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What The Bible Says - Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
Today's category: PastorsLetters to the Pastor Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won't be there. Stephen. Age 8, Chicago Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister. Yours sincerely, Arnold. Age 8, Nashville. Dear Pastor, Please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson. Sincerely, Pete. Age 9, Phoenix Dear Pastor, My father should be a minister. Every day he gives us a sermon about something. Robert Anderson, age 11 Dear Pastor, I'm sorry I can't leave more money in the plate, but my father didn't give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance? Love, Patty. Age 10, New Haven Dear Pastor, My mother is very religious. She goes to play bingo at church every week even if she has a cold. Yours truly, Annette. Age 9, Albany Dear Pastor, I think a lot more people would come to your church if you moved it to Disneyland. Loreen. Age 9. Tacoma Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon where you said that good health is more important than money but I still want a raise in my allowance. Sincerely, Eleanor. Age 12, Sarasota Dear Pastor, Please pray for all the airline pilots. I am flying to California tomorrow. Laurie. Age 10, New York City Dear Pastor, I hope to go to heaven someday but later than sooner. Love, Ellen. Age 9, Athens Dear Pastor, Please say a prayer for our Little League team. We need God's help or a new pitcher. Thank you. Alexander. Age 10, Raleigh Dear Pastor, My father says I should learn the Ten Commandments. But I don't think I want to because we have enough rules already in my house. Joshua. Age 10, South Pasadena Dear Pastor, Who does God pray to? Is there a God for God? Sincerely, Christopher. Age 9, Titusville Dear Pastor, Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class. Carla. Age 10, Salina Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon on Sunday. Especially when it was finished. Ralph, Age 11, Akron Dear Pastor, How does God know the good people from the bad people? Do you tell Him or does He read about it in the newspapers? Sincerely, Marie. Age 9, LewistonView hundreds more jokes online.Email this joke to a friend
Dear Friends,In my daily faith journey, I confess that I sometimes fall into a bad habit: I feel like I’ve “been there, done that.” More to the point, I feel a kind of “spiritual sophistication” in which most of the preaching I hear and most of the articles on faith that I read just don’t seem to measure up to my expectations. What’s worse, I sometimes find myself getting annoyed and impatient that the preaching that I’m hearing or the article I’m reading is not what I feel to be sufficiently insightful.As Matthew Westerholm has recently observed, this kind of “it takes a lot to impress me” attitude is actually a form of spiritual immaturity. He writes, “The more spiritually mature we become, the more we are easily edified.” This should be something that all Christians should strive for—a spirit of simplicity, humility, and openness as we encounter the sermons, writings, songs, films, and other forms of spiritual communication that we encounter. This kind of attitude will prepare us to be surprised and delighted by the unexpected insights given to us by the Holy Spirit.This attitude can also be carried over into every aspect of our daily lives, especially with the everyday conversations we have with others. If we strive to always be open when we encounter others, and avoid going into situations with preconceived notions about what we will or will not gain from them, we allow ourselves to be receptive to what the Lord is trying to teach us.Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.Sincerely,Dan Hart Managing Editor for Publications Family Research Council FRC ArticlesAre Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Effective? Are They Harmful? What the Evidence Shows – Peter SpriggCalifornia’s Effort to Ban ‘Conversion Therapy’ Failed. Here’s a Better Path We Can All Agree On. – Peter SpriggThe Problem With Judicial Nominations? The Left Doesn't Actually Want to Follow the Constitution – Peter SpriggBrown University is in Denial About Transgender Reality – Cathy RuseLawsuit Targeting Faith-Based Adoption Agencies Allowed to Proceed in Michigan – David ClossonA Bill Allowing College Campus Abortions Shows Reckless Disregard for Young Women – Patrina MosleyPlanned Parenthood’s New President Can’t Erase Its Atrocities – Patrina MosleyThe Department of Veterans Affairs Should Not Fund “Gender Alterations”The Catholic Church in Crisis: Two Takeaways – Dan Hart Religious LibertyReligious Liberty in the Public SquareChristian College Says Accrediting Agency's Proposed Guideline Change May Harm Religious Schools – Samuel Smith, The Christian PostTexas cheerleaders win a victory for freedom of religious expression – Todd Starnes, Fox News'In God We Trust' sign offended teachers, so the school district came up with a fix – Lois K. Solomon, Sun SentinelStudents Ordered to Spray Paint Over the Name of Christ on Football Field – ToddStarnes.comUpend Precedent, 11th Circuit Panel Urges in Pensacola Cross Case – Katheryn Tucker, Daily ReportHer College Told Her Not to Give Out Bible-Themed Valentines. She Isn’t Backing Down. – Troy Worden, The Daily SignalProfessor Who Defended Student’s Right To An Opinion Returns To Work After Three Years And One Major Court Battle – Ashe Schow, The Daily WireInternational Religious FreedomOfficials destroying crosses, burning bibles in China – APIndian Christians Refuse to Deny Christ Despite Persecution From Hindu Radicals – Leah MarieAnn Klett, The Christian PostNigeria: Pastor and three sons burned alive among at least 20 killed in latest Plateau massacre – World