Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is It Wrong to Display a Picture of Robert E. Lee? My Response

Dr. Russell Moore, who grew up in Mississippi, has published a very thoughtful and well balanced response to a question he received concerning Robert E. Lee.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

August 1914 Aftermath

"When at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one dominiant one transcending all others: disillusion. "All the great words were cancelled out for that generation." wrote D. H. Lawrence in simple summary for his contemporaries. If any of them remembered, with a twinge of pain, like Emile Verhaeren, "the man I use to be," it was because he knew the great words and beliefs of the time before 1914 could never be restored.

After the Marne the war grew and spread until it drew in the nations of both hemispheres and entangled them in a pattern of conflict no peace treaty couold dissolve. The Battle of the Marne was one of the decisive battles of the world not because it determined that Germany would ultimatly lose or the Allies ultimatly win the war but because it determined that the war would go on. There was no looking back, Joffe told the soldiers on the eve. Afterward there was no turning back. The nations were caught in a trap, a trap made during the first thirty days out of battles that failed to be decisive, a trap from which there was, and has been no exit."

(The Guns of August; Barbara W. Tuchman; (1962, Bantam Books edition, 1976); (Page 489)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To him who overcomes: The Promises of Revelation 2 -3

(The following material is a refinement and expansion of some notes prepared for a Sunday School class I recently taught.)

Introduction & Context

  • Brief Outline of the Structure of Revelation; “The Book of Sevens” :

    • 7 Churches, 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets, 7 Bowls of Wrath

    • One Other group of 7: The 7 Thunders (10:1-4) between the 6th and 7th Trumpets. Lesson of the 7 Thunders = We don’t have the full story...

  • The Letters to the Seven Churches (Chapter 2 - 3)

    • Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea

    • “I know...” 2:2, 2:9, 2:13, 2:19, 3:1, 3:8, 3:15

    • Indictment & Warning: “But I have...” (Exception of Smyrna & Philadelphia)

    • Exhortation: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

    • A Promise to him who overcomes.

The Promises to him who Overcomes:

  • The one receiving the promises: “To him who overcomes (νικῶντι)...” conquers, being victorious, one who wins.. (I John 2: 13 - 14, 5:4-5) (Persus identifies νικῶντι as the 3rd pl pres ind act of νικάω.)

    John uses the the same verb, νικάω, in his first epistle. In I John 5:4-5, we are told that the mark of our being one who overcomes is our faith.

    "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"

    Faith is a vital element of what it means to overcome.

    (In I John 2:13-14, while addressing the young men, “overcome “ is in the perfect tense, speaking of one who “has overcome and continues to overcome”. The “overcomes” in Rev. 2-3 is present tense, with focus on “the one who is overcoming...”.)

  • All the things promised in the seven letters to the seven churches to the one who overcomes are pointing to different aspects of the one main overarching thing that is the central focus of these promises; eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth. Each of the things promised point to some specific aspect of what that eternal life will be like. (Kudos to my friend Mark Evans for pointing this out.)

  • Ephesus (2:7) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.' - Genesis 2:15, 3:22-23

    As a consequence of the fall, in Genesis 3:22-23 mankind is barred from access to the tree of life.
    "Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—" therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life."

    The promise is that in the consummation, the overcoming one will no longer be denied access to the tree of life. The redeemed humanity will be allowed to partake of its benefits (Revelation 22:1-2).

  • Smyrna (2:11) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death."

    The phrase “Second death” is found only in Revelation: 20:6, 20:14, 21:8 The second death is clearly identified as the lake of fire. This promise reiterates the specific promise in vs. 10 regarding the crown of life, and expands the scope of the promise beyond the specific believers in Smyrna who are the focus of vs. 10.

  • Pergamum (2:17) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

    The reference to manna brings to mind the imagery of Exodus 16 and how God fed the children of Israel in the wilderness. In John’s Gospel account, Jesus makes reference to that account in his Bread of Life discourse in John 6.

    The best understanding of the white stone has reference to an athletic event. The victors would be given a white stone with their name on it . This white stone was their ticket to the athletic banquet held after the competition (MacArthur, Thomas). This is rather striking imagery when considered in the eschatological context of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

  • Thyatira (2:26-29) “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

    Psalm 2, “the morning star” Isaiah 14:12, 2 Peter 1:19, Revelation 22:16

    The imagery of this promise immediately points us to the Messianic features of Psalm 2.

  • Sardis (3:5-6) “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

    "the book of life" - Philippians 4:3, Revelation 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27

  • Philadelphia (3:12-13) “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 21:1-4, 21:9-10

    The placing of someones name on another was a sign of ownership. The placing of these three names on the one who overcomes is the assurance that they belong to Christ.

