Archive | November, 2012

Who Really was Santa Claus?

Who Really was Santa Claus?

Many Christians ignore Santa. He is believed to have nothing to do with the “real” reason for Christmas. Much like the Easter bunny, Santa seems to be a pure distraction. Eliminate Santa and you will hopefully be able to more clearly see Jesus. This Christmas season, however, I am trying to allow every sighting of that big jolly fellow to take me deeper into Jesus.

I think you should actually increase your discussions about Santa. I think you should teach your children more, not less, about Santa. I think you need to get to know the real Santa. By getting to know the real Santa, every sighting of him will remind you of the real reason for the season.

The real name of Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas of Myra. The name Santa Claus is a Dutch version of the name Saint Nicholas. His actual life is far more interesting than the whimsical stories made up later.

Early Life

A Christian man named Epiphaneas and his wife Nona always wanted to have a child. They lived on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea in modern-day Turkey. They prayed many times for a child but Nona remained barren. They determined if the Lord would work a miracle and provide a son they would, like Hannah in the Old Testament, devote the boy to the Lord. After 30 long years of praying a boy named Nicholas entered the world around 275AD.

Life was not easy in the 3rd century. In the ancient world, without modern medicine, most any disease could prove crippling or fatal. The local and federal government of the day did not provide social services. If people could not take care of themselves they would starve. Christians made a huge difference by loving those forsaken by other people. They provided hospice care for the sick, support for widows, orphans and the unfortunate. While Nicholas was still a boy a plague swept through his area. His parents, unfortunately, were both killed by the plague. What would become of Nicholas?
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Seven Historical Events that Prepared the Way for the Reformation

It is impossible to be certain about why the Reformation happened when it did. God’s providence is filled with mysterious movements. One cannot just “map” God. However, the Great Reformation of the 16th century was ripe for bringing about extraordinary reform and rediscovery of the fullness of the Gospel. Here are seven historical events which we believe facilitated the change.

1. The Christian Crusades:

From the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries, the campaigns to free Jerusalem and halt Muslim expansion into the West exhausted Westerners of their hope and reliance on the Papacy to wield the sword of justice. While the first crusade carried much of the hope that Leo I brought to the West when he held off Attila the Hun, the crusades that followed gave people second thoughts about God’s hand behind the Papacy. During the crusades, the plenary indulgence was introduced by Pope Urban II as a full remission of temporary punishment for sins, if one became a crusader. This “replaced” the Gospel and the sacrifice of Christ with a definitive work that man could do.

Free Video – Session 1 from the Church History Boot Camp

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Theological Trading Cards!

When my friend Norman Jeune of Christians in Context first told me about his idea to create theological trading cards, I have to admit I felt quite a bit of jealousy. Why didn’t I think of this?! My jealousy turned to excitement when I got my box in the mail. There are nearly 300 cards (think baseball cards without the gum) of theologians and heretics. These are a blast and a great way to keep up on who’s who in church history. There is a picture (when we know what they looked like!) on front and a wealth of information on back. I can’t believe they found a picture of Nestorius! Poor guy, he was not even an advocate of the heresy which goes by his name. Nevertheless, he made it on the team of “Orthodoxy Dodgers”!

This is the kind of stuff Howard Hendricks talks about when he tells Christians to “color outside the lines”! Bravo Norm.

Get your box now.


Sin in the Life of a Believer

Thanks to a friend who gave me some wonderful quotes about sin in the life of a believer.

Matthew Henry

The more pure and holy the heart is, it will have the more quick feeling as to the sin that remains in it. The believer sees more of the beauty of holiness and the excellence of the law. His earnest desires to obey, increase as he grows in grace. But the whole good on which his will is fully bent, he does not do; sin ever springing up in him, through remaining corruption, he often does evil, though against the fixed determination of his will. The motions of sin within grieved the apostle. If by the striving of the flesh against the Spirit, was meant that he could not do or perform as the Spirit suggested, so also, by the effectual opposition of the Spirit, he could not do what the flesh prompted him to do.

