Posted on Saturday, July 14, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Here is a great resource for information on and writings by some of the great Puritans (Monergism :: Puritans ). Enjoy!

Posted on Thursday, July 12, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

More good stuff from Michael Horton’s article in the most recent issue of Modern Reformation Magazine:

“We work very hard today to make grace normal rather than utterly disorienting. We bend over backward backwards to show how Christianity is ‘practical,’ how it conforms to our common sense and moral intuitions. ‘Practical Christianity’ (deeds, not creeds) is touted, although the actual practice of Christians is, according to the statistics, indistinguishable from that of non-Christians. The ‘righteousness that is by works’ looks for somewhere to go and something to do, while ‘the righteousness of faith’ receives Christ as he comes to us in the gospel (Rom. 10:1-13)…

“Sharing a common heritage in the revivalism of Charles Finney, mainline and evangelical Protestants have trouble being recipients of grace. The church becomes an army of activists – social engineers, moral reformers, event planners, life coaches – rather than a theater of grace where God has the lead role. As a result, the focus is not on how God gets to us (the logic of grace) but on ‘inducements sufficient to convert sinners with,’ as Finney put it, following his basically Pelagian view of the moral ability of fallen people. Finney’s Systematic Theology explicitly denies original sin and insists that the power of regeneration lies in the sinner’s own hands…”

This, by the way is not far from the common conception held by many evangelicals, particularly Pentecostals, Nazarenes, Methodists, and Southern Baptists. Many of us grew up learning from well meaning pastors that being born again (regeneration) comes about as a result of something we do. But this is remarkably different from the teaching of Jesus. In answer to Nicodemas’ inquiry on how to gain eternal life in heaven Jesus said, “You must be born again” (or, “from above”). What a wonderful metaphor for regeneration! Is there anything with which we have less to do than our birth? Jesus is assaulting Nicodemus’ “can-do” approach to salvation; an approach that many evangelicals share. To further drive home the point that the miracle of regeneration is an act entirely of God’s free will, Jesus added, “The wind (a reference to the Holy Spirit) blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

Horton goes on:
“American evangelicalism seems at least in its most popular forms today to be a version of spiritual technology – almost magic, with every new movement and best-selling author offering his or her own ‘Ten Steps’ to harnessing God’s power. In this context, grace is less God’s favor shown to sinners on account of Christ than the opportunity God has provided for greater spiritual and moral power if we cooperate properly, using our free will. John Newton the slave trader may indeed have been a ‘wretch,’ but surely not I…

“Grace can only be recognized in the face of Christ, for there the strangeness of God, of ourselves, and God’s method of redemption converge. Counter-intuitive, disruptive, and unsettling, the grace defined by Golgotha requires an entirely new set of presuppositions about God, ourselves, and how the relationship works. Yet the measure of the sheer gratuity of God’s grace is that it even gives us those new presuppositions in the very act of being given. Grace is God’s refusal to allow us to define ourselves or to have the last word. Rather, it is the surprising announcement that salvation is ‘not the result of human decision or effort, but of God who shows mercy’ (Rom. 9:16).”

Amen

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

The Strategic Ministry Planning Team at Metro East has spent time during our work talking about what it means to be a Gospel-Centered or Gospel-Driven church. I found this article ( GospelDrivenLife: The Gospel must be everything ) today on Mark Lauterbach's blog that says it quite well. Please take the time to read it.

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Jim over at Old Truth has an interesting article ( Confessions of a 'Numbers' Pastor ) on the modern church's obsession with numeric success. Check it out.

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Michael Horton has written an excellent article in the July/August edition of “Modern Reformation” magazine (http://www.modernreformation.org/). The title of the article is “Grace: How Strange the Sound.” As I read it I was reminded once again how easy it is for Christians to have shallow or otherwise misguided notions of just how radical grace truly is. We sing “Amazing Grace” but we adopt ideas that reduce grace to God’s passive response to our initiative. In a sense we come to see grace as a power that is made effective only inasmuch as we allow it to be effective. While we may say that grace is “amazing” what we are truly amazed by is the power of our own sovereign will that, in the end, even overcomes the very purposes of God. This unfortunate, but common way of thinking is why one prominent theologian speaks of the “pelagian captivity of the church.”

