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Too busy to lead family worship?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 15:09

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a Baptist pastor in London for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. His is one of the most recognized names in Christian history, but he’s best-known today as the Prince of Preachers.

An electronic search of the mountain of material produced by Spurgeon reveals that he often referred to family worship, which he also called “family prayer.” “I esteem it so highly,” he said, “that no language of mine can adequately express my sense of its value.”[1]

Some may think that Spurgeon lived in a much simpler era that afforded him more time to practice family worship than Christians would have today. I’ve conducted a great deal of Ph.D. research on Spurgeon’s life and pastoral ministry, and can confirm this isn’t so.

Spurgeon’s autobiography, as well as many first-hand observers, tell us that Spurgeon. . .

(1) pastored the largest evangelical church in the world at that time (with more than six thousand active members),

(2) preached almost every day,

(3) edited his sermons for weekly publications, and thereby

(4) produced (in the sixty-four volume Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit) the largest collection of works by any single author in English,

(5) wrote an additional one hundred and twenty books (one every four months throughout his entire adult life),

(6) presided over sixty-six different ministries (such as the pastor’s college he founded),

(7) edited a monthly magazine (“The Sword and the Trowel”),

(8) typically read five books each week, many of which he reviewed for his magazine, and

(9) wrote with a dip pen five hundred letters per week.

And I think I’m busy! Five hundred hand-written letters? I couldn’t write five hundred tweets per week! Even if I were just copying verses from the Bible!

God gave Spurgeon an extraordinary capacity for work and productivity. And yet, despite the ceaseless, crushing demands on his schedule, at 6:00 each evening, setting aside a to-do list that few could match today, he gathered his wife, twin boys, and all others present in his home at the time for family worship.

After his death, his wife Susannah wrote this glimpse into their lives together with their twin boys, both of whom became pastors:

After the meal was over, an adjournment was made to the study for family worship, and it was at these seasons that my beloved’s prayers were remarkable for their tender childlikeness, their spiritual pathos, and their intense devotion. He seemed to come as near to God as a little child to a loving father, and we were often moved to tears as he talked thus face to face with his Lord.[2]

A visitor to the Spurgeon home once wrote,

One of the most helpful hours of my visits to Westwood was the hour of family prayer. At six o’clock all the household gathered into the study for worship. Usually Mr. Spurgeon would himself lead the devotions. The portion read was invariably accompanied with exposition. How amazingly helpful those homely and gracious comments were. I remember, especially, his reading of the twenty-fourth of Luke: “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.” How sweetly he talked upon having Jesus with us wherever we go. Not only to have Him draw near at special seasons, but to go with us whatever labour we undertake. . . . Then, how full of tender pleading, of serene confidence in God, of world-embracing sympathy were his prayers, . . . His public prayers were an inspiration and benediction, but his prayers with the family were to me more wonderful still. . . . Mr. Spurgeon, when bowed before God in family prayer, appeared a grander man even than when holding thousands spellbound by his oratory.[3]

You may know of no one as busy or as burdened as yourself, but can you honestly say you have more responsibilities than Spurgeon?

Despite his innumerable and important responsibilities, Spurgeon made the privileges and delights of family worship a priority. How about you?


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, “Hindrances to Prayer,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 20, (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1874; reprint, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1981), 506.

[2] C. H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography. Susannah Spurgeon and J. W. Harrald (comps.). (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1899; reprint, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1992), 64.

[3] Arnold Dallimore. Spurgeon: A New Biography (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), 178-179.

This post originally appeared on The Center for Biblical Spirituality.


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Categories: Seminary Blog

To What Extent Should Pastors be "Culturally Savvy" and Attune to the Trends? How Far is Too Far?

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 12:00

Talbot faculty member, James Petitfils, and a panel of Talbot graduates who are now pastors in Southern California discuss to what extent pastors should be "culturally savvy."

Categories: Seminary Blog

Parenting: It’s Never an Interruption

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 06:06

Parenting is all about living by the principle of prepared spontaneity. You don’t really know what’s going to happen next. You don’t really know when you’ll have to enforce a command, intervene in an argument, confront a wrong, hold out for a better way, remind someone of a truth, call for forgiveness, lead someone to confession, point to Jesus, restore peace, hold someone accountable, explain a wisdom principle, give a hug of love, laugh in the face of adversity, help someone complete a task, mediate an argument, stop with someone and pray, assist someone to see his heart, or talk once again about what it means to live together in a community of love.

What you do know is that Scripture gives you the wisdom that you need, and your always-present Messiah gives you the grace that you need to be ready to respond to the moments of opportunity he will give you. Along with this, you and I must remember that our Lord loves our children more than we ever could, and his commitment to their growth and change is more faithful and persevering than ours could ever be. Because of this, in his grace and love, he will manufacture moments that expose the needy hearts of our children to us. He will faithfully employ the little moments of everyday life to expose to us and our children their need of rescuing and forgiving grace. And he will not do this only at the moments that you feel are appropriate and when you feel most prepared.

Let me give you an example. We had planned a day at a local theme park with our children. I was anticipating a day of familial amusement park bliss. I was hoping that on this day my children would be self-parenting, and if God could throw in a fully sanctified wife, that would be cool! Well, we’re getting out of the van at the park and one of my children said, “Dad, may we have something to drink before we go into the park?” It didn’t seem like a dangerous request. I opened the cooler, which was full of soft drinks, and all of my children sighted in on the one can of soda that they all knew was the best. Immediately global nuclear war broke out. They were pushing and shoving, grabbing and pulling, throwing ice at one another, saying unkind things and hitting one another’s hands out of the way. I couldn’t believe it. We weren’t even in the park yet, and my day was already ruined!

So I jumped in and said, “Do you want to fight? We don’t have to pay all this money for you to fight. I’ll take you home, put a cooler in the backyard with one can of soda in it, and you can fight forever!” Soon my children aren’t fighting anymore because they’re watching the crowd gather as I lose it in the parking lot of the theme park.

Let’s analyze what’s going on in this moment and what’s happening inside of me. What’s going on is that a God of grace is taking a mundane moment of daily family life and using it to do something wonderful for my children and for me. He is making the condition of their hearts visible in order to produce concern in me that would hopefully result in awareness and a desire to change in them. But I’m not at all encouraged in this moment with what God is doing. You see, I’m not angry in the parking lot because my children are sinners. No, I’m angry that God has exposed their sin, and because he has, I have to forsake my agenda for the day and parent them! It all seems like a huge imposition, a hassle that I just didn’t want to deal with.