This passage does not represent the apostle as one that walked after the flesh, but as one that had it greatly at heart, not to walk so. And if there are those who abuse this passage, as they also do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction, yet serious Christians find cause to bless God for having thus provided for their support and comfort.  And no man who is not engaged in this conflict, can clearly understand the meaning of these words, or rightly judge concerning this painful conflict, which led the apostle to bemoan himself as a wretched man, constrained to what he abhorred.

He could not deliver himself; and this made him the more fervently thank God for the way of salvation revealed through Jesus Christ, which promised him, in the end, deliverance from this enemy.

So then, says he, I myself, with my mind, my prevailing judgement, affections, and purposes, as a regenerate man, by Divine grace, serve and obey the law of God; but with the flesh, the carnal nature, the remains of depravity, I serve the law of sin, which wars against the law of my mind. Not serving it so as to live in it, or to allow it, but as unable to free himself from it, even in his very best state, and needing to look for help and deliverance out of himself.

He was willing to act in all points agreeable to the law, in his mind and conscience, but was hindered by indwelling sin, and never attained the perfection the law requires. What can be deliverance for a man always sinful, but the free grace of God, as offered in Christ Jesus?

The power of Divine grace, and of the Holy Spirit, could root out sin from our hearts even in this life, if Divine wisdom had not otherwise thought fit. But it is suffered, that Christians might constantly feel, and understand thoroughly, the wretched state from which Divine grace saves them; might be kept from trusting in themselves; and might ever hold all their consolation and hope, from the rich and free grace of God in Christ.

An excerpt from Pilgrim’s Progress – ‘My Name At First Was Graceless’ (edited) Continue Reading →

Textual Criticism in a Nutshell

I have received a lot of questions about this subject, so here it is again:

I don’t know about you, but the copyright date on my Bible is 2002 (I usually read from the ESV). What does that mean? It means the Bible that I read from, study from, and teach from is nearly 2000 years newer than the original. How do we know that errors have not crept in after 2000 years? You may have an older version. If you use an NASB or NIV, your Bible will not be much better off. Thirty years closer to the original is not saying much. Even if you are a hard-core KJV advocate, using an “original” 1611 version, your Bible is still over fifteen hundred years removed from the original New Testament and over two thousand years newer than the Old Testament. More than that, these Bibles are all in English; the New Testament was written in Greek, and the Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew. More than that, the Greek and Hebrew of the Scriptures are both dead languages, meaning they are not spoken anymore.

With all this time and change, doesn’t it seem likely that there have been many errors in transcription that have crept into the text, corrupting the original beyond repair? How can we know our Bible is reliable?

What is Textual Criticism?

This is where the discipline of “textual criticism” comes in. Don’t be afraid of the word “criticism” in relation to the Bible. Textual criticism is the art and science of reconstructing the original text of the Scripture. A “text critic” is one who examines the available evidence and makes important decisions as to how the Bible we hold today, two thousand years removed from the original, should read. There are not many text critics who are trained and skilled enough to make these types of decisions. It is both time-consuming and expensive to devote yourself to this field. One has to be highly trained in the language in which he or she is working, they have to devote much time to tedious examination of ancient texts, and they have to travel—a lot! This all gets expensive.

As well, it is not a job that will get you much recognition. The work of a text critic forms the background of all our studies in the Scriptures, yet we hardly give this issue a first thought.

