Results tagged “Place for Truth” from Reformation21 Blog

The Psalms in Worship

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Too many churches never sing the psalms in public worship. Despite the fact the two direct injunctions that relate to singing in the New Testament place psalms at the head of the list of what Christians ought to sing as they 'make music in [their] heart to the Lord' (Eph 5.19; Col 3.16), these expressions of praise are strangely absent from many orders of service.

It would be interesting to explore the reason for this. It may well be because of straightforward ignorance on the part of many. The form and content of worship have gone through many phases over the years and important elements of both have often been lost only to be rediscovered by later generations. The use of structured liturgy is one example. So it may also be the case that churches that do not sing the psalms do so because they have never had exposure to them. But it needs to be asked what led to these omissions in the first place. What caused so many churches to move away from more formal liturgy and why did it so often coincide with a departure from psalm singing in the process? Continue reading...

This post was originally posted by Mark Johnston on PlaceforTruth.org.

Link:
http://www.placefortruth.org/blog/psalms-worship
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The idea of 'the means of grace' has undergone an encouraging rehabilitation in the life and ministry of many Reformed churches in recent years. This has come as a healthy corrective to pressure from the wider church to embrace ideas and practices that seem more effective vehicles for church growth. However 'effective' these alternative means may have seemed, it has been at the expense of a meaningfully biblical definition of the church. So, the widespread return to emphasising the Word, sacraments, fellowship and prayer (Ac 2.42) as the core components of a faithful and effective church has been welcome. These 'ordinary' means of grace are God's ways of communicating his great salvation in Christ and by his Holy Spirit.

The very fact, however, that the adjective 'ordinary' is applied to these means by which God works implies that they are not the only way he works. They may be normative, but they are not exhaustive.

The men of the Westminster Assembly noted this in their treatment of Effectual Calling in chapter 10 of the Confession of Faith. It deals with the means by which the call of the gospel which is universal is made to be effective in the lives of 'All those whom God hath predestinated unto life' (10.1).

The divines open up what this entails and how it happens as being, 'at his appointed and accepted time' and by means of 'his word and Spirit' in order that they may be actually lifted 'out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace' (10.1).

They go on in the next section to explain this further: 'This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it' (10.2).

Here, then, are the normal means God uses to bring the spiritually dead to life, enabling them to turn in repentance and faith towards God as they rest on Christ alone for their salvation. But they are not the only means. The very next section goes on to make this clear in what it says about 'elect infants dying in infancy': 'Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word' (10.3). There are certain circumstances of life in which the 'ordinary means of grace' cannot function.

The Westminster divines reiterate this point in chapter 14, 'Of Saving Faith'. There they state, 'The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened' (14.1) [italics added].

There are at least two reasons for drawing attention to the fact God's grace has extraordinary as well as ordinary dimensions.

The first is pastoral. Infant mortality may not be as common in developed countries in the 21st Century as it was in those same countries just a few centuries ago, but the pain of loss and questions about life and destiny it raises are just as real. In some respects they are even more real for Christian parents who believe that 'faith comes from hearing the message and is heard through the word of Christ' (Ro 10.17). Knowing something of God's extraordinary grace for such extraordinary circumstances can only bring comfort.

The fact the scope of this principle goes beyond 'elect infants dying in infancy' to 'all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word' is also pastorally significant. Not least in terms of how the church regards and cares for those who are mentally incapacitated. At a very basic level the questions must be asked, 'Can they be accepted as members of the church?' and 'May they receive the Lord's Supper?' If a church turns 'the ordinary means of grace' into 'the sole means of grace', the answer must be 'No!'.

The other reason for raising this issue relates to the question Jesus was asked en route to Jerusalem: 'Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?' (Lk 13.23). It is the question many have asked throughout the centuries. And it is significant that Jesus does not give a direct answer, but says instead the real issue is making sure we ourselves are in his kingdom (Lk 13.24).

This does not mean the question in itself is wrong, or that it is wrong to ask it. Interestingly it was taken up by several 19th Century Reformed theologians, among them Charles Hodge and W.G.T. Shedd, in their consideration of the so-called 'Larger Hope'.