But the reality is different from God’s perspective. The sin, weakness, rebellion, or failure of your children is never an imposition on your parenting. It is never an interruption. It is never a hassle.  It is always grace. God loves your children. He has put them in a family of faith, and in relentless grace he will reveal their need to you again and again so that you can be his tool of awareness, conviction, repentance, faith, and change. And because in these moments he asks you to forsake your agenda for his, this opportunity of grace is not just for your children, it’s for you as well.

But my problem is that there are moments when I tend to love my little kingdom of one more than I love his. So I’m impatient, discouraged, or irritated not because my children have broken the laws of God’s kingdom, but the laws of mine. In my kingdom there shall be no parenting on family vacation days, or when I am reading the paper on my iPad, or after ten o’clock at night, or during a good meal, or . . . I could go on. And when I’m angry about interruptions to my kingdom plan, there are four things I tend to do.

1. I tend to turn a God-given moment of ministry into a moment of anger.

2. I do this because I have personalized what is not personal. (Before we left for the amusement park that day, my children didn’t plot to drive me crazy in the parking lot.)

3. Because I have personalized what is not personal, I am adversarial in my response. (It’s not me acting for my children, but acting against them because they are in the way of what I want.)

4. So I end up settling for situational solutions that don’t really get to the heart of the matter. (I bark and order, I instill guilt, I threaten a punishment and walk away, and my children are utterly unchanged by the encounter.)

There is a better way. It begins with praying that God would give you new eyes; eyes that are more focused on his eternal work of grace than on your momentary plans for you. This better way also includes seeking God for a flexible and willing heart, ready to abandon your agenda for God’s greater plan. And it lives with the confidence that God is in you, with you, and for you and will give you what you need so that you can face, with courage and grace, the parenting moment that you didn’t know was coming.

Paul Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker.

 Check out the upcoming Counsel the Word conference with a theme on confident parenting.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Five favorite Southern Seminary classes

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 12:03

A few years ago, I received a Masters of Divinity from Southern Seminary. Recently, as I was looking over my class list and the required credit hours for my MDiv years, I thought about the classes that I enjoyed the most. Each of them were so good that I would take them again. Here are my five favorites in no particular order.

Hermeneutics with Robert Plummer

Plummer’s new book, 40 Questions About Interpreting the Biblegives an overview of what we discussed in this class. I took Hermeneutics my first semester, and I’m glad I did. This class set the course for me to interpret the Bible carefully throughout the rest of my seminary education and during my initial years of preaching and teaching in a local church.

Ministry of Proclamation with Hershael York

Don’t let the fancy name fool you. This was a basic preaching class. Each student was required to preach in class while being evaluated by Dr. York and the other classmates. But what could have been an awkward situation turned out to be a very encouraging exercise. The ethos of the class valued faithfulness, excellence, and the desire to listen to the Lord speak to us through one another. Even more memorable than the preaching segments were the casual conversations with Dr. York that concerned life, family, and pastoral ministry. There’s nothing like taking a class from a professor who has the life and ministry experience to back up his theory.

The Sermon on the Mount with Jonathan Pennington

This was a January class in which we worked our way through the entire Sermon on the Mount in five days. Dr. Pennington began the class with some issues of interpretation. The rest of the time was spent discussing the text itself. The big project turned out to be very practical. We were asked to craft 12 sermon outlines from the Sermon on the Mount. I wound up doing 34 because I was planning to preach through the Sermon on the Mount on Wednesday nights. That teaching series lasted more than a year and culminated in my memorizing the Sermon on the Mount and then delivering it by memory at church.

The Reformation with Shawn Wright

What I remember most about this class was the enormous amount of reading and outlining required. I probably did more work for this one class than two or three other classes combined. The good news was that at the end of the semester, I had worked through all the historical research and come out with a deeper understanding of Reformation theology. Because this was a difficult class, there weren’t as many students willing to take it. The smaller class size fostered an open atmosphere for fascinating discussions. I came to appreciate the different theological emphases of the Reformers and the pastoral motivations behind the cultural movement.

Contemporary Theology with Greg Thornbury

This was a “J term” taught by visiting professor Greg Thornbury from Union University. The reading requirements bogged us down in some very difficult and dense work from postmodern thinkers. But the class conversations were spectacular. The main thing that I remember about Dr. Thornbury was his passion for the subject matter that he taught. That excitement rubs off on students, even when the subject matter is difficult to comprehend at times.

(Favorite visual: Dr. Thornbury – eyes closed tightly, totally engaged in his teaching, gesturing like crazy while kneeling on a swivel chair that continued to slowly turn until he was facing the whiteboard and not the class.)


Out of all the classes I took at Southern Seminary, I can’t think of one that wasn’t beneficial and enjoyable. I’m grateful for the educational opportunities God has given me, and I look back on all my seminary classes (but these in particular) with the fondest of memories.

Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources.
This post originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition's site. 

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Incarnation and Omniscience

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 12:00

Dear Dr. William Lane Craig,

... My question is about the model of the Incarnation you and J.P. Moreland present in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, which states that many of the divine attributes of Jesus were located in his subconsciousness. I'm having a problem with this. Maximal greatness would seem to me to imply having access to any and all knowledge on the spot, which would in turn seem to imply that God would have omniscience in His consciousness, where all the knowledge can be directly accessed. Can you please clear this up for me?

Categories: Seminary Blog

How I Become Convinced of the Effectual Call

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 07:00

I grew up with a semi-Calvinistic understanding of salvation. I knew that people were dead in sins and that dead people don’t do anything. But I did not understand much of how salvation actually worked.

When I first heard someone teach on the effectual call (also poorly described as irresistible grace) I balked at it. It didn’t seem to match up with my conception of salvation and my experience of life. When the gospel was preached, it seemed that the Spirit was working generally in people’s hearts, and they either responded to that work or rejected it. But that was all that was happening.

While in graduate school, I took a class on Romans. When studying through Romans 8—specifically verses 28–30—I became convinced that the effectual call was a biblical teaching.

After dealing primarily with justification in chapters 1–4 of Romans, Paul moves on to discuss the hope of the believer in chapters 5-8. He assures the believers in Rome that they no longer have to face God’s wrath. However, they will still face difficulty in this life. In the familiar teaching in 8:28, Paul assures them that God is working in all the tribulations that they face (and every other part of their life) for their good. He is working His purpose out in their lives.

