A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.

Category Archives: Reformed Theology

Why do we sin?

We do not sin simply because of Satan or because of social deprivation, stressful situations, bad influences, or any other external cause. Those things may tempt us to sin and make sinning easier, but when we commit sin – or even intend to commit sin – it is because we decide to sin. Sin is an act of the will. – John MacArthur

2012: The Best and Worst of the year!

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The year 2012 was interesting and frustrating. This year I will not feature the 10 most popular posts like I did in 2011. However I will give you a running commentary and “warm your little Calvinist hearts” with some grace and hope you won’t end up swimming back to Rome in the end.

The year started with high expectations and has ended on a high note – well unless you are a Mayan apocalypse enthusiast then you might be just a tard deflated. But hey cheer up we have extra time now, don’t we?

In 2012 it was interesting to see that many people were interested in reading how Veggie Tales ended up being a failed experiment. Well to be honest it was a fad that went too far into teaching kids how to be “Christian” without knowing Christ. Ironic but frankly I have come to expect this from most Evangelical fads that it doesn’t surprise me any more. Speaking of fads the year kicked off with a fad…oops thud when Steven Furtick (yup the celebrity pastor who spontaneously baptised 2,000 people in two weeks) invited Matt Chandler into a room full of orange flood lights, orange walls and orange carpets. When Matt began to preach about celebrities and supposed pastors using church as a platform for personal ambition, you could hear a pin drop. The barn burning sermon was a good fire starter for the year it and it ended with a clear gospel presentation too. But nothing prepared us for pastor Jim Murphy’s stance when he decided to root out religious junk from his lukewarm church bookstore. Murphy lamented the disintegration of Christianity and its falling away from the truth of the gospel and into more and more error – he traced the roots of today’s error to the subtle attacks on the authority of Scripture. When he finally asked “How did we get where we are?” Many expected him to point the finger else where but the wise old pastor pointed to him self and said said he was responsible for allowing his church to become lukewarm and hence forth there would be changes. Talk about the perspicuity of scripture.

Don’t blink yet, that was just the beginning!

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Samuel Davies: This Very Year You May Die.

The masterful sermons of what American preacher profoundly influenced Patrick Henry to become a great orator and patriot? Second question, what American minister succeeded Jonathan Edwards as President of Princeton University? The answer to both questions is Samuel Davies. Well, Samuel Davies preached this classic message at Princeton College on New Year’s day (January 1, 1761) and died shortly there after, on February 4–at the age of 37! Thus in a way—he preached his own funeral sermon! Follow the text taken from Jeremiah 28:6 and may it be a wake up call for every sinner (and I am the chief of sinners) who reads or listens to it:

“Thus says the Lord—I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die!” Jeremiah 28:16 While we are entering upon the threshold of a new year, it may be proper for us to stand, and pause, and take a serious view of the occurrences thatmay happen to us this year—that we may be prepared to meet them. …There is More!

How to make an appearance on TBN (Walter Martin Style -And never be invited back)!

Walter Martin defending the faith, circa 1985, on TBN with host Doug Clark. Neither the host nor the guest were ever invited back and the program was not re-aired the following Monday as it was scheduled.

It gets more interesting (you should watch all the segments) but below is the fourth segment

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Comfort During an Uncertain Festive Season

It’s that time of the year. Everybody seems to be carrying home a new “something”. Kept under wraps till that moment when they let it out. Brilliantly adorned decorations grace the lounges of homes and foyers of hotels and shopping parlours. In the midst of all the apparent hustle and bustle and glamorous festive mood it is an undeniable fact that we still live in a difficult and miserable world. However much we attempt to drown our sorrows with materialism we still lie naked and in need of the comfort and merciful kindness of God our our father. In the words of Martyn’s Lloyd Jones…

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God’s Loving Kindness – We are living in a difficult and trying world, and we all, sooner or later, find ourselves in some kind of wilderness where nothing matters but this. When we are bereft of all things that we normally have and enjoy – health, strength, wealth, friends, entertainment – when we are suddenly laid down by some serious illness, those things are of no help or value to us. We are left alone, and nothing matters except our knowledge of God’s loving-kindness. So the most important thing is to know always that He is with us, that we have access to Him, and that we can enjoy His presence in the most humbling, the most difficult, the most trying circumstances. This is the essence of wisdom even from the standpoint of personal experience.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Seeking Certainty)

God be with you all during this Christmas season as we remember the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Was there any fanaticism during the ‘First Awakening’ revival?

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There is a lot to learn especially when it comes to Church history and revivals and revivalisms.

Unusual outward manifestations attended the revivals of
[The Great Awakening of the 18th century]. At times there were audible sighs and sobs throughout assemblies under the preached Word. Sometimes convicted sinners cried out, ‘What must I do to be saved?’, as scripture was brought home to their consciences. In a few instances men fell prostrate on the floor, even becoming physically rigid for a time. What was the attitude of the pastors to these unusual happenings?

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Desiderius Erasmus: A Notable Quote!

I think I like this guy:

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“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” Desiderius Erasmus

Free Reformed E-Books!

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I thought I should share this site with you. In case you are looking for free Christian ebooks, epub or kindle format you may want to bookmark this link below.
0 Monergism Free Ebooks.

 

They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares…(and) Learn War No More.

