Pouring Holy Water On Strange Fire (book review)

Pouring Holy Water On Strange FireI fully admit that I’m a little biased on this one. After all, what would you expect from a fourth generation Pentecostal? But even with that disclaimer, I thought Frank Viola did a masterful job in his critique called Pouring Holy Water On Strange Fire.

Viola’s book is a critique of John MacArthur’s book Strange Fire, in which MacArthur attempts to make the case that the way Pentecostals and Charismatics advocate and practice their faith is unscriptural. MacArthur would fall into the camp of the cessationists, who claim that all of the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit enumerated in the New Testament ceased when the apostles died, or when the canon of Scripture was closed. I’ve always found this a strained argument at best, or as Mark Driscoll says, one needs to do “exegetical origami” to reach the cessationists’ conclusion.

Frank Viola systematically critiques Strange Fire thought-by-thought, section-by-section. He does so fairly and academically, using respected Bible commentators, the writings of Church fathers, logic, personal examples, as well as other respected contemporary voices who express similar concerns against MacArthur’s arguments.

This is a good book for any student of the Bible to read. It’s not a lengthy tome, so you will not get bogged down in reams of academia, but you will be able to weigh the evidence that both cessationists and Pentecostals use.You can download the ebook version by clicking here.

17 Quotes From “Jesus”

Jesus A TheographyJesus: A Theography is one of those rare books that I gave a “must read” designation (you can read my full review by clicking here). It’s impossible to share with you all of the incredible thoughts that are in this book, but here are 17 of my favorite quotes from Jesus.

Unless otherwise designated, all the quotes are from Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola.

“In Jesus the promise is confirmed, the covenant is renewed, the prophesies are fulfilled, the law is vindicated, salvation is brought near, sacred history has reached its climax, the perfect sacrifice has been offered and accepted, the high priest over the household of God has taken His seat at God’s right hand, the Prophet like Moses has been raised up, the Son of David reigns, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, the Son of Man has received dominion from the Ancient of Days, the Servant of the Lord has been smitten to death for His people’s transgressions and borne the sins of many, has accomplished the divine purpose, has seen the light after the travail of His soul, and is now exalted and made very high.” —F.F. Bruce

“Jesus is the Logos. He is the Word, or the self-utterance, of God. So when God speaks, it is Christ who is being spoken about. When God breathes, it is Christ who is being imparted. The Spirit of God’s breath (the words ‘Spirit’ and ‘breath’ are the same in both Hebrew and Greek). The Second Testament tells us clearly that the Holy Spirit’s job is to reveal, magnify, and glorify Christ, Thus, because the Bible is inspired, it all speaks of Jesus. Again, Jesus Christ is the subject of all Scripture.” [The authors refer to the two sections of the Bible as the First and Second Testaments, in place of the usual designations of Old and New Testaments]

“Every word of the God-breathed character of Scripture is meaningless if Holy Scripture is not understood as the witness concerning Christ.” —G.C. Berkouwer 

“Your salvation was established, completed, and sealed before creation itself. Your Lord wrapped it up, won it, and came out victorious before anything ever went wrong.”

“What did He finish? He finished the old creation and the Fall. He finished sin. He finished a fallen world system. He finished the enmity of the Law. He finished satan. He finished the flesh. He put you to death and finished you completely. The person you were in Adam was terminated, swallowed up in death. And then He finished His greatest enemy, the child of sin itself, death. If that isn’t enough, He did something else beyond the rest: He raised you up in resurrection and glorified you.

“In Genesis 2:15, God commanded Adam to cultivate and keep the garden. The Hebrew word for cultivate is abad, and the Hebrew word for keep is shamar. These same Hebrew words are used to describe how the priests cared for the tabernacle of Moses. (The tabernacle was a precursor to the temple of Solomon.) The priests were to cultivate (abad) and keep (shamar) the tabernacle. In addition, we are told that God walked in the garden (Hebrew, hawlak) during the cool of the day. God also walked (hawlak) in the midst of the temple. The meaning is clear. The garden was a temple for God. Like the temple, the garden was the joining together of God’s space and man’s space—the intersection of the heavenly realm and the earthly realm. For this reason, Isaiah called it ‘the garden of the Lord,’ and Ezekiel called it ‘the garden of God.’ …Jesus Christ is the reality of the temple. (In the Greek, John 1:14 says Jesus ‘tabernacled among us.’) He is also the reality of the garden. He is the real Tree of Life and a flowing river. In Christ, God’s space and man’s space are joined together.”