But how can the Roman Christians know that God is working things out for their good? To assure them, Paul gives a list of five verbs showing the certainty of their salvation in verses 29–30. (NOTE: It is important to keep in mind that Paul is not providing a full teaching of soteriology here but is offering teaching to support his argument that God is working out His purpose in the lives of believers.)

The first verb in the chain is “foreknow.” This is probably the most controversial verb in the passage. The basic and most common meaning deals with prescience—knowledge of the future. If that is the meaning here, Paul would simply be stating that God knows people beforehand. Since it is obvious that God knows people beforehand (every person ever born), those who argue that the word only means prescience typically state that there is something specific about the believer that God knows. Often they supply an object such as “God knew who would repent” or “God knew who would believe.” God’s election then is based on His previous knowledge of who would choose Him. This understanding has some difficulties. The objects of God’s knowledge are the persons themselves, not something about them (i.e., not “what He did foreknow about the person” but “whom He did foreknow.”) This view also contradicts Pauline thinking. God’s choosing of believers is not based on their actions (their decision to repent and believe), but on God’s mercy and grace (e.g., Rom 9:11–16.)

Although the most common meaning of “foreknow” in Greek literature speaks of prescience, it is more often used in the New Testament to indicate a previous relationship or choice (Rom 11:2; 1 Pet 1:20; Acts 2:23; 1 Pet 1:2). This follows the Old Testament usage of “know,” which was more influential in Paul’s thinking than Greek usage. The term speaks of a special affection or selection (Ps 1:6; 144:3; Hos 13:5; Amos 3:2). Paul does not say that God foreknows everyone in this passage, but only believers. He obviously does know every person beforehand, but He only enters into a relationship and sets His love upon believers (cf. Matt 7:23).

The second verb of the chain is “predestined.” Paul places more emphasis on this verb than any of the others. He temporarily leaves the list of verbs to discuss predestination at more length. After God has set his affection on His people, He then determines their end. The end of believers is conformity to Christ’s image. Ultimately this is speaking of the final redemption, when the believer is given a new body like Christ’s. However, that does not preclude a reference to the present life. God is even now working in believers to make them more like His Son. He uses the trials that they face to help them grow in conformity to Christ.

Paul resumes his chain of verbs with “called” in verse 30. This is the point when God’s eternal choice becomes a historical reality. This call is not the universal call of the gospel offered to all men—the only kind of call I used to consider. Rather, it is an effectual call that guarantees salvation. Why? Because all of those called are also justified. Paul’s point in providing these verbs is to show that every individual believer goes all the way to glorification. If someone can be called but reject that call (and thus not be justified), Paul’s argument falls flat. Thus, there is a call from God that will certainly issue in justification. In other words, there is a call that is effective in bringing people to salvation. (That does not mean that man has no responsibility. Again, Paul is not giving a complete teaching on salvation. Rather he is showing the surety of God’s accomplishing His purpose.)

As was already mentioned, the ones “called” are next “justified.” Paul dealt with this topic at length earlier in the epistle. In salvation God declares the sinner to be just because of the righteousness of Christ. He now regards the believer as righteous.

In the final link of the chain, the believer is “glorified.” It is intriguing that Paul views this as already complete, although elsewhere it is clear that glorification is a future act. The certainty of this glorification is so great that Paul can state it as if it were already done. This fits well in his argument: if God’s purpose will surely be accomplished—including his purpose in calling—glorification is as good as done.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Three key connections between knowing God and staying pure

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 14:53

The most important thing you can do in your pursuit of purity is to get to know the living God.

Sexual Sin

Our world is awash in sexual immorality. Whether it is adultery, pornography, fornication, or gay marriage it seems that our culture is not only experiencing, but also embracing the full buffet of sexual sin.

Perhaps the saddest part of this reality is that the same problems, which plague the culture, are also strongly represented in the church. Most of my counseling ministry is spent talking to Christians who have been devastated by one sexual sin or another. The saddest and most desperate people I have ever known are those who have experienced sexual sin—either their own or the sins of someone else.

Learning How to Change

In that context many people believe that change is possible. They want to be different, but they don’t know how to realize true change. There are many crucial factors that are part of the change process that would lead a person struggling with sexual sin to freedom from that sin. Here I want to address what I think is the most important reality. The answer comes in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 where Paul says,

This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.

Paul says that the difference between those who are controlled by sexual sin, and those who know how to control their own body in holiness and honor is the difference between those who know God and those who do not. The people who live in the passion of lust are the people who do not know God. The people who are growing in purity are the people who do know him.

That is a fascinating reality. The most important thing you can do in your pursuit of purity is to get to know the living God. It kind of makes you wonder though, doesn’t it? What is it about knowing God that is so essential to purity? I can think of three things.

1.  When you know God you see his purity.

Laws always reflect the character of the one who makes them. All of God’s commands for us to be sexually pure flow from his own heart of purity. The God who calls us to purity is himself the very definition of that purity. Indeed, God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

When you know this God who is purity and who is light you will want to be like him.

2.  When you know God you see his pardon for your sin.

The only way you can know God is by knowing his Son Jesus Christ. To know Jesus Christ is to know the one who provides forgiveness for our sin on his cross. Being forgiven is the most wonderful thing in the world. It means that all the things you have ever done will not be held against you because of the work of another.

Few sinful categories carry the weight of shame that sexual sins do. When you know God through his Son who provides freedom from your guilt and shame it is an unbelievably freeing reality. This is the kind of freedom needed in the lives of those struggling with sexual sin.

3.  When you know God you see his power to change you.

After you have trusted Jesus to forgive you, you need to trust him to empower your efforts to be holy. The good news of the gospel is not merely that God forgives our sins. It is the further announcement that God empowers our obedience.

For people struggling with sexual sin they need the hope that their wickedness will be forgiven. More than that, they need the hope that they can actually change. Knowing God is to know the one who trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (Titus 2:12).

Knowing God

What this all means is that when we are counseling people who struggle sexually the most important thing we will help them do is to know God. Of course they need to learn how to repent, be restored in their broken relationship, and a million other things.

As we engage in this important work, however, we must never take our eyes off the goal of pointing people to a perfect God who loves them and demonstrates purity, provides pardon, and empowers change.

This was originally written for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Heath Lambert, Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Seminary and Boyce College, is also Executive Director of ACBC and the author of Finally Free.

Make plans now to attend Counsel the Word at Southern Seminary May 2, 2015!