Watch MonitorU.S. and Turkey Speak About Syria and the Detained American Pastor – The Jerusalem PostChina to crack down on 'chaotic' online religious info: media – ReutersWhy Americans Should Care About the Uyghurs – Jennifer S. Bryson, Public DiscourseU.N. Is Called to Recognize Christian Genocide – Marlo Safi, National ReviewBaseless Forced Conversion Accusation Lead to Arrest of 271 Christians in India – Persecution.orgProminent Chinese pastor defiant after church closure – Channel NewsAsia LifeAbortionPro-life pregnancy centers served nearly 2 million people last year – The Boston PilotMemo to Chelsea Clinton: Freedom Does Not Require Women To Become Like Men – Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo, Public DiscourseIn two years, Iowa flips from ‘worse than New York State’ to pro-life – Live Action‘Gosnell’ Actress On Her Choice For Life: ‘Have Your Baby, It Will Mean Everything To You’ – The FederalistPro-Life Leaders Call for End of Taxpayer-Funded Research with Aborted Baby Parts – Caffeinated ThoughtsAdoptionI Was Adopted Through a Faith-Based Adoption Provider. LGBT Groups Want Them Shut Down. – Ryan Bomberger, The Daily SignalBioethicsA viral photo shows the problems with in vitro fertilization (IVF) – Andrew T. Walker, Ethics & Religious Liberty CommissionDear Anonymous Dad – Mary Jackson, WORLDA Gruesome Plan – Wesley J. Smith, The Weekly StandardObamacareThis 1 Move by the Trump Administration Is Boosting My Small Business – Joseph Semprevivo, The Daily Signal FamilyMarriageThe Thing We Learned About Marriage from the Cable Guy – Dave Willis with Ashley Willis, Focus on the FamilyConfessions of a Reluctant Complementarian – Rebecca McLaughlin, The Gospel CoalitionTeach Them About Marriage Before the World Does – Jani Ortlund, Desiring GodParentingClose ties with fathers help daughters overcome loneliness – Science DailyWaiting to Have a Baby Can Lead to Having Many at Once – Mollie Rappe-Brown, FuturityWelcome to the Grieving Parents Club – Leslie Froelich, HerViewFromHomeEconomics/EducationEducation Should Not Be Fearful – Matthew Anderson, CrisisHundreds of parents flood Board of Education to demand control over their kids’ sex education – Daniel Payne, The College FixParents Win: Colorado Schools End Sex Ed Program That Exposed Children to Porn – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian PostThe College Campus’s Cult of Fragility – George Will, National ReviewWhy Small Businesses Are More Optimistic Than Ever Before – Patrick Tyrrell and Anthony B. Kim, The Daily SignalHow the Texas Model Supports Prosperous Families – Vance Ginn, Family StudiesFaith/Character/CultureThe Power of Prayer for Families – Alysse ElHage, Family StudiesHow to Ruin Your Life in Your Twenties – Jonathan Pokluda, Desiring GodPrioritizing the Value of Work in a Celebrity-Obsessed World – Naomi Schaefer Riley, Family StudiesHow to help a friend with mental illness – Amy Simpson, Ethics & Religious Liberty CommissionThe Benefit of Bad Sermons – Matthew Westerholm, Desiring GodWhy Millennials ARE Coming to Church – Steve McAlpine, The Gospel CoalitionWhat I Learned About My Sins at Sixty-Four – John Piper, Desiring GodHuman SexualityThe Heterosexual Gospel – Jackie Hill Perry, Desiring GodHow to Evangelize Your LGBT Neighbors – Rosaria Butterfield, Christianity TodayCalifornia Dem withdraws bill banning help for unwanted gay attraction – Calvin Freiburger, LifeSiteNewsThe Alarming Findings of a New Study on Transgender Teens and Suicide – Kelsey Harkness, The Daily SignalGay Rights, Hate Speech, and Hospitality – Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Desiring GodHuman TraffickingSexual Exploitation Knows No Borders, Neither Should Our Efforts to End It – Lana Lichfield, National Center on Sexual ExploitationPornographyIs Pornography Your Therapy? – Greg Morse, Desiring GodHow Porn Is Sidelining Missionaries – Greg Handley, The Gospel CoalitionA rape pandemic has hit India, and people are blaming pornography – Jonathon Van Maren, LifeSiteNewsHow to Tell Your Fiance About Your Porn Problem – Jessica Harris, Focus on the Family
“Safe, legal, and rare.”That’s how the Democrats described their position on abortion over 20 years ago. Nevertheless, in just one year, 321,384 lives were aborted by Planned Parenthood, and nearly 60 million lives have been lost to abortion in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade.First off, anything legal is hardly ever rare, and when it comes to abortions, it doesn’t take a genius to know they are not safe—physically or psychologically.We know the phrase “safe, legal, and rare” was just political coaxing mixed with just enough moral undertones to put people’s consciences at ease about abortion rights. But as usual, when you give the Left an inch, they build a highway.Now, Democrats in California want young women to have as many abortions as they want, right from their dorm rooms. This is the purpose of California bill SB 320, the first bill of its kind, which has made its way onto Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.SB 320—deceptively titled the “College Student Right to Access Act”—would require public universities with on-campus student health centers to provide abortion pills to young college-aged women by January 1, 2022. If signed, California would be the first state to require access to chemical abortions on-campus, and abortion activists will make SB 320 model legislation for the rest of the country.Legal abortion has created a pathway for bills like SB 320 that try to reinforce the idea that abortion is healthcare. Elective abortion—the taking of innocent unborn life—should never be considered healthcare, and if anything, legislation like SB 320 shows a reckless disregard for the health of young women and presumes that education and motherhood are not compatible.We’ve