What Is God Up to with Corona?

Erik Raymond: “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” (John Piper) I appreciate this quote because it reminds us of our limited perspective. We simply cannot see all that God is doing. But even above blind spots, we have capacity issues. Not only is God doing more than we can see, but he is also doing more than we can fathom. Therefore the first steps in Christian humility have to be in the path revealed by God’s Word. In it, we are given a divine intel briefing that helps us to know what’s going on. Take the current pandemic, for example. If I had a buck for every time someone postulated as to what God was doing in this situation, we’d be making our church budget. There are mysteries here that we simply do not know. But there are things revealed that we do know. Amid this current trial,

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4 Ways to Care for Fearful Church Members

Jonathan Rourke: The familiar voice of a pastor can bring peace in times of trouble. Your consistent ministry of the Word and love for your people create a strong bond. It’s often easily overlooked in the good times, but when circumstances suddenly change, so does our people’s appreciation for sound words of grace and truth. Though we can be tempted to judge people gripped by fear, this is a stewardship not to be squandered. After all, these members have been entrusted to you, and you will give an account for those souls. Below are lessons I’ve learned from sometimes failing to properly care for fearful members. First, acknowledge that fear is real.  Regardless of the actual threat level, you’re ministering to a person with a real need, and for that reason alone, it must be taken seriously. The fact that you’re not afraid, hurt, discouraged, confused, or suffering from any kind of distress does not discharge you from the duty

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The Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence of God

John Frame: DEFINITION The three “omni” attributes of God characterize him as all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present. Each of these involves the other two, and each provides a perspective on the all-embracing lordship of the true God. SUMMARY Omnipotence means that God is in total control of himself and his creation. Omniscience means that he is the ultimate criterion of truth and falsity, so that his ideas are always true. Omnipresence means that since God’s power and knowledge extend to all parts of his creation, he himself is present everywhere. Together they define God’s lordship, and they yield a rich understanding of creation, providence, and salvation. Introduction The prefix omni means “all,” so the three divine attributes in our title can be paraphrased by saying that God is “all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present.” Let us look at these individually. Omnipotence Scripture affirms God’s omnipotence by saying that God does whatever he is pleased to do (Psa 115:3; cf. Isa 55:11 and Jer 32:17). Nothing is

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Give Me Doctrine or Give Me Death

Greg Gilbert: In recent years, a number of books have been published that urge Christians to rethink a traditional understanding of “doctrine.” The discussions surrounding this question are many and varied, and they take place on every level of theological sophistication. At the highest levels, the questions probe whether doctrine is even possible given postmodern ways of thinking: How capable are we of formulating any objective statements at all, given that we are all products of a culture? Is the idea of propositional truth even valid? Does the Bible contain doctrine as we have defined doctrine in the past? These types of questions have begun to filter down into more popular works as well, so that they are becoming a part of the collective evangelical consciousness. At the more popular level, though, they are not articulated in terms of whether objective, propositional doctrines can exist in a postmodern world. They are stated like this: if I want a Christianity that

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Is God in Control of Everything?

R.C. Sproul: One of Scripture’s most difficult concepts is that God can bring good out of evil. We remember that Joseph’s brothers betrayed him and, upon being reunited with him in Egypt, feared his revenge. But Joseph said to them, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). That was God’s intention. He used the brothers’ treacherous activity in order to save lives, sanctify Joseph, and bring His plan to pass. One of the most comforting passages in the New Testament is Paul’s statement that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). We must be careful here. Paul does not say that everything that happens, considered in and of itself, is good. Nor is our theme song “Que Sera, Sera,” “Whatever will be, will be.” We do have the astonishing promise, however, that everything will work together for good for those who

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Theological Reflections on the Pandemic

Brian Tabb: So thou, sick world, mistak’st thy self to be Well, when alas! thou’rt in a lethargy. . . . There is no health; physicians say that we, At best, enjoy but a neutrality. And can there be worse sickness than to know That we are never well, nor can be so? —John Donne, “An Anatomy of the World” Once again, the terrifying term “pandemic” has been headline news. On December 31, 2019, Chinese health officials reported cases of serious respiratory sickness in people associated with a large market in Wuhan, China. This outbreak was soon linked to a “novel coronavirus” (later given the innocuous name “COVID-19”), and the World Health Organization declared “a global public health emergency” due to the deadly virus. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as “a pandemic,” with confirmed cases of the virus in well over 100 countries, thousands of confirmed deaths—and thousands of new cases being reported each day. The Center for Disease Control ominously warns that there is “no vaccine

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Will We Keep Singing? Trusting God in Troubling Times