See videos of Heath Lambert discussing biblical counseling and its relationship to expository preaching, calvinism, and ecclesiology with Jay Adams, author of Competent to Counsel and founder of the modern day biblical counseling movement.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Salvation in James: Gift and Responsibility, Part Two

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 12:00

In this series of posts, we attempt to offer a rich and appreciative reading of James chapter 1 and 2 with an eye to James’ theology of human redemption—a Jacobian soteriology. In the previous post, we considered the function of the “word” and the “law” as God’s gracious gifts for salvation. Here we specifically looked at James 1:18 and 21 and concluded that this “word of truth” and “implanted word” thus is a new character, a new heart’s disposition created in us. It must be received (1:21) and, as the “law of freedom” it must be obeyed (1:22-25). Thus, the “word/law” in James is God’s instrument for salvation—it is both gift and responsibility. In this second post we will focus on James 2:12-13 where “mercy” triumphs over judgment. 

Categories: Seminary Blog

Adopted for life, ten years later: What I’ve learned since

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 15:05

Ten years ago today, my wife and I walked out of a Russian orphanage with two little one year-old boys. Suddenly, for the first time, I was a father and she was a mother. Suddenly, little Maxim was “Benjamin Jacob Moore” and little Sergei was “Timothy Russell Moore.” Everything changed, for all of us, for life.

As I’ve written in the book, God used this experience to upend my whole life. He taught me much about his Fatherhood, much about the gospel, much about community, and much about the mission of the church. But people sometimes ask me, “In the years since, what have you learned about becoming a family through adoption?”

The main thing is that convictions forged there in the July heat of the former Soviet Union have only crystallized more. As the father of five now, some by that adoption and some by the more typical way, I’m as convinced as ever that adoption, into a family or into the Family of God, is “real.” There is no such thing in God’s economy as an “adopted child,” only a child who was adopted into the family. “Adopted” defines how you came into the household, but it doesn’t define you as some other sort of family member. In the Book of Romans, Paul defines all Christians, both Jew and Gentile, as having received a common “spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15; 9:4).

I have also learned a lot about the difficulty of adoption. We were blessed when we received our two sons, but we didn’t know how hard it would be. We’d never had children before, so we simply adjusted to the new normal. Because the boys had never had solid food, one of them was traumatized by the texture of food, would pack it into his cheeks, and gag. Teaching him to eat was the most stressful thing I’ve ever lived through, as I would sit by his chair and coax, “Chew! Chew!” At one point, I turned to Maria and said, “Wait! I, for the first time, really get the whole ‘milk to meat’ concept of the New Testament.” But then our son vomited all that food up, and my exegetical insight was gone.

My grandmother used to always say about the Depression, what I’ve heard almost everyone from that era say, “We were poor but we didn’t know we were poor.” I can relate. Adjusting to life in a new home that first year was difficult, but we didn’t really know it. They were our sons and we just loved and disciplined and laughed our way through it. When our next child was born to us, as an infant, we looked at one another about six months in and said, “This is so incredibly easy!”

I think things would have been very different, if we’d panicked over every pile of hoarded food we found in the house or every fit thrown. If we’d tried to relate all of that back to some kind of possible adoption horror story, or tried to assign a syndrome to all of it, we probably never would have gelled together as we did, as a family. But we did, and we are.

That joyful hardship is exactly like its gospel equivalent in the Spirit of adopting grace. Sometimes we, as a church, don’t recognize how alien a new family seems. People in our midst come to know Christ; they learn to cry out “Abba,” but there’s still a long, hard adjustment to make. Sometimes they wonder if they’re welcome because they don’t know how to find Haggai in their Bibles, or because they don’t have any Vacation Bible School memories, or because they still crave cocaine. If the church is the household of God, we don’t see these struggling, anxious new believers as our guests or our ministry projects. They’re our brothers and sisters. It’s no burden to walk alongside them, steadying the cross on their backs. It’s just what you do, when you’re family.

Ten years later, these boys are growing up and I’m proud of them. We’re going to celebrate “Moore Day” today, and I’m going to retell the story of that transition from orphanage to dinner table. And I’m going to remember that I made the same transition, and tell myself an Old, Old Story too. But, most of all, I’m just going to thank God, as I remember these two little emaciated orphans in that institution far away, and look and see them sitting, together, as a family.

They are my beloved sons, and with them I am well-pleased.


This was originally posted in 2012 by Russell Moore on his blog, Moore to the Point

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Church Report: Spiritual Formation Assignment, Part 4

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 12:00

Although most Biola students have grown up in the church, a surprising number of undergraduates (especially freshmen and sophomores) do not attend church. Students cite a variety of reasons for this, including busyness, lack of transportation, difficulty of settling into a church, receiving Bible instruction through Bible classes and required chapel attendance, and lack of depth in relationships when they attend church. Recognizing that these students do face legitimate difficulties, I created an assignment requiring them to attend the same church four times over the course of the semester and answer a series of questions about the church for the purpose of helping them think through how they should pick a new church. I’ve included the questions below. I’d love to hear any feedback on them!

Categories: Seminary Blog

How Can Pastors Respond to Church Shopping Mentality and Consumer Approaches to Faith?

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 12:00

Talbot faculty member, James Petitfils, and a panel of Talbot graduates who are now pastors in Southern California talk about the ways that pastors can respond to "church shopping" and a consumeristic mentality about faith.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Bearing Witness for Christ in the Workplace, Part 2

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 07:00

In our last post we appealed to John 17 to show that a properly ordered witness for Christ must avoid the two poles of (1) being both in the world and of the world, hoping the gospel will advance wordlessly through personal intimacy alone (Christ of culture) and (2) being neither in the world nor of the world, hoping the gospel will advance through remote belligerence alone (Christ against culture).

If the reader is familiar with H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, he will recognize two of Niebuhr’s five approaches, adapted here for my purposes. Niebuhr actually proposes three intermediate approaches, but I will select just one for further consideration: Christ and culture in paradox. (Note: I am using these categories somewhat differently than Niebuhr does, but I think they are helpful enough to be repurposed.)

