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Toward a new understanding of modesty
“Actress, designer, and former White Power Ranger Jessica Rey has a mission: to get as many women as possible in one-piece swimsuits. ”

God’s Word to the suicidal
Adrian Warnock gathers together a number of Bible verses to help prevent suicide.

Counting the Cost (accurately)
Why tallies of Christian martyrs vary so widely (HT: Joel Miller)

Richard Baxter on Educating Children
Kim Shay mines the puritans for help in teaching our children. Staing with our kids, Ed Stetzer interviews Jason Helopoulos about his new book on family worship.

The Anger Clock
A perceptive cartoon about how Christians often rush victims to forgive their attackers and abusers.

Gentle Reformation Podcast
Barry York and Austin Brown and I talk about Christ in the Old Testament.

Don’t mess with dispensationalists!

Never in the history of (my) blogging has one short sentence caused so much grief! The offending words appeared in 7 Reasons the Old Testament is Neglected, where I wrote:

Although unintended, the dispensational division of Scripture into different eras tends to relegate the Old Testament to a minor role in the life of the Church, and of the individual Christian.

Not exactly a PhD thesis; and I thought I was being quite gentle (“although unintended,” “tends to,” “minor role” not “no role” or “tiny role”). But almost immediately Twitter started poking its beak into my eye, a friendly pyromaniac built a pyre, and Jesse Johnson lit the match

Now I take my tongue out of my cheek and welcome my dispy friend and Old Testament scholar (see his outstanding work on Proverbs), Dan Phillips, to put me to the sword with his response to my observation.


My friend David Murray is extraordinarily kind to offer a poor, benighted dispensationalist the opportunity to respond to his brief word, as quoted on the Ligonier site. David’s remark was a short except from a book I’ve not yet had the pleasure of reading, so I’ll try to focus on the excerpt alone and not bring in the whole warehouse.

First, I think dispensationalists are owed credit for their reverence towards the Old Testament. At least some Covenant Theology adherents (hereafter CTA – not to be confused with the rock album) used to acknowledge, if grudgingly, the fact that dispensationalists to a man affirm the inerrancy and inspiration of the whole OT, and that they carry that conviction out in how they approach issues of authorship and historicity. By contrast, I could name some famous CTA’s who are best known for what they don’t believe of the OT.

So it is ironic for David approvingly to quote the late Gleason Archer concerning the neglect of the OT, when Archer himself was a towering OT scholar, the author of a terrific book of OT introduction – and a dispensationalist.

Second, if I may adduce myself: I’ve been a convinced dispensationalist for some 40 years. It was my conviction of the divine authority of the OT that led me to start learning Hebrew in the early 70s, take extra classes in it, major in OT studies for my MDiv, do a thesis on Proverbs, and teach an array of classes in Hebrew and OT matters. I’ve always preached and taught extensively from all over the OT. I even wrote this book on Proverbs that is said to have some value to it. In fact, I’m preaching Proverbs right now! Also, I had the great joy of speaking at a conference on Messiah in the OT, in which I argued that the whole OT, literally from first verse to last, pointed to Christ. That was in England… which is near Scotland, right?

All of this, I would insist, is not in spite of my convictions as a dispensationalist, but because of them

Third, blaming us for the OT’s neglect because “the dispensational division of Scripture into different eras tends to relegate the Old Testament to a minor role in the life of the Church, and of the individual Christian” rather makes me scratch my head. David, do you think murderers should be executed, like Cain wasn’t? Do you eat ham sandwiches, and lobster, and bacon? Would you eat pork haggis? Do you wear clothes of mixed fabric? Do you mow your lawn on Saturday? When you sin (if you sin), do you head off for Jerusalem with a lamb to look up the local Aaronic priest?

This is a red herring that should be laid to rest. Whether 2, 3, or 7, all Christians recognize “eras” in God’s unfolding revelation. Before they got defensive, CT theologians even had a word for it. What was it, now…? Oh yes, I remember: dispensation.”

Fourth, that said, I will admit that dispensationalists have not all done the job we should of stressing the unity of Scripture, the vast degree of continuity, the oneness of the redemptive story. While I’ll opine that CTAs have erred in hammering flat some of the many distinctive developments in God’s plan (past and future) to suit their views of unity, I will also confess that, in reaction, we dispensationalists have sometimes overstressed the distinctives. We may sometimes be guilty of giving our folks a view of the Bible as a series of disconnected episodes rather than an overarching narrative. It’s an area in which I’ve grown myself over the years. I think that’s a fault of individuals, though, not of the system.