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Seeing the violence and wickedness on earth today, The Heidelberg Catechism asks a pertinent set of questions. Did God, then, create man so wicked and perverse? Whence, then comes this depraved nature of man?
Over the entrance of the United Nations building in New York there is an inscription taken from the second chapter of the Book of Isaiah that reads:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. -Isaiah

Will such a world be achieved by the UN? Well, that is another question for you to ponder. The UN was formed as a deterrent Council so that man in his depravity would not indulge in another all out house clearance like he did in 1914 and 1939. I am actually surprised that it took that long to descend into such a global war. I am equally amazed that God was gracious enough allow the human experiment to continue there after. Enough about the UN.
To understand where man is, one has got to begin by reading the Scriptural narrative in Genesis. The Catechism enlightens the Christian that God created man good, and after His own image (true in righteousness and holiness) that he may rightly know, love and live with his Creator and glorify Him. However from the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve became so corrupt in nature that we all his descendants are conceived and born in sin.
Should we believe then that we are so corrupt and inclined to evil (that if left to our own folly would rather learn war and make swords and spears) and are wholly incapable of doing any moral good?
Sadly, yes! Unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God says the Bible (not me) and that in it’s self is by grace alone lest any man should boast.
(Scripture readings: Genesis 3:1-5:3; Psalm 14; Romans 1: 18-32)

 

Questionable methods in Church.

“The problem in our day, which gives rise to highly questionable church growth methods, is twofold:

On the one hand, we are seeing a waning confidence in the message of the gospel. Even the evangelical church shows signs of losing confidence in the convincing and converting power of the gospel message. That is why increasing numbers of churches prefer sermons on family life and psychological health. We are being overtaken by what Os Guinness calls the managerial and therapeutic revolutions. The winning message, it seems, is the one that helps people to solve their temporal problems, improves their self-esteem and makes them feel good about themselves.

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Such a Wretch you would have been!

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“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have
drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

There are but few upon whom God bestows His saving love.
Tell me, are not the gifts which Christ has given you—rare
gifts? What would you have been—if Christ had not made
a difference between you and others—by those glorious gifts
which He has conferred upon you? You look upon some, and
see they are very ignorant of spiritual truth. O! What would
you have been—if God had not bestowed saving knowledge
upon you? You look upon others who are unclean, profane,
and filthy. Why! such a wretch you would have been—if
the Lord had not made a difference between you and them,
by bestowing Himself, His grace, and Spirit upon you.
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom
of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor
idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual
offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers
nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what
some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified,
you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by
the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ~ Thomas Brooks

Excerpt from The Unsearchable Riches of Christ.

What is it like being a Reformed pastor in Rome?

Andrea Ferrari is a Reformed pastor in Italy. He opens up to the challenges faced by him, the church and his mission field.
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Can any thing good come out of Rome?

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Well, Rome has always been associated with a lot of mischief but I think the gospel is changing the hearts of some. Daniel Ventura writes about the effects of the Reformation and gospel in Italy today:

The first thing I noticed when driving from the airport is that Italian drivers are crazy. No one is paying much attention to stop signs, speed limits, or any other traffic signs for that matter. Everyone seems to be in a hurry to get to and from wherever it is they are going, and there is not much acknowledgment of one another on the road unless you have an Italian flag hanging outside your window following the victory of an Italian soccer match (then you receive a flood of honks every corner you turn!).

It seems Italian driving indicates something about the Italian cultural mindset in general. Both in the car, walking down the street, in café’s and supermarkets, everyone is focused simply on what is going on right in front of them. There are not many friendly hellos’, warm smiles, conversations on the corner, or any real human acknowledgement of one another for that matter. And in such a difficult economic time for Italy, it makes a lot of sense that there is this sense of depression and gloom wherever you go. In many ways, people are forced into this kind of lifestyle because the pressures are so great to meet financial obligations; so only an individualized fast paced life keeps one enduring each day.

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Acidri:

Happy Reformation(s) Day?

Originally posted on Zwinglius Redivivus:

‘Reformation Day?  No!’

‘The Reformation’ is a misnomer if ever there were one, for in fact there was no ‘one’ Reformation any more than there was just one Reformer. ‘The Reformation’, when used by students and the general public, usually refers to the Reformation of Martin Luther which commenced at the end of October in the year of our Lord, 1517.

Even then, though, Luther’s intent wasn’t as earth-shattering as later ages took it to be. For Luther, the placement of a series of theses in Latin on the Church Door at Wittenberg Castle was nothing more than an invitation to debate. In other words, Luther didn’t see his act as the commencement of a revolution; he saw it as an academic exercise.

‘The Reformation’ is, then, little more than a label derived from historical hindsight gazing mono-focularly at a series of events over a period of time across a…

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36 Free Sermons by John Calvin

Monergism has a link to 36 free sermons by John Calvin. Click here.

The 4 tips from Richard Baxter for evaluating a “Christian” book.

Are you about to read a book? Does the author say it is a “Christian” book? Here are 4 tips from Richard Baxter that will help you evaluate any “Christian” book…

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1. Could I spend this time no better?
2. Are there better books that would edify me more?
3. Are the lovers of such a book as this the greatest lovers of the Book of God and of a holy life?
4. Does this book increase my love to the Word of God, kill my sin, and prepare me for the life to come?
[ Furthermore, Baxter adds] make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church . . . but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings.

Reforming the local church

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For Reformation theology to affect the life of a local church, it needs to be fleshed out in new perceptions of the dynamics of the corporate life of the local church. While there has been much talk about recovering biblical churchmanship over the last twenty years, and even efforts to recapture the simplicity of the first-century house church, what we have actually seen is the rise of the following:
(1) consumer churchmanship (meeting felt needs);
(2) commercial churchmanship (marketing religious enterprises or entities); and
(3) cultural/countercultural churchmanship (church life that mimics patterns in the broader culture or Christian versions of the counterculture).
What seems to be on the decline is the sort of vibrant, vital churchmanship described in the New Testament (1 Cor. 10:16–17; Eph. 4:11–16; Col. 1:3–14, 3:12–17). Reformed theology casts our churchmanship in a light that might be unfamiliar to us, but seems to be more consistent with the actions and dispositions found in the New Testament. …Read More!