David Mathis: I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end — it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:1–4) It doesn’t take much to realize we are living in trying times. Longstanding tensions with North Korea, and now new intensity with Iran. More than forty, to date, have died from the coronavirus in China, and it was announced this morning that we have our third case of it in

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God’s Sovereignty Over Leviathan and Behemoth

Christopher Ash: G. K. Chesterton suggests that as Job listens to God’s speeches, “he feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain his design is itself a burning hint of his design.” What is conveyed to Job—and to us—in the Behemoth and Leviathan descriptions is indeed almost too good to be told. And yet it’s true. Leviathan and Behemoth—Figures of Darkness It seems Behemoth may be the storybook embodiment of the figure of death. And the Leviathan in biblical imagery is the archenemy of God. In the Leviathan we see the embodiment of beastliness, of terror, of undiluted evil. When, at the climax of his description, we read “he is king over all the sons of pride” (41:34), we’re reading of the one who elsewhere is called “Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (Matt. 12:24). This second divine speech to Job addresses the problem of supernatural evil in

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What Does it Mean to Abide in Christ?

Sinclair Ferguson: The exhortation to “abide” has been frequently misunderstood, as though it were a special, mystical, and indefinable experience. But Jesus makes clear that it actually involves a number of concrete realities. First, union with our Lord depends on His grace. Of course we are actively and personally united to Christ by faith (John 14:12). But faith itself is rooted in the activity of God. It is the Father who, as the divine Gardener, has grafted us into Christ. It is Christ, by His Word, who has cleansed us to fit us for union with Himself (15:3). All is sovereign, all is of grace. Second, union with Christ means being obedient to Him. Abiding involves our response to the teaching of Jesus: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you …” (John 15:7a). Paul echoes this idea in Colossians 3:16, where he writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” a statement closely related to his parallel

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How Jesus Fulfilled the Passover – Salvation through Substitution

Justin Dillehay: This year the Jewish celebration of Passover will begin on Wednesday, April 8, two days before the Christian celebration of Good Friday. The proximity of these two religious holy days is nothing new. It reminds us that Jesus was crucified during Passover, and that as a Jew he had come to Jerusalem to celebrate it. But is that just a coincidence? Did Jesus just happen to die during Passover? The biblical answer is no. The reason he came to Jerusalem that final time wasn’t just to celebrate Passover, but to become our Passover. As the apostle Paul says plainly in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.” But what does that mean? To see the answer, we need to begin at Exodus 12, the story of the first Passover. There we’ll see why the Passover was necessary and what it meant. Having learned Passover’s meaning, we’ll then look at how Christ became our Passover. Exodus 12 and the First Passover

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10 Things You Should Know about Definite Atonement

Jonathan Gibson: 1. Definite atonement is a way of speaking about the intent and nature of Christ’s death. The doctrine of definite atonement states that, in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. In a nutshell: the death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone; and not only was it intended to do that but it effectively achieved it as well. Jesus will be true to his name: he will save his people from their sins. In this regard, the adjective ‘definite’ does double duty: Christ’s death was definite in its intent—he died to save a particular people; and it was definite in its nature—his death really does atone for sin. 2. Definite atonement has courted controversy in the Christian church.

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Can Christians lose their salvation? (Hebrews 6)

Dennis E. Johnson: For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. —Hebrews 6:4-6 The Gravity of Apostasy “Impossible” arrests our attention, abruptly opening a Greek sentence that runs for three verses. The author then builds suspense by withholding the detail of what, precisely, is “impossible” until the middle of verse 6: it is impossible, he finally says, “to restore . . . again to repentance” those who “have fallen away.” But before pronouncing a sober sentence on the spiritual treason from which there is no return, the author lists a series of

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The Book of Job

  Ray Ortlund: The book of Job is not answering a theoretical question about why good people suffer.  It is answering a practical question: When good people suffer, what does God want from them?  The answer is, he wants our trust. The book is driven by tensions.  One, Job really was a good man (1:1, 8; 2:3).  He didn’t deserve what he got.  Two, neither Job nor his friends ever saw the conflict going on between God and Satan, but his friends made the mistake of thinking they were competent to judge.  Three, his friends interpreted his sufferings in moralistic, overly-tidy, accusing categories (4:7-8).  Thus, they did not serve Job but only intensified his sufferings further.  Four, Job refused to give in either to his own despair or to their cruel insinuations.  He kept looking to God, he held on, and God eventually showed up (38:1-42:17). Two observations. One, even personal suffering has a social dimension, as others look on

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How Scripture Empowers Personal Holiness