In his book, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed - A Defence of the Westminster Standards, Shedd deals with this question (following chapters on 'Common and Special Grace', 'God's Love and Credal Proportion' and 'Infant Salvation as Related to Original Sin') in a chapter entitled 'The "Larger Hope"'.[1]

There he discusses this issue in light of the relation between God's glory and the number of the redeemed, but with cognizance of the extra-ordinary dimensions in the operations of grace.

Charles Hodge also addresses the issue, notably in his comments on Romans 5.18-20, where he says,
We have no right to put any limit on these general terms, except what the Bible itself places upon them...All the descendants of Adam, except Christ, are under condemnation; all the descendants of Adam, except those of whom it is expressly revealed that they cannot inherit the kingdom of God, are saved. This appears to be the clear meaning of the apostle, and therefore he does not hesitate to say that where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded, that the benefits of redemption exceed the evils of the fall; that the number of the saved far exceeds the number of the lost.[2]

This issue has had extensive coverage by Roman Catholic, Liberal Protestant and Evangelical Protestant authors from a range of differing perspectives and with correspondingly different conclusions. But all too frequently their concern has been to try to justify, at one end of the spectrum, 'sincere' faith in any religious context, or good works in all contexts as the basis of acceptance with God; or, at the other end, some form of universalism.
It is significant, therefore, that the issue was raised in the way it was by the Reformed theologians cited above and on the theological foundation they build with the inferences they drew from it, but also those they did not.

The questions are real but Scripture is noticeably silent on them. Nevertheless the men of the Westminster Assembly offer a judicious response in what they say in relation to effectual calling. They enable us to focus on what the Bible makes clear - that the church's duty is to 'go and make disciples of all nations' (Mt 28.19-20) - while at the same time acknowledging that 'the Judge of all the Earth' will most certainly do what is right (Ge 18.25).

To receive regular updates be sure to subscribe to Place for Truth

[1] Shedd, W.G.T. Calvinism: Pure and Mixed (Banner of Truth; Edinburgh) 1986 [first published 1893] pp. 92-131
[2] Hodge, C. Systematic Theology Vol. 1 (Scribner & Co; New York) 1872 p. 26

Text Links
http://www.placefortruth.org/blog/extraordinary-means-grace
http://www.placefortruth.org/article-subscribe

Originally posted by Mark Johnston on PlaceforTruth.org.
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How should Christians act and speak in the midst of this loud and divisive political season?  While websites devoted to politics and news give you the latest buzz, polls, and minute-by-minute analysis, you will find Place for Truth slightly different, dare I say refreshingly different.  Place for Truth will not only provide a biblical perspective, but one from the past; a past that the Church should not forget. Each week new quotes, outlines, and sketches of important sermons selected and edited by contributor David Hall will be posted - sermons originally delivered in conjunction with an American election or an American political debate. 

Visit Place for Truth today to read David's inaugural post, "Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers," a sermon preached by Jonathan Mayhew in 1750. While there be sure to subscribe to receive updates from David and all of our Place for Truth contributors including Mark Johnston, Tim Witmer, and Jonathan Master, editor and host of the bi-weekly biblical doctrine podcast Theology on the Go

Is it possible that pastors from the past have something to teach us about political involvement in our own day?  We think so; and we hope that this wisdom from the past will benefit churches and pastors committed to faithful living in America today.  

Text Links
http://www.placefortruth.org/
http://www.placefortruth.org/columns/place-politics
http://www.placefortruth.org/blog/unlimited-submission-and-non-resistance-higher-powers
http://www.placefortruth.org/columns/theology-go


Visit the New Place for Truth

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The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is pleased to share with you the new and improved Place for Truth. Be sure to stop by and subscribe. Those already familiar with Place for Truth will immediately notice the improved design. We have made searching for articles and podcasts much easier by including an extensive archive of contributors and topics, and an improved search function has been added.

Two years ago the Alliance launched Place for Truth. As editor Jonathan Master stated in his inaugural post, this online magazine was seen "as a chance to stop and think - to think theologically, to think in terms of our Protestant confessional tradition, to think about the ways and means of engaging in gospel ministry today." 

