TD This Friday – “A Change of Direction”

future and past

Hey TD!

This Friday, I will build on last month’s message, “A Change of Mind” and explore the change of direction that is to follow.  It’s a discussion needed if you really want to follow God and live the Christian life, and not just the “Christian” life that too many of us are living.  I’m excited to grow together with you!

Here’s the second-half of the message I gave last month for you to review before Friday.

 “A Change of Mind” (message – Arthur) 

See you then! – Arthur

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“The Great Confrontation” is Tonight!

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One thing I have really appreciated over the years is RC Sproul, Jr.s commitment to the truths that life is about God, that God is always right, and His ways are always best.  Like his father, RC Sproul, he puts “iron into [my] blood.”

I look forward to having more iron put into my blood this weekend with you TD’ers! Looking forward to being with you tonight, tomorrow afternoon, and on Sunday! – Arthur

2 Days Until “The Great Confrontation”!

Hey TD!

I hope you got a chance to watch the video on the last post.  Today’s interview with RC Sproul, Jr. is insightful, challenging, and very personal, as he discusses difficult issues, including the passing of his wife and then his disabled daughter, Shannon, less than a year later (see the 8/27/13 post, “A Difficult Message” with the video of him speaking at her memorial service).  As FW Boreham would say, it puts iron into the blood.

I want you to get to know RC, Jr. before he comes to be with us, so you can appreciate him as a person, as a brother, and so you can glean more from this weekend.

Here’s the video interview, “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”:

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/72771958]

Would You Want a “Christian Harvard?”

Well, you seniors are now well into the college app process.  I’ve encouraged you to really think through this process and not just go with the prevailing cultural frenzy produced by the cultural air you breathe.  Please thoroughly pray through it, sincerely seeking GOD’s will.  Don’t just ask Him for a stamp of approval on YOUR will.  And … once again, I ask you to research solid Christian colleges as well and at least apply to one … even if just to support their efforts to train Christians for the world.  It may not be for you, but at least give God the opportunity to have the final say.

RC Sproul, Jr. gives us some solid food for thought with respect to how Christians should really look at their education.  Please read and resolve to follow Him … no matter what. – Arthur

Is It Your Hope That Reformation Bible College Will Become a New “Christian Harvard?”

Not only is that not my hope, but I actively hope and pray against such a conception. Christian, yes, Harvard, no. What, I wonder, do we actually mean when we are hoping for a “Christian Harvard?” A judgment of charity would assume we all agree on the “Christian” part. What we mean is an institution that is faithful to all that the Bible teaches. What Christian wouldn’t want that?

I believe we can also agree on part of what I believe people mean by “Harvard” in this context. I am in favor of academic rigor and am confident that Reformation Bible College not only will have such in the future, but enjoys such already. I am certain my students would agree. Our calling is to love God with all our minds. Deep, challenging thought and study on His Word is of course a good thing, a great thing.

What then is the objection? The trouble with this aspiration isn’t Christian and isn’t rigor. It is instead reputation. I fear that what we mean by “Christian Harvard” is that we want a school to be Christian the way we like it, and to be considered elite by the world around us. We want to be distinct and set apart from the world, and to be honored and respected by the world.

It is an old bit of wisdom that defines an evangelical as a fundamentalist who says to the liberal, “I will call you ‘brother,’ if you will call me ‘scholar.’” We all hunger for the respect of the world. We all desire to see our high academic standards recognized and affirmed by the world. We all want our studies to pave the way for all the honor and success the world has to offer. These desires, however, while eminently understandable, are not only not healthy, but are deadly to the long-term well being of any academic institution. They are the very engine of institutional apostasy.

We have forgotten our own theology once we come to believe that the world can give a sober, honest, accurate assessment of our credentials. To think that if our academic standards match theirs they will judge us as their equals is to forget that they are by nature the enemies of God, and His people. They reject us not because our GRE scores are too low, but because our moral standards are too high. Look at how creation scientists are treated. Consider how belief in a biblical view of marriage is now outside the bounds of the respectable. Affirming the conviction that the Bible is true is sufficient to destroy our credibility with the world. Which means we cannot have both a conviction that the Bible is true, and credibility with the world.

