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The Prophets of the Lord: Their Specialties

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

In my study through the minor prophets with S. Lewis Johnson, I’ve completed Hosea and now working through Joel.  One interesting thing I’ve come across is overview descriptions, or labels, for each of the prophets.  These follow the wording of:  “so-and-so is the prophet of blank.”  For instance, “Hosea is the prophet of unconditional love.”  Next, Joel is the prophet “of the Day of the Lord,” also “of Pentecost” and “of Repentance.”  Curious about this, I checked through other transcripts dealing with the Old Testament prophets (mostly from S. Lewis Johnson, but a few elsewhere), to come up with this good summary list for study of the OT prophets.  This list can be useful as a general outline for further study of each of the Old Testament prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi.

  • Elijah is the Prophet of Judgment and the Prophet of Fire
  • Isaiah is the Prophet of the Holy One of Israel
  • Jeremiah is the Prophet to the Nations
  • Ezekiel is the Prophet of Hope
  • Daniel is the Prophet of the Nation Israel, and the Prophet of The Times of the Gentiles
  • Hosea is the Prophet of Unconditional Love
  • Joel is the prophet of the Day of the Lord, the Prophet of Pentecost, and the Prophet of Repentance
  • Amos is the Prophet of Social Justice
  • Obadiah is the Prophet of Poetic Justice
  • Jonah is… well, a category by himself: the Parochial Prophet; or, the prophet who would not prophesy
  • Micah is the Prophet of Social Protest
  • Nahum is the Prophet of Nineveh’s Doom
  • Habakkuk is the Prophet of Faith
  • Zephaniah is the Prophet of Judgment, and the Prophet of Josiah’s Reformation
  • Haggai is the Prophet of the Return
  • Zechariah is the Prophet of Hope
  • Malachi is the Prophet of Reality

Finally we come, of course, to Jesus the Great Prophet:  the Prophet of the Prophets, and the Everlasting Prophet.

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Popular Christian Slang Terminology: Pan-Trib and Pan-Mill

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

A popular slang term among Christians of recent years is “pan-” plus something, as in “I don’t understand all this, and don’t need to understand it, but it’ll all pan out.”  Two of these “pan-” terms refer to views on eschatology:  pan-trib and pan-mill.  I first heard the term “pan-millennial” from Christians in Reformed circles, whose only consideration of eschatology had been the presentations of equally confused (regarding the subject) Reformed preachers.  Like so many others, they remain content in that area of “pious agnosticism,” and now they even have a label to attach to their belief — a name that means they don’t know what they believe.

I first heard the term “pan-trib” used with a very specific meaning:  someone who is undecided concerning the timing of the rapture.  This came from an audio sermon a year or so back; the preacher and that church affirm futurist premillennialism.  The preacher explained the different rapture views (pre-, mid- and post) and the different strengths and weaknesses, from scripture, of each view, before finally admitting that he was “pan-trib” in that he could not decide from scripture the precise timing of the rapture.

Since then, however, I have heard the term “pan-trib” used by laypeople, to apparently mean the same thing as “pan-mill.”  (Actually, I have not personally known anyone to use that term, but have seen it mentioned by others at online blogs and message boards.)  Evidently these are individuals who are not even aware of the different millennial views, but have heard terms such as “rapture” and “tribulation” and so express their pious agnosticism in the simpler wording “pan-trib.”  A brief googling of the two terms on the Internet shows more references to the term “pan-millennial,” though a few message-board type sites list references to “pan-trib.”

Though both terms (as broadly defined) are excuses for a lazy approach to scripture, I would hold to the distinction in terminology and agree with the “pan-trib” definition used by the premillennial pastor uncertain of the rapture timing.  As with everything, of course, when someone throws out a term such as this, we need to clarify and ask them what they mean by that particular term.

As I have mentioned many times before, it really does matter what you believe, and God gave us all 66 books of the Bible to tell us these things.  The very book name, Revelation, suggests this is something God has revealed to us, and yet strangely too many Christians turn it into the great Concealment instead.

S. Lewis Johnson: Video Sermons

February 23, 2011 1 comment

A new feature on the web, courtesy of Will Pherigo at Believer’s Chapel:  messages from S. Lewis Johnson that were videotaped, available at:

http://www.vimeo.com/bcdallas/videos

So far this site has six videos, three from Dr. Johnson and three from other speakers at Believer’s Chapel.  The three S. Lewis Johnson sermons are from Acts 1 and Revelation 2.  Look for more to be posted over time — they videotaped close to 1000 of his sermons, from 1984 forward (to as late as 1996).

