April 12th, 2013
The Bible records a wide range of true stories, from the dramatic Red Sea crossing of the Exodus, and the sordid adulterous relationship of David and Bathsheba, to the courageous missionary journeys of Paul which are as dramatic as an episode with Jack Bauer in 24. One of the most difficult narratives to grapple with and understand is the time in Genesis 22 the Lord God commanded Abraham to take his one-and-only son to the top of Mount Moriah and sacrifice him on an altar.
If God is moral, how could he order a man to murder his only son? What legitimate reason could God ever give a believer to do that to his child? Where is the love and compassion Jesus preached in this bloody story? If you’ve wrestled to accept and understand this biblical account, I commend you to read Jean Williams’ thoughts on that difficult scene. Here’s an excerpt as she probes why this story is in the Scriptures:
“How strange Genesis 22 has always seemed to me. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? What kind of Father asks another father to kill his child? Did Sarah know what was going to happen as her husband and son left that day? What psychological scars did Isaac carry into adulthood? (A very modern question, I know.)
“What did it cost Abraham to take each step on that three-day journey? Did he stare at the knife as he cut branches for the fire, thinking about what else it would soon cut? What thoughts ran through his mind as he reassured Isaac that God would supply the sacrifice, knowing he had supplied it in the boy who walked by his side?
Jean tells speaks of Abraham’s rock-solid faith that God could resurrect his son from the dead. She recounts how in the nick-of-time, God sent a ram caught in a thicket to replace Isaac on that altar. And then, she brings home the meaning of this story, and what it points to–
“What God asks of Abraham, he gives himself. Once again, a father offers up his only son. But this time there is no reprieve, no last-minute escape clause. The sky is unbroken by a voice. Instead, darkness gathers, and the full weight of a father’s anger descends. A cross instead of an altar. Nails instead of a knife. A Lamb instead of a ram. Blood thick on the ground. A voice whispering, “Father?”. A life given so that others may live.
“Three days later, the Father receives his Son back from death.
“And suddenly the story of Abraham and Isaac doesn’t seem so strange, but inevitable, a line drawing for the future to fill in.”
God instructed Abraham to take his son up on that hill because this is exactly what God himself would do generations later, on our behalf. We need this story to understand just how dreadful our sins are and how much it cost the Father gave up to atone for our sins. Oftentimes missed in the story by critics is the fact that God never had Abraham kill his son….instead, he provided a suitable substitute. In our own story, God doesn’t crush us for our sins…he provides a suitable substitute in his Son Jesus who ascended the cross for us.
December 14th, 2012
Looking for a great Christmas gift that shares the gospel? Look no further. I just read Christmas Uncut and my heart is pounding from how clearly and compellingly this short Christmas-themed booklet presented the gospel to me. I came away amazed at our Lord and the rescue plan he carried out for us which we call Christmas.
Carl Laferton’s book cuts through all the holiday tradition to get to the real Christmas story– Scandal. Controversy. Massacre. Mystery. Above all, the person of Jesus Christ. I’m going to give this book to several non-Christians I know, confident that if they read it, they will come face-to-face with the real Jesus who has won over my heart and owns my life.
It’s short and readable. And only $3.59 at WTSBooks.com. And they’re fast! My copy arrived exactly 24 hours after I ordered it, having paid for regular (not rush) shipping.
Here’s a nifty trailer video with the author–
September 10th, 2012
The Gospel In Song
Recently our son Jadon became very fussy whenever we try to feed him breakfast. But then, we started playing the new kids album Rain For Roots during breakfast, and he now loves to eat! I’m thrilled about this because Rain for Roots is one of the most powerful, understandable, and moving presentations of the gospel and God’s majesty for children that I’ve ever heard.
Kids Music For Kids…and Adults!
I’ll admit it–Rain For Roots is such a clear, compelling presentation in music about God’s power and redemption, that it makes me cry whenever Jadon and I listen to it. This album for children is composed by some of our favorite musicians, including Sandra McCracken, and puts to song the words from Sally-Lloyd Jones’s stunning Bible story book The Jesus Storybook Bible. It thrills me to see Jadon smiling, and trying to sing along to words like this:
Track 9 – “Jesus Is Alive
“Who died, but came alive again?
Who came to rescue you and win?
Who came to make all things brand new?
Who did it all for love of you?
Who did this all for love of you?
So sing and dance and leap and run;
His name is Jesus, little one.
Sing and dance and leap and run;
His name is Jesus, little one.”
As Jadon learns to speak, I am eager for him to know and to sing along to these simple folk songs about God. They move his dad’s heart, and I hope they’ll move his too, to become a worshiper of the Mighty God.
p.s. I just love this photo from last Saturday night’s release party! Gotta love that they have quilts and blankets out for the little ones to gather round and hear the gospel in song.
p.s.s. For other great Christian children’s music, here’s a great blog post called “Children’s Songs and Parents’ Sanity” written by my fellow pastor Garrett Lee with several more recommendations.
June 20th, 2012
Conflict in marriage. It’s inevitable. Because a husband and wife are both sinners who need to be changed, even the most sanctified of couples is bound to disagree and experience conflict in their marriage. If marital conflicts aren’t dealt with wisely, they’ll spin out of control and over time devastate a marriage.
So, how do you bring resolution to a conflict? What does God require on your part when you find yourself in an argument? Where do a husband and wife start in unraveling years of hurt and pain that have built up due to unresolved arguments? What hope is found in the cross for restoring a fragile marriage?
Biblical counselor John Hagen of Grace Harbor Ministries gives wise, practical guidance for marriage in a 6-part video series entitled “Conflict Resolution. Each video is just 10 minutes long, and there is a study guide with questions to guide a husband and wife with applying counselor Hagan’s guidance.
I have found these brief videos to be helpful in instructing me in my marriage. I intend to go through this series with my wife Christy to remind us of a solid, biblical foundation for responding whenever one of us sins against the other (usually, I’m the culprit).
Here’s a sample. Take a look at Session 1, The Heart of Conflict
You can wach all 6 videos here: Conflict Resolution in Marriage (6-part video series)
Part 1 – The Heart of Conflict
Part 2 – The Ultimate Conflict
Part 3 – Owning the Offense
Part 4 – Making a Plan
Part 5 – Paying It Off
Part 6 – Release and Resolution
Download the.pdf Conflict Resolution Study Guide
May 29th, 2012
Title: Assurance of Salvation: Implications of a New Testament Theology of Hope
Author: Matthew C. Hoskinson
Reviewer: Dan Olinger, elder at Heritage Bible Church, which is Grace Church’s sending church.
Summary of the Book
Anyone who works with young people–especially high school or college age–soon realizes that young people have questions about assurance of salvation. Lots of questions. Unfortunately, there’s a great deal of confusion about the matter as well, and not just among the young people themselves. The counseling field is filled with theories, tips, and tricks about how to get the kids to quit worrying about it all. Matthew Hoskinson, formerly Pastor of Ministry Vision at Heritage, explores the biblical basis for assurance of salvation and then brings it to bear on the current theories, providing a solid basis for counseling anyone struggling with assurance.
Overview of the Book
This work is a publication of Dr. Hoskinson’s dissertation at Bob Jones University. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the author’s dissertation committee and served as the editor for the published book.)
Six chapters cover both a historical survey of views on assurance and a biblical theology of assurance.
Chapter 1 – A History of Assurance
Chapter 2 – Contemporary Views on Assurance
Chapter 3 – Abraham and Hope
Chapter 4 – Hope in the NT Historical Books
Chapter 5 – Hope in Paul’s Writings
Chapter 6 – Hope in the General Epistles
Hoskinson’s conclusion is that the biblical data form a moderating position between two competing contemporary views:
1) the view that objective assurance comes from the fact of our salvation event and consequently our memory of it (what Hoskinson terms the “time of conversion view”). This is the view that is sometimes caricatured as “writing today’s date in the margin of your Bible.” This view is more common among those who hold to eternal security.
2) the view that subjective assurance comes from spiritual fruit–evidences of growth in Christ-like character (what Hoskinson terms the “present only view”). This view is more common among Arminian groups.
In short, Hoskinson argues, the Bible bases full-bodied assurance objectively in Christ and His work on our behalf. But that work unfailingly issues in subjective results: character development and the succeeding perseverance. He writes, “Theologians must carefully teach that a faith that saves is a faith that endures, all the while maintaining sola fide” (213).
Assurance of Salvation is a doctoral dissertation, but it is a readable one. It is a valuable resource for anyone counseling believers struggling with assurance, and it is not beyond the reach of laymen interested in the subject. It is exegetically based and therefore provides balance in the current debate. Mastery of the material in this volume will leave a believer well grounded to live out biblical hope in confusing times and to encourage others to do so as well.
Dan Olinger is an elder of Heritage Bible Church and serves as the Chairperson of the Division of Bible at Bob Jones University. This review originally appeared at Heritage’s blog.
March 7th, 2012
I’d like to tell you about a beautifully illustrated children’s book that teaches to children the point of a recent Sunday sermon at Grace Church. A few Sundays ago during the Lord’s Supper, I preached about “The Empty Cup,” how at the cross Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath against our sin down to its very dregs. And now there’s not a drop of judgment left for the believer; forever we stand in God’s favor! The book The Prince’s Poison Cup teaches the “cup” motif from the Bible in a kid-friendly way.
In this book, R.C. Sproul, a master storyteller and teacher of doctrine, tells a fascinating allegorical children’s story to teach children how Christ served as our substitute and drank the cup of God’s wrath so we don’t have to. This hardcover volume is wonderfully illustrated by Justin Gerard, some of whose art we have on display in the living room of our home. Best of all, the last few pages of the book outline and explain the Scripture passages that form the basis for this book, passages such as Matthew 26:39 where Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
I highly commend this book as an effective way to help your children understand and glory in the gospel. I love re-reading it myself! The Prince’s Poison Cup is a fitting tribute to the Son of God who exhausted God’s wrath against our sin at the cross. It’s available from Westminster Bookstore for just $10.80 (as of 3/7/12).