known since 2006 that the abortion pill regimen is dangerous, with thousands of reported adverse health events, including several deaths. Recently, the FDA reported 1,445 more adverse events from 2012-2017. Since the introduction of the abortion pill in 2000, the drug has caused 22 deaths, 97 ectopic pregnancies, 1,041 hospitalizations, 598 blood transfusions as a result of blood loss, 411 infections, and 69 severe infections, with a total of 4,185 adverse events reported.A former Planned Parenthood manager, Abby Johnson, had this experience with her medical abortion:A blood clot the size of a lemon had fallen into my bath water. Was that my baby? I knew this huge clot was not going to go down the drain, so I reached down to pick it up. I was able to grasp the large clot with both hands and move it to the toilet.Then came the excruciating pain again. I jumped out of the shower and sat on the toilet. Another lemon sized blood clot. Then another. And another. I thought I was dying. This couldn’t be normal. Planned Parenthood didn’t ever tell me this could happen.One of SB 320’s co-sponsors, ACT for Women and Girls, says SB 320 is “about making sure that our young people are prepared for their life.”Can you imagine the mental trauma that would occur to a young woman who sees her abortion take place in her college dorm room, while at the same time enduring the physical trauma of excruciating pain?We know already that abortion negatively impacts a woman’s mental health. One study in the British Journal of Psychiatry analyzed 22 studies that detailed women who were post-abortive and found that they were more likely to have issues with substance abuse and had greater anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts than non-abortive women.Instead of “preparing” women for life, the abortion pill is setting them up to be more traumatized through life.SB 320 does not prepare men or women for life, to take responsibility for their actions, and make wise, moral choices.In reality, having the abortion pill readily available steps from college dorm rooms does nothing but incentivize the prevailing hook-up culture. Will the future of college “sex weeks” not only include condoms but abortion pills too?Neither does it enhance the dignity of women. Instead, SB 320 treats women as sex objects, implying that “if she wakes up pregnant, it’s no big deal, since she can easily go to the health center to get some abortion pills.”No accountability, no responsibility—the gifts of modern feminism.Modern feminists place opposition between education, work, and family for women. If you’re a young college student who thinks she is pregnant, modern feminists say abortion is the safest route to ensure you will not be uneducated and poor (as if this is the worst thing that can happen to you… the slight elitism should not go unnoticed). Feminists proudly tout they are pro-choice, but the only choice they are in favor of is telling you to abort your child.There are serious concerns that are not addressed in SB 320 that make the bill look rushed and politicized. SB 320 disregards the risks to women’s health, the potential liability to schools, and unclear fungibility of taxpayer funds. The bill’s funding mechanism is purposefully vague. Private funding until 2021 ignores the fact that a school clinic’s overhead is paid by taxpayers, and the language of the bill leaves open taxpayer-funded abortion after that.SB 320 leaves more questions than answers in giving women unsupervised access to abortion.As the abortion industry creates victims, the pro-life movement creates victors.For instance, 24-year-old single mom Briana Williams graduated from Harvard Law School with her one-year-old daughter, and many other students have shared their stories.SB 320 is not empowering or safe for women. Better options are prevailing, and those efforts should be supported and funded. Tell Governor Brown how this bill will harm young women and place public universities at risk.Resources for Women with Unplanned PregnanciesPregnantoncampus.comPregnant on Campus is an initiative started by Students for Life of America to empower women to choose life by providing resources and support for pregnant and parenting students on campus.AbortionPillReversal.comIf a woman takes the first pill of the abortion pill regime and then has second thoughts, there is still a way to stop the process. For more information, visit AbortionPillReversal.com. For emergencies, there is a hotline at 877-558-0333.Find a Pregnancy Center Near YouCare Net pregnancy centers offer accurate and helpful information in a compassionate environment. If you think you may be pregnant and are in search of information about pregnancy options, a free pregnancy test, or post-decision support, the experts at your local Care Net pregnancy center can help. Search here to find one near you.
by Samuel SeyNote from Phil: Samuel Sey is one of my favorite bloggers, writing—always with keen insights and pithy prose—at "Slow to Write." We've invited him to join the team here. He's weighing the opportunity, so be kind to him—at least until he commits. He recently interviewed me for his blog. I decided to mirror the interview here, because I liked his interview questions so much. love listening to people. I love learning from people. And the most effective way to listen and learn better, is to ask questions. So today, I'm starting a new series called Seven Questions With. In this series, I will be interviewing some of the most interesting people who shape how we think of Christ, culture, and more.Phil Johnson has been shaping how I think about Christ and culture for years. He is the Executive Director of Grace to You and he has edited John MacArthur's books since the 80s. He is an elder at Grace Community Church in California and is the founder of