Though more could be said, I’ll stop here, sincerely thanking my gracious host (and beloved brother) for this opportunity to put in a word from his faithful brothers laboring here at the back of the theological bus.

Digital Poster: 10 Ways the Law Exalts Jesus

The law exalts Jesus?

Is the law not the enemy of Jesus?

Yes, if used wrongly, if used as a means of getting to Jesus by obeying it. But not if it’s used rightly, if used as God intended it to be used. For example, here are ten ways the law exalts Jesus.

1. An Exhibition of Christ’s Character: A person’s words tell us a lot about him. As Jesus is God’s eternal Word, who equally with the Father and the Spirit inspired God’s written Word, and also became God’s enfleshed Word, the law reveals the Son’s character as well as the Father’s and the Spirit’s

2. An Exposition of Jesus’ Life: The 10 Commandments tell us what Jesus’ life was like toward God and toward man, what He was like inwardly and outwardly.

3. An Example of Jesus’ Teaching: Jesus’ first sermon was on the moral law. He did not simply repeat it, but amplified, enhanced, and extended it.

4. An Examination in Jesus’ Light: The law shines the holy light of Christ into our lives, exposing our sin, convicting us, and showing our need of Christ and His obedience.

5. An Explanation of Christ’s Death: The law not only shows us our need for Jesus’ death but also explains the nature of it. If we look at it from the human viewpoint, the death of Jesus was the greatest act of lawlessness ever perpetrated. If we look at it from the divine viewpoint we see the justice of the law being executed.

6. The Extent of Jesus’ Death: Just as the law was concerned with reversing the effects of sin on the whole creation, so, in some significant ways, Jesus’ death reversed the creation-wide effects of sin. Though not intended to save every sinner in the world, Jesus’ death did have as one of its ultimate aims the restoration of order and life to a disordered and dying world.

7. The Execution of Jesus’ Judgment: The penalties attached to the law and their execution anticipate the final judgment that will fall on the disobedient and the ungodly.

8. The Enjoyment of Jesus’ Presence: Obeying the law did not and could not save, but it was linked to the Lord’s felt presence and the flourishing and enjoyment of spiritual life in the saved soul (Lev. 26:12; John 14:21).

9. An Entrance into Jesus’ Home: The law gives us an insight into a community that will only ever be perfectly established in heaven. There we will see the law’s order perfectly and beautifully honored and practiced – holy worship, holy rest, holy relationships, holy conversation, holy everything and everyone.

10. The Exaltation of Jesus’ Glory: The law exalts Jesus in the believer’s mind and heart by giving us a clearer sight of our need of Christ and also of the perfection of His obedience.

Let’s use the law as a friend, not as an enemy. Let’s use it as God intended, to magnify and honor Jesus in our lives.

This is one of a series of digital posters that Dave VanBrugge and Cameron Morgan designed to accompany Jesus on Every Page. If you buy the book before August 31, you can get all eight posters as part of a package of $100 of Old Testament freebies. RHB have the book for sale at a lower price than Amazon! 

RSS/Email readers may have to click here to view the poster. If you click on the image you should be able to see an enlarged pdf version of it.

How the Law Exalts Jesus

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Joost van der Westhuizen: Still Fighting on his Deathbed
Moving pictures and story about one of the greatest rugby players ever, now dying of motor neurone disease aged 42. If you Youtube his name you’ll find some incredible clips of powerful athleticism. Looks like he has also gone through some kind of conversion experience following a period of terrible immorality. He says, “But I know that God is alive in my life and with experience you do learn. I can now talk openly about the mistakes I made because I know my faith won’t give up and it won’t diminish.”

My Family Looks Different
I enjoyed Alicia Rollins discussion of her racial and spiritual identity. I love the way she ends: “I think because I am adopted it has always felt very natural to extend loyal and committed love to people who are not my family. The example of my parents helped create a mindset of what the truest family relies on – Christ’s blood. It’s important to make other people feel like they belong. Christ’s blood has a way of doing this.”

Your 4 Priorities for Seminary
Final year student, Matt Smethurst, has some good advice for Seminary newbies (and oldies too).

Are You The Worst Sinner You Know?
Joe Thorn hopes so.

Sergeant dismissed for saying nothing
And a warning along the same lines from Denny Burk.

Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible To Church
From a plea for less technology to a plea for more! Not Tweeting? Repent!

Covenant Theology For The Rest Of Us

What springs to mind when you hear the words “Covenant Theology?”

Complexity? Confusion? Controversy? BIG (unread) books?

Yes, me too.

Yet, if it was really so complicated, why would God have used covenants so much to teach His infant people Israel?

Yes, there are mysterious depths to covenant theology that we will never plumb. But I’m convinced that there’s a simplicity to it as well that even the simplest child can grasp. As is often said of the Gospels: “Shallow enough for a child to paddle in, but deep enough for an elephant to wade in.” With covenant theology, lots have done the wading elephant bit (and drowned us in the process), but few have done the paddling child bit.

But that’s what I want to do today. A bit of pleasant paddling in the soul-refreshing shallows of “covenant theology for the rest of us.”

Dark Cathedral
Let’s start in a old dingy cathedral with no windows and no doors. Inside this black and bleak building is fallen and dying humanity. In order not to blind those dying inside that He wants to save, God decides to gradually cut some windows in this cathedral in order to slowly let in the light of His covenant of grace.

Snake Window
First, He cuts a small snake-shaped window in one wall, which, on close inspection, reveals that the snake’s head is crushed. Everyone inside benefited from the light, just as all humanity benefited from God’s curse on the newly-dangerous snake. However, though many just admire the shape of the window and enjoy the light that comes through it, together with its natural benefits, others look through the window by faith and see a welcome spiritual reality shining brightly through it – a defeated Devil.

Rainbow Window
Some years later, God cuts another cathedral window, this time rainbow-shaped. Again, everyone inside the cathedral benefits from the natural blessings of relatively stable and peaceful seasons that flow through this window.  Others, however, look through the window by faith and see a more wonderful spiritual reality shining brightly through it—a peacemaking and pacified God.

More Light
As the years pass, more windows are cut, one in the shape of a knife in Abraham’s time, a couple in the shape of a Lamb and then a Law-scroll in Moses’ time (and that order is vital), and one in the shape of an everlasting crown in David’s time. Everyone in Israel benefits from these signs, at least outwardly. However, those with faith look through these windows and see the spiritual realities that they signify, and are drawn into a saving covenant relationship with God.

That’s what covenant theology is all about: RELATIONSHIP. covenant is a relationship, initiated and imposed by a superior, with life-or-death consequences.

New Covenant
While some used these Old Testament covenants to enter into that saving relationship with God, many just took the outward, natural, and national benefits. That’s why God promised a New Covenant in Jeremiah, that would be far more effective in bringing far more people into a saving relationship with God.

When Jesus instituted the New Covenant, He cut more and brighter windows in the shape of bread, wine, and baptismal water (bath or basin – you choose!). This time, it’s not just Israel’s window; the whole world is invited to look at it and through it.

Again, sadly, many just take the outward signs but show no interest in what they signify – forgiveness and cleansing through a suffering Savior. But lots of others see through these signs and enjoy the closest possible intimacy with God.

I will be your God
The covenant of grace shines increasingly into the world’s darkness from Genesis 3:15 on, as God increasingly expresses His desire to bond with us in a saving relationship. “I will be your God and you shall be my people.”

We await one final development in the unfolding plan of God: the return of Jesus for His people. Then He will demolish the cathedral, its walls and windows: “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”

Then the essence of the covenant of grace will be fully realized and experienced: “He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Then we will hear the divine voice say forever: “I will be his God and he shall be My son.”

Below you’ll find a digital poster presenting covenant theology in graphical form. It’s one of a series of digital posters that Dave VanBrugge and Cameron Morgan designed to accompany Jesus on Every Page. The book goes on sale today and if you buy the book before August 31, you can get all eight posters as part of a package of $100 of Old Testament freebies. RHB have the book for sale at a lower price than Amazon! They’re also offering a pack of 5 for $50

RSS/Email readers may have to click here to view the poster.

The Covenant of Grace

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Egypt’s Christians Are Facing a Jihad
“As of Sunday night, some 58 churches, as well as several convents, monasteries, and schools, dozens of Christian homes and businesses, even the YMCA, have been documented as looted and burned or subject to other destruction by Islamist rioters.”

The Beauty of Purity
The story behind a beautiful viral photograph.

Two Free Books
The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood are offering two free books on biblical manhood and womanhood.

7 Reasons the Old Testament is Neglected
By some OT prof in Grand Rapids.

10 Things I’ve Learned from 26 Years of Marriage
Wisdom from Ed Stetzer.

Housewife Theologian
Having enjoyed Aimee’s lively blog for a few years, I’m looking forward to reading this book and commending it to others. Who’s it for? As Aimee says in her book trailer, “Every married woman is a housewife and every person is a theologian.”