January 23rd, 2012
The song “Thy Mercy My God” is a favorite hymn often sung at our local church in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s an old hymn by John Stocker (1776) put to new music by Sandra McCracken (2001). It’s the hymn of the month at Grace Church.
Why do we love this hymn? Because it preaches the gospel to us every time we sing it! The first verse revels with wonder at the transforming grace God has given believers. Verse 2 reminds us that our sin nature and willful sin disqualify us from knowing God and tasting real joy, but God has reversed our sinful condition out of his generous kindness. Verse 3 celebrates that God’s “mercy is more than a match for my heart which wonders to feel its own hardness depart,” a recognition that though we are great sinners, we have a Savior greater than our sin. The final verse thanks the Holy Spirit for applying the work of redemption in the believer’s life.
Get to know this hymn by downloading the sheet music here for free or by watching it worshipfully played on this YouTube video:
Thy Mercy My God
1. Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart. and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.
2. Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.
3. Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.
4. Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
©2001 Same Old Dress Music (ASCAP).
November 6th, 2011
I am feeling very foolish tonight. It has just dawned on me how utterly foolish is all my ungratefulness and complaining.
While reading John MacArthur’s book Slave, it was made clear to me from Scripture the depth of my helpless condition when the Lord found me. I was a slave to sin. I was his enemy by choice. My sin nature was leading me to eternal destruction. As Charles Wesley puts it in a hymn, I was “fast bound in sin and nature’s night.” And yet, Christ died in my place. There’s not a drop of wrath left for me (which I deserve). He rescued me from the dominion of darkness, and placed me in the kingdom of light. And the God of all grace adopted me and loves me as his own son! This means he is committed to my everlasting happiness and good.
Why, oh why do I complain when I was rescued from a dreadful condition and now own more spirituals blessings than I can count?! I don’t think I’ll be able to look at my situation the same any more. Though I once was a slave, I’m now a privileged son in God’s kingdom. What do I have to complain about?
Holy Father, I confess that I think I deserve far more than I really do. And I miss the fact that you are blessing me far more than I ever can understand. Thank you, Lord God, for your mercy to me. I have it so much better than I deserve.
October 11th, 2011
Worldwide, over 143 million children are orphans. That is more than twice the total population of the country of Mexico!
So, as a church, what can we do about the global plight of orphans? This Sunday, October 16, if you come to Grace Church of Alexandria, you’ll hear about God’s heart for the fatherless and what we can do about it. Our worship gathering will be focused on Orphan Sunday. Join us for:
- testimonies from orphan care and adoption advocates;
- Scripture readings and prayers about God’s love for the fatherless;
- a video about the global orphan crisis;
- a handout with resources on orphan care;
- and a practical sermon with steps you can take to minister mercy.
Churches traditionally observe Orphan Sunday on November 6. Since a guest speaker was already scheduled at our church for that day, we’re dedicating this Sunday to consider how the gospel motivates us to care for those who have no voice to speak up for them. Join us, 10:30 am, Sunday, October 16.
Don’t miss “Live From Kansas City,” a live webcast on November 6 of guided prayer and global worship for the fatherless. You can also learn more about Orphan Sunday at the web site of its sponsor, the Christian Alliance for Orphans.
In addition, here are three resources about orphan care:
- 2010 Orphan Sunday sermon – “Adoption and The Glory of God;
- past blog post with adoption and foster care resources.
10/19/11 UPDATE: I should also recommend Safe Families, an emergency foster care organization that operates nationwide. They pair families up with at-risk children from homes in crisis who need a temporary place to stay for days or weeks while their family stabilizes. A worthy organization to get involved with.
June 30th, 2011
Are you wondering how to become a Christian? Do you have questions you’ve been wanting to ask about the credibility or the reliability of the Christian faith? I invite you to contact our church, for we’d be glad to share the core message about Jesus Christ in a short series of discussions called Christianity Explained.
I (Pastor Jonathan Matías) or one of our church members would be delighted to introduce you to the message of Jesus in six brief discussion studies in the Gospel of Mark, a biography of Jesus in the Bible. The booklet show below, Christianity Explained, will be your guide. You are welcome to ask any questions that you have, and no question is too threatening, or off-the wall. Jesus made staggering truth claims and issued incredible promises to his followers. We’d like to show you what he said, and give you a comfortable atmosphere to think through those claims and promises for yourself.
Interested in going through Christianity Explained? Contact me at 703.639.4077 (press 4 to reach the pastoral staff) or email the church here.
In addition, here is a visual explanation of the gospel, the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ, that has changed our lives. It’s called “The Story” and it tells how you can find peace with God and enter into an everlasting relationship with him!