Spurgeon.org and the blog, Pyromaniacs.net. And I am thrilled to interview him today. I intended on asking him just seven questions, but that wasn't enough. Phil Johnson had too many interesting things to say, so I asked him four more.Sir, you've been a consistent voice against false teaching within evangelicalism for many years. From the first time I read your blogs on Pyromaniacs in 2008 to your appearance at Wretched Radio earlier this week, you've been a strong critic of the emerging church, seeker sensitive movement and the prosperity gospel. Still, I was surprised to hear you say once that "the modern church needs a reformation more than the church of the middle ages."What makes you believe that? And what would this reformation look like?Luther's ire was ignited by Tetzel, a papal fund-raiser who plundered Germany's poor by selling indulgences (false promises of divine clemency). Tetzel was collecting cash to build St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, fleecing the poor just to add to the opulence of the Papal See.And look where we are now. Protestant Christianity has dozens of Tetzels who appear on TBN nightly, bilking poor people out of money with the promise of financial prosperity, and TBN festoons all their studios in an even more tawdry style of opulence than that favored by medieval Rome.One of the tools of Tetzel's double-dealing was a trite bit of doggerel: "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." Today's evangelicals have abandoned classic hymnology and psalmody in favor of generically romantic-sounding sentimental love songs that are just as false as (and much more banal than) Tetzel's little rhyme.Evangelicals for the most part have abandoned their Protestant forebears' core doctrinal distinctives in favor of whatever happens to be popular at the moment—political causes, cultural phenomena, memes, movies, methodologies, and other values borrowed from the world. And yet the typical evangelical leader aggressively lobbies for more of this kind of "contextualization" while winking at (or cheerleading for) the dumbing down of our doctrine.You are one of the authors of the Statement of Social Justice and The Gospel, what prompted the statement? Why is it necessary? "Social justice" is well-known terminology borrowed from secular political discourse, with long-established implications. As such it opens the door wide for the ideology that was being promoted by those who coined the term. I'm not suggesting that every evangelical now talking about "social justice" would favor the redistribution of wealth or other Marxist values—or even old-school "Social Gospel" doctrines—but some do go that far and further. (I'm thinking, for example, of Sojourners, the radical remnant of the Emerging Church movement, and scores of angry evangelical "progressives" whose footprints are all over Twitter.)I've always believed it is dangerous and foolhardy for Christians to let secular culture help shape our message and set our agenda. When that happens, it always pushes the gospel to the background while giving center stage to whatever the world is concerned with at the moment. In this case, loud voices are insistent that social justice is a gospel issue. Some have even said those of us who are not on board with the social justice movement don't have the gospel at all. What they then go on to emphasize seems to supplant the good news of the gospel—the promise of forgiveness— with demands, reproofs, and strictures imported from the law.That's spiritually deadly. As I said in a recent blogpost, to treat social-justice activism as an essential tenet of gospel truth is a form of theological legalism. It is not fundamentally different from the teaching of those in the early church who insisted circumcision was a gospel issue.The statement has produced strong reactions. What do you make of the reactions to the statement? What are some of the most encouraging things to come out of the statement? What are some of your new concerns, if any, after the release of the statement? Are there criticisms against the statement that you find helpful?I expected a strong reaction to the statement, even though there's nothing in it that ought to be controversial to anyone who believes the Bible. And in his first response to the statement, Thabiti Anyabwile acknowledged that it contained nothing he could disagree with. I was encouraged by his candor.But the fact that the statement doesn't affirm the rhetoric of the "social justice" movement is enough to make lots of influential people in that movement angry. I expected that. I was surprised, however, by the force of some of the angry reactions. And I was also somewhat caught off guard by the sheer number of people who vandalized the Statement website by pretending to sign the document with profanities and phony names (some of which were overtly racist). It seems some of the champions of "social justice" have a strange idea of what public justice (and obedience to the Second Great Commandment) is supposed to look like.That brings to mind the one new concern I might voice in the wake of the statement's release—namely, that the ideology, rhetoric, and anger currently fueling certain evangelical social justice advocates has already reached an extreme I didn't anticipate. The most radical social justicians (to borrow a term from Darrell Harrison) seem to be predominantly grassroots voices, not people in positions of far-reaching influence. Nevertheless, I fear that such visceral anger (especially in response to a statement admittedly lacking anything terribly controversial) doesn't augur well for the future of the debate.I've been encouraged, however, by the volume of feedback from people who say they are thankful that someone finally put into clear words the concerns that so many of us share.I wouldn't characterize any of the criticisms I've seen as "helpful," except for several critics who have noted that some of the terminology under debate needs to be carefully defined. That's true for both sides. It's the one plea that if heeded well by both sides would help identify who is genuinely committed to biblical principles—and unmask those who might instead have an agenda reminiscent of the "social gospel" fiasco of the modernist era.What do you think will be the outcome of this all? Is the social justice controversy going to be an ongoing issue within the church for a long time? Or is it going to become a non-issue soon?I certainly don't think it will become a non-issue soon. I hope those who support the statement will be patient and hold their ground.My prediction is that those on the social justice side whose commitment to biblical authority is tenuous will react to the Statement in a way that makes their radicalism more obvious. Over time, that will result in a loss of support and momentum for the movement. That's precisely what happened to the Emerging Church Movement in the first decade of the new millennium. And I see many parallels between the two movements.Why do you think evangelicals embraced social justice so quickly? What fault within evangelicalism today made us accept social justice so easily? Was there a precursor to this? What I'm suggesting in my reply to your previous question is that the all-but-dead Emerging Church Movement and the social justice movement have borrowed rhetoric, strategy, and jargon (including "social justice") from the same playbook. In 2010, when the Emerging Church movement seemed to be on its deathbed, I wrote: "With the meltdown of the visible movement, Emergent thinking is being dispersed like so many dandelion seeds into the broad evangelical movement, which was overrun with religious weeds in the first place." The social justice movement is precisely the kind of development I had in mind. And some of the very same evangelical thought leaders and their followers who were angry about my criticisms of the Emergent movement thirteen years ago are now angry at the Statement.I've been reading Charles Spurgeon's words from the Down-Grade Controversy recently, if Spurgeon was alive today, what do you think he would have said about the social justice issue? Are there any words from Spurgeon that relate? Spurgeon and Charles Dickens were contemporaries, so the workhouses and other class disparities that Dickens lampooned in his novels were facts that Spurgeon witnessed up close and deplored. (He famously founded an orphanage to help with the problem.) He was a classical liberal—an advocate of equal rights for all classes. He was openly hostile to the Tory policies of his time that were designed to perpetuate class distinctions and make political hay off tensions between the classes.Yet he strongly believed that Caesar should "mind his own things, and let the things of God alone," and that Christian ministers should tend to their high calling and not become entangled in public arguments about partisan politics. He described himself as "loath to touch politics at all," and when accused of being too political because he addressed certain moral issues, he issued this challenge: "Take the eighteen volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, and see if you can find eighteen pages of matter which even look towards politics; nay, more, see if there be one solitary sentence concerning politics, which did not, to the preacher's mind, appear to arise out of his text, or to flow from the natural run of his subject."He went on to say,"For a Christian minister to be an active partisan of Whigs or Tories, busy in canvassing, and eloquent at public meetings for rival factions, would be of ill repute. For the Christian to forget his heavenly citizenship, and occupy himself about the objects of place-hunters, would be degrading to his high calling: but there are points of inevitable contact between the higher and the lower spheres, points where politics persist in coming into collision with our faith, and there we shall be traitors both to heaven and earth if we consult our comfort by slinking into the rear."In keeping with that policy, Spurgeon actively opposed the chattel slavery of the American south. His outspoken stance cost him ministry opportunities (he never came to America, and Southern hostility to his anti-Slavery statements was one of the chief reasons.) It also cost his publisher sermon sales.But there's no reason to think Spurgeon would affirm any position that treats "white privilege" as something to be repented of. He certainly would have abominated the notion that an entire ethnic group, economic class, or nationality of believers—people covered by the blood of Christ—nevertheless need to confess and repent for sins they themselves never committed, but their ancestors may or may not have been participants in. On the question of guilt for one's father's sins, he wrote,"Is it any business of ours to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children? If any think so, we did not write these lines for them. We would not waste our time upon them. We regard them as eligible candidates for the hangman's post. . . ."You are connected to John MacArthur and Charles Spurgeon, what about these men draw you to them? What are their similarities? What sets them apart? I love the bold honesty of both men, and the fearless way they proclaim what Scripture says, without regard to opinion polls or political correctness. Spurgeon's war against modernism certainly fatigued him and arguably contributed to his early death, but he persisted even though practically every influential evangelical leader at that time tried to take a softer line against modernism than Spurgeon. Spurgeon predicted that he would be vindicated by