjoyed being musically led in worship by two young African-American men. One has come about 7-8 times and the other 2 times. The congregation loves these guys and there is a push to make them our permanent music team.


In 2000 a young seminary graduate named Matt Schilling became pastor of Grenada Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in Mississippi (now Grace PCA). At the time the majority of the Session was determined to keep the congregation “lily white” (their words). Racist jokes were commonplace. The previous pastor was known for making racist slurs from the pulpit. Poor white people were called “white trash” to their faces and made to feel unwelcome.

For 9 1/2 years (2000-2009) this young man labored to bring about biblical faithfulness. He was wounded and weary from battle. But the Holy Spirit gave him power and he fought for Jesus. The congregation continued to decline in numbers. But the seeds of righteousness and repentance were sown. I think he left feeling a little defeated.

Today [July 30], we enjoyed being musically led in worship by two young African-American men. One has come about 7-8 times and the other 2 times. The congregation loves these guys and there is a push to make them our permanent music team.

In attendance was the young Asian immigrant who just became a member. We are paying for her to get her Green Card so we can hire her as our part-time office manager.

Also in attendance were two people who were called “white trash” and asked to leave because they visibly lived in poverty many years ago. But God has brought them back.

At a community pastor’s meeting this week the most prominent African-American pastor in town said that he was pleased to hear rumblings in the black community that Grace has finally left its racist past behind and is becoming known for loving minorities. He actually gave me his number and asked to meet with me one on one to discuss ways our churches could minister together. If you knew this man you’d know just how shocked I am. But he also mentioned Matt Schilling by name and said that he was the one who labored so hard years ago at racial reconciliation and that this is what Matt had hoped for Grace PCA.

Matt Schilling just became a Navy Chaplain. I admire him and praise God for his faithfulness. God used Matt to sow the seeds that are being harvested now.

At our Session meeting today we officially embraced Matt Schilling as our missionary to the military and voted to begin funding the PCA chaplain support ministry of MNA at his request.

If you are discouraged right now. If you feel like you are fighting a losing battle for biblical reform and renewal, think of Matt. Your labor is not in vain. Faithful ministry is successful ministry even when it leads to hardship and suffering.

If you have left a church feeling wounded and broken, remember that our God is the Father of all mercy, compassion and grace. Your service made a difference and Jesus loves you more than you can imagine. God will bring benefits from your labor years after you are gone.

If you ever run into Matt know that he is a spiritual Giant here in Grenada, Mississippi. To the praise and glory of God.

Chris Accardy is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Grace PCA in Greneda, Miss. This report was written by TE Accardy.

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“God Made Me for China” — Eric Liddell Beyond Olympic Glory

He was one of the most famous athletes of modern times and the Olympic glory of Scotland. He was also a Christian who refused to compete on Sunday and refused to compromise. Unquestionably, Eric Liddell was made to run. And yet, more than anything else, Eric Liddell believed that “God made me for China.”


The medal ceremony at the Olympics is a moment of rare pomp and ceremony in this informal age. The ceremonies represent both climax and catharsis, with athletes awarded the coveted gold, silver, and bronze medals placed around their necks.

It was not always so.

When Eric Liddell, “the Flying Scot,” won the 400 meter race and the gold medal at the 1924 games in Paris, there was no awards ceremony. Back then, the medals were engraved after the games and mailed in a simple package to the victors. But, even without the medal ceremony, there was glory. Liddell instantly became a hero to the entire United Kingdom and was recognized as one of the greatest athletes of his age.

Americans of my generation remember Eric Liddell largely because of Chariots of Fire, the 1981 British film written by Colin Welland, produced by David Puttnam, and directed by Hugh Hudson. The film was a surprising success in both Britain and the United States, winning four Academy Awards including Best Picture. The musical score for the film by Vangelis won another of the Oscars, and its theme is still instantly recognizable to those who have seen the movie.

To its credit, Chariots of Fire recognized Eric Liddell’s Christian faith and testimony. His story is inseparable from the drama of his refusal to compete on Sunday, believing it to be a breaking of God’s commandment. Though this determination was well-known before the 1924 Olympics, it became internationally famous when heats for Liddell’s best race, 100 meters, were scheduled for Sunday.