“There are 184 verses in the birth narratives of the Second Testament. These 184 verses presuppose or repeat the words of 170 verses from eighteen verses of the First Testament.” 

“Jesus is the three shepherds: the good shepherd, the great shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd. Jesus presented Himself as both sheep and shepherd, the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. …Jesus died on the cross at the ninth hour (about three o’clock in the afternoon) when the Passover lamb would be sacrificed in the temple. Christ, the Paschal Lamb, was slain to atone for the sins of humanity and to open the gate of the true temple that promises God’s salvation for all people.”

“In the Second Testament, as the sacrificial sign of the new covenant, Jesus Himself becomes the sin offering of humanity. In fact, Jesus’ very words on the cross, ‘It is finished!’ (‘Kalah’), are the words used by a priest at the conclusion of the sacrificial offering in the temple. In the ancient days, when the Jewish priest had killed the last lamb of the Passover, he uttered the Hebrew word Kalah, ‘It is finished.’” 

“At His birth, Jesus received the myrrh. At His death, He rejected it. Jesus’ earthly ministry centered on alleviating human suffering. He was the personification of myrrh. In His crucifixion, however, He was bearing the full brunt of human pain, suffering, and agony on the cross. He bore our shame and sorrows. So He rejected the myrrh and the wine that came with it. Jesus took the full dose of suffering for sin on the cross so we wouldn’t have to. And He rejected the myrrh so we would be able to receive it.”

“When in a garden relationship with God, humanity had no need of the Torah, for we had the Tree of Life. The Torah was the Tree of Life reborn, and Jesus was the Torah reborn.”

“We need the whole Jesus. The complete Jesus. Everything He said. Every detail of what He did.” —Eugene Peterson

“The temptation of Jesus was a playback of two episodes in the First Testament. First, it’s a replay of the first temptation in the garden of Eden. John tells us that the three enemies of the Christian are ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.’ Each of these temptations was in play in the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden:

  • The fruit was ‘good for food’ = the lust of the flesh. 
  • The fruit was ‘pleasant to the eyes’ = the lust of the eyes. 
  • The fruit was ‘desirable to make one wise’ = the pride of life. 

“…The temptations that satan leveled at Jesus in the wilderness struck the same three chords. Here is the ordered presented in Luke 4 (paraphrased):

  • ‘Turn these stones to bread’ = the lust of the flesh. 
  • ‘I will give you the kingdom of the world and their glory’ = the lust of the eyes. 
  • ‘Cast yourself down from here and angels will protect you’ = the pride of life.” 

“The Second Covenant knows the First Covenant: the Second Testament quotes from the First Testament more than 320 times, and that does not include times when biblical writers, searching for the scriptural reference, were reduced to admitting that ‘somewhere’ it reads thus and so.”

“Theology is nothing more than the Holy Spirit making His way through our brains, as the Scriptures make their way through our hearts.” 

“In biblical prophesy, the coming of Jesus is viewed as one event separated by parentheses that stretch from the ascension to His royal appearing at the end of the age. We are now living in the parentheses, wherein we look back to His first coming and anticipate His second coming. Put another way, the kingdom has come and will come. Jesus’ first coming inaugurated the kingdom of God; His second coming will consummate it. So the coming of the Messiah is one event separated by two moments: Bethlehem and the end of the age.”

“As followers of Jesus, we have a task before us. That task is to work for the kingdom. To continue the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit… to bear witness to the sovereign lordship of Christ… to embody the message that Jesus is both Lord and Savior, not just of our personal lives but of the entire world. And to find creative ways to manifest that kingdom where we live and travel.” 

Thursdays With Oswald—The Bible

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

The Bible

The revelation of God’s will has been brought down to us in words. The Bible is not a book containing communications from God, it is God’s revelation of Himself, in the interests of grace; God’s giving of Himself in the limitation of words.

The Bible is not a faery romance to beguile us for awhile from the sordid realties of life, it is the Divine complement of the laws of Nature, of Conscience and of Humanity, it introduces us to a new universe of revelation facts not known to unregenerate commonsense. The only Exegete of these facts is the Holy Spirit, and in the degree of our reception, recognition, and reliance on the Holy Spirit will be our understanding….

