Friday, May 23, 2008

How to be Unfruitful

Though written with seminarians in mind, anyone desirous of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ can benefit from considering (and doing the opposite of) Derek Brown's list of 45 ways to waste your theological education. (HT: Said at Southern Seminary)

Understanding Scripture in Light of Christ

That's the theme of the most recent issue of Southern Seminary's magazine, The Tie. Articles and authors include:

  • Scripture’s story centers on Christ
    Stephen J. Wellum

  • Old Testament: Christ hidden
    Russell Fuller

  • New Testament: Christ revealed
    James M. Hamilton Jr.

  • Biblical counseling: Centering cure on Christ
    David Powlison

  • Beyond a Veggie Tales gospel: Preaching Christ from every text
    Russell D. Moore

  • Christ as Warrior-King: Preaching Christ from Judges
    David E. Prince

The complete issue is available for free here. (HT: Steve Weaver)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Steven Curtis Chapman's Daughter Accidentally Killed

May the God of all comfort console the singer and his family as they grieve over the tragic death of their youngest child.

The Tennessean:
Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest child died Wednesday evening after being struck by a car driven by her teenage brother in the driveway of the family's Williamson County home.
Maria, one of the Christian singer's six children, was taken by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt Hospital, which confirmed the death, according to Laura McPherson, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
>The 5-year-old was hit by an SUV driven by her teenage brother, she said. Police did not give the driver's name.
The teen was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser down the driveway of the rural home about 5:30 p.m. and several children were playing in the area, McPherson said. He did not see Maria in the driveway before the vehicle struck her, she said.
Please pray for this family.

UPDATE: Condolences to the Chapmans can be expressed at this blog set up in Maria's memory. (HT: The Point)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Big 5

Steve McCoy has launched a series he's calling the Big 5 in which he'll be asking readers for book recommendations on select topics. In his first post he asks for five titles for a church's book table and gives the following guidelines: "Your 5 should be somewhat diverse. In other words, don't give me 5 books on theology only. Mix it up. And I know you want to list more than 5, but no cheating! Don't necessarily suggest your best 5. Get creative. Mention some others won't mention."

Boy, did I have a rough time whittling my list down to five (I was stuck at six for the longest!) but here, at last, are my picks. Check out Reformissionary to see what others recommend and add your own Big 5.

Questioning Evangelism
by Randy Newman (I reviewed this one here)

Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp

Decision Making and the Will of God
by Garry Friesen

Will Medicine Stop the Pain? by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, M.D. (I gave a synopsis here)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Groothuis on Guinness

Doug Groothuis reviews Os Guinness's The Case for Civility in The Denver Post. Some comments about relativism didn't make the final but can be read at Dr. G.'s blog.

The High Price of Einstein's Unbelief

From the New York Times:
A letter the physicist wrote in 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, in which he described the Bible as “pretty childish” and scoffed at the notion that the Jews could be a “chosen people,” sold for $404,000 at an auction in London. That was 25 times the presale estimate.
The Associated Press quoted Rupert Powell, the managing director of Bloomsbury Auctions, as describing the unidentified buyer as having “a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails.” Among the unsuccessful bidders, according to The Guardian newspaper, was Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, an outspoken atheist.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Birthday Wisdom

I usually don't air a woman's age but since my friend, Rosemarie, has published hers, I feel free to make an exception. Today, her 51st birthday, she shares thoughts prompted by a woman. two decades her junior, who asked how her priorities and values have changed since she was her age. Her response holds instruction for us all, regardless of our years. Here's a snippet:
I would read, meditate on and memorize the Word more. I would call my sin what the Bible calls it. Jesus provides a remedy for sin, but He is silent about 'mistakes'. I would advise young people to learn the difference between who you are and the choices you make. I value learning that people are more than their sin, they are souls in peril. I'd drill it in my head as soon as possible that flattery is abuse and that genuine heartfelt compassion can accompany the absolute rejection of someone's world view or lifestyle.
Read the whole thing.

Happy Birthday, Ro, and thanks for passing on a portion of the wisdom you've acquired over the years the Lord has given you!

Thoughts on Willow Creek's U-Turn

I'm cautiously optimistic about Willow Creek's stated intention to make the training of believers rather than the attracting of seekers the focus of their gatherings. Why it took reading the results of a survey and not just the New Testament to change their course of action, I'm not sure. Regardless of how they got there, at least they arrived at the right conclusion. One can only pray that the myriad of churches that have followed Willow Creek full throttle into seeker-focused ministry will have a similar epiphany and do a similar about face.

David Wells isn't as optimistic. In an interview with CT about his latest book, The Courage to Be Protestant, Wells was asked what theological significance Willow's shift has, to which he replied:

None. Bill Hybels has, I believe, the very best of motives, but he and his church are sailing rudderless in our cultural waters. Or, to change the image, he is like a CEO who shows up at the shareholders' meeting with very poor bottom-line results. So, what does he do? Instead of carrying out a serious diagnosis of what has gone wrong, he simply rolls out a new business plan that, unfortunately, has many of the same inherent weaknesses in it. The bottom line outcome will be no different five years, or ten years from now, from what it is today.
Also in CT, Matt Branaugh reflects on "Willow Creek's 'Huge Shift.'" He concludes with an observation from Greg Pritchard, author of Willow Creek Seeker Services, that seems to share Wells's skepticism:
But they're still using the same marketing methodology. Willow appears to be selecting a new target audience with new felt needs, but it is still a target audience. Can they change? Yes, but it will take more than just shifting their target audience.
Melinda Penner welcomes the news of Willow's change and recalls her initial ruminations in response to the Reveal study:

Church is for the community of believers. The pastor is the shepherd who guides and teaches the sheep=believers. But at Willow Creek, the sheep fend for themselves and the programs are for unbelievers. Willow Creek calls itself a church but is in reality a perpetual evangelism rally. Hybels isn't a pastor, he's an evangelist. The problem comes when people attend thinking they're getting church, when really the sole focus of the church is evangelism. Billy Graham never started a church or claimed to pastor people. He did his job as evangelist and then encouraged local churches and pastors to do their job of feeding and discipleship. I think Hybels and Willow Creek would serve the Body better if they didn't claim to be a church. Churches and pastors don't leave believers to "self-feed."

Willow Creek says they're "seeker-obsessed." Great. We need evangelists with that obsession for the lost. That's a specific gift of the Spirit in the New Testament. And pastor is a different one. A church can't have that obsession to the exclusion of discipling the believers in its care. Do the job of an evangelist and then send new believers to a church instead of leaving them to "self-feed."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Henry Center and "Young, Restless, Reformed" Around the Web

Trinity International University's Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding now has a blog. Last month the Center's director, Douglas Sweeney spoke with Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists about the surge of interest in and passion about Reformed theology among people in their 20's and 30's. Among the encouraging topics discussed is the recovery of the model of the pastor as theologian and biblically/theologically-driven ministry. A Q & A session follows their interaction. I had the good fortune of attending the event and, thanks to the folks at the Henry Center, you can listen to or view it.

Another noteworthy interview of Collin worth listening to is that conducted by Tim Brister:

Interview with Collin Hansen, Part One
Interview with Collin Hansen, Part Two
Interview with Collin Hansen, Part Three

Christianity Today also recently published an irenic and informative exchange between Collin and Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, in which they discuss their books and respective movements: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five

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ESV Study Bible Preview

The introduction to Luke's gospel from the forthcoming ESV Study Bible is available online. Time's running out to pre-order the volume at a 35% discount. Tomorrow's the last day!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Brian McLaren on the Emerging Church

USA Today carries a condensed version of a recent interview with the Associated Press in which McLaren discusses his latest book and the emerging church's impact on America's religious landscape.[HT: SharperIron]. Perhaps the following non-answer is due to editing but I have my doubts:
Q: On the theology behind the emerging church, you reject the idea that there's an absolute truth. So what boundaries are there on theology that churches are teaching? Can any church just call itself an emerging church?
A: Obviously that's a challenge. The flip side of that question is look at the Catholic Church: For all of its orthodoxy, it could have bishops covering up for molesting priests. And evangelicals, for all their claims of orthodoxy, can be barbaric to gay people and can blindly support a rush to war in Iraq and can be, as we speak, fomenting for war with Iran. ... Obviously, I have a lot of critics and they often say, 'You're wanting to water down the Gospel to accommodate to post-modernity.' I say, 'No, I really don't want to do that. But what I do want to do is acknowledge first the ways we've already watered down the Gospel to accommodate modernity.' ... I think the naivete of some of those critics is that they're starting with a pure pristine understanding of the Gospel. It seems to me we're all in danger of screwing up.
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Sunday, May 11, 2008

You Are Not a Tomb: Words to a Grieving Mom

A friend's daughter recently experienced the heart-wrenching pain of losing her unborn child. In her sorrow, the grieving woman told her mother, "I'm sitting around feeling kind of like a tomb. It's disturbing." Desiring to comfort her daughter in the midst of her anguish, my friend wrote the following words. When she shared them with me, I asked permission to post them here in hope that they might offer consolation to other women for whom this Mother's Day may be a day of mourning for a child they didn't have the opportunity to watch grow up.

You are not a tomb. You are the warm and wonderful world of a tiny soul whom God formed in the deepest recesses of quiet harmony. You are a heartbeat which brought comfort to a little one whose days had already been numbered. And that heart, that sound he heard every second of his life, was his melody, his lighthouse, washing him with a Mother's glow.

You are his playground from which he grew to his fullest height...his sandbox of delight, and when playtime ended, when God called, you became his place of rest, his momentary heaven, his green pasture. Can you think of a better place to await the Shepherd to take him home?

You are not a tomb. You are all this little one knew and had and within you he lived out his entire life. And if a final breath was drawn, it was not done alone, rather to the soft voice of heaven, and the stirring of a Mother's hope. He lived knowing the gentle tug of you are wanted.

You are not a tomb, you are the mystery of a life fully lived...and what you hold onto now is your body's final grief before it says good-bye. You are not a are and always will be this baby's Mom.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (Psalm 139:13-16).

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