It’s October…Reformation day is around the Corner!

On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther wrote to Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, protesting against the sale of indulgences. He enclosed in his letter a copy of his “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” which came to be known as The 95 Theses. So what else was enshrined in the Theses? Here we go:

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1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one’s heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law. …Read More!

Paul Washer on the fallen state of Man.

“Natural man is a fallen creature, he is morally corrupt, and he is Hell-bent on autonomy or self-government. He hates God because God is righteous, and he hates God’s laws because they censor him and restrict his evil. He hates the truth because it exposes him for what he is and troubles what is left of his conscience. Therefore fallen man seeks to push the truth—especially the truth about God—as far from him as he can possibly remove it. He will go to any extent to suppress the truth, even to the point of pretending that there is no such thing as truth, or that if it does exist, it cannot be known or have any bearing on our lives.” ~ Paul Washer

HELP! I am not sure I am saved…I may just be another false convert.

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Are you wrestling with the thoughts that you may not be saved? Do you question whether your faith in God is genuine? Perhaps you feel like you’ve had a conversion experience in the past but your not sure if you’re a true convert. Below are five questions to ask yourself and explanations that provide general proofs of a genuine work of salvation. I hope that these provide helpful insight to you:

1) Is there present belief in God?
We are never to depend upon a previous testimony of something we did years ago such as pray a prayer or sign a card or walk down an isle for an altar call, we must presently be confessing Jesus Christ as Lord through faith.

2) Is there a habitual impenitent sin in your life?
A true Christian will not habitually and impenitently practice a lifestyle of sin. (1 John 1. 5-10). This does not mean that we will ever be sinless, this side of heaven, but that we who are in the light do not seek to remain in darkness.

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Free Book: What is Reformed Theology?

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If you live in the US here is a free book by R.C Sproul. This book was one of my first primers in the Reformed faith. It answers a lot of questions and does ground you into solid foundational truths of Christianity.

Afflictions do not come alone…

In the words of  John Newton:

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Afflictions do not come alone,
A voice attends the rod;
By both He to His saints is known,
A Father and a God!

Let not My children slight the stroke
I for chastisement send;
Nor faint beneath My kind rebuke,
For still I am their Friend.

The wicked I perhaps may leave …Read More!

When spiritual conviction and awakening occur in a sinner.

I am currently reading my first book by Jonathan Edwards. I hope to learn alot from such a great man of outstanding wisdom. The first volume of A Narrative of Surprising Conversions retells stories of several of the conversions in Edwards’ time. But to begin with he expounds on regeneration. You see…

Persons are first awakened with a sense of their miserable condition by nature, the danger they are in of perishing eternally, and that it is of greater importance to them that they speedily escape and get into a better state. Those who before were secure and senseless, are made sensible how much they were in the way to ruin, in their former courses.

Some are more suddenly seized with conviction – it may be, by the news of others’ conversion, or something they hear in public, or in private conference – their consciences are smitten, as if their hearts are pierced through with a dart. Others are  awakened more gradually, they begin at first to be some thing more thoughtful and considerate, so as to come to a conclusion in their minds, that it is their best and wisest way to delay no longer, but to improve the present opportunity. …Read More!

Calvin Unleashed!

Every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols. ~John Calvin

We glory… in Jesus Christ!

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Of the knowledge of Jesus:

Consider the excellencies of the knowledge of Christ. The comfort of believers are streams from this fountain. Jesus Christ is the object of a believer’s joy. Take away the knowledge of Christ, and Christians would be the most sad and melancholy beings in the world. Let Christ but manifest himself, and dart the beams of his light into their souls, and it will make them kiss the stake, sing in the flames, and shout in the pangs of death, as men that divide the spoil. We can perform no duty, enjoy no comfort, nor can we be saved without it (John 17:3).
If it is life eternal to know Christ, then it is eternal damnation to be ignorant of Christ. Christ is the door that opens heaven, and knowledge is the key that opens Christ. It is profound; all other sciences are but shadows; this is a boundless, bottomless ocean; no creature has a line long enough to fathom its depths, there is height, length, depth, and breadth ascribed to it (Eph. 3:18), yea, it passes knowledge. …Read More!

Puritan Devotionals: Voices From The Past.

If you are looking for a daily devotional look for one that is deep with theology and will spur you to delve deeper into the scriptures. The Puritan devotional Voices From the Past by Richard Rushing should be high on your list and this is why:

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1 Timothy 4:2 … “Whose consciences are seared.”
“Get and keep a tender conscience. Be sensible of the least sin. Some men’s consciences are like the stomach of the ostrich that can digest iron: they can swallow the most notorious sins without regret. A good conscience is very delicate. It feels the least touch of known sin, and is grieved at the thought of grieving God’s Spirit. It will choose the greatest of suffering before the least of sinning.

However, the jeering Ishmaels of the world are ready to reproach and laugh it to scorn for its precise scruples. Daily train all your graces for battle. Live in a military posture, both defensive and offensive. Stand constantly by your weapons. Admit no peace with sin. The soldier of Christ must never lay down his arms. Satan never ceases his wiles and stratagems. He will tell you that sin is pleasant. Ask yourself if the gripping of conscience is also pleasant? Ask yourself if it is pleasant to be in hell, and be under the wrath of God? Ask yourself if the pleasures of sin for a season compare with the rivers of God’s pleasures? How do they compare to a weight of glory, an incorruptible crown, and a heavenly kingdom?