Enjoy!  Viewing the sermons adds to the communication, to get more of a feel of actually being there and seeing the speaker and his mannerisms.

Hosea and Farming References in the Bible

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson often remarked that we who grew up in the city (instead of the farm), do not as fully appreciate some of the Bible’s illustrations and agricultural references.  The Bible is replete with agricultural images that the people of Israel would understand in a way that related to their everyday life.  The relatively few non-agricultural analogies come in the New Testament, mainly from Paul:  for instance, running the race, and constructing a building.  But for the most part, Jesus referenced the Old Testament pictures of farming, vineyards and sheep/shepherds.

Some interesting farm-specific pictures come forth in Hosea’s prophecy, and now I look at Hosea 10, the topic of one of S. Lewis Johnson’s messages in his Hosea series.

Verse 1 describes a “luxuriant vine.”  Israel is like that vine, one that keeps growing and growing but only for itself and not towards God.  Here SLJ described his own gardening experience with vines, and that he had recently observed this very thing with his own vines:  two vines next to each other, and one was just growing a lot, putting forth lots of vine and leaves, but very little fruit throughout it.  The vine right next to it was much smaller and had more grapes on it.

Verse 11 tells us that “Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh.”  Johnson, who also grew up in the city, had to look up this reference in the commentaries, to understand and explain that the threshing part of the animal’s work is fairly easy work as compared to other tasks.  Understanding that analogy, the implication is clear:  Israel had had it pretty easy up to this point, but soon God’s yoke of judgment would come:  no more threshing but more unpleasant work.

Verses 12 and 13 emphasize the overall crop process:  plowing, then reaping, then eating.  Again it’s something that should be obvious, but not as much so for us who get our food from the grocery store.  Verse 12 is a call for the people to “break up your fallow ground.”  Fallow ground is idle ground — land which not only brings forth lots of weeds and thorns (pretty obvious even for us who do simple gardening and lawncare), but also becomes harder, tougher, more difficult to break up with a plow.  Another application here is the fact, somewhat uncomfortable for us but nonetheless so, that the majority of believers “break up their fallow ground” in their younger days, when the ground (the soul) is not quite as hardened as in later years.  Again we recognize that yes, it is possible for older people to be saved, and many are, but the vast majority of Christians were saved before age 30.  How urgent the plea becomes:  now is “the time to seek the Lord, so that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.”  I recall many Spurgeon sermons on this subject, as he urges people to not put off the day of salvation; you may think that you can repent and come later, but your heart may become more hardened by then and you lose that opportunity, to your eternal destruction.

Even in that phrase above comes another illustration from nature:  the Lord will “rain righteousness upon you,” a reference again to nature.  The rain breaks up the fallow ground to make plowing easier.  S. Lewis Johnson related this also to the account in 1 Kings 18, where the rain finally came to a land in drought for 3 years, and Ahab and the others had to hurry home before the chariot wheels would get stuck in the mud.

Verse 13 ends that section of the text, with the basic agricultural sequence:  you have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies.

Faith is the Hand of the Heart: How to Increase in Faith

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

As a follow-up to a previous post on this topic, Increase Our Faith, come these great words from S. Lewis Johnson.  (reference: Matthew 9:27-31)  Here is the response to those who would say the words “give us more faith” in a prayer (even a prayer said by a preacher in a church service).

Faith determines the measure and often the manner of the gifts of our Lord.  According to your faith, be it unto you.  Professor Goday used to like to say that “faith is the hand of the heart.”  Now, if faith is the hand of the heart – that by which we receive the blessings of God – then it would seem from this statement that the larger our hands, the bigger our gifts.  According to your faith, be it unto you.

I want to say, O God, give us more faith!  You want to tend to fall down on your knees and say, O God, give us this faith to believe; pray prayers like, help Thou mine unbelief!  But you know, that would be the wrong reaction.  If you want faith, you don’t have to crawl down on your knees and say, “O God, give me faith.”  You know what you do?  You open your Bible and begin to read.  The Bible says faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.  That’s how faith comes.  So if you want faith, you don’t get on your knees and pray, “O God, give me faith.”  If an angel were there, he would say, stand up and open your Bibles and begin to read.  That’s how you get faith.