In the paradox model, the Christian lives in two realms—as a citizen of the present, earthly/civic realm, and as a prospective citizen of heaven. In both these realms, Christ rules the believer’s activities, but in very different ways. In the earthly/civic realm, Christ rules indirectly through the dominion mandate by which everyman may, by submitting to God’s sovereign lordship over Creation, effectively rule over all that God has made as his vice-regents on earth. We do so by cultivating common/moral virtue, the sciences (Gen 1:28–31), and civic structures (Gen 9:6); by stewarding divinely granted “property” (whether material/physical, intellectual/ideological, ethical, etc.); and by obeying the second great commandment of loving neighbor as self (Matt 22:39). Specifically, this takes the form of being the very best possible citizens, workers, spouses, parents, students, and neighbors in the natural realm and under divinely imposed natural law. This is the duty of every person, and we should encourage/expect every person around us (regenerate and unregenerate alike), being fellow-image-bearers, to aspire to these selfsame goals. This is the duty of all image-bearers.

The believer’s goal in living this way is not only or even primarily to woo people into the second or heavenly/ecclesiastical realm (where Christ rules through shepherds in covenanted communities bound by the regulating principles of a comprehensive and inspired canon). Both Paul and Peter, however, suggest that by living in this way, even “without words,” we will routinely encounter opportunities for the Gospel (Titus 2:1–10; 1 Pet 3:1; etc.)—and we should be ever looking for these. By setting Christ apart as Lord we will invariably stimulate people to ask us the reason for the hope that lies within (1 Pet 3:15). And the Christian Gospel is our answer, delivered from the standpoint of a clear conscience and in a context of mutual respect earned by “good behavior” (v. 16).

So if a believer should find himself working, say, in a public school setting, the approach would not be unregulated Gospel declaration (which will get one fired) or withdrawal to engage in remote denunciations of that “wicked and irremediable public school system” (the Christ against culture approach). Nor should the believer simply seek to “blend in” with the sterile, non-theistic worldview that usually prevails in this setting—and, frankly, in almost every civic setting (the Christ of culture approach). Instead, the believer should view himself as an agent of common grace, moral virtue, and neighborliness, humbly and proactively being the best citizen, steward, worker, and ethical mentor that he possibly can be with God as his witness. The believer need not continually announce his faith, but neither will he be able to conceal it; indeed, in very short order, he will be asked to offer a reason for why he is the way that he is. And the Gospel will have its day.

As circumstances allow, this approach can also countenance a more assertive face—after all, if unbelievers can ask believers reasons for the hope that lies within, the believer can freely inquire about the reasons for the unbeliever’s hopelessness too! And by doing this, we can gently push open doors to the hopeful introduction of the Christian Gospel.

In either case, though, a paradox/antithesis will emerge. It must emerge. Believers and unbelievers all live in the very same world, but they have radically different worldviews that cannot long remain a secret. And it is the Christian’s role to deliberately enter this common world determined not to “become like the fool” (Prov 26:4), but instead to invite and answer the fool’s inquiries (Prov 26:5) with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15) so as to introduce them to God.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Indonesia Air Asia QZ8501 and the Problem of Evil

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 12:00

Dear Dr. Craig,

... My question is regarding one of the latest news. I am an Indonesian living in Surabaya and the QZ8501 accident has had a huge impact on me. But most of all it was a great shock for a friend of mine. She is a Christian attending Mawar Sharon church with her parents. They were such wonderful persons, as well as a good Christian. But then they were traveling on QZ8501, while my friend stayed at home. You know the rest of the story ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Nine possible reasons for your spiritual drought

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 09:39

Need some refreshment in your season of spiritual drought?

If you have been a Christian for any amount of time, you know that spiritual passion, sight, and affections ebb and flow. At times our sense of spiritual realities can be strong and vibrant; other times, our hearts feel like lead weights and we find ourselves longing for God to visit us once again and bring refreshment (Psalm 85:4-7). These seasons are usually referred to as times of “spiritual drought” or “spiritual dryness,” and find intimate expression in many of the Psalms. David often cried out to God in times where his soul seemed like dust, and he yearned to be refreshed by the presence of the Lord (Psalm 13; Psalm 63). Other Psalmists expressed their longing to have their parched souls to be replenished by the Lord (Psalm 42). Those who have tasted of the goodness of Christ know what it means to be without that taste; it leaves us pleading, “light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Psalm 13:3)

Spiritual drought, though a persistent and unwelcome visitor, is not something with which we must constantly live. There are Biblical means by which we can, by grace, put ourselves in the way of refreshment; we can be restored to once again feel the joy of our salvation. But this can only happen if we are able to discern why we might be experiencing spiritual dryness so we can take the appropriate action. With this in mind, I would like to suggest a few reasons we may be experiencing a season of spiritual drought and provide the correlating remedies.

Unchecked Lust
Peter’s warning could not be more explicit: “Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11). Impure thoughts and freshly cultivated fantasies will only dull our sense of spiritual things; that is what Peter means when he tells us that lust “wages war against the soul.” Harboring lust defiles our conscience, feeds our sinful flesh, and withers our spiritual vitality. If are experiencing the ravages of spiritual drought, it may be because we are entertaining our minds with lust and feeding our sinful desires with suggestive movies, magazines, internet sites, or by simply visiting the local mall. The only remedy called for here is sincere confession and repentance (Proverbs 28:13; I John 1:9). In order to find our souls once again enthralled with the joy of our salvation, we must confess these sins and turn from them (Psalm 51:1-12), resolving to no longer make any provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14).

Jesus, in confronting the Pharisees’ desire for self-exaltation, provides a valuable insight as to how pride relates to faith. The Pharisees were unable to see the truth and beauty of Christ because they were infatuated with their own glory and loved receiving praise from men. Jesus asks them, “How can you believe when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God” (John 5:44)? Saving faith was hindered by their pride. And although this passage speaks specifically of pride obstructing saving faith, I think we can safely apply this principle to our lives as Christians: pride kills faith in Jesus. If we are nurturing self-love, seeking praise and appreciation from our friends, our congregation, our professors, our supervisor, or those who read our blogs, we will find out very quickly that “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6). Our souls will shrivel as we fill them with the glory that comes from man. On the other hand, turning from ourselves and our reputations to exalt Christ at all costs will bring about spiritual renewal since, “[God] gives grace to the humble.”

Love of Money
There is also a direct coorelation between our attachment to stuff and our ability to see the glory of God. Jesus connects our physical gaze with our spiritual sight in Matthew 6:19-23. In verses 19-21, Christ instructs us to store up lasting treasures in heaven rather than temporary riches here on earth. Whether we do this or not will have a significant impact on our affections, for “where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart will be also.” Jesus continues, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (vv. 22-23). In other words, if we are fixed upon the glitter of earthly riches, the brightness God’s glory cannot shine into our hearts and we will only suffer spiritual thirst, not saturation. The solution here is to start taking our eyes of earthly riches. This is often helped through prayer and by regular and consistent giving to our churches, faithful gospel ministries, to the poor and to those in need. Isaiah 58:10-11 is encouraging in this regard,

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Lack of Bible Reading, Meditation, and Prayer
When we neglect Bible reading, meditation, and prayer, we are cutting ourselves off from essential nourishment for our souls. It is impossible to thrive spiritually without feeding our minds and hearts with God’s Word. Psalm 1 reminds us of the benefits of meditation,

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, or stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the sear of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in al that he does, he prospers (vv. 1-3)

On the other hand, our leaf will wither if we are not planting ourselves near the life-giving streams of God’s Word.  This reminder is especially important for those of us to tend toward service and who desire to stay busy and productive.  Although it is good to be busy and always abounding in the work of the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58), our work can become empty, heartless, and sapped of power if we are not fueling ourselves with the spiritual food that comes from God’s Word.  We need to fight to set aside regular time to read, meditate, and pray over Scripture.  It is also beneficial to memorize Scripture so that we can receive refreshment from Biblical truth any time during the day.  If we refuse to drink from the well of God’s Word on a regular basis, we should only expect dry ground and withered leaves.

Too Much Time Indoors
It is easy to see why blatant sins like lust, pride, and the love of money can impede spiritual passion and affection.  It is not so easy to discern the subtle effects other lifestyle habits have on our zeal and vitality.  One area that I find receives little attention is the role of the creation in maintaining our spiritual health.  But if the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalms 19:1), and if we are refreshed by seeing God’s glory, it would only make sense to go outside in order to behold that glory!  At times I can literally feel my faith revived as I spend a few minutes looking up at the grandeur of a clear night sky, filled with unfathomable expressions of power and creativity.  I can find refreshment in a simple hike or walk.  And I do not think this is simply because I “love the outdoors.”  I love the outdoors, not because I can get REI dividend credits, but because I can see glory; and seeing this glory has often served to restore my weary soul.

Lack of Exercise
This ties in with the last point but belongs in its own category because one does not necessarily need to be outdoors in order to get exercise.  Now, lest this sound unspiritual and more like I am suggesting things that are only beneficial to those of a particular physiological makeup, let me have Don Whitney weigh in on this often neglected yet important topic,

Our bodies are not merely disposable containers for our eternal souls. God could have made us to be disembodied souls, living forever in a condition like the souls in Heaven live while waiting for resurrected bodies…But He created us to be complete as a unity of body and soul. . . . One of the ways the body can have a positive effect upon the soul is through recreational physical activity. Because most spiritual practices [disciplines: reading, writing, study, meditation, etc.] are by definition spiritual and not very physical, if our daily work is mostly mental and sedentary then there’s little diversity in the kind of stimuli we experience. And the monotony of that can lessen the impact of our spiritual practices. The variety that recreational physical activity provides to the brain cells and muscle fibers of a body may help to refresh the soul that dwells in it (Simplify Your Spiritual Life)

Many will find their spiritual vitality renewed by simply going on a thirty minute walk or run, or by going for a swim, or by riding their bike, or by hiking some of the trails near their house.  I am often amazed at how a little bit of exercise benefits me mentally and spiritually.  Perhaps you are pursuing the Lord, mortifying sin, regular in Bible reading and prayer, and yet find your soul dry and dusty—maybe you should go on a run.

Neglect of Responsibilities
When we choose laziness over diligence, this can often lead to spiritual dryness, even depression. And this process usually perpetuates itself: laziness will create spiritual dryness; when we are spiritually dry and depressed, we are usually not powerfully motivated to pursue diligence. But it is precisely at this point that we need to break the cycle. We were made to work—when we subvert this fundamental aspect of our personhood, we will find ourselves spiritually dry and frustrated. Laziness never satisfies. That is one reason why Scripture is replete with commands to pursue diligence and faithfulness. If we find ourselves in a spiritual desert, we should consider whether or not we have been faithful in our responsibilities.

Morbid Introspection
Ironically, when we find ourselves spiritually dry, it is best to not ruminate over our condition for too long—this can lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with ourselves and to morbid introspection. This is another situation that can perpetuate itself: the more we experience spiritual drought, the more we are tempted to examine ourselves and look inside; the more we look inside, the more we may experience spiritual frustration. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones is insightful here,

"I suggest that we cross the line from self-examination to introspection when, in a sense, we do nothing but examine ourselves, and when such self-examination becomes the main and cheif end of our life. We are meant to examine ourselves periodically, but if we are always doing it, always, as it were, putting our soul on a plate and dissecting it, that is introspection. And if we are always talking to people about ourselves and our problems and troubles, and if we are forever going to them with that kind of frown upon our face saying: I am in great difficulty-it probably means that we are all the time centered upon ourselves. That is introspection, and that in turn leads to the condition known as morbidity." (Spiritual Depression, 17)

When we are focused on ourselves, for even what we consider a good reason, this can lead to more spiritual dryness because we are turning away from an infinite source of spiritual refreshment to a finite and sinful human being. We must be careful to not let our self-examination turn into a fixed gaze upon our hearts.

Forgetting the Gospel and Living in Legalism
When the Galatian Christians began to drift from the gospel, Paul’s response was to remind them of how they first enjoyed the presence of the Holy Spirit :

Oh foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (3:1-6).

The Galatians experienced the freedom and joy of the Holy Spirit, not by keeping commandments in order to gain salvation, but by hearing and believing a message—the gospel message. We are all in danger of drifting like these Galatians; after having received the Holy Spirit by faith, we attempt to perfect ourselves by the flesh and in our own strength; trying to earn some favor with God. This is why I believe Jerry Bridges is right when he reminds us to “Preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.” The truth of the gospel—the benefits of Christ’s substitutionary life and death on our behalf are received by faith alone—regularly poured into our minds and hearts, will guard us from deadening legalism and subsequent spiritual dryness.

A Few Closing Thoughts
None of these suggestions will guard us from all spiritual drought. Because we are sinful and because we live in a fallen world with fallen bodies, we must face up to the reality that spiritual dryness will come again. That is why the Psalmist says that the Word of God restores his soul (Psalm 19:7); that it was in need of restoring implies that his soul was no longer in a happy, satisfied state—it was in need of refreshment. Knowing this and recognizing potential causes of spiritual drought can help us to weather seasons of little or no rain.

