By Vern S. Poythress
Book review by Robin Boisvert
Okay, so it’s not the most scintillating title. But it is a very helpful book. Dispensational Theology is a very pervasive theological system influencing many who may not even have heard of it. In its popular form it underlies the eschatology (doctrine of the end times) of The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsay and the Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye.
The characteristic feature of Dispensationalism is the idea that God has two distinct peoples—His natural people, Israel, and His spiritual people, the Church. These are traveling along parallel but separate paths to their ultimate destinies.
At times I’ve heard our church criticized for teaching ‘replacement theology’—the idea that the church has replaced Israel. Is that true? Or is it ‘inclusion theology’— that God’s promises to Abraham (Israel) have, through Christ, been opened up to include Gentiles (cf. Genesis 12.3; Ephesians 2.11-22).
Just how do Israel and the Church relate? What does it mean to interpret Scripture literally? Do Old Testament prophecies have more than one fulfillment? Tune in to this book to find out.
Poythress writes from the perspective of Covenant Theology but he is a sympathetic critic, always irenic and always searching for common ground. I’ve read this book twice in the last year and found it very helpful.
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April 18 2016 at 12:56 pm 0 Comments
Shared courtesy of Keith Welton’s blog “Everyday Truth.”
We all want to grow more mature and deeper in our walk with God, but often we just don't see the fruit that we would like. The Puritan minister Thomas Boston has some great tips for understanding growth.
Boston first points out "the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar of Lebanon (Psalm 42:12). Using the image of a tree growing he gives the following helpful instructions.
If all true Christians are growing ones; what do we say of those who instead of growing, are going back? I answer, there is a great difference between the Christian growing simply and his growing at all times. All true Christians do grow, but I do not say they grow at all times. A tree that has life and nourishment, grows to its perfection, yet it is not always growing; it grows not in the winter. Christians also have their winters, wherein the influence of grace, necessary for growth, are ceased... but they revive again, when the winter is over, and the Son of righteousness returns to them with his warm influence.
Boston also give two tips to those who mistakenly measure their growth by 1) their present feeling and 2) their growth in the top and not the root. To these he says,
1) Those judging by their present feeling. They observe themselves and cannot perceive themselves to be growing: But there is no reason to conclude they are not growing. Should one fix his eye so steadfastly on the sun running its race, or on a growing tree, he would not perceive the sun moving nor the tree growing. But if he compares the tree as it now is, with what it was some years ago, and consider the place in the heavens, where the sun was in the morning; he will certainly perceive the tree grown and the sun moved.
2) Those measuring their growth by advances in the top only not of the root. Though a man be not growing taller, he may be growing stronger. If a tree be taking with the ground, fixing itself in the earth, and spreading out its root; it is certainly growing, although it be nothing taller than formerly. So also a Christian may want the sweet consolation and flashes of affection, which sometimes he has had, yet if he is growing in humility, self denial, and sense of needy dependence on Christ he is a growing Christian.
We may have seasons where we are not growing as we might hope or think, but sometimes there is a deep internal work going on. Maybe we are growing stronger in convictions or spreading roots deeper. Those may be the winters that precede the growing season and the harvest. Don't be discouraged by them!
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April 11 2016 at 3:26 pm 0 Comments
"Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." —Psalm 90:1-2
Meditations by Charles Spurgeon like the one below were first published in weekly installments over a 20-year span. These individual articles have been assembed into a multi-volume book entitled "The Treasury of David." Benefit from Spurgeon's persective on the passage we heard preached on Sunday in Kevin Roger's message "Security", which is part two in our five-part series on the Psalms called "Restless".
"Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations."
We must consider the whole Psalm as written for the tribes in the desert, and then we shall see the primary meaning of each verse. Moses, in effect, says—wanderers though we be in the howling wilderness, yet we find a home in thee, even as our forefathers did when they came out of Ur of the Chaldees and dwelt in tents among the Canaanites.
To the saints the Lord Jehovah, the self-existent God, stands instead of mansion and rooftree; He shelters, comforts, protects, preserves, and cherishes all his own. Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the saints dwell in their God, and have always done so in all ages. Not in the tabernacle or the temple do we dwell, but in God himself; and this we have always done since there was a church in the world. We have not shifted our abode. Kings' palaces have vanished beneath the crumbling hand of time—they have been burned with fire and buried beneath mountains of ruins, but the imperial race of heaven has never lost its regal habitation.
Go to the Palatine and see how the Caesars are forgotten of the halls which echoed to their despotic mandates, and resounded with the plaudits of the nations over which they ruled, and then look upward and see in the ever living Jehovah the divine home of the faithful, untouched by so much as the finger of decay. Where dwelt our fathers a hundred generations since, there dwell we still.
It is of New Testament saints that the Holy Ghost has said, "He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in God and God in him!" It was a divine mouth which said, "Abide in me", and then added, "he that abideth in me and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit." It is most sweet to speak with the Lord as Moses did, saying, "Lord, thou art our dwelling place", and it is wise to draw from the Lord's eternal condescension reasons for expecting present and future mercies, as the Psalmist did in the next Psalm wherein he describes the safety of those who dwell in God.
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March 7 2016 at 12:38 pm 1 Comments
I do a number of classes that introduce people to the Christian faith. Many who attend are not just exploring Christianity but religion in general. A regular question that comes up is: "How do I know what religion is the true religion?"
This is a hard question to answer because I know an answer loaded with Bible verses will not work. I try to give an objective answer and so here is what I often say.
First: Consider the place of personal satisfaction.
What gives you peace, comfort, and fulfillment? I start here because this is perhaps what draws most people to search for religion. People have a sense they were created for something, they have a sense they are not as happy as they should be. It is often the lack of peace, comfort, and answers to life that caused them to search for deeper answers.