Horton writes:
“We work very hard to make God user-friendly. That’s why the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai, terrified by God’s voice, decided to make a golden calf that they could manage more safely. Instead of trembling in God’s presence, they ‘sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play’ (Ex. 32:6). We hear people talk today about their personal relationship with God as if he were a locker room pal or even a romantic interest. However, when people were actually confronted with God’s presence, they always came apart at the seams. Even Moses trembled with fear (Ex. 19-20; Heb. 12:18-29). Isaiah was all set to go on his mission to announce the woes (curses) on everybody else until he received a vision of God in his sanctuary, with seraphim and cherubim calling to each other, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.’ Isaiah could only respond, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.’ Nevertheless, one of the seraphim brought a glowing coal to the prophet and, touching it to his lips, said, ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, and your sin is atoned for’ (Isa. 6:3-7). Peter, hardly known for a reverent temperament, responded to the amazing catch of fish at Jesus’ command, fell on his knees and said, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man’ (Luke 5:8).

“To confess that God is holy is to say that he is not only quantitatively but qualitatively different from us. In other words, he isn’t simply better than we are, nicer, friendlier, more knowledgeable, more powerful, more loving. He is incomprehensible, unfathomable, unsearchable. We can only have access to him because he has willed to be our God, revealing himself by speaking ‘baby talk’ – accommodating to our frail capacities. Grace is God’s willingness not only to condescend to our creaturely finitude even to the point of assuming our flesh, but to give his life for us ‘while we were still enemies’ (Rom. 5:10).

“God is intolerant of sin, but just as infinite in his love and long-suffering. God is just and righteous, unable to let bygones be bygones, and yet he is free to have mercy on whom he will have mercy. To have mercy on the wicked, however, God cannot suspend his justice. God’s justice did not require the salvation of anyone, so his grace is totally free. When God is gracious toward sinners, it is not because his justice is sacrificed to his love, but because he has freely found a way to be ‘just and the justifier of the ungodly’ (Rom 3:26). At the cross, not only God’s love but his strangeness – his utter difference from us – is most clearly displayed…”

“[G]race is not an impersonal substance; it’s the personal attitude and action of God in Jesus Christ toward those who deserve the very opposite. Without the phrase ‘who deserve the very opposite,’ grace is nothing more than God’s warm wishes that make us feel better as we suppress the truth about ourselves…Only when we actually encounter God as he truly is do we finally know ourselves as we truly are – and only then can grace be truly grace. Grace is not self-esteem, moral uplift, or therapeutic recovery. It is nothing less than God’s favor on account of Christ: a new Word (justification) that generates a new creation (sanctification and glorification).”

Posted on Monday, July 09, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

George Whitefield knew a thing or two about revival although, I suppose, no man is an expert. Under his preaching untold numbers of men and women were moved to repentance and faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. His ministry had taken him on the long journey to the American colonies more than once. He had established an orphanage in Georgia and preached throughout the New World. He preached with unusual power. Benjamin Franklin, who was quite fond of Whitefield, once estimated that the preacher’s voice could be heard outdoors by 30,000 souls. During his ministry in the colonies, more people had heard George Whitefield speak than any other person. He may well have been the most famous person in the English speaking world.

In 1742 while Whitfield was preaching throughout Scotland his influence was strongly felt in the regions of Cambuslang and Kilsyth. For decades, these parishes had been experiencing a spiritual drought. A pastor from Kilsyth described the spiritual condition of his parish:
"Former strictness as to holiness and tenderness of life was much relaxed…a formal round of professional duties was the religion of the professors…and as to the multitude they were visibly profane…Things were become so bad with us that there were few that we, the ministers of the word, could comfort as believers in Christ…when we found them a-dying."

Then God began to move in ways that had not been witnessed in those regions for generations. Evangelical pastors serving there were fired by the inspiration they received from Whitfield as he preached in Glasgow. The Reverend William McCulloch of Cambuslang, writing nine years after the work of revival began, described it this way:
“This work…embraced all classes, all ages, and all moral conditions. Cursing, swearing and drunkenness were given up by those who had come under its power. It kindled remorse for acts of injustice. It won forgiveness from the vengeful…It bound pastors and people together with a stronger bond of sympathy. It raised an altar in the household…It made men students of the Word of God and brought them in thought and purpose and effort into communion with their Father in heaven.”