The mission statement says it well, Place for Truth provides thoughtful yet accessible articles ranging over biblical theology, systematic theology, church history, and practical theology emphasizing the continual need for the church to maintain the gains of the Protestant Reformation.

In 2014 the Theology on the Go podcast was added to the site. On Theology on the Go you will hear pastors and theologians discuss weighty topics with host Jonathan Master in a thoughtful and accessible way showing how theology is relevant today.

This week on Theology on the Go, Jonathan Master is joined by Greg Beale, professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Dr. Beale talks with Jonathan about the important topic of "The New Testament's Use of the Old Testament."

The Alliance has several copies of Dr. Beale's book Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament to give away. This concise guide helps readers understand how to better study the multitude of Old Testament references in the New Testament. Brief enough to be accessible yet thorough enough to be useful, this handbook will be a trusted guide for all students of the Bible. Sign up to be in our drawing.


Text links:
http://www.placefortruth.org/
http://www.placefortruth.org/article-subscribe
http://www.placefortruth.org/content/here-we-stand
http://www.placefortruth.org/columns/theology-go
http://www.placefortruth.org/blog/new-testaments-use-old-testament-podcast
https://docs.google.com/a/alliancenet.org/forms/d/1qpT6liEdFebE5rPyxXaXTWt1Uv_nEymJ-3Jc8exKvMY/viewform

Thank you for partnering with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Resourcing the Church would not be possible without Alliance Members help. You see both the need in today's culture centric church and the value of Alliance resources. Your support keeps us sharing the Gospel!

As partners in ministry, the Alliance values your opinion and your time.  Please take this brief survey, and let us know what resources you are using and sharing with others. By filling out this survey, you help us understand how to better serve you and the Church. You will also be able to help us discover new ways to tell others about the Alliance. Your opinion and accountability are highly valued.

As a thank you for filling out this survey, the Alliance will send you a free digital download from this year's Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology in Grand Rapids. The message by David Garner, is titled "Gender and the Image of God." David is a contributor at PlaceforTruth.org, the Alliance blog that provides thoughtful, yet accessible articles on theology. In order to receive this gift be sure to supply your email address in the survey.

Thank you again for filling out this survey (http://ow.ly/L89a6) and for supporting the work of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals to foster a Reformed awakening in today's Church. Your generous and faithful support makes the Alliance possible.

Thank you for your continued support!

Text link - http://ow.ly/L89a6
Place for Truth editor Jonathan Master reminds us that Mark Johnston, also of Place for Truth, will be the keynote speaker at the Church Leader's Conference. This is a one-day conference offering a message of "Maintaining our Sanity in Ministry."

It's scheduled for March 19th and more information can be found at http://cairn.edu/events/churchleaders/

Keep following the Alliance, Jonathan, and Mark at Place for Truth.
At the outset of the Anglican baptismal liturgy, an eighteenth-century rector would say "Dearly beloved, for as much as all men are conceived and born in sin. . .I beseech you to call upon God." Ask God, he urged, to show the infant mercy, and to make him part of the divine kingdom. Here the minister identified the fundamental problem with humanity, even with the seemingly innocent baby before him: all people were tainted with sin - original sin, the sin of Adam - which separated them from their Creator.

George Whitefield, who would go on to become the greatest Anglo-American evangelist of the eighteenth century, received baptism in that Anglican ritual three hundred years ago in Gloucester, England. Whitefield came to recognize the truth about his own sinful nature as a young man. In the best-selling account of his life, Whitefield opened the narrative by describing the corruption of his heart, in language directly repeating the rector's prayer. "I can remember such early stirrings of corruption in my heart, as abundantly convinces me that I was conceived and born in sin; that in me dwelleth no good thing by nature, and that if God had not freely prevented me by his grace, I must have been for ever banished from his divine presence."

Continue reading at Place for Truth...

Thomas Kidd (Ph.D. University of Notre Dame) is Professor of History at Baylor University and is Senior Fellow at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. His books include George Whitefield: America's Spiritual Founding Father (Yale University Press, 2014),  Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots, and God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution.