Does this religion give suitable answers to why we lack peace, comfort, happiness? It’s not enough to give joy and hope but does the reason for why these things are not present really make sense. This side of our personal satisfaction and existence is an important one to look at but it is also a category that often gets elevated too high. True peace and comfort do not come from themselves but is often a byproduct of other things.
Second: Consider the normative or authoritative basis of that religion.
This focuses on the basis of its beliefs as well as the rightness of those beliefs. Religions give explanations for how to find happiness, peace, truth, life, and much more. These explanations should be examined. Anyone can make claims, but what is the justification of those claims? I can say I am a world class athlete but is there any justification to believe that? The basis for the claims of the religion should be grounded in truth. If they are based on fable or musings that either are not true or do not have a basis then they are not worth trusting.
The rightness of the claims, commands, and justification should also be examined. Does the religion speak of rules and commands that are right and just? Religion gives a way of viewing the world and of knowing what is right and wrong. These things should make sense of the world and accord with what is right, good and true. If it gives commands that are morally wrong, how can we submit to it or trust in it?
The rightness of religion can be hard to judge. We all sometimes look at true facts and refuse to accept them. Our failure to acknowledge such facts does not negate their truthfulness. After all, the truth is true by itself and not because we recognize it. So certainly the true religion must be true even if we do not recognize it. And if we are not following the truth then it only makes sense our judgment of it will develop as we experience it. This is why a search for truth often results in a change of our own standards.
The aspect of the authority or justification is important because a religion based on falsities can not provide peace. Imagine if you were in a building that is structurally unsound. You feel it swaying in the air and the floor shaking under you. You could try to have all the inward peace you want but if the foundation is not secure there is no inward peace. The same is true of religion. If its basis is not true there can be no peace, comfort, etc.
Third: Religion should illuminate the situation we are in.
It ought to be satisfying when applied and lived. The true religion must make sense of our situation and shed light on how to live and act rightly. This can in part be a way we judge the truthfulness of it. True religion ought to make clear the right and wrong way to do things. If it doesn’t illuminate these, how helpful is it? If it doesn't shed light on how to live and how the world works, then why would we believe its claims about God?
It ought to instruct what leads to happiness and peace. It ought to inform what is good and evil and also what is good and gooder. It ought to direct how we think, live, and feel. Here we see how the personal satisfaction and objective basis come together in how we live practically. If it is true then it ought to lead to a life that is desirable. If people are living according to the true God and in harmony with his plan and experiencing peace and joy then there should be something attractive about their life. We should see people, husbands, wives, children, workers, students, and so on knowledgeable about life and enjoying it.
If we want peace with God in our life then the true religion must instruct in how God is at the center of all we think, do, speak and feel. If we want his peace and comfort in every moment then there ought to be a way to experience his rule, guidance, and presence in all we do. The true religion must be personally satisfying, objectively true and circumstantially illuminating in all we do. It should give a view of all of life that is coherent and satisfying.
These are some reasons for determining the true religion. There are many others but these broad categories that you and your unbelieving friends or neighbors may find helpful.
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February 19 2016 at 4:05 pm 1 Comments
Covenant Life Church has been a part of the Montgomery County community for nearly 40 years. Since our earliest gatherings in 1977, our aim has been to nurture the spiritual life of our members and work for the good of our neighbors.
Like our city and county, we’ve gone through many changes, but the foundation of our faith and message has remained the same: In Jesus Christ there is forgiveness, freedom and hope. At Covenant Life, we endeavor to help one another and the community around us find life in Him.
You may be reading this because you’ve seen or heard media reports that paint a different picture, one that suggests our church is insensitive to victims of child abuse. Such coverage has omitted crucial information, perpetuated distortions and false allegations, and mischaracterized Covenant Life Church.
Our society instinctively knows child abuse is abhorrent and our laws rightly reflect its grievous nature and devastating effects. Covenant Life shares this abhorrence and condemns child abuse in all its forms. Our hearts ache for those who have experienced abuse, and we strive to be a community where victims of child abuse and all injustice find healing and hope.
Like the educational community and our broader society, we have learned much over the past four decades about how to respond to reports of abuse and provide the best possible care and counsel to victims and their families.
In this regard, Covenant Life has benefited from working with local law enforcement and social services on matters of safety, security and sexual abuse awareness. Our interaction with civil authorities has been instrumental in shaping our policies and procedures for the protection and care of children.
Simply put, when a pastor, staff member or volunteer has reason to believe a child is the victim of abuse or neglect, our policy requires those individuals to report it immediately to civil authorities.
Every Sunday, hundreds of families participate in our church services and entrust their children to the care of our staff and volunteers. We will continue to work hard to ensure our church is a place of safety for children and a place of healing for victims.
We believe anyone who visits our church will find a welcoming environment to explore faith in Jesus Christ. We look forward to continuing to serve Montgomery County and the greater Washington, D.C., region for decades to come.
Executive Pastor, Covenant Life Church
February 7, 2016
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February 8 2016 at 2:24 pm 1 Comments
This past Sunday was "Super Group Sunday", a day dedicated to helping people connect with others by highlighting the many care groups, book clubs and Bible studies members have organized here in the church.
During the service we enjoyed a video from the Galeano Care Group where members talked about how much being part of a care group has meant for them. It was wonderful to see how God has used this group to build a sense of community, where friends strengthen and build each other up in faith.
After the service, several hundred people crowded into the gym to meet the leaders of different groups and ministries, enjoy laughs and fellowship and, of course, some delicous Super Bowl snacks.
If you missed the event, it's not too late. You can still browse all the open care groups through the "Find A Group" page of this website. Reach out to one of the care group leaders there, and set up a time to check out their group.
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