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Learning “Old Truth” from the Reformers and Expository Preaching.

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In loving memory of Jim Bublitz who went to be with the Lord not more than two days ago, I will feature this post from his blog – The Old Truth.

In the 19th century, R.L. Dabney wrote -
“All the leading Reformers, whether in Germany, Switzerland, England or Scotland were constant preachers, and their sermons were prevalently expository”; the purpose was to explain the meaning of Scripture. So he says, “We can assume with safety that the instrumentality to which the spiritual power of the great revolution of the Reformation – was mainly due to the restoration of scriptural preaching”.
Martin Luther in 1533 said, “The Word of God is the greatest most necessary, most important thing in Christendom.” And it is. I’ll tell you what, you turn away from the Book and you have endless problems. You turn away from the Book and Jesus becomes a clay toy, you can shape Him any way you want. Truth becomes a clay toy, you can shape it any way you want…
See, people want to reinvent Jesus, shape Him any way they want.

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That Shocking Youth Message by Paul Washer (Transcript)

20120704-221433.jpgOne of the best youth messages I have come across was Paul Washer’s “shocking youth message”. It was a biblical message about what it truly means t o be a Christian. It was so good that he wasn’t welcomed back! (No kidding)

It’s a tremendous privilege for me to be here this afternoon with you. Before we begin with any further speaking, I would also like to go to the Lord in prayer. I would ask you to pray. There is so much going on here this afternoon, so much that you don’t understand, but I’ll tell you where I’m coming from. I’ll preach as a dying man to dying men and women and youth….
Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
Father . . .Father, I am so small and so pitiful, Father, in so many ways. You know, Lord, You know, though dear God, should false fire be the only thing ever placed on Your altar, or could fire come down from Heaven amidst all the noise and the clamor and the activities . . . could fire come down from Heaven and these dead bones live…. Breathe on them. Grant them repentance. Grant them faith. Bring them into Your Kingdom, Lord, for Your own glory, for the sake of Your own great name, do this thing, Lord. As the brother said, let it be so, Lord, so that no man will take credit for it, so that no man will lay his hand to the ark of God and, if he did, that You would strike him down dead, Lord. Oh, God, move among us, please, because we have no other hope. We have no other hope. These children have no other hope except that You move…Amen.
I stand here today . . . I’m not troubled in my heart about your self-esteem. I’m not troubled in my heart about whether or not you feel good about yourself, whether or not life is turning out like you want it to turn out, or whether or not your checkbook is balanced. There’s only one thing that gave me a sleepless night. There’s only one thing that troubled me all throughout the morning, and this is this. Within a hundred years, a great majority of people in this building will possibly be in hell. And many who even profess Jesus Christ as Lord will spend an eternity in hell…

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You know you have a pastor who loves you when he writes a letter like this one…

This letter was excerpted from here. Please read through it and understand the uncomfortable nature of the topic and also appreciate the genuineness of the pastor’s resolution to safe guard his flock and young people.

Come out from among them and be separate, says the LORD. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you

– 2 Corinthians 6.17

20120630-193745.jpgDear Friends,

With a somewhat heavy heart I must write to you regarding separation from error. I have a heavy heart because I know that these are matters which can cause upset and contention. But these are matters which we must be very clear about.

From time to time I receive invitations to join our church with various organisations or events. One such well-meaning invitation was to an event called ‘Arise *****’. We understand that over 5,000 people gathered at ******* Stadium for a time of prayer, worship and so forth. We surely rejoice in one sense, that so many people cared enough about their faith to come together.

This event saw many churches in the area joining together. Surely it is mean-spirited to raise any objection to so many people who seem to long for God’s blessing, gathering together? But that is not the case. In order to foster this ‘unity’, many simple truths of the Word of God are ignored. We see the Roman Catholic church simply accepted as equal to any other church. We see outright liberal denominations given the same courtesy. What foolishness can have seized us if we think that God will be pleased to bless those of his children who are ‘unequally yoked together’ (2 Cor 6) with those who deny the clear teaching of His Word?

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Do Calvinists put on rippling V-neck shirts and skinny jeans?

Contrary to urban mythologies spawned by ignorant sooth sayers and idle whisperers Calvinism is not about trends in fashion. It’s actually far from having a high view of man. So, if it’s not about v-neck t-shirts or tight skinny jean pastors, then what is Calvinism about? I am glad you asked. You see…

20120628-183903.jpgCalvinism, also known as reformed theology, is a movement within orthodox Protestantism that … adheres to a very high view of scripture and seeks to derive its theological formulations based solely on God’s word. It focuses on God’s sovereignty, stating that God is able and willing by virtue of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, to do whatever He desires with His creation. It also maintains that within the Bible are the following teachings: That God, by His sovereign grace predestines people into salvation; that Jesus died only for those predestined; that God regenerates the individual to where he is then able to and wants to choose God; and that it is impossible for those who are redeemed to lose their salvation… …Read More!

Celebrity pastor Ed Young regrettably spits into the wind!

When it comes to setting fashion trends and appealing to people’s sensuality, Ed Young jr. has indeed become a household name. At times his gimmicks have been ambiguous and over the top but he gets away with it because… Well he has a mega church that likes what he does and they will fund him to display his pranks and gimmicks. Recently he seemed to have bitten off too much and thereafter like an impudent brat spoken out of turn leaving his own audience cringing. You see (reports one Ordinary Pastor)….