Faith comes from companionship with the Lord Jesus, and acquaintances with his promises, and that comes from Scripture.  Your faith will grow as you grow in the knowledge with our Lord. You have confidence in men because of your acquaintance with them.  I had confidence in my father, and you had confidence in your parents, and confidence in your friends by virtue of your acquaintance with them.  I had confidence in my father because I knew him.  We were that close; I knew I could count upon him, because I knew him.  Now he would fail because he was a human being, of course, but our Lord never fails, and confidence comes from acquaintance with him.  If I could just urge you so that you would turn to the word of God, we all would be so much better.

Modified Horner Bible Reading for 90 Days: The Midpoint

February 16, 2011 5 comments

Update:  New Facebook discussion group for the Horner Bible Reading plan and variations on it.

I have now completed the first half of the modified Horner 90 day Bible reading plan, and the plan has been enjoyable.  The quantity of reading is really not that different from my previous plan (8 list plan with 12 to 14 chapters); in this plan I always read two chapters from the Pentateuch, which sometimes requires more concentration over the more tedious and longer chapters in the latter part of Exodus.

The first month, one third of the schedule, involved longer books, so that by January 30 I had only completed 9 of the 66 books (Genesis, Joshua, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Lamentations, Daniel, Matthew, Acts, and Romans).  Of course, as the schedule indicates, the second month closes in more of the gaps, completing more books — since by this point many of the books are shorter, especially in the minor prophets and New Testament lists.  So at the halfway point through the list, I have completed reading 22 of the 66 books.

This plan definitely has more emphasis on the history and prophets (six chapters total of those sections), and through this am reminded even more so of Israel’s interesting history, from the early days through to the time of the Babylonian captivity, and their continual rebellion marked with occasional high points such as the kingdom under David and Solomon.  2 Chronicles also highlights a few good times when the people responded to God’s word and experienced immediate blessings, as under King Asa.  Even among the prophets I see some parallels and references to other books — such as recent reading in Jeremiah 26:18-19, in which the people recall the days of Micah of Moresheth.  In the other prophets list I am about to start reading Micah’s prophesy as well.

Here are a few other interesting combinations from recent reading:

  • judgments related to nature and crops:  the hailstorm of Egypt (Exodus 9:22-32) and a thunderstorm to destroy the crops of the Israelites when they ask for a king (1 Samuel 12:17).
  • Isaiah 63:12-13, the same day as reading the account in Exodus 14 (crossing the Red Sea)
  • Mark 7:10, the same day as reading the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20

Jesus, The Great Peace-Bringer

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

I have often observed, from my own experience, the calming effect that C.H. Spurgeon’s sermons have on my soul — and have heard similar observations from others who read his sermons.  It’s not the mere words themselves, of course, but the presence of the Holy Spirit bringing Spurgeon’s words home in a personal way.  The calming messages come from reflection on the wonders of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The calm comes from our Lord, and we can go directly to the source, the gospel accounts, for more evidences of our great Calmer.  In going through the gospel of Matthew, verse by verse (with S. Lewis Johnson’s series) we see Matthew presenting his theme of Jesus as the true King of the Jews, the promised Messiah.  After presenting Jesus’ teaching (the Sermon on the Mount, chapters 5 through 7), Jesus shows His power in a series of miracles recorded in chapters 8 and 9.

In a section beginning with Matthew 8:23 through Matthew 9:8, Matthew presents three events in a climactic succession to show Jesus as the Peace-Bringer.

  • He calmed the sea (nature)
  • He calmed the demon-possessed men (spiritual realm)
  • He calmed the conscience, burdened with sin and guilt

S. Lewis Johnson:

He works in the natural sphere.  He works in the spirit sphere.  He works, finally in the sphere of man’s own spirit where he feels the sense, convicted by the Holy Spirit of his sin, guilt and condemnation.

Matthew presents these in a climactic development, and in the last of these accounts — one recorded in all three synoptic gospels —  we see the first indication of opposition.  Here we also have the first hint of that which the leaders will accuse Him, an early indication of how He will be killed:  some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”  From this point forward in Matthew’s gospel, we observe the growing opposition:  opposition to Jesus for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-13), and questioning regarding the lack of fasting (Matthew 9:14-17).  The next few chapters will further develop the theme of opposition to Jesus, culminating with the parables section in Matthew 13.

Jesus is truly the great Peace-Bringer, the One who can provide great calm to everything in all creation, and so we rejoice and praise God in that.  Yet the subsequent events in Matthew show us what natural man really thinks when the Peace-Bringer comes.  They don’t really want peace on Earth.  As Jesus said, He did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  Meanwhile we, whom the Lord Jesus has called to come out from the world, can rejoice as we continue to pray, Your Kingdom Come — ever looking forward to the great day of our Lord’s return!