Category Archives: Topics

The Book of Psalms (in 9 Minutes)

Trying to get the “big picture” on the Book of Psalms? The good folks at The Bible Project have a 9-minute video, that walks you through what the Psalms are all about.

 


What is an “Altar Call”… (and is it in the Bible)?

Sinners gathering on the “anxious bench,” during the American Second Great Awakening, in the early 19th century. The “anxious bench” was the forerunner to the modern “altar call” (Click to enlarge).

It is a feature of historic evangelicalism. The preacher has finished his message. The organist begins playing “Just As I Am” softly in the background. The preacher invites the sinner to come forward to the front of the church, where someone is there to pray for them, to make a decision for Christ.

This is a typical example of an “altar call.” It is a well-known tradition practiced in thousands of churches. So, why are some pastors hesitant to make an altar call?

Is the altar call … even Scriptural?

Before anyone can answer those questions fully, it helps to relay a story from church history. Every church has their traditions. But it does not mean that every Christian knows where those traditions come from… Continue reading


Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views; A Book Review

Last summer, I wrote a seven part blog series on the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” with links that you can follow here (the Intro, then #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7). To recap a year later, I thought I would recommend a book, where you can explore this issue in more depth.

The “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” is a controversial topic among evangelical Christians. Most people associate “Spirit baptism” with the charismatic renewal movement, and the “miraculous” gifts of the Spirit, such as “speaking in tongues,” and a very emotionally expressive style of worship, with lots of raised hands and swaying to the rhythm of praise and worship music in church. There are basically two camps on this issue, the continuationalists and the cessationists. Let me briefly break this down for those unfamiliar with the terminology.

Theologically speaking, those who believe that such miraculous gifts of the Spirit continue be operational in the church today are continuationalists. From the Bible, continuationalists believe that the “signs and wonders” displayed throughout the Book of Acts did not stop in the first century of the early church (see Acts 2:22; 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 8:13; 14:3). In other words, if folks like Peter and Paul witnessed remarkable miracles performed by the Holy Spirit, why would we not expect at least some of the same thing happening today?

On the other hand, those who believe that such gifts “ceased” to operate after the era of the original apostles ended are cessationists. The “go-to” verse for cessationists is 1 Corinthians 13:8, which they argue teaches that the “gifts of the Spirit,” like speaking in tongues, would eventually “cease,” according to the Apostle Paul, once the last of the first apostles died, and the New Testament writings were completed.

Continuationalists come in all shapes and sizes, some more low-key than others. Some downplay the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, even finding a way to fit in with more traditionally cessationist churches. On the other side, among the cessationists, are vocal opponents of the charismatic movement, who wish that anything even hinting of “speaking in tongues” would just completely go away! One of leading proponents of cessationism, is Southern California Bible teacher, John MacArthur, who contends that the charismatic movement today is similar to the false worship practice of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1, who used “strange fire” in the worship of the God of Israel.

But “Spirit baptism” is a more fundamental issue than whether or not “speaking in tongues” is valid for today. “Spirit baptism” deals with the role of the Holy Spirit in giving spiritual life to the believer. Do we get “all of the Holy Spirit” when we first begin a relationship with Jesus, or should Christians look forward to a subsequent experience where we encounter the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, in our Christian walk?
Continue reading


Podcasts for the Thinking Christian (2018 Update)

This is the age of the Internet podcast. About four years ago, I published a review of some of the most thoughtful and engaging Internet podcasts available at the time. Now is a good time to update the review.

What I like about podcasts is that I can download the MP3 material right to my phone, or even stream them directly from the Internet, even fire up a YouTube app in the background and just listen, either while I am driving around town in the car, or out pulling weeds in the yard. There has never been any other time in world history where someone can have such excellent access to the Bible and great Christian theological content.

What I do not like about podcasts is that there are too many of them, and the quality varies greatly, not just in terms of style, but more importantly, in terms of theological quality. The sheer volume and variety of options, with “Christian” themes, creates a crisis: Is the podcast done by some random person with a microphone, an Internet connection, and pages missing from their Bible? Or is it done by someone who actually knows what they are talking about, having a love for God, with Scripturally informed scholarship backing them up? Who can I trust?

My time is important, and probably, so is yours, so I have narrowed down to some of the better podcasts you can get. Depending on the category, I would recommend finding one or two podcasts you like, and subscribe to them, or otherwise, download select, archived material. So here is the update on the best Christian podcasts around… Continue reading


What Did You Think of The Royal Wedding Sermon?

The May 19, 2018 sermon by U.S. Episcopal bishop Michael Curry, at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, might have been the most watched Christian sermon, in world history. I am not a morning person, so I never bothered to get up for the wedding. But I have listened to a number of people give their opinions about the sermon, including a few evangelical Christians.

It just amazes me that two believers can listen to the same sermon, and get a completely different message out of it. Some Christians heard Bishop Curry give a powerful testimony to the love of God, a fiery display of the nature of the God of the Bible. Others heard a vague call to the power of human love, white-washed with Christian language, a camouflage over the false teaching it really was. Others just registered a “no comment” vote.

It was interesting that Curry appealed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (no surprise, really), as well as the controversial Roman Catholic paleontologist and priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was censured by the papacy, in the 20th century, for his writings in support of evolution, but who today has received calls for his rehabilitation, among some Roman Catholics, and other calls to retain his censure.

My thoughts are best reflected by the following witty, intelligent remarks by British evangelist Glen Scrivener (catch his Richard Niebuhr quote — right on!). What did you think of the sermon? Let me know in the comments section below. Bottom line: may we all have discernment and search the Scriptures for God’s Truth.

If you have not seen or heard the sermon, here it is:


%d bloggers like this: