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From the Weekly Standard: “Six Reasons to Panic” over Ebola

October 20, 2014

Another article on the situation with Ebola that I have found to be helpful is Six Reasons to Panic by Jonathan V. Last, writing in the Weekly Standard.  I have to admit the “R0″ (or reproduction number) of this virus has me concerned.  Mr. Last writes:

General infection rates are terrifying, too. In epidemiology, you measure the “R0,” or “reproduction number” of a virus; that is, how many new infections each infected person causes. When R0 is greater than 1, the virus is spreading through a population. When it’s below 1, the contamination is receding. In September the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Team estimated the R0 to be at 1.71 in Guinea and 2.02 in Sierra Leone. Since then, it seems to have risen so that the average in West Africa is about 2.0. In September the WHO estimated that by October 20, there would be 3,000 total cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As of October 7, the count was 8,376.

In other words, rather than catching up with Ebola, we’re falling further behind. And we’re likely to continue falling behind, because physical and human resources do not scale virally. In order to stop the spread of Ebola, the reproduction number needs to be more than halved from its current rate. Yet reducing the reproduction number only gets harder as the total number of cases increases, because each case requires resources—facilities, beds, doctors, nurses, decontamination, and secure burials—which are already lagging well behind need. The latest WHO projections suggest that by December 1 we are likely to see 10,000 new cases in West Africa per week, at which point the virus could begin spreading geographically within the continent as it nears the border with Ivory Coast.

I hope the Administration does reconsider their stance on a temporary travel ban; it seems to me that limiting the number of new infection vectors coming into the U.S. would certainly help ensure that this is held within check in North America – and actually strengthen our hand in seeking to help West Africa.

 

The Rev. William Klock: “One Thing is Necessary” (Luke 10:38-42)

October 20, 2014

From Fr. Bill Klock of Living Word REC in British Columbia comes this sermon on the account of Mary and Martha at Bethany, One Thing is Necessary, based on Luke 10:38-42.  Fr. Bill makes some excellent points in this message, including this one about our desire to put our own agenda before that of others – even the Lord’s:

This is a story we need to hear, because you and I are prone to making the same sort of mistake that Martha made.  It’s pretty obvious that Martha loved and respected Jesus.  She wanted to provide the best for him.  Her problem was that she was letting worldly priorities, worldly conventions, and worldly thinking drive her agenda.  She was letting worry and anxiety and “busyness” shape what it meant to be a disciple.  How often do we do the same sort of thing?  Martha thought that to be a good disciple she had to meet the worldly standards of what it means to be the perfect hostess.  But in focusing on those worldly standards and in her rush and hurry and worry she was missing what Jesus had come to offer her.  How often do we get so bogged down in “things” that we miss the kingdom when it comes near?  How often do we even think we’re doing the work of the kingdom—consider that Martha thought she was serving Jesus—but because we’ve got the wrong priorities and values, we actually wind up serving not the kingdom, not the Lord, but ourselves.  That’s the more subtle danger.  We can throw ourselves into things that look good—to us and to others—but all too often we’re being driven by our own agenda, not God’s.  My biggest reason for joining the church choir was a girl.  Martha’s biggest reason for being the “hostess with the mostess” was so that everyone would think well of her.  Whom are we seeking to serve?  Whose agenda are we seeking to meet?

That is one reason we need the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives – to help us search our hearts and ensure we are acting from the right motives.  Fr Bill has a lot more to say in this message, and I hope you’ll read it all, or listen to it.

“Ebola, A Nurse’s Perspective”

October 19, 2014

I wanted to mention a post by a nurse named Dustin Tolar titled Ebola, A Nurse’s Perspective.  To me this is one of the best-written and most realistic essays I have read about Ebola and what humanity faces with this disease.  His overview of viruses is really helpful for the layperson:

I feel the first thing we should examine is Ebola itself. It is foreign to the US, both literally and figuratively. What it does to people and how it harmonizes with nature are both things that most westerners have little concept of. It is a virus, not a bacteria. This means that it is not its own organism. It is actually much smaller and basic than you can imagine. It is nothing more than a few pieces of DNA/RNA and some proteins. No cell wall, no cytoplasm, no metabolic functions. This is both their advantage and their downfall. Viruses require a host. For this example I will use the HIV virus. HIV gets into the human body and invades the host’s white blood cells, T4 cells to be exact but I won’t get that involved. The proteins help get the virus into the cell and those few small sequences of DNA/RNA write themselves into the host DNA/RNA. Now instead of the white blood cell attacking invaders, it is nothing more than an HIV factory. All of its metabolic functions are redirected at producing more of the virus, which pours out of the white blood cell like a sieve until eventually the host cell dies. This is why HIV infected patients have poor immune systems. The virus re-writes the DNA of the host cells. This is not something we can stop. New viruses are pouring out of the white blood cells at a rate of millions a day. We cannot filter them out. We cannot “kill” a little chunk of DNA and we don’t know enough about the human genome to correct the DNA sequences. This is why a lot of viral infections like HIV, Herpes, and Hepatitis are life long infections. HIV invades the white blood cells, Herpes invade the nerve roots, and Hepatitis invades the liver.

As probably all of us realize this disease is a matter for much prayer, for what it is already doing in West Africa and what it could do elsewhere.

Something Different: “My Hope Is In You” performed by piano & cello duet

October 18, 2014

I was not familiar with Aaron Shust’s hymn My Hope Is In You, but this rendition of it by “Weapons of Hope” on piano and cello is quite pretty.

The Rev. Richard Trucks: “I am a Royal Priest to My God and Father” (Revelation 1:4-8)

October 17, 2014

From Dr. Richard Trucks of Third Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, here is a message titled “I am a Royal Priest to My God and Father”.  Although a continuation of his series on 1 Peter, this message is based on Revelation 1:4-8 as well as 1 Peter 2.

The relationship between the preaching of the Word, baptism, and regeneration

October 16, 2014

Sometimes I get questions about theological or doctrinal matters, and recently I received one that seemed to me to be a good foundation for a blog post.  I was asked:

What are your thoughts on the relationship between the regeneration through preaching of the gospel and regeneration by baptism…(1 Peter 3:23-25 and Titus 3:5-6)?

Regarding baptism, preaching and regeneration:
My initial thought is to ask: could it be that for those whom God has predestined for salvation, the order of baptism and hearing the Word are not cast in stone?  It might be that both the hearing of the Word and baptism each play a role in regeneration, and that the order might vary for different people.  For those baptized as infants, baptism would be the first stage of regeneration, to be completed after they have heard the Word, while adult converts would be regenerated initially by the Holy Spirit so that they would be able to truly hear the preaching of the Word, and after professing their faith, being completed in baptism.

Anglicans have historically not held an ex opere operato view of either baptism or the Eucharist – in other words, they have not held that those two sacraments automatically apply their grace to all who partake of them.  Hooker was very clear that “all receive not the grace of God who receive the sacraments of His grace.” (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, 5.67)  John Stott wrote that “For if the sacraments are to benefit us, they must be received rightly (see Articles 26 and 27) and rightly means “by faith”.  (Evangelical Truth, page 91)  Stott goes on further to say that “for Anglican evangelicals, baptism (whether of infants or of adults) lacks efficacy if unaccompanied by faith.”  He also quotes James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh (1625):

“As baptism, administered to those of years, is not effectual unless they believe; so we can make no comfortable use of our baptism administered in our infancy until we believe…all the promises of grace, were in my baptism estated upon me, and sealed up unto me on God’s part; but then I come to have the profit and benefit of them, when I come to understand what grant God in baptism hath sealed unto me, and actually to lay hold upon it by faith.”