  • Laodicea (3:21-22) “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

    Hebrews 8:1, 12:2 Revelation 12:5,


On what basis do we overcome? From Romans 8:31 - 39, verse 37 states that we are “overwhelming conquerors” through him who loved us.

In I John 2, it is our faith that overcomes. In Romans 8:37, the same word is used as the root word for a compound verb form. The prefix used in this compound construction carries the meaning of overflowing, or overwhelming, above and beyond. In this Roman passage, our overwhelming overcoming is based on “him who loved us...”

Putting together these two thoughts from I John 2 and Romans 8, we overcome by faith in “him who loved us...”; faith in Jesus Christ, faith in His word, faith in His promises.

The promises found in Revelation 2 - 3 are for all those who overcome through faith in Jesus Christ and His promises.


Bible (ESV, NASB, KJV)

The New Greek - English Interlinear New Testament; (Nestle/Aland Greek text); (Tyndale House, 1990)

Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary; Robert L. Thomas; (Moody Press, 1995)

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11; John MacArthur Jr.; (Moody Press, 1999)

The Perseus Digital Library

Friday, July 02, 2010

A Broader Vision of Ministry

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matthew 9:36-38)

We live very close to a metropolitan area with a population estimated to be over 775,000 people. Within a 10 mile radius from where we live there are about 218 churches, and that includes all denominations; Catholic, Lutheran, other mainline Protestant denominations, and so forth. Do the math and we have approximately 1 church for every 3,500 people in the metro area.

Now lets include a plus/minus for other factors involved in where people in the area might go to church, if they go at all. For that plus/minus, lets go as high as 30%. Why 30%? Because that's the number I pulled off the top of my head. (I'm not claiming this is scientifically precise.) Our range is now 4,550 - 2,540 per church. Even if my estimate for the number of churches in the area is off by plus/minus 30%, the ratio of the total population to the number of churches is pretty high. And it should be clear that if we divided the area's population by only the number of Evangelical churches in the area, the ratio goes up even higher. Let me ask a question.

Is this area "over-churched"?

I think not...

So what do we do? One of the things we do is pray for laborers to enter into the harvest, but do we recognize them when we see them? Do we recognize the answer to our own prayers?

A brother has a vision for the need. He wants to do something about it. He even has the audacity to believe there is a need to start another church in the area. How do we respond? Do we encourage him? I'm not talking about a man who is a novice, new to the faith. I'm talking about a man that has a relative level of spiritual maturity, and has even had some level of ministerial and theological training.

One of the objections we might hear is, "But he's not qualified..."

Oh really?

Maybe for your church and tradition he isn't. And maybe he doesn't fit your ecclesiastical circle, but do you really want to write him out of all ministry whatsoever because he doesn't cross all your "t"'s and dot all your "i"'s? You really want to claim that your tradition alone has the market on the what and how of the Timothy and Titus passages on the qualifications for ministry? Oh really?

What would happen if instead you said, "Brother! I thank God for your vision and desire. I'm not sure how well you fit our tradition and our way of doing things, but if you can find some group that you fit better with, and they are willing to help you, then go in peace with our blessing, and we will pray God uses you to start that church and that it will be able to reach some of those in our desperately needy metropolitan area that we are not able to reach."

To say such a thing and really mean it would require humility in several areas.

We would need to be humble enough to realize we in our particular Christian tradition are not Lord of "the call".

We would need to be humble enough to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in building Christ's church is not limited to our particular Christian tradition or ecclesiastical group.

We would need to be humble enough to look beyond our own particular tradition and ecclesiastical circles and actively embrace and pray for God's work outside our limited boundaries. To do so requires the humility to admit that the churches of my own particular tradition or ecclesiastical circle cannot meet the massive overwhelming need in our metropolitan area by ourselves.

Over the past few months I've become aware of two separate situations of men with a vision of the desperate needs in our metropolitan area and a God given desire to do something about it. All tradition and ecclesiastical circles aside, here is my response.

"Brothers! God bless you! May He use you to reach some of those desperately needy people in our metro area that the rest of us are not reaching. God bless you! Go in peace! May He guide and direct you in all you do to His honor and glory alone! Amen!"

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Comfort of the Gospel

"People need to hear the comfort of the gospel again and again. They need to be reminded of who they are in Christ and what they have received in his life, death, and ressurection. It is not safe to assume that a Christian that attends a good church understands this. People often live with huge gaps in their understanding of the gospel. One gap is in understanding how the comfort of the gospel radically changes our approach to life in the here and now. Daily confession of sin is essential to a gospel-driven lifestyle. It makes no sense to rationalize, blame-shift, or rewritre history to make myself look better. Self-examination and confession flows out of a deep confidence that Christ's work is effective for me today. I come to him confident that he forgives me."

(Instruments In The Redeemer's Hands; Paul David Tripp; (P&R Publishing, 2002); pg. 215)