The first thing that must be understood is that we don’t have the originals of the various books of the Scriptures. We don’t even have an original fragment. All we have to work from are copies of copies of copies, etc. Before the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century, all copies of the Scriptures were hand produced. There are approximately 6000 handwritten copies of the New Testament in Greek that we have cataloged. There are far fewer of the Old Testament. These copies date from around 125 A.D to the fifteenth century. These copies are referred to as extant (existing) manuscripts. Continue Reading →

The Voice That Binds

(Lisa Robinson)

It is quite common today to hear Christians say that God spoke to them or that they are seeking to hear God’s voice for some type of guidance. No longer under the purview of Charismatic circles, this concept has seeped into the fabric of mainstream evangelicalism. Therefore, to address how God speaks today must expanded beyond a continuationist vs cessationist  paradigm, although ultimately the premise that God does not speak beyond scripture is clearly a cessationist position.

One of the issues related to God speaking is identifying how he speaks. The evangelical position would state that God speaks in scripture; scripture is the divine voice in which God reveals himself. But once it moves beyond scripture, how do we take his voice? No reasonable regenerated person is without the subjective experience of impressions and hearing that voice in our head. Well, I suppose that makes sense since we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who permeates all our faculties. So the reason to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be influenced by the Holy Spirit. But I’m going to suggest, that is different that God speaking

I believe that the more appropriate way to consider the voice of God is related to general vs special revelation. General revelation is where God makes his presence known through creation.  In this way, his presence is his voice. Consider Romans 1:18-20 and Psalm 19:1-6.  I came across this neat article here that talked about lessons from a lady bug on and how God used a lady bug to remind her of what he has already spoken through scripture. It is why we can watch a movie that has themes of the fall and redemption and be reminded of God’s loving acts through the sacrifice of his Son. And I would say even that voice we hear in our head is a product of general revelation. Special revelation is related to how God speaks with respect to knowledge and obedience of him.  This necessarily entails faith in Christ and his Word.

Here’s the question I’ve been asking lately: how hearing the voice of God relates to obedience to him. In other words, if you are looking for God to speak to you for guidance and you believe that he speaks outside of scripture, then you are obligated to obey what you believe he is commanding.  The cessationist says that God’s speech ceased in the revelation of Christ and whatever commands he has given are provided in scripture.  So special revelation is restricted to scripture. That does not negate the subjective nature of general revelation, that may even include hearing “that small still voice” in our heads. Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: Roman Catholicism – Part 3 – Authority

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, JJ Seid and Sam Storms as they continue their series on Roman Catholicism by speaking about Authority.


Sowing in Tears

I recently came across these words written by John Piper 21 years ago regarding Psalm 126:5-6. Many a God-lover has paused over these two verses, chewing on the reality they represent.

Piper’s comments are insightful and will hopefully be an encouragement to you.

Psalm 126:5-6:
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy!
He that goes forth weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

There is nothing sad about sowing seed. It takes no more work than reaping. The days can be beautiful. There can be great hope of harvest. Yet the psalm speaks of “sowing in tears.” It says that someone “goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing.” So why are they weeping?

I think the reason is not that sowing is sad, or that sowing is hard. I think the reason has nothing to do with sowing. Sowing is simply the work that has to be done even when there are things in life that make us cry. The crops won’t wait while we finish our grief or solve all our problems. If we are going to eat next winter we must get out in the field and sow the seed whether we are crying or not.

This psalm teaches the tough truth that there is work to be done whether I am emotionally up for it or not; and it is good for me to do it. Suppose you are in a blue funk and it is time to sow seed. Do you say, “I can’t sow the field this spring, because I am in a blue funk.” If you do that you will not eat in the winter.

But suppose you say, “I am in a blue funk. I cry if the milk runs out at breakfast. I cry if the phone and doorbell ring at the same time. I cry for no reason at all. But the field needs to be sowed. That is the way life is. I do not feel like it, but I will take my bag of seeds and go out in the fields and do my crying while I do my duty. I will sow in tears.”

If you do that, the promise of the psalm is that “you will reap with shouts of joy.” You will “come home with shouts of joy, bringing your sheaves with you.” Not because the tears of sowing produce the joy of reaping, but because the sheer sowing produces the reaping, and you need to remember this even when your tears tempt you to give up sowing.
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