20120627-164841.jpgThis morning I was inundated with a number of references to a sermon by a prominent Texas pastor. The fact that Ed Young says something controversial is not new. He has been in the news for bringing live animals up for his sermons and who could forget the whole 24-hour web chat from his bed, with his wife, atop his church building? Because of these types of stunts, I don’t pay much attention to what he is saying.
Today was different however. In the midst of a sermon he launched into a diatribe against Reformed Churches. His motto was that “Reformed Theology leads to Deformed Ecclesiology.” Can Reformed pastors afford to look in the mirror in light of the Scriptures? Yes. Absolutely. Do we have the corner market on the truth? Absolutely not.

At the same time, what Young said was truly troubling. Concerning his rant, Justin Taylor tweeted, “(it was) A sad mixture of prideful boasting and sinful slander against fellow pastors and brothers.”

But this is not the primary reason why I was troubled. My biggest offense was with what he said about the work of the Holy Spirit:

Are they all bad? No they just don’t reach anybody. Last year at Fellowship Church we baptized 2,632 people. One of the fair-haired boys of this movement, I will not call his name, they baptized 26 people last year. (he then drops his hand-held mic on the floor and looks stunned). Oh, he’s deep. What are you smoking? Are you kidding me? I cannot put my head on the pillow at night knowing we baptized 26 people.

Without going too deep, the Bible seems to teach that conversion is directly tied to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the same gracious, powerful, loving, God that brings 1 person to faith that brings 100 or 1,000 to faith.

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A year through John Calvin’s “The Institutes”.

I have many times tried to read just a paragraph of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and made it to only the end of the first sentence to just munch over and over what he meant. I love reading snippets and quotes from his works from time to time. Calvin was an extremely brilliant exegete of the scriptures and his work is still respected to this day. I came across this year plan to go through The Institutes in a year and thought I would just post it. You sure will have learnt a whole lot of Systematic Theology by the time you will have completed. Karl Bart once said:

20120626-182934.jpgJohn Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from Himalaya, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately. What I receive is only a thin little stream and what I can then give out again is only a yet thinner extract of this little stream. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life with just Calvin.

Rightly said there Karl! I guess I too would have loved to listen to him teach through the book of Job or Ephesians.
Finally, to introduce the student to the study of the Scriptures Calvin wrote this following text. This program is no substitute or supplement for regular reading of God’s Word. Rather, the former is designed to serve as a aid to the latter.

Grant, Almighty God, that, since to a perverse, and in every way a rebellious people, thou didst formerly show so much grace, as to exhort them continually to repentance, and to stretch forth thy hand to them by thy Prophets, — O grant, that the same word may sound in our ears; and when we do not immediately profit by thy teaching, O cast us not away, but, by thy Spirit, so subdue all our thoughts and affections, that we, being humbled, may give glory to thy majesty, such as is due to thee, and that, being allured by thy paternal favor, we may submit ourselves to thee, and, at the same time, embrace that mercy which thou offerest and presentest to us in Christ, that we may not doubt but thou wilt be a Father to us, until we shall at length enjoy that eternal inheritance, which has been obtained for us by the, blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen

Amen!!
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The “Weslyans who love Calvin” club

Many Calvinists grow up in the rich Reformed tradition, but some of us became Calvinists later in life. We began as naive foaming in the mouth Arminians always on the look out for “those rabid Calvinists who worship Calvin” but as we studied the Bible closely became graciously closet Calvinists till we were able to hold our own ground in the Reformed faith. (Disclaimer: Calvinists do not worship John Calvin). I must therefore emphasise this, before we continue that one’s theological stance must always be based on balanced scriptural and doctrinal integrity rather than popular sentimentality or trending fads. I will now gladly introduce you to a new fledgling club. A couple of Wesleyans seem to appreciate Calvin for his theological views as John Starke (The Gospel Coalition) found out as he interviewed Fred Sanders (Patheos)….

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John Starke: Recently you had a fun post, “Calvinists Who Love Wesley.” From what I know of you, I’m tempted to call you a “Wesleyan who loves Calvin.” Is that fair? What about the Calvinist and Reformed tradition do you find compelling? Where is it strongest?

Fred Sanders: Definitely sign me up for the “Wesleyans who love Calvin” club. I teach excerpts from The Institutes every year, and I’ve worked through the whole book cover to cover five times (three with students in seminar). There is no better way to learn the craft of theology than to work through The Institutes. Calvin shows his work: he always lets you know what he’s after, what he’s afraid of, and why he’s doing things. He brings you along with him, and requires an active and responsive reader who is willing to make costly decisions all along the way. …Read More!

A day in the life of a missionary in rural Africa.

I have lately been searching for Reformed and conservative missionary groups in Africa more especially Uganda. On the surface Uganda just like many other third world countries struggles with many issues theological and otherwise. Christianity in Africa as they say is “a mile wide but an inch deep”. I am deeply grateful for the few laborers going into the field and faithfully preaching the gospel and discipling new believers. Today I will feature a simple letter (blog post ) written a little while ago. It is written by James Huckabee  a missionary from America to rural Western Uganda.

Greetings! I thought I’d send a brief letter and let you see the latest construction out at the Juru church. They have put the roof on the pole building, and we had our first service at the new location yesterday. Thank you to the church that sent us money for the construction. This is what your money built:

We had a great service. The morale of the church is greatly improved. I know it wasn’t terribly comfortable meeting in the old place, which had mud walls and a tarp roof (’til some lowlife stole it). It was wet in there when it rained, and hot in the sun. This new building is dry and cool. There’s always a nice breeze. …Read More!