Text Link - http://www.placefortruth.org/placefortruth/column/theology-on-the-go/george-whitefield-principled-calvinist-1-froward-from-my-mot
21st Century Challenges Not Allowing Ourselves to be Defined by Sexuality
By Mark Johnston from Place for Truth

It may seem more than a little strange to include this issue as one of the major challenges facing the church in the 21st Century, but the sad reality is that it is. The glaring evidence for this can be seen in the way the church in many parts of the world has allowed itself to be backed into a corner over this aspect of its teaching. In doing so has allowed not only its own credibility to be called into question, but that of the gospel as well.

This situation has not arisen suddenly. For four decades and longer the Bible and the role of women - especially when it comes to holding office in the church - has been hotly debated among those within the church as much as with those on the outside. In many denominations this has led to a deliberate shift away from the belief that the offices of elder (both those who teach and those who lead) and of deacon are intended only for males in the church.

Continue reading...

http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/21st-century-challenges-not-allowing-ourselves-to-be-defined-by-sexuality
The Alliance was pleased to partner once again with the Princeton regional Conference on Reformed Theology. Ian Hamilton and Alistair Begg brought the doctrine of Providence to us in a clear and compelling way. You can download or order copies of the audio recordings from Reformed Resources.

Cairn University, our Philadelphia region university partner, hosted Alistair and has produced this video. It is hosted by Jonathan Master, executive editor of Place for Truth.

The doctrine of providence, far from being an abstract and distant truth, is both a great mystery and a deep comfort. It is unfathomable how God can govern all His creatures to accomplish His ends and yet it provides immense assurance for the Christian to know that events are in God's hands. God is not distant and uninvolved, nor can He be confused with His creation. His relationship to the world is clearly shown in the Bible's teaching on providence. The doctrine of providence helps us understand God's sovereignty and power and, in response to this mystery and comfort, to respond in trust and praise.

The 6 messages of Providence include:

"God's Providence Defined" by Alistair Begg
"God's Providence in the Lives of His servants" by Ian Hamilton
"God's Providence in the Death of Jesus Christ" by Alistair Begg
"God's Providence and Our Worship" by Ian Hamilton
"Providence: Personal Reflections" by Alistair Begg
"Making Sense of the Mysteries of Providence: The Practice of Living Faithfully" by Ian Hamilton

Order today.

Text Links -
PrCRT 2014 Audio - http://reformedresources.org/prcrt-2014/
Cairn Video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8wJckBAgq0&feature=youtu.be
Our own Aimee Byrd, of Mortification of Spin, was interviewed on prayer by David Livernois at Credo Magazine. Credo deserves to be regularly visited (ignoring the early piece here with Sam Storms suggesting one ought pray in tongues). But hearing Aimee speak openly and honestly about the challenges of the Christian prayer life is worth the read, and then worth sharing!

And speaking of Mortification of Spin, the gang raged on the campus of Cairn University today! We thank Cairn's president, Todd Williams, and his entire team there for their hospitality. And the live recording with Place for Truth's Jonathan Master, with students joining in the fun was great! Let us know should your school wish to host a live event.


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Text links -
http://info.alliancenet.org/mos
http://www.credomag.com/project/current-issue-new/

Theology on the Go on iTunes

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We're very grateful for the feedback we've already received about Theology on the Go podcast at Place for Truth.  And as an update, I'm pleased to report that you can listen and subscribe to the podcast via itunes or just go to iTunes and search for "Theology on the Go."

For those of you who haven't listened yet, Theology on the Go is a brief conversation - one guest, one topic.  Its tagline is, "A brief conversation about an eternal truth."  It's the perfect length for a short commute, or a break in the day. And the podcast is followed by several articles from several talented young pastors and theologians on topic over the next two weeks.

Please send along this link and post it via social media, so that others can benefit from the insights and teaching of our guests. And thank you for regularly visiting Place for Truth and Theology on the Go podcast!