They don’t, of course, care what we think, so long as we keep it to ourselves, so long as we leave our faith on the coat rack before entering the groves of academe. We live in the midst of what CS Lewis warned us about more than a generation ago—“They’ll tell you that you can have your religion in private, and then they’ll make sure you’re never alone.” The solution is not to work harder to gain their approval. The solution isn’t to aspire to respectability. The solution is to embrace the scandal of the cross. The solution is to die to self, to lay aside the perks and prerogatives that they dole out to those whom they approve. The solution is to account our academic reputations as naught for the kingdom of God. The solution is to rejoice in the glorious truth that it is better to be a custodian in the university of the Lord than to be seated among lords of academia. When we seek the world’s approval, we lose it. And when we give it up, we will find His approval. Jesus said so.

Is It Your Hope That Reformation Bible College Will Become a New “Christian Harvard?” was originally published at RCSproulJr.com

A Difficult Message

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Can you imagine preaching the message at your own daughter’s memorial service?  That thought for me is daunting and spine-chilling.  What would you say?  How would you say it?  The most difficult message I ever gave was at the TD Banquet in ’08, four days after my “Mami’s” passing.  It has since been useful to several others coping with the loss of a loved one. (Click here to listen)

Less than a year ago, RC Sproul, Jr. had the unenviable task of preaching at his precious special needs daughter’s memorial service.  Jr. calls Shannon MacFarlane Sproul “the greatest theologian among all the Sprouls.”  Like Keren is in many ways Eunice’s spiritual tutor, so was Shannon to Jr.  I pray that you will read on, put yourself into Jr.’s shoes, and then watch in awe as I did, and let God strengthen your soul. – Arthur

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Shannon

It was always my contention, living with a special needs daughter who could be called home at any time, that it was not her health issues that determined when should go, but my spiritual health issues. When each seizure forced me to face her fragility, when each morning I checked first to see if she were breathing before trying to wake her, I comforted myself with this thought- God will not call Shannon home until Shannon is through with me. It was apparent rather early on in her life that she had a peculiar calling, that she was less the child I needed to teach, and more the child that needed to teach me.  I was the student, she the master.

My mistake was in thinking that her being done with me and her home going would coincide. She is gone, but she is not done with me. She is still teaching me in her absence. She is teaching me how to deal with pain. Shannon’s seizures were not demure affairs. She fell to the ground. Her legs shook violently. Her upper body jerked back and forth. Her breathing became noisy and labored, and fruitless as her skin would begin to turn blue from lack of oxygen. It might last thirty seconds. It might last ten minutes. When it ended, however, it ended always the same- with deep, unshakable sleep. Immediately after being terrorized by her own body being utterly out of her control, immediately after the electrical waves in her brain became a violent thunderstorm, immediately after not being able to breath, she did not look to me for an explanation. She didn’t look in panic for a place of stability and sanity. Wherever she was, she just slept.

My home was convulsed nearly a year ago when my bride, the love of my life, went on to her reward. It was convulsed again six weeks ago when Shannon went on to join her. And I can’t sleep. For months the routine of caring for my wife was my sanity. For the months after she was gone, the habits of caring for my daughter were my sanity. Now they are both gone. And I have lessons to learn.

For Denise I could be grateful that she went on to a better world, that she would no longer suffer. For Shannon, ironically, I’m not so sure. Oh I am quite confident she is in the arms of her Lord. I’m certain she will have no more seizures. But the thing is, Shannon never felt the weight of her weaknesses. And Shannon had a faith that saw through the veil. She lived on earth as if it were heaven. She was so full of love, joyful, peaceful, so filled with patience and kindness, so good, so faithful, so gentle and so self-controlled that she bloomed, bore fruit in God’s own garden. When she woke up able to walk and speak, when she woke to feel our Lord’s hand on her head, it was no great change for her. She always felt His hand upon her. She always beheld His glory. The gap for Shannon between earth and heaven was just one small, unsteady step.