The dramatic plot of Chariots of Fire presented a personal competition between Liddell and Harold Abrahams, another top runner who had experienced the agonies of anti-Semitism as a student at Cambridge. When Liddell withdrew from the 100 meter event, Abrahams won, bringing Britain glory. Liddell had become a figure of ridicule, with everyone from athletic officials to British leaders unable to persuade him to sacrifice his moral convictions for the Olympic glory he was promised.

Liddell was left to run the 400 meter race, an event for which he was not favored and to which he knew he brought liabilities in terms of his racing form. But run he did, and he ran right into the history books, winning the gold medal with a personal story that shocked the world, even in the 1920s. His intensity of Christian conviction was already out of style and often ridiculed, but Eric Liddell became one of the most famous men in the British Empire and the larger world of athletics.

Those who have seen Chariots of Fire well remember how it ends, with the magnificent and sentimental music of Sir Hubert Parry’s anthem “Jerusalem” and William Blake’s famous words: “Bring me my Bow of burning gold; Bring me my Arrows of desire: Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire!”

Then the screen fills with these words in text: “Eric Liddell, missionary, died in occupied China at the end of World War II. All of Scotland mourned.”

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The Quest for Biblical Worship (Part 1)

Given that the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) limits the elements of worship to those God has set out in Scripture, we should expect a significant degree of liturgical uniformity. The six, basic elements (i.e. the reading and preaching Scripture, prayer, singing praises, administering the sacraments, and lawful oaths) should be found in all of our services. Other things (i.e. unauthorized rituals, ceremonies, programs, gestures and postures) should not.


Which is more likely today, liturgical sameness or liturgical strangeness? Which is more damaging to the integrity of Protestant denominations? Are we suffocating from liturgical uniformity–encountering the same old predictable things in the Reformed churches we attend? Or, are we unsettled by the unusual liturgical activity that we encounter in our sister churches and regional assemblies? Have we become bored with routine or shaken by what has become unrecognizable? Isn’t there a biblical principle that regulates how we worship (i.e. the Regulative Principle of Worship – RPW) that is supposed to spare us both liturgical sameness and strangeness? Indeed, one would think so.

Regulative Principle of Worship

Given that the RPW limits the elements of worship to those God has set out in Scripture, we should expect a significant degree of liturgical uniformity. The six, basic elements (i.e. the reading and preaching Scripture, prayer, singing praises, administering the sacraments, and lawful oaths) should be found in all of our services. Other things (i.e. unauthorized rituals, ceremonies, programs, gestures and postures) should not. Those who agree with this observation must conclude that a significant degree of sameness should be expected.

However, the RPW, as traditionally understood allows the elements to be expressed in a variety of forms. For example, readings, sermons, prayers, and sung praises may be short in duration or long. That is a matter of form. Sermons may be topical or sequential. Readings may be Old Testament or New Testament or both, etc. As long as the form does not compromise the integrity of the element, there is considerable latitude. In addition, the RPW recognizes varying circumstances of worship such as seating, sound projection, use of printed texts, and lighting that are “ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence” as well as “the general rules of the Word”(WCF 1:6). This means that there is considerable, not absolute, but considerable latitude when it comes to these practical matters. A certain degree of diversity should be expected.

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Jesus Shrugged

The utility and morality of orthodox Christian social beliefs can be debated. But according to Christian teaching, it is licit, perhaps even mandatory, to withdraw and walk away—“shake the dust off your feet”—rather than violate one’s conscience or become corrupted by the world.


We’ve all heard of the idea of a general worker’s strike. In her tome Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand posed a provocative question. What if, in response to an increasingly overbearing regulatory state, the entrepreneurs of America decided to go on strike?

The resulting 1000 pages, if you can get through them, constitute one of the most creative, if overwrought, dystopias ever envisioned. Society’s producers quietly disappear, enclosed in their own hidden capitalist utopia, while innovation grinds to a halt, intellectual property languishes, and overconfident, arrogant bureaucrats run world-class factories into the ground. When all’s said and done, all that was required to liberate America’s unappreciated geniuses and creators was for them to walk away and leave society to pick up the pieces.