Text links -
iTunes - https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/theology-on-the-go/id939936484
Place for Truth - http://www.placefortruth.org/placefortruth
Fides sola est quae justificat; fides quae justificat non est sola. 

Latinisms can have a wonderful way of crystallising issues in theological reflection - so with this one: 'It is faith alone that justifies; but faith that justifies is never alone!' This isn't just a statement about the alone-ness of faith as the means by which we receive God's justifying grace, but something much more far-reaching. It highlights the crucial distinction we need to grasp as we try to understand what it means to be justified. Namely, that a person who is truly justified is never merely justified!

This may sound like theological hair-splitting, but actually it is tied in with one of the most vexed issues of Christian experience that goes back to the earliest days of the New Testament church and further back still. Because that is so, we are reminded that every pastoral problem has theological dimensions and every theological problem has pastoral implications and we dare not lose sight of either. Continue on Place for Truth.

http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/column/resident-aliens/alone-but-never-alone
Jesus was a man of prayer.  Regardless of how mysterious this is in light of our understanding of God's Triune nature, it is nonetheless undeniable that Jesus spent much time praying to the Father.  We see this throughout His earthly ministry - from beginning to end.  Howard Marshall provides a helpful introduction to this theme when he writes, "...Jesus did everything that was normal for a Jew  and more..."  In other words, the gospel writers take for granted that Jesus prayed several times a day, as was the Jewish custom.  That normal two- or three- times a day habit of prayer is a given.  Therefore, to quote Marshall again, "When prayer is mentioned by the Synoptic evangelists, it must be for special reasons, and we are entitled to ask in each case why."  What is highlighted in the gospels are the additional times, the moments and seasons that go beyond the normal religious observance which can no doubt be assumed.  In other words, Jesus was surely praying multiple times a day just as a matter of course.  But his life of prayer did not stop there. Continue at Place for Truth.

http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/jesus-life-of-prayer
When the Banner of Truth Trust published the second volume of his Collected Writings in 1977, John Murray's views on effectual calling sparked off animated debate in Reformed circles at that time. He challenged the formulation found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism that defines effectual calling as 'the work of God's Spirit' (Q.31), preferring instead to see it as 'the act of God the Father' (p.166). The new generation of 'Precisionists' who were revelling in the rediscovery of Reformation and Puritan literature in those days were eager for the argument and lapped up this latest insight in the desire to sharpen their thinking.

There is no doubting the fact that Professor Murray was right to raise his query of the Westminster formularies, but with hindsight one cannot but wonder if, in correcting one theological imbalance, he actually created another. The danger in the precision involved in any attempt to systematise theological truth is that we can so focus on particular detail that we 'cannot see the wood for the trees!'

Continue at PlaceforTruth.org

http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/effectual-calling-and-trinitarian-balance
There are many model prayers in the Bible.  The most famous is The Lord's Prayer, recorded for us in Matthew and Luke; but there are others besides.  Recently, Mark Johnston has turned our attention to the prayer of Daniel, or, more specifically, to the prayer life of Daniel.  Both Daniel's specific prayer in Daniel 9, as well as his ongoing practice of prayer, are worthy of imitation, and it is right that we should reflect on them.

But there is an even more basic step than looking for models of prayer (though no disciple of Jesus Christ can ignore these), we must also actually pray.  Or, to put it in the language of Hebrews, we must "draw near to the throne of grace."  This is nothing less than a command.

Continue at Place for Truth

http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/let-us-draw-near

A Life of Prayer by Mark Johnston

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There are few places in Scripture where we are given deeper insight into the anatomy of a life of prayer than in the book of Daniel. The well-known words of the old children's chorus, 'Daniel was a man of prayer...' could not be more apt! This great man who was so greatly used for such a great length of time had a great secret that lay behind his usefulness - it was his prayerfulness. From our first introduction to him as a mere teenager to our last glimpses of him - presumably as an octogenarian - it seems as though he exudes an aura of prayer.

The beauty of this biblical cameo is the fact that it is not given merely to be a portrait in some gallery from the dim and distant past, but as a reminder that in the same way as 'Elijah was a man just like us' (Jas 5.17), so too was Daniel. The prayerfulness that was bound up with his usefulness is recorded both to instruct and inspire us in our own prayer life.