history, and he was right.In a similar way, John MacArthur has been a steadfast opponent of post-modernism. And though I know he hates the conflict, he loves the truth more than he cares for his own reputation. History will vindicate MacArthur just as it did Spurgeon.Both men had long pulpit ministries in a single church for the entirety of their careers. That alone says something about their love for their flock, and vice versa. They share a birthday as well.You've edited most of John MacArthur's books since the 80s, which of the books was your favourite to edit? Why?Probably The Vanishing Conscience. That book introduced me to John Owen on The Mortification of Sin, and it helped purge my thinking of some latent ideas that I had retained from the days when I experimented with Keswick-style deeper-life doctrine as a college student.I've walked into a bookstore that features all of John MacArthur's books, but I can only buy one. Which one should I buy? That's the hardest question so far. I'm torn between Ashamed of the Gospel and The Gospel According to the Apostles. I might lean toward the latter, because it's not just a polemical refutation of Dallas-style antinomianism; it's also a decent systematic study of soteriology. Working on that book was, for me, an unprecedented immersion in gospel truth—the thing that first made me truly serious about doctrine and precision. And it introduced me to historical theology, which became an enduring subject of interest for me.Ashamed of the Gospel was what provoked my interest in Spurgeon. That book conclusively refutes the stylish pragmatism that permeates postmodern evangelicalism. It's also the full-length answer to your question about what John MacArthur and Charles Spurgeon have in common.In your article "A Gospel Issue?", you explained that social justice isn't a gospel issue. What then are gospel issues? How do we determine what gospel issues are? "Gospel issue" is one of those terms that gets thrown around without careful definition—and I suspect that some of those who are most insistent that "social justice" is a gospel issue are purposely vague about what they mean by that, because they frequently equivocate.All true evangelicals confess that the doctrine of justification by faith is a gospel issue. One of the central points Paul makes in his epistle to the Galatians is that if you deny justification by faith, you don't have the gospel at all. Elsewhere, Paul lists the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ "according to Scripture" as primary gospel issues—meaning, again, that if you deny or corrupt any of these, you don't have the gospel.Normally, when we speak of something as a gospel issue, we are identifying truths intrinsic to the gospel message—points of truth you cannot get wrong or deny if you are truly faithful to the gospel. That's what I mean when I say something is a gospel issue—and it's what multitudes understand when they hear the expression. Some people casually apply the "gospel issue" label to just about any idea they think worth defending—and then they justify that usage by saying the idea they are defending is an implication of the gospel.But every enduring truth is ultimately an implication of the gospel in one way or another. And if every truth is ultimately "a gospel issue, then there's nothing distinctive about the gospel—nothing that clearly distinguishes the gospel from the law. That has been precisely the impression people get from most of the evangelical social justice rhetoric. In the article you are referring to I recounted an incident that illustrates why that's such a serious problem. By playing with the expression like that, (by erasing the important distinctions between law and gospel) evangelical social justicians are eliminating a theological clarification without which you can't really even grasp the significance of the gospel.It's hard to overstate how dangerous it is to play fast and loose with the gospel like that. Do you have any questions for me?Is Challies really as sweet-tempered as he pretends to be whenever he's around me?Haha, yeah, he is. Whenever I read James 1:19, I think of Tim. He's the most gentle man I've ever met. When I finally grow up, I want to be like him.
by Phil JohnsonFriends of mine at Ambassador Advertising Agency do a feature on people in ministries they work with, and they are long-time partners with Grace to You. They very kindly included an interview with me in last month's issue of their newsletter. Their questions asked for some details I have never before revealed on the blog, so I decided to post the unabridged version of their interview. Here it isTell us how you first learned about Jesus. grew up going to a liberal church, so I heard a lot about Jesus from my earliest childhood, but I had never really been taught the gospel. About a month before I graduated from high school, I was sensing a great spiritual void in my life, so I picked up a Bible, opened it at random, and started reading. I don't think I'd ever carefully read more than a verse or two of Scripture at once. (I treated the Bible like a horoscope. Every now and then, I'd open at random, read a verse, and try to make some artificial connection to whatever was happening in my life.) That night it opened to the first page of 1 Corinthians, so I decided to try to read through the whole book.1 Corinthians 1 is not where you'd send a high school student looking for the gospel, but the dawn of true understanding started for me with that chapter: Paul's condemnation of human wisdom, wealth, power, and arrogance in those opening chapters—combined with his elevation of the gospel as something that sounds uselessly unsophisticated to the worldly wise (a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks). Within a week, God providentially exposed me to clear presentations