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Archive | Theology

The Shoddiness of The Shack

With all the attention given to the movie The Shack, it would be good to take a careful look at the book it is based upon. The author, William P. Young, wrote The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity (Newbury Park, Calif.: Windblown Media) in 2007. Below is review of the book by Dr. Michael LeFebvre, pastor of Christ Church Reformed Presbyterian in Brownsburg, Indiana, and author of Singing the Songs of Jesus: Revisiting the Psalms and Exploring Ecclesiastes: Joy That Perseveres.

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The Shack is a modern day allegory of the Christian life. Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, William Young’s The Shack is a vivid tale designed to teach the reader about the way of salvation. But Young’s vision, while helpful in points, ultimately presents a different kind of salvation than that of Bunyan’s classic.

Bunyan’s pilgrim labors under the burden called “sin,” and he only finds freedom from its guilt by receiving forgiveness at the cross. Young’s protagonist is cast in a more postmodern image. The Shack’s central character is Mackenzie Phillips, whose struggle is not with sin and guilt; Mack’s burden is “the great sadness”—the accumulated emotional baggage from his abusive childhood and the death of his daughter. Rather than seeking his own forgiveness, Mack’s […]

The Beatitudes of the Heart: A Brief Reflection

Blessed are those who feel the weight of their spiritual need.
Blessed are those whose hearts break over sin and evil.
Blessed are the gentle and humble of heart.
Blessed are those who are thirsty and hungry for righteousness.
Blessed are those who love to shower forth mercy.
Blessed are those whose hearts are unstained.
Blessed are those who mend relationships with the salve of peace.
Blessed are those who suffer while following Christ.

It’s such a simple observation, but when I write out The Beatitudes in my own words, wanting to feel what is being said afresh, I am struck by how heart-centered they truly are.  Rather than revolving around codes of dress or some other external manifestation, Christ plows deep into the soul of man, right into our beating hearts.  It is all about attitudes; and affections; and dispositions; the very deepest; the kind that not only swirl in the center but center on the whole- man in his totality.

It is the very best kind of focus.

I am also struck by another simple observation.  God wants these realities to constitute the sum total of his people.  Everyone is to be truly happy as they reflect and embody a goodness that is inherently sublime.  One might here think of Paul’s words […]

The Antidote To Evolution

Over recent weeks I’ve been preaching, for the second time, through the opening verses of the Book of Genesis. Last Lord’s Day I delivered my first sermon on the first day. In my second point, I was defending the Mosaic account from the error of the ‘Framework Hypothesis.’ In doing so, for the very first time, I felt with intense force, both the folly and falsehood of adopting such an erroneous position (attractive though it may seem for those who want to dodge the bullet of the creation-science debate).

There surely is little doubt, like most dangerous half-truths, that Moses presents the material of the original Creation in a highly structured, schematized way. Yet, on his part, that neither implies the unhistorical nature of the account, or that the details of each day, or the times the bible allots to them, do not correspond precisely to the truth or order of the facts. In reality, quite the opposite is the case: the Holy Spirit, through Moses, has important lessons to teach us, in the material contained in Genesis 1, about the nature and character of God, and the methods by which He has worked and still works.

Planned Order

Chief among these is […]

So You Want to Start a Book Club

Or at least I do. In fact, this year I’ve put out the call to my local church, assembling into one glorious band of reading brothers all those who have shown interest, or even partial interest, seeing how I’m not above cajoling the hesitant.

I’ve never done this before. Nor have I been a part of one. So it’s uncharted territory. But it sounds like fun.

Here’s how I envision it (and perhaps such visions of grandeur will inspire someone in another local body of believers to start a book club). I imagine us men tackling a book a month. The text could be political in nature, or theological, or cultural, or historical or whatever. No door stoppers. No arcane manuscripts from days medieval. Just good, thought-provoking books that not only challenge the mind, but sharpen the spirit. Or simply elicit joy.

I then imagine us sitting around together, once a month, like Oxford dons ornamented with cigars and golden drinks. As the evening waxes long, and as the shadows from the suit of armor in the corner deepen, we continue to pontificate into the night, solving the world’s problems and cracking the deep mysteries of life.

So that’s basically the format. […]

Coming February 2017–The Jerusalem Chamber

The Jerusalem Chamber is a unique collaborative podcast between pastors Shawn Anderson, Kyle Borg, Nathan Eshelman, and Joel Wood to provide a round table discussion on the Westminster Confession of Faith.

The Jerusalem Chamber gets its name from the meeting room at Westminster Abbey where, from 1643-1653, the Westminster Divines met to produce, among other things, the Westminster Confession of Faith. This confession remains one of the most enduring summaries of evangelical truth and remains the teaching of Presbyterian churches. Far from being an irrelevant relic of the past, it is our belief that the health of the church depends on continuing to pattern our doctrine, worship, and piety after it.

There are many good commentaries and works that explore the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The uniqueness of The Jerusalem Chamber podcast is that it provides an audio discussion with pastoral application of every paragraph of the confession. In February 2017 join Shawn, Kyle, Nathan, and Joel–four good friends and fellow pastors in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America–as they discuss “the humble advice of the Assembly of Divines.”