American Christians may find themselves in a position closer to John Galt than to Saint Benedict, with apologies to Rod Dreher. Many of the services Americans take for granted are provided by churches and Christian organizations. It is not hyperbolic to say that core areas of American life would languish or collapse without the contributions of Christian people and organizations. These enormous social contributions are frequently underappreciated, but would certainly be missed.

Perhaps the most important is health care. John Stonestreet, president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, wrote in an article titled “No Christianity, No Hospitals: Don’t Take Christian Contributions for Granted”:

One in six hospital beds in our country is located in a Catholic hospital. In at least thirty communities, the Catholic hospital is the only hospital in a 35-mile radius. This doesn’t even take into account hospitals run by other Christian bodies such as Baptists, Methodists, and especially Seventh-Day Adventists.

Catholic hospitals are the largest single category within non-profit hospitals, which themselves account for about half of all hospitals.

Christians also run thousands of private schools that often meet or exceed the quality of public schools; a full 70 percent of all private schools are either Catholic or affiliated with another religion, generally some form of Protestantism (a much smaller percentage of these are Jewish or run by a non-Abrahamic religion).

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Progressivism’s Peak Lunacy

We have to ask the questions. And then we have to get to the place where we help people see that the things our culture claims to value most – human rights and tolerance and diversity – are insupportable without a coherent foundation. These cultural values would not exist without Christianity: they did not originate in Rome or Athens or Babylon but in Jerusalem; and without Christianity as the foundation there is no way they can endure.


So the week before last it was all, “Gender is meaningless – it mustn’t even be mentioned; it is the distinction that knows no name,” as London Underground instructed staff not to use the phrase ladies and gentlemen. But last week it was all, “Gender is everything – it must be relentlessly focussed on,” as the fact that there are more highly paid men at the BBC than women has caused sputtering outrage.

The internal incoherence of the liberal project should be blindingly obvious. If gender really is irrelevant then whether broadcasters are male or female should not frame the debate about salaries: rather it should focus on whether individual broadcasters are worth what they are paid. But gender (or, more accurately, sex) does matter – which is why the BBC is so embarrassed that “only one third” of its highest paid slebs are women; and why the broadcaster is so relentlessly pushing the cause of female sport. Not that female sport will mean anything if enough trans women get involved.

The scary thing is how many people take the incoherence unthinkingly, like frogs blundering into the kettle.

We need to be braver about pointing out the inconsistent and the lunatic. Doing so can feel intimidating though. London Pride the other week was launched by the mayor of London and members of the emergency services – a demonstration of how the LGBT cause receives state endorsement to an extraordinary degree. When the whole machinery of the state is demanding one way of thinking it takes genuine courage to point out how flawed that thinking is.

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Classic Theism: Worshiping the Immutable God

Today’s obsession with being relevant and being all things to all people isn’t so much the fruit of pragmatism (though it is that too) but more so the outcome of forgetting God.  We’ve forgotten the Immutable, Impassable, God only wise and so we’ve become convinced that God is OK with our neat tricks and new styles of worship and evangelism. “God didn’t say we couldn’t use strange fire as we approach Him in worship, so…”


Beware the church that is always trying to make Christianity cool again; far more often than not, their hearts are preoccupied with what the world wants than what God wants. Of course it could be argued that Christianity has never been cool. That’s fine. St. John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ provides us with sufficient motivation to overcome the antagonism and persecution that comes with being the uncool kids of history. But many are tired of not being invited to the cool kids table and so the sufficiency of Scripture (which tells us how we’re to live and operate as the church) has been superseded by the spirit of pragmatism (doing what works in getting people to church). We’ve exchanged the weight of God’s word for being burdened over what the world thinks of us. “To the rest of you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come” (Rev. 2:24-25).

This is why the regulative principle sounds so weird to most evangelicals today. So many of us are pragmatic Americans at heart, no matter how much we think we put God first. But today’s obsession with being relevant and being all things to all people isn’t so much the fruit of pragmatism (though it is that too) but more so the outcome of forgetting God.  We’ve forgotten the Immutable, Impassable, God only wise and so we’ve become convinced that God is OK with our neat tricks and new styles of worship and evangelism. “God didn’t say we couldn’t use strange fire as we approach Him in worship, so…”

The Second London Baptist Confession reminds us that “the acceptable way of worshiping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.”