This doesn't represent an exhaustive list. There are more factors, I am sure, that play into our enjoyment of spiritual saturation or the lack thereof. These are the causes that I have determined to be primary and most important. Yet, the most encouraging word I could give is probably this: there is coming a day when there will be no more drought, only abundance. We will someday enjoy the actual presence of Christ and find at his right hand pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11)—increasing joy and satisfaction for all for eternity. What keeps us moving through the desert is knowing for certain that an oasis lies over the next hill. Let’s keep moving.

This article was originally published at derekjamesbrown.com.
Derek J. Brown is a two-time graduate of Southern Seminary, now serving as a pastor in California. More>


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Categories: Seminary Blog

Bearing Witness for Christ in the Workplace, Part 1

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 07:00

I work in an almost exclusively Christian environment. With the exception of a few brief encounters with folks delivering packages, reading the gas meter, and such, my whole workday is spent with believers. I’m not the best person, I admit, to speak of sharing Christ in the workplace. Recent changes in my family’s situations, however, have left me thinking very hard about the topic, and I feel enormous pressure to offer them timely advice before their fresh opportunities deteriorate (as they so often do) into situations where opportunities for the Gospel have been effectively crushed.

In my experience, there are two major poles to avoid when answering this question. The first I’ll call the Christian Conquest approach. In this approach everyone around me is the enemy of Christ, and my sole purpose is do battle with them until they submit to Christ. To this end, I wear my Christianity on my sleeve: I post Bible verses all over my cubicle wall, hand out tracts liberally, tell everyone around me and especially under me that they must be born again, and start evangelistic conversations in any place and at any time. If a friendly group of co-workers asks me to come to the office party and share a few beers, I say, “No way! I don’t drink and unless I absolutely have to, I avoid anybody who drinks because I’m a CHRISTIAN! Don’t ask me to hang out with you until you repent and join me at church.”

There’s a tiny part of me that admires a person like this, because he is willing to endure ridicule and social ostracism in order to make Christ known. And at the end of the day, so long as the Gospel is proclaimed, God sometimes uses this approach to save people. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best approach. Here’s why:

  • It’s unethical. If you’re being paid to make widgets and you decide to stop making widgets in order to share the gospel on company time, you are stealing from your employer, and that’s wrong. Just because the success of the Gospel is the Church’s highest mission does not mean that evangelism automatically trumps all of the believer’s other responsibilities (Titus 2:9).
  • It’s ineffective. Of course, just because something is ineffective does not make it wrong, but some things are ineffective because they are demonstrably wrong. And being a bad worker, and obnoxious person, or a hater crushes legitimate opportunities for the gospel (see, e.g., Matt 5:16; Titus 2:1–10; 1 Pet 3:1, 13–17). If your whole office regards you as snobbish and obnoxious, you are not being a good witness, no matter how many Bible verses are pasted on your wall (electronic wall or cubicle wall, it makes no difference).
  • It’s contrary to the essence of the Gospel. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God,” of course (1 John 2:15–17), and this must be remembered, but somehow that truth must be harmonized with the requirement to be the “friend of sinners” and even to “eat with them” (Matt 9:10ff; 11:19; etc.). Whatever our relationship to unbelievers is to be, it most emphatically is not hostility! We hate their corrupt garb, yes, but all the while we must show mercy (Jude 23).
  • It’s sometimes even illegal. If you are being paid to do civic services or provide civic instruction in the civic arena, and you decide to offer religious services/instruction instead, you just might be fired. And if you do, it won’t be because you’re suffering for Jesus; it will be because you didn’t do your job. More on this in my next post.
  • This goes to a deeper philosophical issue: this approach doesn’t have a good handle on what it means to live in God’s two “kingdoms.” Some things we do in life as members of human society, as image-bearers living out the dominion mandate; other things we do as members of local Christian societies, as ambassadors living out the Great Commission. And while these spheres don’t conflict, neither can we conflate them.

The second pole I’ll call the Christian Synthesis approach. Everyone around me is a victim of sin, and my goal is to relate with them until I start to rub off on them. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to share Christ, but that’s pretty awkward and off-putting, so I’ll be slow and subtle about it—so slow and so subtle that somehow it never happens. If a friendly group of co-workers asks me to come to the office party and share a few beers, I’ll go, but avoid getting tipsy by using some sort of lame medical excuse (or maybe I’ll blame the overbearing wife—that will get a good laugh and make me look relevant). If the topic of religion happens to come up, I’ll take them to an event at a relational, relevant church and hope the preacher gives a friendly, low-key Gospel message so I don’t have to do it. Realistically, though, it’s quite possible that religion will never come up in conversation—I might age out without anybody even knowing that I’m a Christian. Oh well, I tried.

The strength of this approach is that it takes seriously the expectations that Christians be the “friend of sinners” and even to “eat with them.” But there’s no antithesis—nothing at all that “sets Christ apart as Lord” or compels unbelievers to “ask the reason for the hope that I have” (1 Pet 3:15). It exemplifies Carson’s complaint that “to the degree that…Christianity has assimilated itself to the dominant ethos, reasons for anyone joining it are harder to come by” (Christ & Culture Revisited, 118) and suggests to thoughtful minds that there is no difference at all between unbelievers and believers save that believers are sinners saved by grace—an oft-repeated but savage lie. Instead it is a kind of “relational evangelism” that has never progresses past the “relationship.” And without a propositional Gospel, no matter how relational, it isn’t evangelism.

It seems to me that all believers are drawn to one of these two poles, and while my descriptions may be extreme, we all trend one way or the other. Some of us see the Christian’s role as standing against world. Some of us see the Christian’s role as being a part of the world. The truth is somewhere in between: Christ wants us—in fact he prays for us—to be in the world but not of it (John 17:15–16), a very delicate balance that can sometimes prove elusive. We’ll look at what this might look like in part 2 of this post.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Salvation in James: Gift and Responsibility, Part One

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 12:00

I suspect for many readers of the New Testament that the Letter of James is something like the odd uncle at a family Christmas party who unfortunately suffers from chronic halitosis. Someone you rather not talk with, but in the end you are related—and thus might owe the obligatory yearly conversation.

Well, if this does not accurately describe the church’s reception of James, it certainly represents the attitude of many scholars. For example, Andrew Chester notes “James presents a unique problem within the New Testament ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

8 essential components for discerning God’s will

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 16:23

I know that some people maintain that God doesn’t have a will for our lives beyond our sanctification, but He does. No, we cannot sit down and pray to know it until He reveals a fully developed life plan, but He has put us in the places we are, the times in which we live, the background we have, and given us the personality and preferences we have in order to guide us in right choices.