John MacArthur: Becoming More like God Godliness, Christlikeness, and Christian spirituality all describe a Christian becoming more like God. The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in one richly (Col. 3:16). When one embraces Scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in the believer’s life (1 Thess. 2:13). The process could be basically defined as follows: Christian spirituality involves growing to be like God in character and conduct by personally submitting to the transforming work of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Holiness Embodies the Very Essence of Christianity Christians have been saved to be holy and to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:14–16). What does it mean to be holy? Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “to be holy” (which appear about two thousand times in Scripture) basically mean “to be set aside for something special.” Thus, God is holy in that he sets himself apart from creation,

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How Jesus Read the Scriptures

Nicholas T. Batzig: B.B. Warfield once summarized the mystery surrounding the two natures of Christ when he wrote, “Because he is man he is capable of growth in wisdom, and because he is God he is from the beginning Wisdom Itself.” The Scriptures, at one and the same time, insist that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and that He “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Believers profess to understand what it means that Jesus never changes inasmuch as He is God, but they have a harder time understanding what it means that Jesus grew in wisdom as a true man. The explanation that we discover by means of scriptural allusions might surprise many Christians. In short, as a man, Jesus needed to learn the Scriptures. Jesus had to grow in His capacity for sinless human development to the extent that one can grow at each age and at each

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10 Things You Should Know about the Necessity of Biblical Preaching

Sam Storms: In last week’s installment of our ten-things-you-should-know series I focused on the causes for the demise of biblical preaching. Today I want to focus on why it is so critical that pastors be committed to the exposition of the Word. (1) We must preach because of the power of the Word of God to change human lives and to transform the experience of the church. Tragically, although they would hardly admit it openly, many preachers have grown suspicious of the power of the Scriptures to change lives. Day in and day out they face marriages that are disintegrating, teenagers who are rebelling, both young and old fighting addictions from which they can’t break free, not to mention the spiritual apathy of their congregations, and they secretly doubt if there is much help to be found in digging deeply into an ancient book. Contemporary problems call for contemporary solutions, and nothing seems more irrelevant and obsolete than Scripture. If that

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Why Do We Read Scripture?

Andrew Wison: Sometimes I use this blog as a place to jot down preaching and teaching ideas that occur to me, so I can find them later. (Come to think of it, that’s pretty much all I use this blog for, it’s just that some jotting takes more time than others.) The question I was thinking about recently was this: Why do we read Scripture? What is it that we are trying to achieve as we do? What are the marks of reading it successfully (a horrible word in the context, but you know what I mean)? Here is one wrong answer, and five right ones. We do not read it to earn. It is so easy to be tricked into thinking like this, but the purpose of reading the Bible is never to present God with a good work that entitles you to a reward. You are no more justified after reading a Bible for an hour than you are after playing

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How God Changes Hearts for His Glory

Mike Reeves: How Grace Triumphs As Spurgeon saw it, the new birth of a Christian has to be a work of pure divine grace: the sinful human heart is impotent, unwilling, and wholly unworthy. In fact, he declared, God’s work of new creation is even more glorious than his original work of creation. After all, more than having to create out of nothing, in regenerating hearts God must overturn that which is overtly hostile to himself. Therefore, Spurgeon said, “I believe the Eternal might sooner forgive the sin of ascribing the creation of the heavens and the earth to an idol, than that of ascribing the works of grace to the efforts of the flesh, or to anyone but himself.”1 This provided him with great pastoral comfort as he worked amid all the mass degradation of working-class London. It meant that he was not left supposing that there are some more able and some so dehumanized as to be beyond

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Why Did Jesus Sleep During the Storm?

Scott Redd: The story of the sea storm in the Gospel of Mark picks up right after Jesus has given a series of sermons. He’s preached to a crowd so large that he had to speak from a boat pushed a short distance into the water. Mark 4:35–41 tells the story of Jesus calming the storm—but, curiously, we find the Lord asleep as the chaos breaks out around him: And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:37–39) Why was Jesus asleep in the boat? There are a few possible explanations. Mark, as well as most

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“I Am Who I Am”

John Piper: Why did God identify himself as “I Am Who I Am” — I absolutely am (Exodus 3:14)? Now, if we can take off our clouded spectacles of mere religious jargon, like G-O-D, this should come and will come as a bolt of lightning. God is. That’s staggering. What sentence could be more important in any language than God is? So, what did he mean when he said, “I absolutely am — I Am Who I Am”? What did he mean? No More Tinkering with Religion And I’m going to linger here longer than you think I should, perhaps, because until God becomes dominant in our thinking and in our feeling — until God becomes the blazing sun at the center of the solar system of our daily lives; until God becomes the Mount Everest in the foothills of all our concerns with this world; until God rests on the souls of the saints in Belfast, and on the churches of Northern Ireland;

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