of the gospel three more times. It was as if everything in my life suddenly conspired to make the truth of Scripture clear to me. And by the end of that week, I had become a believer.Your relationship with John MacArthur is a long onehow did that connection get made originally?The first time I heard him was in 1977. I had never even heard his name, and I was pretty sure nothing good could come out of California. I was living in Wrigleyville, Chicago, working as an editor at Moody Press, and John was the speaker they invited that year for "Spiritual Emphasis Week." Moody Bible Institute would annually host some well-known speaker to preach in student chapel every day for a week. Because it was so special, employees could attend if they wanted to.That year Moody distributed a publicity sheet introducing "John MacArthur, Jr., a fifth-generation preacher, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA," and it said on that Monday he was speaking about "God's Will for Your Life." The guy I shared an office with read the flyer aloud and asked if I planned to attend chapel.I answered, "No way. I have a looming deadline. I don't have time to go hear someone whose claim to fame is he's someone's son speaking about God's will for my life. He's not going to say anything I haven't heard. Someone should tell 'Junior' that every speaker who ever comes to Moody speaks on God's will. I'm going to stay here and work." My co-worker mumbled something about my lousy mood and left.About 90 seconds later, this cute girl who was our newest employee stuck her head in and said, "I'm going down to chapel. Were you planning to go?"I said, "Yup. I was just coming."That girl was Darlene, whom I married a year later. But although I went to that chapel service just because it was an opportunity to spend time with her, from the time John MacArthur began teaching, I was transfixed. The message wasn't just recycled platitudes that I'd heard before. He actually opened the Bible and taught from it. During that very first message, it occurred to me that John's material was so rich, he needed to be writing books.When Darlene and I married the following year, we left Chicago and moved to St. Petersburg, FL to get involved with a local church there. The very first "Grace to You" radio broadcasts began about a week after we moved to Florida. Those original broadcasts were only aired in three cities: Tulsa (my hometown), Tampa (where I had just relocated) and Baltimore (which I have no connection to). But I began to schedule my day around those broadcasts. And every time I ever heard John preach, I'd always wish he had room on his staff for a book editor to help him craft his material for print. For the three and a half years we spent in Florida, if you'd asked me to design a perfect career for myself, I'd have told you without hesitation that I wished I could edit John MacArthur's material to help him get his teaching in print. It wasn't a goal I ever actively pursued, but I thought about it all the time.Then one day Jerry Jenkins phoned me and asked me to return to Moody Press. He had no way of knowing about my respect for John MacArthur, but one of the things he excitedly told me was that Moody was negotiating with MacArthur for a complete set of commentaries on the New Testament. The timing was perfect, and Darlene and I moved back to Chicago, where I rejoined the Moody Press staff. I spent the next 18 months there, editing John MacArthur's sermons for a couple of Moody Press books. John must have liked my work, because he invited me to come to California and join the GTY staff.That was 1983 and I've been here ever since. The thrill of it has never worn off. I have this deep sense that I'm doing exactly what I was born to do.As you've been closely engaged in working with John's materials and writing for ministry, what do you most appreciate about the relationship?His discipline and single-minded stamina still amaze me. I'm thankful for his mentorship, encouragement, and patience. For someone who is as steadfast and clear-cut as he is in the pulpit, his personal dealings with people are always profoundly gracious. I love him for that, and he is a joy to work with.My previous pastor was Warren Wiersbe. He likewise took a personal interest in me, and I worked with him on a book project or two at Moody. Wiersbe is a bibliophile, a history buff, and an evangelical polymath. I learned a lot from him and treasure that relationship, too. Both men have left an indelible mark on how I think and how I have approached preaching in my own ministry. I've also been blessed to have lots of close friends who are more or less my peers and fellow laborers.But John MacArthur has been a unique kind of model and mentor to me. I treasure his friendship. I'm grateful for all the opportunities he has given me. It would be impossible to put into words how much I appreciate the relationship with him.You and Darlene have been married for 40 years. How did you meet?We celebrated our 40th anniversary June 10. We met when she came to work at Moody Press, She was a recent graduate from Appalachian Bible Institute (as it was known then), a very conservative school, and that intrigued me right away. It really was a case of love at first sight. I invited her to a Cubs' game within 10 minutes of meeting her. That was our first date. There's a brick in the sidewalk at Wrigley with our names and the date and score of that first game we watched together. She's a fanatical Cubs fan to this day.You now have three grown sons. What do you hope they learned best from your example as a dad?Obviously, I hope they learned what it means to be devoted to Christ and His truth and to make that the center from which all their affections and all their convictions radiate. In practical, family terms, I hope they learned the same thing