Today in Church History: The death of John Calvin (27th May)

John Calvin was born in 1509. He died in 1564. This year on the 27th of May we will read what Philip Schaff wrote about John’s death. Before he died his last wish was to be buried in an unmarked grave with no witnesses and no ceremony. Schaff writes:

… Calvin spent his last days in almost continual prayer, and in ejaculating comforting sentences of Scripture, mostly from the Psalms. He suffered at times excruciating pains. He was often heard to exclaim: “I mourn as a dove” (Isa. 38:14); “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it” (Ps. 39:9); “Thou bruisest me, O Lord, but it is enough for me that it is thy hand.” His voice was broken by asthma, but his eyes remained bright, and his mind clear and strong to the last. He admitted all who wished to see him, but requested that they should rather pray for him than speak to him.

On the day of his death he spoke with less difficulty. He fell peacefully asleep with the setting sun towards eight o’clock, and entered into the rest of his Lord. “I had just left him,” says Beza, “a little before, and on receiving intimation from the servants, immediately hastened to him with one of the brethren. We found that he had already died, and so very calmly, without any convulsion of his feet or hands, that he did not even fetch a deeper sigh. He had remained perfectly sensible, and was not entirely deprived of utterance to his very last breath. Indeed, he looked much more like one sleeping than dead.”

He had lived fifty-four years, ten months, and seventeen days.

HT Jim West. (And there is a good collection of posts here. Thanks to my good friend and insomniac, Jim again! ;) )


Basel and the Reformation.

The next highlight of the Reformation week conference was the visit to Basel. ( see Haus Barnabas report here; Constance report here and Zurich report here). The town of Basel was called Basilea or Basilia in Latin and this name is documented from 374 AD. Basel like most Swiss cities is calm and sedate. Beautifully located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel is Switzerland’s second-largest urban area. the River Rhine runs through Basel and provides such a romantic backdrop to maul up this city’s turbulent and engaging history.

My trip to Basel to trace places of historical importance to the Reformation period started by a cordial visit to a local Swiss Reformed church in Riehen (a municipal of Basel).

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The Reformed branch of Protestantism in Switzerland was started in Zürich by Huldrych Zwingli and spread within a few years to Basel (Johannes Oecolampadius), Bern (Berchtold Haller and Niklaus Manuel), St. Gall (Joachim Vadian), to cities in southern Germany and via Alsace (Martin Bucer) to France.

In the Swiss Reformed church in Riehen one can still see the long standing traditional architectural structure of the church set up. The pews and wall designs tell of the tensions as you look at the different designs of art of a time gone past. …Read More!

Zurich and Zwingli: The people’s priest in Zurich and his contribution to the Reformation.

I had a very interesting trip recently to Germany and Switzerland as I followed a few of the Reformers. One of them stuck out. No he didn’t nail theses on walls but he knew how to get his point across. I must add here that the Reformation actually was not a one man crusade as some would want you to believe. God in his providence harnessed events in tandem to bring about one of the greatest revivals since Pentecost and the visible effects were actually out workings and fruits of birth pangs that had began with people going back to reading the scriptures.

In Zürich (Switzerland) stands a statue that has braved mischievous and militant Swiss pigeons to the hilt. It stands in the church yard of one of  the biggest cathedrals in Zürich, the Grossmünster. The statue is of the man who was called “the people’s priest” Ulrich (Huldrych) Zwingli. Zwingli was born January 1, 1484 in Wildhaus, Switzerland. Early scholarly gifts caused him to be sent to school, especially at Basel, and he learned to love the classics.

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When Zwingli became a priest he arrived in Zürich town with the announcement that he would begin to preach right through the Gospel of Matthew. This was a departure from the fragmentary reading of Scripture that had prevailed in the medieval Church. After Matthew he preached through Acts and then turned his attention to Paul’s epistles. There is a lot that the contemporary church movement would learn  from this simple man who led to spiritual reform from just beginning to preach verse by verse (expository preaching) at the Grossmünster. (Click here for Zwingli resources online)

The Grossmünster (“great minster”) is a Romanesque-style Protestant church in Zürich, Switzerland. It is near the banks of the Limmat River. Construction of the present structure commenced around 1100 and it was inaugurated around 1220. Huldrych Zwingli initiated the Swiss-German Reformation in Switzerland from his pastoral office at the Grossmünster, starting in 1520. Zwingli won a series of debates …Read More!

What did John Huss contribute to Church History?

The recent Reformation Week conference in German/Switzerland gave me an opportunity to visit the memorial stone of John Huss. The slide show depicts: sights and scenes in Constance, The Huss museum, Huss memorial stone, the munster (cathedral) in Constance. So, who was John Huss?

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John Huss (Jan Hus) was born in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) in about 1371. He received a master’s degree from Charles University in Prague in 1396, became a professor of theology in 1398, was ordained to the priesthood in 1400, was made rector of the University in 1402, and in 1404 received a bachelor’s degree in theology (presumably a more advanced degree than the term suggests today).

In his day, there was a crisis of authority in the Western Church. In 1305, under pressure from the King of France, the seat of the Popes was move from Rome to Avignon in France, where it remained for 70 years. (This period is called the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy, suggesting the 70 years that Jerusalem lay desolate after when the Jews were deported to Babylon.) …Read More!

The Reformation Week Conference in Germany and Switzerland.