This is what revival looks like. It is not about trembling bodies and ecstatic experiences. It is not something we conjure up or create by wearing down people’s inhibitions. It is the sovereign work of God granted to whom He pleases when He pleases. But God uses means. And history testifies that revival is accompanied by 1) a recovery of God’s Word in the pulpits 2) a renewing of the centrality of the Gospel 3) a common commitment to prayer and 4) a renewed reverence for God in worship. In reading about revivals in the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, these four traits appear with unwavering regularity. In fact, I have been amazed at how the accounts of genuine revival all seem to read the same. So when we see the church recovering the Scriptures and the Gospel, praying with fresh fervency, and gaining a deeper reverence for God then look up and give thanks, for God is blessing His people.

blessings,

todd

Posted on Friday, July 06, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Okay, the title might be a bit of an exaggeration but stick with me. My experience today was confirmation that Western society as we know it is changing for the worse. Just a few hours ago I took my two sons (ages 9 and 7) to the famous supplier of toys with one goal: to buy two cap guns. I love cap guns. As far as inventions go, they ought to be spoken of in the same breath as the internal combustion engine and the light bulb. Growing up, cap guns helped transform my back yard into an imaginary battle field. At various times they turned me into a Green Beret, a cop, Jesse James, and James Bond. So when my sons asked for cap guns last night I happily complied. This afternoon we piled into the car and made our way to the toy superstore.

And this is the point in the story where everything goes south. It seems that Toys R Us has joined the battle against the scourge of developing masculinity in young boys. I suppose it has been too long since I’ve been to Toys R Us because I immediately tried to find the aisle where they keep all the toy guns. Not finding any, I consulted a collection of three employees. I asked innocently, “Where do you keep the cap guns?” The reply came but it was too unsettling to fully process at first. It was disorienting. It was like finding out that you have just been awakened from a long coma and Bill Clinton is president again. “We don’t carry cap guns.”

We did find a few water guns and other things that shot out nerf balls. None of these fanciful plastic and brightly colored monstrosities could ever be confused with a gun. I can’t believe I am actually going to write this. They were the kind of “guns” that a girl might design.

This has not weakened by resolve however. If I have to get on Ebay I am going to find two cap guns and my boys are going to shoot them at each other. They are going to play cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, and war. What is more, I won’t have to teach them to do this because they are, after all, BOYS!

They are going to learn that sometimes the good guys have to use force against bad guys. They are going to learn that Jesus never told a soldier not to serve as a soldier. They are going to learn that the state is at times used by God to put down evil in the world. They may be called upon one day to intervene with force against hostile aggressors. On that day I don’t want them to wonder why their gun does not light up with bright colors and emit an array of bleeps and blips.

Press On

todd

Posted on Monday, July 02, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

One of the best books I have read on the Gospel and the nature of salvation is John Ensor’s The Great Work of the Gospel. In a chapter entitled “The Great Work Enjoyed” Ensor writes:

Those whom God declares righteous, he makes righteous: “You shall be clean from all your uncleanness…and I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek. 36:25-27). The New Testament word for this is sanctification (II Thess. 2:13). It refers to God’s ongoing work of God’s Spirit to make us holy, as He is holy… The grace that pardons always purifies…

The grace that brings salvation goes on to train us to live a godly life. A sanctified life is not optional to salvation; it is standard equipment. Other things may be called grace, but they are not saving grace…

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning because he has been born of God” (I John 3:9). This seed is God’s gift of holiness. It asserts itself against our naturally disobedient and self-centered tendencies so that we wrestle against the evil behavior we used to relish. God’s grace lays siege against those sins fortified by habitual practice. Conviction strikes and intensifies. A healthy fear of God and a growing love of God bang away at the habit. The Word of God teaches us the value of repentance and prayer and brotherly accountability, all of which are part of God’s continuing grace to free us from habitual sins…

God has put into our hearts a new principle. It is a love for righteousness, and as it grows it nudges old habits till they drop. Over many years we can see this governing principle in the changed life it produces. Or, we will not see it, and thus will rightly call into question the reality of our repentance and question whether we really are under the grace of God.

Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Thomas Boston is remembered as one of the great Puritan pastors in 16th century Scotland. He was a champion of sound doctrine at a time when it was under attack. His book The Fourfold State of Man is still one of the most important books ever on the doctrine of man. But in 1737 a smaller book was published from the pen of the pastor from Ettrick. The Crook in the Lot was the fruit of Boston’s deep reflection on Ecclesiastes 7:13: “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which He has made crooked?” The title of Boston’s book was his way of describing the God-wrought crookedness in one’s life. In other words, Boston understood from Scripture that the “crooks” or difficulties in our circumstances are there by the sovereignty and, yes, goodness of God.

Boston had his own thorns to deal with. His wife struggled with crippling depression and Thomas suffered for years from what were probably kidney stones. This gives The Crook in the Lot the ring of authenticity and empathy. Boston wrote that crook came from “the groaning part of my life.” Reflecting on Boston’s life, J.I. Packer writes, “In addition to ongoing battles for the gospel against the non-evangelical leadership in the Church of Scotland and the continuance of his wife’s paralyzing depression, he was a martyr to some form of the stone (gravel, as he called it) and saw himself become a physical wreck. When he wrote and spoke of life’s troubles he knew what he was talking about, and the sense that this was so comes through strongly…”

I encourage you to add The Crook in the Lot to your morning or evening devotions. Here is a brief sampling:

A just view of afflicting incidents is altogether necessary to a Christian deportment under them; and that view is to be obtained only by faith, not by sense; for, it is the light of the Word alone that represents them justly, discovering in them the work of God, and, consequently, designs becoming the divine perfections. When these are perceived by the eye of faith, and duly considered, we have a just view of afflicting incidents, fitted to quell the turbulent motions of corrupt affections under dismal outward appearances…

As to the crook in thy lot, God hath made it; and it must continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even it, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: it will not alter for all thou canst do; only he who made it can mend it, or make it straight. This consideration, this view of the matter, is a proper means, at once, to silence and to satisfy men, and so to bring them unto a dutiful submission to their Maker and Governor, under the crook in their lot.

Blessings,

todd

Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

When I first saw The Dangerous Book for Boys at Barnes and Noble I assumed it would be another experiment in turning little boys into little girls. After all we live in a day when feminists like Gloria Steinem have advised that “we badly need to raise boys more like we raise girls.” It seems that many Americans have followed that advice. There is a generation of young men who are now more adept at sharing their feelings than they are at thinking logically. If you don’t believe me then watch a little MTV and see the silly excuses that are held forth as “men”. They are as likely to shed a tear as their female counterparts.

If I sound sexist then please forgive. My rhetoric may sound harsh only because the male culture in America has been so feminized. In her essential book The War Against Boys, Christina Hoff Sommers documents these disturbing trends. She observes that in the modern school classroom, teachers view the budding masculinity of boys as a disorder to be overcome rather than a gift to be cultivated. Of course most boys are likely to go through school and never have a male teacher except for the occasional health class or P.E. Games such as tag and dodge ball have been banned for encouraging competition and aggression. Adventure stories have been scrubbed from the reading lists. History classes spend little or no time studying the great battles of history and the men who led their troops in victory. No wonder so many boys hate going to school.

Thank God for Mr. Rogers who taught my English Literature class during my senior year in high school. The year began with a two week study of Beowulf, the oldest known story in the English language. It is full of courage, valor, and, yes, violence. It even has a terrible beast named Grendel who, in the end, gets what was coming to him. For two weeks Mr. Rogers helped us sink our teeth, as it were, into the meat of that ancient story. I was hooked. I knew then that reading great stories didn’t have to be “soft.” There were indeed stories full of risk and danger and honor and blood.

That brings me back to The Dangerous Book for Boys by brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden. After a few weeks of seeing it there on the shelf at the book store I finally picked it up. I was delighted by the feel of the thing. It is oversized and has the look of an older addition of Treasure Island. It even has the old-fashioned “swirly” liner paper on the inside cover. It is full of illustrations, maps, diagrams, and photographs. It includes information that every boy wonders about from time-to-time. On page two there are instructions on crafting “the greatest paper airplane in the world.” On page 35 boys are taught how to make a bow and arrow. There are two sections on famous battles. The book has instructions on everything from how to make a tree house to fishing to making a go-cart and first aid.

This is no one dimensional book however. In addition to the building and survival skills The Dangerous Book for Boys also operates as a guide for growing well-rounded young gentlemen. There are sections on astronomy, grammar, the seven wonders of the ancient world, and even how to appreciate Shakespeare. It also provides as list of “books every boy should read.”

The authors include a quote from Sir Frederick Treves from 1903 that captures well the spirit of the book:
“Don’t worry about genius and don’t worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination. The best motto for a long march is ‘Don’t grumble. Plug on.’ You hold your future in your own hands. Never waver in this belief. Don’t swagger. The boy who swaggers – like the man who swaggers – has little else that he can do. He is a cheap-Jack crying his own paltry wares. It is the empty tin that rattles most. Be honest. Be loyal. Be kind. Remember that the hardest thing to acquire is the faculty of being unselfish. As a quality it is one of the finest attributes of manliness.
“Love the sea, the ringing beach and the open downs.
“Keep clean, body and mind.”

Get The Dangerous Book for Boys. Better yet, read it to your sons. Let them read it. Let them play with it. It’s tough. It can take it.

blessings,

todd