Every Christian obviously needs such instruction and inspiration - especially as we begin to appreciate that living the Christian life means 'going the distance' - but the same is true for those in the Christian ministry in its many and varied forms. If there is such a thing as 'the loneliness of the long-distance runner' in the world of marathon running, so too there is a sense in which we can feel as though the same is true in a life of ongoing service. Those in ministry need to cultivate the art of praying.

Even though it is very tempting to develop our abilities in prayer with our eye on its public face, it is clear from the Bible in general and the life of Daniel in particular that there is another facet of prayer that lies behind what is heard in public: that is our private prayer. If we make that the focus of this brief overview of the prayer life of Daniel, then several things come to light.

Continue at Place for Truth

Text links -
Article - http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/a-life-of-prayer#.U-n_YoBdVDI
I mean, once Trueman refused to give up the black shoes and socks when at the beach of Harvey Cedars NJ, it was clear some things were settled! But there is still hope...

Reformation21.org is the flagship of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals online flotilla. It is joined by PlaceforTruth.org which offers biblical theology with a large dose of exegete and ChristwardCollective.org parsing out solid biblical doctrine from younger contributors not afraid to stand on the theological shoulders of the Reformers. These great resources are central to the Alliance's mission of proclaiming biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today's Church.

So it would be very hard to improve those things. But we did improve some of the technical aspects of the site (with a view to rebuild it entirely in early 2015). So look around, try them out, and let us know what you think of:

- Printable pages on the articles, blog posts, and reviews. No longer will those pesky (but I advocate interesting) side bars be printed with the content you are wanting to share.
- Social sharing buttons have long been needed. Now you can share a post with friends through social media or email it to your 'socially challenged' Uncle Bob!
- Better contributor access can be found on the contributor page. This will allow you to fit any and all contributors to r21, and find all of their submissions as well.
- A lot of clean up of those aforementioned side bars. There we removed some dated sections and incorporated it right into the blog. We also right sorted the previous devotions so you can start reading and using them from the top down.
- And we improved the navigation. You can move back and forth between pages in any section easier (who thought a list of prior years and months was a helpful system?). And you can also find across the top common navigation across the entire Alliance, moving from one site to another, and back again.

So, while it's the reformation21 you have trusted and used for years, I hope these small changes will increase its function and encourage its use. And should you have other ideas or needs, we would love to hear from you. Please email me at rbrady@AllianceNet.org and share your ideas and I would also love to hear how r21 has been helpful for you and your Church too!
Outside the Camp by David B. Garner

Come Back!

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews faced uncompromising pressure to compromise. Ridiculed for abandoning their own religious heritage and for extracting themselves from their very own people, these early followers of Christ anguished under tremendous pressures to return to their former life.

After all, were they not first Jews before they heard the gospel of Christ? Did Jesus really come to rob them of their Jewishness? Did the crucified Christ really intend for them to alienate themselves from their family and friends? How could the love of Jesus really require them to abandon these self-defining roots and these mutually meaningful relationships?

Continue reading on Place for Truth

Text links - 
Article - http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/outside-the-camp#.U8VNyY1dVDI
Bio - http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/the-people#David B. Garner
God's benediction rests on you (you'll have true happiness) if you are pure in heart. This blessing is not bestowed upon the intellectually keen or emotionally pious, but on those pure or clean in heart. Like poor "in spirit" pure is modified in this blessing by "in heart"--thus it does not refer to being ceremonially or morally clean. The heart, according to biblical imagery, is the center of the entire person. Thus we will be happy if the center of our whole person, the power plant or control central, is single-mindedly pursuing God. That's the way to be happy. Purity of heart "may be defined as undivided affections, sincerity, genuineness, Godly simplicity. It is the opposite of subtlety and duplicity . . . purity of motives and intents." Pure means unmixed, un-combined, unadulterated.