Part of their defense for understanding worship this way comes from Deuteronomy 12:29-32. There God warns the Israelites not to worship Him with borrowed means from the surrounding nations. And what becomes clear is that God views the deformed worship of those nations as coming from a deformed understanding of God. The nations have invented their own gods who are mutable and impassioned and thus the people are always sacrificing to their gods in order to mollify them. And it never dawns on them that their so called gods seem to be as hungry and in need of attention as the very men who invented them. They are gods made in the image of man.

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Can Technology Delete Death?

In an attempt to escape this fallen world, what if we instead find ourselves eternally stuck inside it? Since the time of Prometheus, the Greek demigod, or more recent stories of people stuck in a conscious coma, aware of everything around them but unable to move their mouths or bodies, the inability to die can become the ultimate trap, the most haunting horror.


Few prophets of the technological revolution are more respected than Ray Kurzweil, and his answer is Yes. One day, soon enough, science will deliver us from physical death, from the awful reality of mortality, and from the snubbing out of our conscious existence on earth.

Human evolution now demands such steps, Kurzweil says. “Our bodies are governed by obsolete genetic programs that evolved in a bygone era, so we need to overcome our genetic heritage” (The Singularity, 371). The idea of transhumanism is that we can evade our biological bodies — like a man fleeing out the top hatch of a damaged submarine, or maybe more like a thumb drive escaping the top hatch of a damaged submarine.

Kurzweil is talking about a form of mind uploading — the ability to extract the cognitive dimension of the human experience, digitize it, separate it from biological mass, discard the biological body, and end up with some sort of consciousness contained inside a computer who is you, eternal you, deathless you.

Standing in his way are supernaturalists, like us, because for Kurzweil, “a primary role of traditional religion is deathist rationalization — that is, rationalizing the tragedy of death as a good thing” (372).

Immortality Trap

But even pragmatists are slow to embrace Kurzweil’s promise.

In an attempt to escape this fallen world, what if we instead find ourselves eternally stuck inside it? Since the time of Prometheus, the Greek demigod, or more recent stories of people stuck in a conscious coma, aware of everything around them but unable to move their mouths or bodies, the inability to die can become the ultimate trap, the most haunting horror.

Recently, when asked if he would embrace the immortality of a demigod, podcaster and life hacker Tim Ferriss said no, he wouldn’t. Easy answer. But if he was given an exit option, to end that eternal existence when he wanted it to end, “assuming that option is on the table, yeah, I would take that option.” In other words, immortality at the hands of technicians raises haunting insecurities about whether or not such an exemption from death would be worth “living.” Hence the need for an “escape” button option, to terminate what is left of us.

The connection got even more interesting when Ferriss was next asked if humanity would be better off if immortality was an option. “I’m all for extending my functional life span, but I am not pining after immortality,” he said. Why? “I worry about having all the time in the world, or the perceptionof having all the time in the world.”

“If I were immortal,” he concluded, “I would feel no rush and no compulsion to do many, many things.”

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5.16.2 Reading Plan Bug


If the current reading is the chapter before the last in a book of the Bible, i.e., Ephesians, and you mark the reading as done, the following anomalies occur in the last reading of each chapter:

  • Two column mode is disabled. Also, swiping forward and backward displays only single columns
  • The end marker is not displayed. Workarounds have to be used to mark the reading as done, i.e., mark it done in the reading plan document or in the Logos desktop app.
  • Not sure if it's related or is a separate issue, but two-finger scroll skips pages at a time rather than lines.

I'm not sure when this issue started, but it's been there for a few releases now.

Relevant settings:
Max columns - Auto
Scroll view - Off

Device info:
Model - Google Pixel C
Android version - 7.1.2



Fifth Circuit Rules in Favor of Rastafari Prisoner in Religious Liberty Dispute over Dreadlocks

Written by Don Byrd

The Louisiana Department of Corrections failed to demonstrate the necessity of enforcing against a Rastafari inmate a prison grooming standard prohibiting dreadlocks, according to a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling late last week. The court sided with inmate Christopher Ware, who claims his dreadlocks are an expression of his faith, and that forcing him to cut them violates his religious liberty rights under federal law.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) bars the government from placing a substantial burden on an inmate’s religious exercise unless it can demonstrate it is necessary to further a “compelling government interest.” In Ware’s case, a trial court previously ruled in favor of the state, but law week’s appeals panel ruling overturned that decision, finding the Louisiana Department of Corrections failed to meet its legal threshold.