that was the best lesson I learned from my dad: How to love your wife.And now you're also a grandfatherwhat do you love best about this season?No question: Grandchildren. They're a thousand times more fun than having your own kids because you don't have the same responsibility to discipline and correct them. You can hand them back to their parents when they need that, and all you have to do is shower them with love and encouragement. It's tremendously fun. We're blessed in that all seven of our grandkids still live close by; they all still go to Grace Church, so we get to spend lots of time with them. It's impossible to state what a profound blessing they are. Psalm 128:6 speaks of grandchildren as the pinnacle of all earthly blessings. They make up for a lot of the pains and inconveniences that come with old age.We're going to assume you might mention John MacArthur as a spiritual mentor but is there anyone else pivotal to your spiritual growth you'd want to name?As I mentioned, Warren Wiersbe influenced me greatly. He was the first true bible expositor I ever heard. No one is better at outlining the logical flow of the text. He preached longer passages than John MacArthur typically tackles, and he didn't get into details with quite as much close study, but he excelled in the narrative passages, making both the story itself and its practical lessons crystal clear. I loved his gentle preaching style, too. Very different from John, but both have a valid place. Wiersbe whetted my appetite for Scripture; John MacArthur taught me the difference between the milk of God's Word and meat. His teaching has given me a craving for teaching that is truly nourishing and deeply satisfying, rather than the cotton candy so many evangelicals settle for.And of course Spurgeon has been a hugely formative figure in my doctrine and thinking. I love Spurgeon for his boldness, his clarity, and his refusal to back away from a truth in order to stay in step with popular opinion or the styles and preferences of a new generation.People sometimes tell me they think John MacArthur is the Spurgeon of our era. (I tend to think of Spurgeon as the John MacArthur of Victorian times.) Spurgeon and MacArthur have an amazing number of characteristics that they share in commonstarting with the fact that they were both born on June 19; they both have suffered from gout; both are prolific preachers and authors who remained in the same church for their entire ministries; and of course they share a similar commitment to (and common understanding of) the truth of Scripture.What's so great about Charles Spurgeon?Spurgeon took the senior pastoral role in London's largest, most historic, and best-known Baptist church when he was still in his teens, and he stayed there, faithfully preaching at least three new sermons each week for the remainder of his life. At the peak of his ministry, one of his sermons was published each week and distributed to millions on both sides of the Atlantic. But by the end of his life he had fallen out of favor with the majority of English Baptists. They thought he was an ageing old crank and an alarmist for warning against the dangers of modernism. Time has fully vindicated Spurgeon, and more people are reading his sermons today than were reading him during his lifetime. He is one of those rare, enduring figures of church history whose influence is felt across centuries of time.If you could invite three peopleliving or deceased (and not including Jesus or Spurgeon)to dinner, who would get the green light?All dead guys: Cotton Mather, Martin Luther, and Athanasius.You're a serious student of the Word but is there anything else on the nightstand for reading right now?I've just started reading a book recommended to me by my youngest son, who is an LAPD officer working in Hollywood at night. It's L. A. Noir, by John Buntin. It's a history of the relationship between Mickey Cohen (LA's most powerful underworld boss, who, oddly, has a role in Billy Graham's story) and William H. Parker, the LAPD's legendary chief. It's the true story of a time and a culture that became background for countless novels by Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, and other authors in that genre.Writers need a break now and then. What do you do that gives you a mental break from the load?Every book editor I know who spends a lifetime doing that one thing has a nervous breakdown (or the equivalent) in his or her mid 50s. It's high-stress stuff, with endless deadlines, relentless pressure (and sometimes hostility) from people in the marketing side of the publishing business, monotony, headaches, critics, and more deadlines. With a book-length project it's hard (if not impossible) to shut down at night and think about other things. It's nothing like writing a column for the newspaper. Each book project typically takes a year or longer, and the editor can't fully release it from his mind and move on to the next thing until the book actually goes to the printer.I don't have many hobbies, nor am I looking for one. I can't afford to squander my spare moments on "me time." But I've been blessed with a wide variety of duties that make my work anything but monotonous. Between book projects I get to travel, speak at conferences, and deal with a whole wonderful staff of people at Grace to You. Our grandkids add a whole new dimension of joy and activity to my life. And of course, I love spending time with Darlene. These days, I leave the office early as many days as I possibly can.I'm now in my mid 60s and still thrilled to be doing all that I do. So I've managed to at least postpone my nervous breakdown.You created a blog titled Pyromaniacs . . . why that name?It's a reference to Jeremiah 23:29, where the Lord says, "Is not my word like fire?"
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