Which is just the lesson I need to learn. Neither my wife nor my daughter, though they are now a higher order of being, having been glorified, are far from me. My Lord is not with them in some distant dimension. Instead I am there with them, seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). I have been lifted up by His grace. Because He is with me, I make my bed not in Sheol, but in paradise. For wherever He is, there is my treasure. I will lay down and rest, for so He gives His beloved sleep (Psalm 127). And Shannon watches, to see if I breathe, as we both look forward to that day when I finally wake.

I pray you will take the time to watch the sermon I was blessed to preach at Shannon’s memorial service. My hope was to preach the grace of God in her life, and the grace of God through her in my life.

Joni and Friends also produced an award-winning TV episode featuring RC, Jr.’s family (both wife and Shannon have passed on since then).  It’s a great episode.  Here it is:
http://www.joniandfriends.org/television/when-disability-hits-home/

How Can an Infinite Hell Be Just When Our Sins Are Finite?

A question similar to this was raised in our TD small group Bible study last Friday.  It was posed as, “How can Jesus’ death on the cross, which was for a finite period of time, adequately pay for our sins when unbelivers are paying for their sins eternally in hell?”  Hell seems to be in the air.

RC Sproul, Jr. is a gifted theologian and writer. A regular contributor to Tabletalk magazine, his articles are usually what I read first.  Read and consider.  Would love to hear your thoughts. – Arthur

The wisdom of this question, I would argue, is that it gets at the real horror of hell. A lake of fire is a frightening thought indeed. The greater dread, however, is the duration of hell, that it never ends. This, I suspect, is what tempts some to try to tweak the church’s historic view on hell, including everyone from John Stott to Rob Bell. Is it possible to posit a truly terrifying, painful hell that only lasts a time? Can we affirm the just judgment of God, and still hope that it will one day come to an end?

Well yes you can posit it, but in so doing you would expose a lack of understanding of the scope of the evil of our sin, and a lack of understanding of the nature of God’s judgment. Sin, the church has argued, must be punished infinitely because we sin against an infinitely holy God. The problem with taking a cookie out of the cookie jar isn’t the cookie, nor the calories. Rather it is the shaking of our fist at the God of heaven and earth. When we commit even the smallest sin we are committing what one great theologian calls “cosmic treason.” When we steal the cookie we are declaring to the God who made us, who sustains us, who daily pours out His grace on us, “I WILL NOT HAVE YOU RULE OVER ME.” Thus we stand infinitely guilty, and no amount of intensity to the sinner’s pain can trump the eternity of the sinner’s pain. As painful as it may be to admit, anything less than eternal punishment would not be just, given the depth of our depravity in rebelling against our Maker.

If, however, that still does not satisfy ones sense of justice, if we still find God less than honorable to punish the earthly sins of men with an eternity in hell, consider this. Men do not cease to sin when they die. That is, the souls in hell are still unregenerate, still captive to their sin. Indeed they are all worse than they were when they were on earth. Hell lacks the common grace of God, the restraining grace of God. It is true that even the sinners below confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but they do so with clenched teeth, seething with rage. It is true that their knees are bowed, but only because our Lord has broken them with a rod of iron. They hate God and curse Him for eternity.

Indeed one could argue that the deepest horror of hell is not that the pain will be so intense, nor that it will endure forever, but that we will ever become less and less what we were made to be. Without His grace we will continually devolve, and continually earn His continuing wrath. We, like hell, spiral ever downward into deeper and deeper darkness, deeper and deeper evil.

Hell is too dreadful a place to think on for too long. If you are comfortable with it, if the thought of it does not make you squirm, likely you don’t understand it. Sin, however, is still more dreadful, despite how comfortable we are with it. Hell is forever.

– RC Sproul, Jr. taken from www.ligonier.org

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