I believe that He has created good works beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10), and with Paul, I want to stretch forward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Php 3:12 NIV) I agree with Spurgeon that “every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor” but I do not think that everyone is to sell the farm and travel to live on the other side of the world. All of us are goers or senders, or in sin! (Rom 10:13-15) It was clearly the role of Barnabas and Saul to be missionaries in the work the Holy Spirit had for them, and it was clearly the role of the church to set them apart and send them (Acts 13:2-3). When people ask me for counsel to help them discern their role in God’s plan for the world, they are sometimes passionate and eager to know. Telling them to read chapter 2 of my book, The Missionary Call, is the more complete answer I wish they would examine, but it is not the immediate answer they want. Let me share with you what I often tell them. These are the eight components you should keep in mind as you pray about God’s will and make the best decision for the next step in your life, whether that is to serve in missions, pursue a particular field of study, move to a new city, etc. These are not ‘8 easy steps to know God’s will for your life.’ They are simply biblical considerations to consider in those moments.

  1. Know God – Some people are more concerned about knowing God’s will than they are with knowing Him. I have been married and growing to know my bride for 37 years, and in most situations of life I can say with reasonable certainty what she would prefer. I know her. Spending time getting close to God is essential for being close enough to hear the still, small voice saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” But how can we know Him? What could we say definitively about Him if He had not revealed Himself to us? Precious little. So, study His revelation to know what He wants you to know.
  2. Know His Word – As you read the Bible you are reading the very Word of God. He speaks to you through the examples of former followers, through His revelation of His heartbeat, His desires, what brings Him joy, and what breaks His heart. As speaks to you, speak to Him in intimate conversation.
  3. Prayer – Speaking our heart to God, listening to hear His guidance, and resonating with it in obedience is exactly what Jesus did, sometimes spending long hours in the night in prayer. Godly examples in Christian history also made prayer the priority of their daily lives. M’Cheyne determined each day not to see the face of man until he had spent time before the face of God. Yet, sometimes we need guidance “with skin on.”
  4. Counsel – God has given you a precious gift in the “gray beards” of your life. They are those who have watched you grow in your Christian life, they have seen you make both and wise and foolish decisions, and they are those whom you have seen making wise and godly decisions in their own lives. There is wisdom, victory, and safety in seeking the counsel of godly men and women.
  5. Life Experiences – Why has God allowed you to have the experiences you have known? He is sovereign over every detail of His universe and sends or allows all that comes to us, knowing exactly what is necessary to conform us to the image of Christ. He may have allowed you to have experiences (mission trips, friends, jobs, travel) precisely for the reason of shaping you to be the person who you are in order to seize an opportunity that is before you. Are your life experiences indicative of such preparation in this choice?
  6. Circumstances – Some might say throwing out the fleece is the guidance they seek, or looking to identify the open doors. Be very careful in this. Remember that the devil is called the god of this age and the prince of the powers of the air; he can manipulate circumstances also. Certainly, your circumstances may be useful. For instance, if you struggling with whether to marry Jane or Jill, but are already married to Sarah, then your circumstances are pretty clear regarding God’s will in that situation! Consider circumstances but only in harmony with these other ways that God guides.
  7. Timing – This component seems sort of unspiritual or irrelevant to some, but it is a crucial one to consider. I know a man who had respected a missions agency that focused in the region of the world that most interested him all of his adult life. He would have gladly taken a job in the mailroom just to get to meet his heroes who served there. In developments that only God could have brought to pass, he was one day invited to serve as President of that agency. It was a miracle, a dream come true, and the opportunity of a lifetime. Yet, as he considered each member of his family at that moment in time, it was painfully obvious that the timing was wrong for them. It would have been wrong for him to accept and bring pain to his family, so he declined the opportunity. While it still hurts him, and while every other light was green, he knows that the timing of the offer was not right.
  8. Desire – What do you want to do? If the last component seemed unspiritual, this one makes it pale in comparison. What do my desires have to do with it? In fact, some erroneously think that if it is God’s will for my life, it won’t be something I would choose. Missionaries who are passionate about serving in the areas where God has called them have sometimes confessed a little guilt about having such joy in it, as if great happiness and desire to do it somehow means it is only my will. But God is able to give us desires that He wants to fulfill in our lives. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” He is pleased when we find our greatest joy in pleasing Him. Learn to pray, “Lord all I want is ALL You want.” He will give you desires that you may have never had, and then He will allow them to be realized, bringing joy to you both.

How can you know your place in God’s plan for the world?
Are you a sender or a goer?

Clear off the table of your heart and life, lay these eight components there, and ask Him. He has a place for every one of us, and there is great joy and peace in both finding and doing it.


To get involved as a sender or a goer with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's missions teams, reach out to the Bevin Center.

Watch a video released during Southern's Great Commission Focus 2015.

Also, read more about faculty at Southern, like this blog's author, Dr. Sills.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Summer School 2015

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 07:00

The DBTS 2015 summer school schedule is now available. Each class meets Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 noon for two weeks (no classes on Monday). There are three sessions of summer school: May 19-29, June 2-12, and June 16-26. Here are the classes:

  • May 19–29 — Haggai & Malachi: English Bible
  • June 2–12 — Evangelical Theology
  • June 16–26 — 2 Thessalonians: Greek Exegesis

For additional information please contact the seminary at (800) 866-0111 or info@dbts.edu.

Categories: Seminary Blog

How Can You Motivate Church Attendees to Get More Involved and Engaged in the Life of the Church?

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 02/16/2015 - 12:00

Talbot faculty member, James Petitfils, and a panel of Talbot graduates who are now pastors in Southern California talk about ways to encourage participation in church life with those attending church.

Categories: Seminary Blog

What is the Point of Prayer?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 12:00

Dear Dr Craig,

I have recently moved on from Christianity to agnosticism, but I regularly check out your Q and A section as much of the content there is more sensible and thought provoking than the kind of thing I hear from a lot of Evangelicals ... Currently it seems to me that the idea of prayer is most sensibly explained as an addictive placebo that gives people a greater sense of control over their circumstances than they actually have. But just maybe there's something crucial I've missed, and if so I would be grateful if you could point out what that might be ...

Categories: Seminary Blog


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