Here's a quick test of this singleness in purpose or purity in heart. "What do you think about when your mind slips into neutral?" To what do you pay consistent or inordinate allegiance? What do you want or love more than anything else? If the answers were God and his Kingdom, that is an evidence of being pure in heart. If not, maybe we need him to make our hearts pure.

Place for Truth is where to finish this...

Text link - http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/purity-and-peacemaking
When my wife and I moved into our house in the early spring, the two trees in the back yard were charming, their trunks splitting and winding like strands of hair, their leaves just beginning to bud. From what we could see, they added allure to the property, which was complemented by the rest of the quiet town. I had taken a few field environmental classes as a high school student, but I couldn't identify what kind of trees they were.

Then came the chestnuts--not the auburn, gem-like spheres you see in glass bowls on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, but the green, needle-covered threats that hang stealthily above your head when you're mowing the lawn. I didn't give them too much thought while the majority of them clung to the branches, but when they started to fall, they needed to be gathered, and the gathering was painful. Even through leather gloves, you could feel the sharp pricks of the shell if you handled it more firmly than you would an egg. But that wasn't, I came to find, the worst of it.

Continue reading on Place for Truth

Text link - http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/chinese-chestnuts-a-reflection-on-sin#.U62d141dVDI
If you look around the United States today (with apologies to our overseas readers), several things stand out. First, we are a military power. We face threats, but we have confidence in our military might.

Then there is our economy - the most robust in the world. We live in a time of almost unprecedented prosperity.

But there are problems we sense too. We have had confidence in our security for years, but how secure are we?

And what about the economy? While it's true that wealth is increasing, the worldwide gap between rich and poor seems to be widening. And in many cases, it seems as if the wealthy are able to exploit these gaps.

Continue on Place for Truth.

Text link - http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/false-worship-in-the-world
The greatest threat to the Gospel in our age is not unbelief. It is not relativism or open hostility to the "narrow" Christian tradition. It is not even the hypocrisy of the church, which holds up the white banner of faith for all to see and then spatters it with the mud of pretense. As inimical to the Christian faith as these may be, there is something far more destructive to the Gospel, something we rarely consider, because it is too close for us to notice. The greatest threat to the Gospel is treating it as mere information.

If contemporary culture were a royal ball, information would be the ageless and debonair host, striking every lord and lady with his pristine smile, all the while masquerading as truth. His tangible personality would blind the guests to the fact that his clothes were too big--they belong to someone six inches taller, with broader shoulders and a fuller chest. Distantly, all of his guests would know that truth is what called them together and demanded something of them. But they don't see truth so easily. They see information, because he makes constant rounds with a silver platter of Hors d'oeuvres. The real host of the ball requires seeking out.

Continue on Place for Truth

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This just in: the Bible answers the question about how converts in hostile countries are to bear witness to Christ: Publicly. That, at least, is what Jesus said in the first Gospel.

Underneath all the missiological mumbo-jumbo and artful dodges--often asserted by Western theoreticians ensconced by comfortable tenure, grants, and libraries--we ought not forget that our Lord answers this question in red letters. To acknowledge Christ means to be unashamed of him. Jesus thought that would be good for us in every generation and in every culture, even if persecution occurred. Calvin said that, "there is no believer whom the Son of God does not require to be his witness."[1]

But perhaps, modern movements are tempted to elevate some sources or pressures over the clear gospel message. Westerners may even think they know better than some on-the-ground who have taken Jesus' words to heart.

Start with a baby issue, compared to martyrdom. Have you ever, for example, been in a public place and been embarrassed to associate with someone or an institution? What is that like?

Suppose you are attending a reunion of some sort, and most of the classmates are very successful. And all you do is work from the home or have a job that is not too prestigious. You are tempted, aren't you, to be vague ("I'm a free-lancer or self-employed"), or to overstate and blur what you do. Why? Because you don't want to acknowledge that everyone else is better or more successful. Or if everyone else attended an elite school, and you didn't, or if most people drive great cars and you drive a clunker . . . we seldom like to advertise anything except prize-winning success.

A person can be embarrassed to stand with Christ. You may feel sheepish to admit that he is Lord and that you depend on him. 

Have you ever stopped to ask why it is that we are often kowtowed and afraid to be public about our faith? Here are some possible reasons: Continue at PlaceforTruth.org

Text link - http://info.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/update-on-the-insider-movement
The Church seems to be full of controversy.  Much of this is quite necessary, and not unexpected.  After all, as the New Testament continually reminds us, false teachers will continually arise and false teaching always needs to be addressed.  On the other hand, it must be admitted that some controversy is merely self-serving - an exercise in building a personal brand.

Jude, as we've seen, is no stranger to controversy.  In fact, he spends most of his little page-long letter describing what I have called the church-wreckers, those men who snuck (and sneak - they're still doing it today) into the congregation, using the grace of God as a kind of cover for selfishness and unbelief. 

But that is not all Jude describes.  He goes much further, showing not just how the false teachers speak and behave, but how, in response and as a defense, we are to contend for the faith.  It is worth reminding ourselves that this contending for the faith involves action, and it presupposes doctrinal content - that's what the definite article in front of "faith" tells us. There is a body of doctrine that we're to defend, and Jude tells us how to do it.

Continue reading at PlaceforTruth.org

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Theology regularly gets a bad rap. "Don't give me doctrine. I want something practical." "I like sermons that touch my heart, not those that fill my head." Or, "Come on. I'm not interested in all this theology. I just want to love Jesus."

Stated or assumed, such ideas have stormed the Church like ants at a picnic. But they also devastate the Church like the ants' destructive cousins. Theology bashers are termites, who eat away at the Church's very pillars¬≠¬≠--the apostles' teaching. And theological antipathy has no fans in heaven. Scripture rebukes those who have little time for theological substance: "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil."  (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Continue reading at Place for Truth

Text Link - http://www.placefortruth.org/placefortruth/column/sine-qua-non/only-jesus-grace-works
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Richard Webster referred to five widely differing views regarding subscription in the colonial Presbyterian church as: "the Protesters, the excluded, the silent, those who were dissatisfied with both parties, and the absent." The modern church may find itself in a similar position. The subject of these essays has not always been agreed upon. Moreover, I am aware of no other volume or website which concentrates on this important subject with such candor and comprehensiveness.  I am grateful to the editors of Place for Truth for confirming the continuing usefulness of this important data collection. Even though over the years there has been much debate over the manner of adhering to the Confession of Faith, intelligent discussions are not always presented. Although Charles Hodge sought to give much of the history of this issue in his 1851 The Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, he is sometimes accused of a partisan favoring of the Old School. Admittedly, liberals have also given their views of the correct manner of confessional subscription.

Continue reading on Place for Truth.

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Sympathy Made Perfect by David B. Garner on Place for Truth

In our last column, we surveyed the importance of Jesus' life as signaled in Luke 2:52: "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." More needs be said. So we return to this theme of Jesus' life, with an eye to appreciating further Jesus' biography of personal growth and maturity, as the means toward his real redemptive sympathy for us.

Most of us can handle Jesus' growth in stature (years). After all, the birth accounts consume one out twelve months of the preaching experiences in our Western churches. Each December we sing the mysteries, celebrate the humility, and soak in the sweet sentiments of God becoming flesh.

We know the crude and compelling story from the Inn-side out. With no place for the newborn King, Jesus was laid in a feed trough. Vulnerable, dependent, and weak, he nursed at his mother's breast and lurched along on the arduous night journey toward Egypt.  The earliest harsh realities faced by the Son of God born of a woman and born under the curse of the law (Gal 4:4) drip with a pathos that rightly disarms us. At the same time, the humble beginnings of baby Jesus fill us with joy inexplicable, as we relish the breath-stealing grace associated with God becoming man.

Stunning as this reality is, we must not get caught up in these particular sorrows or sentiments. The birth narratives tell of the incarnation, but the incarnation is not in itself the gospel. The good news is not only born; it must also be made. Born of the virgin mother, Jesus had to engage our lives, our world, and our suffering. He had to live, to suffer, and to work.

Continue at http://www.placefortruth.org/placefortruth/column/sine-qua-non/sympathy-made-perfect