First, the court noted, there is a different policy for Department of Corrections (DOC) inmates than for Parish jail prisoners, where grooming standards allow Ware’s dreadlocks. How compelling can the state’s interest be in outlawing dreadlocks, the court seems to ask, when it allows parish inmates to grow them? 

Here is an excerpt from the opinion:

Although it is true that certain types of offenders in DOC’s custody are ineligible to be parish inmates, DOC offered no evidence to support its bare assertion that this difference resulted in dreadlocks among parish inmates presenting less of a risk to DOC’s asserted interests than dreadlocks among DOC inmates would. . . . In the face of this absence of evidence on the risks posed by parish inmates, accepting DOC’s assertion that parish inmates pose less of a security risk than DOC inmates would afford DOC . . . the sort of “unquestioning deference” in our RLUIPA analysis that the Supreme Court has proscribed. We thus conclude that the alleged greater security risks posed by DOC inmates compared to parish inmates are not an adequate explanation for DOC’s decision not to subject parish inmates to the grooming policies because it is not supported by the record. Because they failed to explain adequately this disparity, the court ruled, the state did not meet its burden of demonstrating a compelling interest.

In addition, the court found that even if a compelling interest was demonstrated, the state failed to show why this particular restriction on dreadlocks was the least restrictive way of achieving it. If a ban on dreadlocks is necessary, why can so many other states offer inmates the freedom to grow them?

We agree that simply because 39 other jurisdictions have adopted more lenient policies than DOC’s grooming policies does not mean that DOC must conform to those policies in order to satisfy RLUIPA. However, when “so many prisons” have different grooming policies, DOC “must, at a minimum, offer persuasive reasons why it believes that it must take a different course.” DOC has failed to offer such persuasive reasons here. . . . Because Ware offered evidence that the vast majority of jurisdictions have a more lenient policy with regard to dreadlocks than DOC, [Supreme Court precedent] requires that DOC offer persuasive reasons for the disparity. DOC failed to offer any such reasons, and accordingly, it has failed to demonstrate that its grooming policies are the least restrictive means of achieving its compelling interests.

For more, see the Baptist Joint Committee’s resource page on RLUIPA.


Very slow and unresponsive auto-populate dropdowns

Running Logos 7.9 Beta 1 ( on Windows 10, with "ngen" enabled.

Slowness with the auto-populate dropdown on the Bible Word Study guide: When I opened it from the menu, and I type in "g:pistis" but each letter took several seconds to appear. Eventually it ran the search and the results came back very fast. Even though the response time here is slow, it is already an improvement over before I restarted Logos after I ran ngen. Then each letter took maybe 20 seconds to pop up and was utterly unusable. 

If I type in "esv" or "niv" in the Command Box, the auto-populate spins for 10 seconds before populating.

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Preschool Fall 2017 Extras

Unit 1— From the Start Session 1: God Created the World (9/03/17) Ministry Grid Overview Session 2: God’s Plan for People (9/10/17) Ministry Grid Overview Session 3: Noah (9/17/17) Ministry Grid Overview Session 4: Abram and Lot (9/24/17) Ministry Grid Overview Unit 2 — Love and Obey God Session 1: Isaac Was Kind (10/1/17) Ministry

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Preschool: God Will Help Me: Session 4–A Couple Helped Elisha (November 26)

1s & 2s—Clean the Room Bible Story: A Couple Helped Elisha 2 Kings 4:8-17 Life Point: God loves all people. Weekly Verse: Do good to everyone. Galatians 6:10 Materials: Teaching Picture 13, toy broom, toy mop, cloths, small spray bottles Display the Teaching Picture with the cleaning items. Invite the preschoolers to use the items

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Preschool: God Will Help Me: Session 3–Elisha and the Widow (November 19)

1s & 2s—Pour Water Bible Story: Elisha and the Widow 2 Kings 4:1-7 Life Point: God wants people to do what He says. Weekly Verse: Do what God says. Deuteronomy 5:32 Materials: Teaching Picture 12, gallon-size ziplock bag, plastic dishpan or storage container, drop cloth, towel, assorted cups Put a few inches of water in

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Preschool: God Will Help Me: Session 2–Elijah Prayed to God (November 12)

1s & 2s—Play with Rain Gear Bible Story: Elijah Prayed to God 1 Kings 18:1-2,41-46 Life Point: God helps people when they pray to Him. Weekly Verse: We can ask God to help us. Psalm 30:10 Materials: Teaching Picture 11, children’s rain gear (coats, boots, and umbrellas) Display the Teaching Picture with the dress-up items.

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Preschool: God Will Help Me: Session 1–God Gave Elijah Food (November 5)

1s & 2s—Stack Food Boxes Bible Story: God Gave Elijah Food 1 Kings 17:8-24 Life Point: God cares for people. Weekly Verse: God cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 Materials: Teaching Picture 10, cardboard blocks, empty food boxes, newspaper, tape Lightly stuff each food box with newspaper and tape the ends closed. Place the boxes

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Preschool: Love and Obey God: Session 5–King David (October 29)

1s & 2s—Wear a Robe and Crown Bible Story: King David 2 Samuel 5–8 Life Point: People can do what God wants them to do. Weekly Verse: We show love to God by obeying Him. 1 John 5:3 Materials: Teaching Picture 9, small child’s robe, paper crown, paper tube scepter, large nonbreakable mirror, digital camera

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Preschool: Love and Obey God: Session 4–David and Jonathan (October 22)

1s & 2s—Decorate a Coat Shape Bible Story: David and Jonathan 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20 Life Point: Friends can show God’s love to people. Weekly Verse: A friend loves at all times. Proverbs 17:17 Materials: Teaching Picture 8, white paper, scissors, marker, dot painters, painting smocks Cut paper into simple coat shapes. Print the Weekly

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Preschool: Love and Obey God: Session 3–David Wrote a Song/David and Goliath (October 15)

1s & 2s—Play a Listening Game Bible Story: David Wrote a Song Psalm 138 Life Point: People can sing about God. Weekly Verse: God is good to us. 1 Chronicles 16:9 Materials: Teaching Picture 7, variety of simple rhythm instruments, CD Display the Teaching Picture near the instruments. Show preschoolers each instrument and play it

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Preschool: Love and Obey God: Session 2–God’s Plan for David (October 8)

1s & 2s—Play with a Parachute Bible Story: God’s Plan for David 1 Samuel 16 Life Point: God made people special. Weekly Verse: God wants us to help people. Deuteronomy 15:11 Materials: Teaching Picture 6, parachute or round tablecloth, CD Invite the preschoolers to hold on to the parachute and gently lower and raise it.

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Preschool: Love and Obey God: Session 1–Isaac Was Kind (October 1)

1s & 2s—Draw on Cardboard Bible Story: Isaac Was Kind Genesis 26:12-33 Life Point: God made people to show kindness to others. Weekly Verse: Be kind to one another. Ephesians 4:32 Materials: Teaching Picture 5, crayons, pieces of cardboard Display the Teaching Picture with the art materials. Invite preschoolers to draw with crayons on the

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Christian Buzzwords - Sheologians

The post Christian Buzzwords appeared first on Sheologians.

Preschool: From the Start: Session 4–Abram and Lot (September 24)

1s & 2s—Pull a Wagon Bible Story: Abram and Lot Genesis 13 Life Point: God loves families. Weekly Verse: Work together happily. Ephesians 6:7 Materials: Bible, Teaching Picture 4, small wagon, strip of paper Mark the Weekly Verse in the Bible with the paper strip. Place the Bible and Teaching Picture in the wagon. Tell

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Preschool: From the Start: Session 3–Noah (September 17)

1s & 2s—Float Toy Boats Bible Story: Noah Genesis 6:9–8:19 Life Point: God wants people to care for His creation. Weekly Verse: God gave work to do. Genesis 2:15 Materials: Teaching Picture 3, gallon-sized ziplock bag, toy boats, clear plastic container, two towels Place the Teaching Picture in the ziplock bag. Lay one towel on