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Haus Barnabas was the host destination again for this years “Reformation Week Conference 2012″. This serene Christian guesthouse and retreat centre is tucked away in the picturesque village of Utzenfeld in the “Hochschwarzwald” – Black Forest Highlands approximately 30 miles north of Basel in Switzerland and 20 miles south-east of the historic city of Freiburg in the Rhine plain. [In the picture slide above are Haus Barnabas, Gross Munster cathedral in Zurich, statue of Zwingli, Anabaptist cave,  Imperia statue in Zurich, Munster in Basel, Anabaptist memorial at the River Limmatt in Zurich and some art work found in the Munster in Basel]

This year’s conference began with evening dinner on Thursday 3rd May followed by sessions led by Dr. Bernhard Kaiser. Dr Kaiser is founder and director of the Institute of Reformational theology in Reiskirchen near Giessen, Germany and is a lecturer in Systematic theology at the Selye-Janos University in Komamo, Slovakia. His passion is teaching the relevance of reformation Theology for today’s generation.

This year’s programme delved in to Reformation Theology (the Solas) …Read More!

Do you “believe to be born again” or are you “born again to believe”?

No it’s not a riddle. It is not even a trick question. I while back some of my friends kept asking, “Why has Michael become a “Reformed Christian” after several years in prosperity driven and seeker sensitive churches?” So to make things alot easier to understand I thought it’s best to go back to the Bible and back to basics. What  exactly does it mean to become a Christian?

I have come to believe that Salvation begins with an unfailing work of God in the hearts of all those who will believe. While most churches in our current day believe that you “believe to be born again”, like the Reformers and Puritans I have come to believe the opposite about that; my belief is that you are “born again to believe” (see the change in order?).

Here’s a simple quiz for bible believing Christians. …Read More!

Aha! So, are you a Calvinist….no ifs and no buts?

So imagine the theological police round you up in a dark street corner and as they breathe down your neck and one asks you,“so, little helpless brat are you a Calvinist?” With the microphone firmly planted to your upper lip say, “You decide. Here is what I believe . . .”

I believe I am so spiritually corrupt and prideful and rebellious that I would never have come to faith in Jesus without God’s merciful, sovereign victory over the last vestiges of my rebellion. (1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1–4; Romans 8:7).

I believe that God chose me to be his child before the foundation of the world, on the basis of nothing in me, foreknown or otherwise. (Ephesians 1:4–6; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29–30; 11:5–7)

I believe Christ died as a substitute for sinners to provide a bona fide offer of salvation to all people, and that he had an invincible design in his death to obtain his chosen bride, namely, the assembly of all believers, whose names were eternally written in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. (John 3:16; John 10:15; Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 13:8)

When I was dead in my trespasses, and blind to the beauty of Christ, God made me alive, opened the eyes of my heart, granted me to believe, and united me to Jesus, with all the benefits of forgiveness and justification and eternal life. …Read More!

Calvinism Makes People Lose Their “Holy Ghost Fire”

"holy ghost party"

When I was a Word of Faith enthusiast I loved God because I was born again and the only church I knew taught what I eventually picked up. I did not understand much of what was taught in church and knew some of the doctrines made no theological or scriptural sense. I easily embraced prosperity theology and any fad that slithered to the pulpit. It is true that when people are always shifting their doctrinal principles, they are not likely to bring forth much fruit to the glory of God. It is good for young believers to begin with a firm hold upon those great fundamental doctrines which the Lord has taught in His Word. But scriptural exegesis and theological exertions are not encouraged by many churches-most especially in the liberal non-cessationist camps. They call this being “pharisaical” or “too conservative” or limiting the move of Holy Spirit who would otherwise want every one to be open minded and receptive to every and anything.

Its against that background that I understand why this young man drew a line in the sand and dared the bravest of Calvinists to smell the coffee on the liberal side:

Recently I made a very hard important decision concerning Facebook. I felt like a few people on my friends list were posting and promoting things, that I feel are a threat to my personal faith walk, and a threat to the effectiveness of the Body of Christ period. If you do not know by now, I am not a Calvinist, and I do not agree with the doctrines of Calvinism and reformed theology (mainly the TULIP). There’s More

Sola Scriptura and The Cult of One

The clarion call of the Reformation was to get back to the source of christian faith. A relentless and clear cry to go back to the scriptures, the principle now known as “Sola Scriptura” (by scripture alone). Additionally, another prominent doctrine which was then brought forth is often known as “the universal priesthood of the believer“. Well you see

Many, many, people in the years since interpreted those two doctrines taken-together to mean that each person interprets the bible for himself (and by himself). Unfortunately, this has had the tendency to create novel doctrines over the years, and yes, a proliferation of cults.

I’m not saying that each individual cannot understand the Bible — and thus needs a professional clergy-person to do it for him. Rather, the point of those two doctrines was to emphasize the idea that one needn’t be part of the professional clergy to understand the Bible. …Read More!

Theological Elephantiasis: Pulling out the race card when you run out of verses.

Bishop Jakes, who was spiritually nurtured in the Oneness Pentecostal tradition, had never given a clear affirmation of Trinitarian orthodoxy, even though he had been pressed on this from Christian apologists (most notably 12 years ago in the year 2000). Elephant Room 2 was to take him to task about his slippery antics but he seemed to have wiggled out again. Some conservative (especially Reformed) Christians thought Jakes had an easy ride and was’t even quizzed on his other aberrant beliefs like Word of faith and prosperity theology. Kaboom! Out came the race card!!

Argh! Surely aren’t Christians supposed to “be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” How come some  of us are just too thin skinned to take correction, rebuke and can’t even stomach careful instruction? Now this is absurd! Or rather am I (as a young black reformed Christian) supposed to be  learning an easy trick? If I get rebuked or run out of bible verses to back my aberrant beliefs in ANY debate or discussion there seems to always be a “get out of jail” sympathy card for some. Phil Johnson makes an interesting observation :

If you’re an old white guy with any hint of Reformed theology in your confessional statement and you don’t think T. D. Jakes’s equivocations at Elephant Room 2 were sufficient to erase decades of concern about his Oneness leanings and his relentless proclamation of a false Prosperity Gospel—then you must be a racist. And even if you don’t think you’re a racist, you should shut up anyway. Because in the black community relationships are more important than any doctrine, including the gospel and the Trinity. We all should strive to subjugate doctrine to relationships anyway.

If on the other hand you are a young black man with Reformed convictions—or any black person who just has a keen interest in doctrinal and biblical accuracy—you are a sellout and a reproach to your own community. The only possible explanation is that you are guilty of “White Idolatry.” You secretly wish to earn favor with Whitey. You should not only shut up, you should be ashamed. As far as the importance of relationships is concerned, we don’t really care to have one with you. …Read More!

Help, I need more Arminian friends!

It’s usually said if you want two see to lads play endless theological ping-pong, start a Calvinism vs Arminianism debate and title it “Does man have free will?” You will literally have to drag one of them apart…kicking and screaming. But I must say these theological debates do achieve their own edification in various unseen ways. They are strenuous and it always seems as though the other guy is just playing dumb like Balaam’s donkey. But when you come to finally hear your proverbial nemesis drop his daisies and grab hold of a bunch of graceful Tulips, doesn’t it just warm your heart? (sorry couldn’t resist the pun ;)) This is an excerpt from an article written by Mark Ketchum- on discovering God’s Sovereignty in election, salvation and transformation of a sinner dead in sin:

    …We are not able to seek Him or turn to Him unless He first intervenes to soften our hearts. Are we capable? …. Are we able? No, our hearts are seeped in sin and our depravity makes God undesirable…

    Romans 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    I have struggled with this concept for a long time. Ever since the concept of election was brought to my attention, I have fought against the idea of the inability to seek God on my own. During the sermon today at Faith Bible Church, it was as if a light bulb went on for the first time… God does choose us… we do not and cannot choose Him.

    My salvation is not because of anything I have done, but because of what God has done to and through me.

    While John is capable of going to college and graduating with a good degree, he is not able to accomplish this because of his laziness.

    Scripture tells us that we cannot come to Jesus unless we are compelled or drawn by the Father (John 6:44).  Jesus also spoke to us via Parable in Luke 14:16-24, explaining that the Father sent His servant Jesus to compel people to the banquet because nobody would come on their own… they were filled with excuses.

    I do believe in free will, however, now I see that free will is and will always be limited by ourselves. My free will allows me to jump off a roof with my arms a flapping, but I will never be able to fly on my own accord without assistance.

    My free will allows me to choose to murder, but thankfully I never will because that is not in my heart. The same goes for salvation. My free will allows me to choose God, but in my/our depraved state of sinfulness, I never will because it isn’t in my heart… unless God first softens my heart and changes me. Then and only then am I able to have the faith that offers repentance and salvation. …Read More!

Oh, where did all the good books go?

Joseph M. Bianchi rightly said:

A walk through your local Christian book store will reveal a vast array of titles whose themes range from self-help to identifying which demon you are afflicted by. In this sorry state of affairs, one has to ask: “Where have all the sound, doctrinal books gone?”.

The real question, however, is, “Where have all the well taught, well discipled Christians gone?” The core of the issue is not the plethora of shallow, theologically unsound books that are flooding the market, but their huge success. It is indeed unmistakable that the church of Jesus Christ in the latter half of the twentieth century has retreated into a superficial, theological ghetto, that mirrors the culture, rather than transforms it. …Read More!

A day in the life of a relentless Reformed preacher…

One Reformed preacher whose sermons have helped me deal with several theological conundrums is a wonderful man called Arturo G. Azurdia III. Art (for those who know him) and have listened to him usually likes using the word “relentless” and therefore he becomes our first in a series of relentless preachers to be featured. ;)

Lets dig deeper into his personal life and see what things he holds loosely and what things he clings to dearly. Here is an interview excerpted from the Exiled Preacher (2008):

QN: Who has taught you most of what it means to preach the Word of God?

AA: It’s difficult for me to reduce it to one man, because several have had strategic influence on me at various stages of my development.

Shortly after I was converted it was the preaching of …Wanna Read More?

This year I will become a millionaire! It’s in the Bible! Look!

I will tell you how I used to spend the last day of each year. Yup, we would spend it in church quoting Jeremiah 29:11. We would affirm: “This new year I will be prosperous! This is my year of divine destiny! This is my year of health, wealth and prosperity!”

But Voddie Baucham in this clip explains something very important. How I wish I had come across such teaching on exegesis and rightly understanding scripture in context.

Jeremiah 29:11 is just one of many mis quoted verses. …Read More!!

The cost of taking the gospel out of America

Adoniram Judson lived several years before America’s lucrative export became a lukewarm synthetic form of materialism called prosperity gospel. Adoniram was a selfless Calvinistic Baptist missionary from the United States who labored for almost forty years in Burma. At the age of 25, he was the first Protestant missionary sent from North America to preach in Burma. To summarise his missionary endeavors here is a concise post ….

Anarchic despotism, fierce war with Siam, enemy raids, constant rebellion, and no religious freedom (pg 85). What missionary would decide to go such a place? Although Burma(Myanmar) was essentially what we call a “closed country”, Adoniram Judson went in spite of an admonition from William Carey not to go (pg 85)…at age 24, and with a 23 year old wife! Ahead of Judson was immense loss, which many of us could scarcely imagine. But through it all he could say “If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings” …Read More!

The most terrifying truth of Scripture…

Paul Washer explains the most terrifying truth of Scripture:

…Read More!

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