So…to try to sum up concisely something that probably cannot be summed up concisely:
1) God has sovereignly elected some for salvation (“to Life”) from before the foundation of the world. (Article 17 of the Thirty-Nine Articles)
2) Those elect who are baptized in infancy will be regenerated and their baptism will inevitably yield the fruits of faith.  T.P. Boultbee summed up Hooker’s position and it seems most reasonable to me: “If it be one of the elect (and not otherwise), it is in Baptism made a participant of Christ and receives the first fruits of the Spirit, from which all needful graces, and ultimately the glorified state, will in due time “infallibly ensue;” and it will be preserved from final apostasy as long as it lives by the eternal life of Christ, the Head.”
Those elect who come to Christ as adults are enabled to hear the preaching of the Word by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, and upon hearing the saving Word, come to repentance and are justified.  Baptism seals this, and as Article 27 of the Thirty-Nine Articles says, is that sacrament whereby “as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.”  Edward Bickersteth in A Treatise on Baptism (1840) writes: “It is clear, then, that the adult is required to possess those things which peculiarly distinguish the divine birth before he is baptized. But he is not before the church regenerate; nor in the whole sense of scripture fully regenerate till this has been recognized and confirmed in baptism. His baptism is the sign and seal of these things, not the very things themselves, but the representation and means and confirmation of them in the face of the church. The prayers that they may be born again, and be made ” heirs of everlasting salvation,” which are offered before the profession of these things by the baptized adult, perfectly correspond with this view; and the profession is to the church that evidence of regeneration, upon which the seal of baptism is then affixed.”  This is what I mean in my first paragraph about adult converts “being completed in baptism”.
3) Our responsibility is “to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10): to continue to believe, manifesting an active faith and bearing fruit for the King.  Doing so testifies that one’s conversion is genuine and shows the work of sanctification ongoing in one’s life.  Bickersteth writes (page 263): “The duty of the baptized comprehends the whole of the Christian life. It is an enlistment under the banners of the Captain of our salvation, and ever after we have to fight the good fight of faith, that we may lay hold on eternal life, It is an entrance into the church of Christ; his name is put upon us, and his honour entrusted to us, and ever after we are to seek his glory and dominion. It is our being called to be the children of God, and we have thenceforth always to be followers (imitators) of God as dear children. To walk worthy of our high calling; to adorn in all things the doctrine of God our Saviour; to glorify God in our body and in our spirits which are his. This is our duty, this our privilege, this our glory.”

Another free audiobook from christianaudio: “Who am I? Identity in Christ” by Jerry Bridges

October 15, 2014

Christianaudio.com is always a most generous company with free audiobooks, and this week they are sharing a book by Dr. Jerry Bridges with us: Who am I? Identity in Christ.  The announcement says, and I agree, that “Few writers or teachers have the ability to clearly communicate biblical truths as he does.”  If you like audiobooks and Jerry Bridges, you will not want to miss this.  An additional plus is its narration by Alistair Begg!

The ebook version can be purchased for $3.99 at this link, as well as other books that are included in the offer.

Dean Phillip Jensen: “The Promise of Marriage” (Genesis 2:4-25)

October 13, 2014

This talk by Dean Phillip Jensen comes from a series of talks on Genesis 1-12 sometime ago at a conference.  The title of this video is “The Promise of Marriage” and it is based on Genesis 2:4-25.

From Anglican Ink: “ACNA is Anglican”

October 12, 2014

Following up on that recent pronouncement by the Archbishop of Canterbury that the ACNA was an ecumenical partner of the Anglican Communion and was not Anglican, George Conger reports on the investiture of Archbishop Foley Beach that the Primates who attended that event sent a different message:

The Anglican Church in North America is Anglican and its primate is an archbishop of the Anglican Communion, declared seven archbishops last night.

At the close of the prayer of investitute of the Most Rev. Foley Beach at the Church of the Apostles on 9 Oct 2014, the primates of Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Myanmar, Jerusalem and the Middle East and South America, and bishops representing the primates of the Congo, Sudan and South East Asia laid hands on Archbishop Beach. Giving him their primatial blessing, they also acknowledged him by word and through laying on of hands to be a fellow primate of the Anglican Communion.

I will reiterate that in my opinion Justin Welby could wind up marginalizing himself, and I hope he will rethink this matter.

Another PDF book added to the blog: “A Treatise on Baptism” by Edward Bickersteth

October 11, 2014

I wanted to mention the book A Treatise on Baptism by the Rev. Edward Bickersteth, which can be accessed in PDF at the link – or if you prefer, one can also access it via this Google Books link.  Bickersteth was a priest in the Church of England who served as rector of Watton-at-Stone Church in Hertfordshire.  He was a staunch evangelical who was actually commended by J.C. Ryle in some of his writings.  If you are interested in how the subject of baptism was regarded by evangelical Anglicans around 1840 (when this book was published), this is worth a look.

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