The Bible does not simply explain to us the greatest number of facts, it is the only ground of understanding of all the facts, that is, it puts into the hand of the Spirit-born the key to the explanation of all mysteries….

The Bible tests all experience, all truth, all authority, by our Lord Himself and our relationship to Him personally….

From God’s Workmanship

Quite simply: The only authoritative Source we need to understand all the facts of life is the Bible.

Are you reading it? Every day? If not, make it a habit to live on, and live through, God’s Word to you.

An Unabashed Appeal To JOIN Religion & Government

Talk about taking a passing remark out of context! In a personal letter, Thomas Jefferson mentions how church and state should be separate. But I’m convinced where we’ve ended up is no where close to what he intended! I’m so tired of historical revisionists trying to convince us that biblical values and Judeo-Christian ethics had no place in the founding of our nation. Or — worse yet — that they have no place now. Consider these founding remarks…

“…Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia….” — Mayflower Compact

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence….” — Declaration Of Independence

“I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth, That God governs in the Affairs of Men! — And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without His Notice, is it probable than an Empire can rise without His Aid? — We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring Aid we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel…. I therefore beg leave to move, That henceforth Prayers, imploring the Assistance of Heaven, and its Blessing on our Deliberations, be held in this Assembly every Morning before we proceed to Business.” — Benjamin Franklin, Constitutional Convention

It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” — George Washington

“Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! What a Utopia, what aParadise would this region be.” — John Adams

And, of course, the quotes could go on and on and on. But one of my favorites:

“Yes, if our religion had more to do with our politics; if, in the pride of our citizenship, we had not forgotten our Christianity; if we had prayed more and wrangled less about the affairs of our country, it would have been infinitely better for us at this day.” — John Mitchell Mason (1770-1829), in his book published in 1800

Happy Birthday, America! May GOD bless you!

Biblical Ethics (book review)

Like every book from Oswald Chambers, be prepared for Biblical Ethics to hit you right between the eyes! In my lifetime the term ethics has had so many qualifiers added to it –

  • …situational ethics…
  • …biomedical ethics…
  • …wartime ethics…

…as though ethics becomes something changeable if you are in a difficult situation. But in clear, unequivocal language, Oswald Chambers brings all ethics back to the Bible.

Read the rest of this entry »

Barna’s Megathemes For 2010

I really appreciate the research that The Barna Group undertakes. I always find such timely insight into the mindset of people’s attitudes on matters of church and religion.

Their annual year-end report reveals the “megathemes” that they have observed emerging throughout the year. I encourage you to read the full article for yourself by clicking here, but the six megathemes for 2010 are:

  • The church is becoming less theologically literate.
  • Christians would rather be with other Christians than reach out to others.
  • Pragmatism is becoming more important than spiritual principles.
  • Christians are becoming more interested in community activism.
  • Tolerance is more accepted in the church.
  • The church’s influence in their local community is almost invisible.

Wow, looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us in 2011!

At Calvary Assembly of God, we’ve been streamlining our ministries to help us address these megathemes.

  • One way we are doing this is through our Next Level Groups. Each group is laser-focused on addressing where someone is in their faith walk, and helping them take the next step. These groups are more discussion-based than teaching-based, which allows us to be more individualized and intentional in helping increase biblical literacy.
  • We have a heavy emphasis on community involvement. We are involved in the B2B (business-to-business) group, the Community Action Network, the city and township official meetings, and the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association.
  • We are also involved in so-called activism efforts on the local level: Michigan Right to Life, Alpha Family Center, and Women At Risk International.
  • We are front-and-center in the traditional Cedar Springs events: Community Action Night, the Spooktacular, the Red Flannel Festival, and Mingle With Kris Kringle.
  • And we’ve planned two series of messages in 2011 to engage and activate our congregation. One is called Salt & Light to address how we can (and should) be people of influence in our communities, schools, and work. And the other is The Q Series where my Sunday messages will be answers to questions the congregation and community at-large have submitted.

What do you think about Barna’s Megathemes?

If you are a pastor or church leader, how do you plan to engage these megathemes in 2011?

%d bloggers like this: