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Archive for March, 2009

Spurgeon’s Sobering Sermon on Spitting in the Face of Christ

By Nancy Guthrie

In the collection of writings about the incarnation, Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, I included an edited version of a sermon by Charles Spurgeon that explored all of the places where there was “no room” for Jesus. If you are like me, when you read that piece, you can almost hear Spurgeon passionately preaching from his London pulpit. More significantly you want to “make room” for Jesus in every place of your own heart and life, “preparing the way of the Lord.” I have a similar response in reading the Spurgeon sermon I adapted for Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross called “Then Did They Spit in His Face.” Reading through it causes me to feel the horror and heinousness of humanity spitting into the face of God as we did when the religious leaders of Jesus’ day spit in the face of Jesus.

To any of us who would be quick to say, “I was not there; I did not spit in his face” Spurgeon forces us to see the subtle ways we, too, spit in the face of God. “The mere act of spitting from the mouth seems little compared with this sin of spitting with the very heart and soul and pouring contempt upon Christ by choosing some sin in preference to him. Yet, alas! How many are thus still spitting in Christ’s face.”

He also invites us to courageously share in the suffering of Jesus saying, “Let us say to ourselves, ‘Then did they spit in his face. What, then, if they also spit I mine?’ . . . See, that wretch is about to spit in Christ’s face! Put your cheek forward, that you may catch that spittle upon your face, that it fall not upon him again, for as he was put to such terrible shame, every one who has been redeemed with his precious blood ought to count it an honor to be a partaker of the shame, if by any means we may screen him from being further despised and rejected of men.”

~~~

NANCY GUTHRIE has a passion for sharing God’s Word through her growing national and international Bible-teaching ministry. She has worked in the Christian publishing industry for more than two decades and is the author of Holding On to Hope, The One-Year Book of Hope, Hoping for Something Better, and Crossway’s Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.

March 25, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church History,Life / Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Staff @ 6:52 am | 1 Comment »

2009 Christian Book Awards

Last night at the Christian Book Expo, ECPA announced the winners of the 2009 Christian Book Awards.

From Crossway, John Piper’s Spectacular Sins won in the Christian Life category. The ESV Study Bible won this year’s award in both the Bible category and the top honor as the 2009 Christian Book of the Year, the first time a Bible has won both its category and the overall award.

Justin Taylor has the full list of 2009 award winners in the six categories—Bible, Bible Reference & Study, Christian Life, Fiction, Children & Youth, and Inspiration & Gift.

March 20, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,Book News,News | Author: James Kinnard @ 4:44 am | 0 Comments »

2009 Christian Book of the Year: The ESV Study Bible

From ECPA’s Thursday evening press release:

Thursday, March 19, 2009, Dallas, TX—The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) announced tonight the winners of the 2009 Christian Book Awards during the 2009 Christian Book Expo (CBE) in Dallas. For the first time in the award’s 30-year history, a study Bible was named Christian Book of the Year, the ESV Study Bible (Crossway).

The ESV Study Bible, which has sold more than 180,000 units within five months of release, also won its category for best Bible, the first time a Bible has won both its category and the overall Christian Book of the Year award.

Read more about the Christian Book Awards and past winners.

March 19, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,ESV Study Bible,News | Author: James Kinnard @ 11:26 pm | (4) Comments »

An Interview with Ajith Fernando

9781581348880-11Join us as Ajith Fernando discusses A Call to Joy & Pain, a 2008 Christianity Today Book Award winner in the category of Church/Pastoral Leadership.

This book’s topic and title speak to what you call “one of the paradoxes of Christianity.” Why not just write about joy or suffering separately?

It is not possible to know real joy unless we also associate it with one of the indispensable features of life—suffering and frustration. The happiest people in the world are not those who have no suffering, but those who are not afraid of suffering—those who know that they can experience what one writer calls “winter sunshine.”

Your ministry has included grassroots work with the poor and with drug addicts and counselors—all in the warring country of Sri Lanka. How has exposure to such human devastation influenced your perspective on both joy and suffering?

We have had some really difficult times in our country. I have had many opportunities to leave Sri Lanka over the years, but my wife and I felt convinced that God had called us to live and work and die in Sri Lanka. Many of our friends have left because of their children. During one of the bleakest times in Sri Lanka we asked, “What is it that would make staying in Sri Lanka worthwhile for our children?” We decided that it would be a happy home. So we set about to have a happy home amidst all of the strains of life and ministry. I believe our children do not resent the fact that we stayed on in Sri Lanka. In fact, both of them have responded to the call to ministry in Sri Lanka.

You say that one of the weaknesses of the church and individual Christians is “the lack of a theology of suffering.” What are the greatest dangers when we don’t have such a theology, and how does it affect us?

We will not have the ability to face suffering biblically if we do not have a theology of suffering. Because of their problems, some move away from their call and end up missing God’s best for them. Others remain in their place of suffering, but do so with anger, bitterness, deep discouragement, or even depression. A theology of suffering provides a base upon which we can build healthy attitudes toward difficult circumstances, so that we can always live joyfully.

You mention wanting to help people develop an approach to life that “refuses to look upon suffering as a big deal.” How can this be possible when we inherently view suffering as being a very big deal?

If we realize the great wealth of a life of godliness with contentment (1 Tim. 6:16) and the great wealth of our riches in Christ, then we are able to put suffering in perspective and look at it in relation to the greatest things in life. Then the sting of suffering is reduced. Our theology tells us that even suffering will work out for our good (Rom. 8:28). We realize that suffering is less significant than the love of God for us and in us (Rom. 8:31-38) and the deep joy of the Lord in us arising from the fact that God loves (1 John 3:1) and delights in us (Zeph. 3:17).

So suffering is a reality that we need to come to grips with. In my book, I recommend the discipline of lament as a way of coming to grips with suffering. The joy of the Lord is greater than suffering because the Lord is greater than suffering.

What strikes you about Jesus as our model of this call to joy and suffering?

He was such a liberated person. He was afraid of no one! He was so confident as he rode along to Jerusalem knowing that it would lead to his death. Yet he was so human—lamenting, weeping, yearning in prayer for weaker people, and then even asking that the cup would pass away. Then we find him with his good friends just before experiencing the greatest agony that any human could face—the agony of bearing on his sinlessly pure self the sins of the world. And what does he tell his disciples? “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). How on earth could we have fullness of joy by taking on the joy of one who was just about to suffer more than anyone has suffered in history? That was Jesus—one who really knew the meaning of joy!

What is your hope for readers of this book?

I hope that they will be challenged to follow Christ in more radical obedience and service, knowing that the inevitable suffering they will encounter will not take away their happiness. I hope they will realize that the things that give true happiness are not the things that the world associates with happiness. Many people have rejected the gospel in the west and many don’t know about the gospel in the east. In both the east and west, people would be truly challenged by the winsome witness of joyous Christians who adopt a servant lifestyle in order to love their neighbors. It is the joy of the Lord that gives strength for such a lifestyle (Neh. 8:10). I hope my readers discover this strength afresh.

March 17, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Interview,Life / Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life,Trials / Suffering | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:58 am | (6) Comments »

Scott Klusendorf on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

9781433503207With President Obama’s executive order repealing the policy that limited federal tax dollars for stem cell research, this month’s publication of Scott Klusendorf’s The Case for Life couldn’t be more timely.

Klusendorf is the president of Life Training Institute, where he trains pro-life advocates to persuasively defend their views. Join us as he discusses the controversy of stem cell research as it relates to the pro-life position:

1. What are stem cells and why are  scientists eager to use them in treating disease?
Stem cells are fast growing, unspecialized cells that can reproduce themselves and grow new organs for the body. All 210 different types of human tissue originate from these primitive  cells. Because they have the potential to grow into almost any kind of tissue—including nerves, bones, and muscle, scientists believe that the introduction of healthy stem cells into a patient may restore lost function to damaged  organs, especially the brain.

2. Why is stem cell research focused, at  least in part, on embryos?
Human embryos have an abundant supply of stem cells which scientists are eager to harvest in hopes of treating Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other illnesses. The practice of  securing these early cells is known as embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).  The problem is that you must destroy the embryo to secure its stem cells.

3. Does that mean Christians should oppose all stem cell research?
Absolutely not. Pro-life advocates agree that we should save lives. We also support funding stem-cell research. But, we’re opposed to one kind of stem-cell research that requires destroying  defenseless human embryos so that other humans may (allegedly) benefit. That’s immoral.

4. The President and others have stated that embryonic stem cell research is morally complex. Do you agree?
Despite claims to the contrary, ESCR is not morally complicated. It comes down to just one question: Is the embryo a member of the human family? If so, killing it to benefit others is a serious  moral wrong. It treats the embryonic human being as a commodity we trade to  enhance our own well being. If, however, the embryos in question are not  human, why not put them in the crosshairs of scientists? Unfortunately, that is precisely the question President Obama ignored when he signed an executive order designating federal funds for destructive embryo research.

5. What about the claim that embryos leftover in fertility clinics are going to die anyway, so why not put them to  good use saving lives?
True, they will die—because people want to kill them for research! Nevertheless, a 2004 study shows that most of these embryos are still wanted by their parents (who pay high fees to store them). And unless Congress wants to override parental rights, few are truly available for research.

Moreover, there are moral considerations that call into question “they’re going to die anyway” argument. Suppose you oversee a Cambodian orphanage with 200 toddlers that are abandoned. The  facility cannot care for them any longer. Water levels are critically low and food supplies are exhausted. It’s only a matter of time before starvation and disease set in. A scientist has offered to take the toddlers off your hands and use them for grisly medical research designed to cure cancer. He confronts you with the hard facts: Many of these children will die soon and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it, so why let all those organs go to waste? Nonetheless, you refuse. You could never, even for a moment, consider turning  the kids over to the scientist on grounds that “these kids are going to die anyway so let’s put them to good use.” True, given your impoverished  circumstances, you are powerless to save them, but you would never be complicit in actively killing vulnerable human beings, which is what ESCR  does.

Of course, there are many other examples to consider. In short, unless one begins with the assumption that the embryos in question are not human beings, the “they’re  gonna die anyway” claim doesn’t work. All of us are going to die sometime. Do those of us who will die later have the right to kill and exploit those who will die sooner? So once again, we’re back to the question we started with:  What are these “excess” embryos? If they are human beings, I see only one morally acceptable option: Wait for adoptive parents.

6. President Obama said that ideology should  not interfere with science. What do you make of that claim?

Well, the claim that ideology should not get in the way of science is itself an ideological claim, and a highly controversial one at that. I found this the most troubling part of his speech. If he is correct that scientific progress trumps morality, one can hardly condemn Hitler for grisly medical experiments on Jews. Nor can one criticize the Tuskegee experiments of the 1940s in which black men suffering from syphilis were promised treatment, only to have it denied so scientists could study the disease. Pro-life advocates are not anti-science. We are not anti-cures. We just insist that scientific progress must be tied to moral truth.

7. You claimed in a previous interview that the President presented the nation with a false choice: medical progress versus moral considerations.

That’s exactly what he did. Not only is embryonic stem cell research immoral, but it may be unnecessary. First, numerous  peer-reviewed studies indicate that adult stem cells are more effective at treating disease than previously thought. Unlike embryo stem cell research, we can extract these adult cells without harming the donor. Critics of the pro-life view, like the late actor Christopher Reeve, insist that these adult cells won’t work. However, the evidence suggests just the opposite. So far, adult stem cells are outperforming their embryonic counterparts.

Second, new research suggests we can pursue embryo cell treatments in morally acceptable ways. Altered Nuclear Transfer (or ANT) is one new technology which seeks a morally acceptable means of producing pluripotent stem cells (the functional equivalent of embryonic stem cells) without the creation and destruction of human embryos. Instead, researchers will use biological entities that have some of the properties of  embryos, but are not living organisms. In 2007, researchers in Japan and the United States, using slightly different methods, successfully coaxed ordinary adult skin cells to function just like pluripotent embryonic ones. This remarkable breakthrough demonstrated that pluripotent cells can be obtained without destroying human embryos. This should come as thrilling news for everyone in the cloning debate intent on using embryo cells.

8. President Obama said he would strictly forbid using federal funds for reproductive cloning. The headlines even said, “Obama Says No to Cloning!” Did the President ban cloning?

Here’s what’s going on. Advocates of ESCR, including the President, want us to distinguish “therapeutic cloning” from “reproductive” cloning. But the distinction is misleading because all cloning is reproductive. So-called “reproductive” cloning means allowing the cloned human to live. “Therapeutic” cloning means creating him for research, but killing him before  birth. In either case, the act of cloning is exactly the same and results in a  living human embryo.

To learn more and be equipped to engage our culture in this area, check out Scott Klusendorf’s new book, The Case for Life. Or, it may be of interest to listen to Scott as he makes a compelling pro-life case without appeal to a particular religious position.

March 12, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Culture,Current Issues,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:49 am | (5) Comments »