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Preschool: From the Start: Session 2–God’s Plan for People (September 10)

1s & 2s—Bathe a Doll Bible Story: God’s Plan for People Genesis 2:4-24 Life Point: God made people. Weekly Verse: Everything God made is beautiful. Ecclesiastes 3:11 Materials: Teaching Picture 2, vinyl baby doll, dishpan, baby wash cloth, baby towel, two bath towels Put a few inches of water in the dishpan. Place the dishpan

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Preschool: From the Start: Session 1–God Created the World (September 3)

1s & 2s—Paint with Leaves Bible Story: God Created the World Genesis 1:1–2:3 Life Point: God made the world. Weekly Verse: In the beginning God made the world. Genesis 1:1 Materials: Allergy Alert, paper, leaves of different shapes and sizes, paint, foam paintbrushes, painting smocks, marker Print the Weekly Verse onto a paper for each

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Kids Fall 2017 Extras

Unit 1— From the Start Social Media Covers for Unit 1 Session 1: God Created the World (9/03/17) Social Media Plan Ministry Grid Overview Session 2: God’s Plan for People (9/10/17) Social Media Plan Ministry Grid Overview Session 3: Noah (9/17/17) Social Media Plan Ministry Grid Overview Session 4: Abram and Lot (9/24/17) Social Media

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Fall 2017 Unit 3 Social Media Covers


Fall 2017 Unit 2 Social Media Covers


Week of November 26-A Couple Helped Elisha-Social Media Plan

  Sunday Parents, today your child heard another story about Elisha. A kind woman helped Elisha by providing him a place to stay. Later, Elisha helped the woman. Each person in this story showed God’s love for the other. How does your family show that God loves all people? Monday Our Weekly Bible Verse is

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Week of November 19-Elisha and the Widow-Social Media Plan

Sunday Parents, today your child heard a story about Elisha. A woman asked Elisha for help because she was about to lose her sons to her creditors. Elisha told her what to do, and God provided for the woman’s needs through her obedience. How does your family obey God? Monday Here are some awesome ideas

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Almost Ready

Week of November 12-God Protected Elijah-Social Media Plan

Sunday Parents, today our Bible story told how God protected Elijah. Because he was under a threat of death from Jezebel, Elijah was afraid. God kept Elijah safe and fed. God gave Elijah comfort and assurance of His presence. How does your family feel God’s protection today? Monday Today we find our Daily Bible Reading

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Week of November 5-God Cared for Elijah-Social Media Plan

Sunday Parents, today your child heard the story of God’s care for Elijah through a poor widow. God provided enough food for Elijah, the widow, and her son. God cares for all people. How does God care for your family? Monday Take It Further: Check out the “God Cared for Elijah” section of the Bible

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Week of October 29-King David-Social Media Plan

Sunday Parents, today your child learned about King David. During his lifetime, David tried to live in ways that honored God, but David did not always succeed. God still loved David. Help your child understand that God desires our obedience and wants us to live in ways that honor Him. Monday The Weekly Bible Verse

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Let Go and Get Going

Let Go and Get Going

If the quarter lands heads five times in a row first, it means we should break up. If tails five times in a row, we should not.

It was an anguished prayer. My girlfriend and I had been dating a few months, and the way forward was a fog. Desperate to know God’s will for our relationship, I turned to a coin in my pocket.

Heads. Heads. Heads. Tails. Sigh. Tails. Tails. Heads.

I was a new Christian, gripped by the Bible’s stories of miraculous answers to prayer — and eager for my own. If God answered prayers with seas parting, armies fleeing, fire falling, and prison doors opening, couldn’t he answer me with a flipping George Washington?

I kept at it for a while longer, each flip shoveling another handful of disappointment over my half-buried hopes. I gave up.

Fireworks Show?

You may have never looked for answers to prayer in a quarter; it’s certainly been a long time since I have. But I wonder if you share an assumption that inspired my flip-a-coin prayer — an assumption that still subtly shapes my own expectations for how God relates to us.

Here’s the assumption: in real, bona fide answers to prayer, we are more like spectators than actors. In other words, we expect answers to prayer to feel something like a fireworks display: we pray, take our seats, and then enjoy the show. We all know (or have experienced) stories that follow this pattern. You pray for healing, and the tumor vanishes overnight. You ask for financial provision, and an anonymous envelope appears in your mailbox. You beg for wisdom, and three people offer you the same unsolicited counsel.

And, of course, Scripture brims with spectacular answers to prayer. Moses prays in the wilderness, and water bursts from the rock (Exodus 17:4–6). Hezekiah cries out for deliverance, and Assyria’s 185,000 keel over dead (2 Kings 19:14–35). The early church pleads for Peter’s release, and the chains fall off his hands (Acts 12:1–11).

Sometimes God bares his mighty arm so powerfully that the world gropes for an explanation.

God’s Answers in Our Acting

But what about when you pray and the tumor disappears through three rounds of chemo? Or when financial provision comes after weeks of scouring the web, looking for a new job? Or when you discern your next steps by researching the options and consulting a mentor? Is God somehow less involved in these answers?

David didn’t think so. At the beginning of his reign, he asks God to “bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you” (2 Samuel 7:29). The answer to that prayer, as the next chapter shows, was not a fireworks display. David did not sit back and watch God destroy his enemies. Instead, “David defeated the Philistines and subdued them” (2 Samuel 8:1); “he defeated Moab” (2 Samuel 8:2); “David had defeated the whole army of Hadadezer” (2 Samuel 8:9).

David prayed for help, and then he picked up his sword and went to war.

But then David wrote Psalm 18, a fifty-verse celebration of God’s answer to his prayers for deliverance. He sings, “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:3). According to David, it was God who “sent out his arrows and scattered them” (Psalm 18:14); it was God who “rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me” (Psalm 18:17).

What’s going on here? Did God defeat these enemies, or did David? The answer, of course, is both. David acted one hundred percent, and God answered one hundred percent. God did not answer David’s prayer apart from David’s acting; he answered through David’s acting.

I Did It, God Did It

If you’re like me, you may hesitate to sing a psalm of praise when God answers your prayers this way. In your small group or with friends, you wish you could share some real, spectacular answer to prayer — some story of how God acted totally apart from anything you did. But for David, God’s answering through our acting is already real and spectacular. Why do we struggle to see it that way?

In Letters to Malcolm, C.S. Lewis gives one reason:

We profanely assume that divine and human action exclude one another like the actions of two fellow-creatures so that “God did this” and “I did this” cannot both be true of the same act except in the sense that each contributed a share. (50)

We sometimes assume that more of our involvement in an answer to prayer means less of God’s involvement. If we contribute seventy percent toward an answer to prayer, then God only contributes thirty percent. But David and the other biblical authors believed they could act one hundred percent and still praise God for answering one hundred percent.

If someone asked David, “Who won those battles?” he could sincerely say, “I won them.” But he wouldn’t waste a breath before adding, “But I’d prefer to say God won them. It’s God who equipped me with strength (Psalm 18:32), who trained my hands for war (Psalm 18:34), and who made my enemies sink under me (Psalm 18:39).”

When David fought and won the battles, he knew God was answering his prayer. And he thought that kind of answer to prayer was so magnificent it deserved worship.

Let Go, Get Going

So when we pray, we do not let go and let God. Rather, we let go and get going. We let go of the burden by admitting our weakness and trusting a specific promise from God, and then we get going by doing whatever needs to happen for our part.

We pray for opportunities to share the gospel, and then we go knock on our neighbor’s door. We plead for strength to resist lustful temptation, and then we text or call a friend. We beg God to guide us with some hard decision, and then we do not flip a coin, but we research, seek counsel, and think hard.

And then, when God answers in our acting, we make a big deal about it. We marvel that the living God is at work in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). We praise him for equipping us with everything good to do his will (Hebrews 13:21). We tell “the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation” (Psalm 40:9).

Answered prayer is more than fireworks. It’s also the thrilling experience of God’s answering in our acting. Both types of answered prayer require God’s supernatural help, both demonstrate his power, and both call for celebration (Psalm 126:2).