Find them at: www.JerusalemChamber.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

A Brief Reflection on Eternal Life and Proximity to God

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

It’s an amazing concept. To know God is to have eternal life.

Of course, one can immediately puzzle over the thought. Demons know God but do not have eternal life. So the knowing in view here must be of a specific sort. It has to be knowledge rooted in more than merely the acquisition of propositional facts. Jeopardy contestants may answer rightly many questions about God, but they may not have eternal life. The one does not necessarily follow from the other.

There appears to be, therefore, an intimate relationship between knowing and intimacy. Here one can think of how the Scriptures often play on the idea proximity, or our closeness to God. Let your mind Google through the Scriptures. Adam and Eve walked with the LORD in the coolness of the evening. But when they sinned, they were cast out of His paradise and away from His presence. The LORD filled the Temple. The Jews entered the Promised Land. But when they spurned the Lord, like an adulterous woman, the Land spewed them out, and the Lord’s presence vacated […]

Our Heart Telescope

In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, making it unique among attempts to peer into the universe. As Hubble orbits the Earth, it does so above the atmosphere, which distorts and even blocks the light that reaches our planet and is what makes the stars seem to twinkle.  This orbit allows Hubble to give a view of the galaxies that far surpass that of conventional telescopes on the ground that struggle with atmospheric distortion.

So 353 miles above the Earth, Hubble orbits our globe every 97 minutes (which is about five miles per second, meaning it goes across the United States in about 10 minutes).  Hubble has caused the knowledge of outer space to explode, as it has captured images never seen before of newly discovered galaxies and space phenomenon. Scientists have realized what is out there is far more beautiful, complex, and grand in magnitude than they had even imagined. For instance, they discovered there are ten times more galaxies in the observable universe. Who knows what lies beyond what our telescopes can observe now? It took getting beyond earth’s atmosphere for scientists to see new things.

As the Hubble telescope is to astronomy, so is the Spirit to the heart […]

What Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ Reveals About Christ and Culture

The following is a guest post by J.K. Wall who is a writer in Indianapolis. His modernized abridgment of William Symington’s work, Messiah the Prince Revisited, was published in 2014 by Crown & Covenant Publications. You can e-mail him at jk.wall@gmail.com.

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I have been enjoying the new Netflix Original series “The Crown,” which vividly dramatizes the change experienced by Elizabeth II immediately after she became queen of England.

Before she received the news of her father the king’s death—at a lodge in Kenya—Elizabeth was treated as a distinguished but otherwise normal guest. After hearing the news over the radio, all the hotel staff members and other guests knelt in her presence.

And yet, it would take another 16 months before Elizabeth was formally crowned. During those 16 months, Elizabeth took up the heavy work of queen and was referred to by everyone as “The Queen.” Not the queen-elect, or the queen-in-waiting, or the queen-to-be, or any such already-not yet title. She was, during that entire 16 months, as fully queen as she was after the formal coronation ceremony.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

This is a helpful picture for how we should understand the kingship of Jesus Christ. It’s important because our […]

The Dodecahedron of Deception

In about 12 hours times I’ll be back in the pulpit! Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll preach two Lord’s Day sermons, to the hearers in the congregation over which I have charge as a pastor.

How healthy, once again, to reflect on the timely warning James gives to would-be hearers lest they become ‘sermon-tasters’. It is also a forceful reminder to pray for the sort of Word-doing that is part & parcel of proper Word-hearing.

James puts this matter of sermon application so unforgettably in 1.22 of his epistle:

“Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Having taken a few moments to identify some traps that ensnare sermon hearers each week, I have begun to realise how multifaceted this sermon-tasting deception can be. This explains in part the slightly weird title ‘Dodecahedron of Deception.’ Here, then, are twelve traps & pitfalls, that hearers may fall into & must prayerfully seek help to avoid or escape, when they attend their meeting-house tomorrow!

We deceive ourselves when….

1. We apply the message to others for whom we feel the sermon is most fitting, whilst failing to apply it to our own case & heart, for which God intended it.

2. We take great delight in the subject, style, sound or structure […]

The Trumpet Blasts that Were Never Heard

We live in times where the church is needing to think through her relationship with the state and the rulers over us. This is not the first time in the history of Christianity where we have had to meditate on our doctrine of the magistrate or our relationship to those in authority. This is not the first time that we have had to choose between losing our right hand and losing our left. Where would you turn to read about the relationship between the church and an oppressive government?

Looking for a book on the relationship between the church and a tyrannical government may be useful for the church in the next few decades. Consider the following statements:

* It is not by birth that one can rule over a people; those under him must approve of that rule.
* Those who practice idolatry or are living publicly scandalous lives are not to be placed in public office.
* If a ruler proves to be a tyrant or is willfully disobedient to God’s Word, then not even an oath can keep him in office.
* If people too quickly or without due consideration put someone in office and it is later found that he is […]