Cada vez estoy más convencido que ser un “trabajador obsesivo” es la adicción más común entre las personas que están en el ministerio cristiano. Evidentemente esta condición se presenta entre todas las personas sin importar su ocupación o religiosidad. De hecho en inglés el término “workaholic” ya forma parte del vocabulario común ya que representa una realidad cada vez más presente en nuestras sociedades. Pero es fácil convertirse en un trabajador obsesivo y disfrazar esta situación con piedad y buenas intenciones. De la misma manera es muy atractivo sumergirse en el trabajo y echarle la culpa a Dios o a la obra de Dios como excusa por esta situación ...
When I was younger, if you wanted to know what the latest news was, you read the newspaper in the morning or watched the national news at 5:30 and the local news at 6:00 and 10:00. Then CNN and Headline News showed up and you could get a feel for what was going on every 30 minutes. Even then though, you had to seek the news. You opened the paper or turned the channel to the news.
We live in very different times now. Our phones give us a steady stream of headlines. At every turn, a news headline that scares or angers you begs for your attention.
How do Christians process the constant barrage of news and information at our fingertips?Read the news like your time is valuable
We live in an economy where the advertisers fight for your attention. They don’t have to get you in front of a television or sitting down to read the newspaper anymore. A device constantly begging for your attention sits in your pocket and one “quick check” can send you down a rabbit hole of links and discussions.
Steward the time you spend looking at your phone and set specific times during the day when you will get on social media or check news headlines. If you try to constantly “stay informed,” you will end up never accomplishing anything important while you take in a steady stream of relatively unimportant information. You only have one life, don’t spend it staring at your phone.Read the news like your hope is real
When we think about the issues taking center stage in our day, many of them concern things that make us anxious– rising healthcare costs, a shrinking economy, the threat of terrorism, and battles over free speech and religious liberty. When we hear about another terrorist attack, a liberal professor stifling free speech, or an increase in our healthcare premiums, our natural tendency is to worry and panic.
In times like these, we need to review what is true for those who trust in Christ. We know that God providentially rules over all of human history and he is working all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28-30) We know that Jesus has ascended into heaven and is preparing a place there for those who belong to him. (John 14:1-6) We know that those who are in Christ will share in his inheritance because we are God’s sons and daughters. (Rom. 8:16-17)
We could spend all day reviewing the glories that are coming to those who are in Christ and we need to look at the daily news in light of these overwhelming realities. This doesn’t mean that healthcare, abortion, social justice, and civil liberties don’t matter, instead, it reframes how we think about these issues. If we don’t get justice in this world, we know that ultimate justice is coming. If our opportunities for a comfortable retirement are declining, we remember that we look forward to something much better than retirement. Our great future hope changes the way that we look at everything.Read the news like you love Your neighbor
Most of our news comes to us with a partisan slant. The headlines grab our attention by reinforcing the bad things we believe about our political enemies or show how our heroes are being disrespected. What ends up happening is that we grow in our animosity towards the other side. We start thinking that they don’t just disagree with us on political issues, but are dangerous people who must be stopped.
Someone once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is. He answered that the first is to love God and the second is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Then, the questioner asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to answer this question. He showed a man taking personal responsibility for the suffering of someone who would consider him a social, political, and religious enemy. Love for our neighbors looks like this. It crosses all of the lines that we like to draw.
Christians must not fall into the trap of reading daily news to feed our loathing of other people. Because Jesus loved us when we were hostile to him, we love the people with whom we disagree. We read, not to get angry and lose our cool, but to better understand how to engage those who stand on the other side of important issues. If you find that reading the news causes you to in personal animus towards other people, it’s time to review the message of the Gospel and remember the love and patience God has shown you.Read the news like you have heard Solomon’s wisdom
Too often, we react to the news like people who aren’t growing as believers in Christ. Too often, we draw strong conclusions and develop unrelenting opinions based on incomplete information. We read the title of an article or hear an out of context quote and rage inside. Then we start reading the comments and shake with anger at people we have never met. This takes us to a place of anger, anxiety, and unkindness.
The Proverbs speak to us about listening and making sure we have thoroughly heard a matter before we develop a strong opinion and lose our cool. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (18:13) “Good sense makes one slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (19:11) Solomon reminds us in these passages that wisdom calls us away from quick conclusions and hot-headed reactions. Instead, it beckons us to make sure we have heard what is being said and respond with a cool spirit.
Getting angry or anxious because of the news is not a new phenomenon. Things will take place in this world that will tempt us to shake our heads, grit our teeth, or fret over the future until Jesus returns. Until that great day, we walk by faith in the promises of God, remembering to love as we have been loved and live in a manner worthy of the calling we have received.
I can't tell you how much of a blessing your work has been to me. You have been a great inspiration to me, and I consider you a fine example of what a Christian scholar should be.
I have been listening to a series of lectures entitled "The Big Questions of Philosophy" published by The Great Courses in which Professor David K. Johnson of King's College attempts to answer philosophically some of life's biggest questions. Because of the growing popularity of these lectures (especially now that they have been made very affordable through Audible), I thought it might be beneficial to get your thoughts. Professor Johnson demonstrates a deep familiarity with Christian apologetics. So much so that the lectures could almost have been entitled, "An Unbelievers Guide to Christian Apologetics." That may be a little bit of an exaggeration but not by too much. He singles out Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga, and yourself. I hope one day you might have time to produce a podcast debunking his claims in general, but for now I wanted to ask you about something in which he mentions you by name specifically ...
Job interviews are a nerve-wracking ordeal. The feeling of being out of control regarding one’s future leads to subservient postures in relationships. This was the situation the Moabite, Ruth, found herself in after returning with her mother in-law to Bethlehem (Ruth 1). However, in this amazing Biblical narrative is a posture of grace-seeking that is reminiscent of our seeking God; it is the God-action of finding favor in others that we should model in our working relationships ...
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“Whatever You Ask” for the Missionary Purposes of the Eschatological Temple: Quotation and Typology in Mark 11-12
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Many persons in vocational Christian service got their start by working with young people. Youth ministry is great preparation for future service in other capacities. But it is much more than that. Youth pastors have the potential to impact the world for Christ in a powerful way, because young people often make important decisions about their future lives under the influence of church mentors and student ministries workers ...
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Everyone loves a story. I think that is one of the reasons the Old Testament is primarily a story. However, many of the stories of the Old Testament often lack the kind of details that help you understand the characters. A good practice for you is to think through certain stories of the Old Testament and seek to create some depth to the characters. Of course, you have take some freedom and read between the lines, but it can be a lot of fun and very enriching to you and others. It can also serve as a discussion starter. I am offering you one such story based on Genesis 11. I simply try to draw the reader further into what it was like to be a character in the story. Happy reading ...
Standing for biblical truth elicits many negative responses from those outside the church as well as from some within. This is not surprising since Jesus told His disciples that they would be hated on account of Him (John 15:18-19, 1 John 3:13). While we may simply shrug this off as part of the reality of life, what is more challenging to navigate is the suggestion that by using the word “sin” for certain activities, we violate Jesus’ command not to judge. In popular sentiment, “do not judge” means that one cannot say any behavior is wrong. This understanding is pervasive, but it is severely flawed.
There are pitfalls of judging that we must avoid, but doing so does not mean we cannot call sin what God has called sin. In fact, if we refuse to do so, we act as God’s judge, claiming that our perspective on the situation trumps His own. Similar to the rejection of God’s testimony in 1 John 1:10 and 5:10, this is tantamount to calling God a liar. We must call sin, sin, but we must also remember that God knows all of the details of the situation. We never will, and we often lack key information. As John 7:24 notes, we must not judge by mere appearances but must make a just judgment. If we wish to do so, we are wise to listen well and listen long, remembering the folly of giving an answer too quickly (Proverbs 18:13).
Jesus frequently identified sins, and Paul did the same. Jesus gave instructions for how to deal with a brother who has sinned against you (Matthew 18), and Paul told the Corinthians that he had already judged the brother who was engaged in sexual sin with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5). Even the Matthew 7 passage most commonly used to prohibit judging includes parameters for identifying sin in someone else’s life. None of these required activities would be possible if identifying something as sin were not permitted. Furthermore, if you cannot rebuke someone else who has wronged you, there is no room even to say, “Don’t judge me.”
In addition to identifying certain behaviors as sinful, believers must judge in at least three other senses: evaluating the merits of a dispute between fellow Christians, evaluating the character of ministry candidates, and evaluating the teachings of those who claim to speak in the name of the Lord. With respect to the first, Paul chides the Corinthians for failing to do so (1 Corinthians 6). Rather than turning to fellow believers to settle a dispute, some went to the courts. In doing so, they guaranteed defeat regardless of the outcome. In the pastoral epistles, Paul lists many qualifications for ministry candidates, primarily focused on character (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). The evaluation of these qualifications requires wise judgment. Third, believers are commanded not to believe every spirit but to test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). In addition to the content of the message, understanding the character of the speaker is quite important in this evaluation.
While many activities commonly associated with judging are actually required Christian duties, there are some pitfalls that we must avoid, the first of which is hypocrisy. In Matthew 7, Jesus refers to a person concerned with the speck in a brother’s eye instead of being concerned with the log in his own eye. In Romans 2:1-3, Paul rebukes those who pass judgment on others while they themselves do the same things. Before focusing on others, we must deal with the sin in our own lives. Whether it is the same sin we see in others or something completely different, let the light of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s conviction address us first. This does not mean that we cannot speak to others about sin until we are completely done with sin (that will never happen), but rather that we have dealt significantly and in an ongoing manner with our own sin.
Another pitfall associated with judging is a condemning attitude. I recently saw a friend who was called out for a mistake. Such was fine, but what came with it was not. In addition to calling out the error, I saw broad-brush insults and an attitude of arrogant superiority. If we are tempted to think that someone is beyond hope or that we are far superior to them, let us remember that most of the heroes in the Bible made extreme mistakes. What is more, all of us are just one bad decision away from a radically different life. Our role is not to condemn. That must be left to God. This, of course, is part of the reason that we must warn about sin. Since sin and the wrath of God are real, we must warn others about the coming judgment. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:11, “knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”
Just as condemnation is not our role, there are times when we are tempted to address a situation that is none of our business. Romans 14-15 help us here. If the matter is something of a preference rather than a biblical mandate, we are told to keep our perspective to ourselves. Two questions may provide assistance. Are we trying to enforce a law that no longer has authority based on the finished work of Christ (clean and unclean foods, for example)? Are we trying to enforce a law that never had biblical authority in the first place? Determining the difference can be challenging, but it is a task that believers can accomplish by the power of the Spirit.
There are contexts in which Christians must judge, but we must judge justly. As we do so, may we remember the manifold grace and mercy of God in our lives and respond to others in a way that affirms not only the seriousness of sin but also the love and forgiveness that God offers through Christ Jesus.
David Croteau addresses misunderstandings about judging in chapter 7 of his helpful book, Urban Legends of the New Testament.
Croteau, Urban Legends of the New Testament, 38.
In the future, the disciples will take part in judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28), and believers will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).
Croteau, Urban Legends of the New Testament, 183.
Croteau affirms the same with respect to Matthew 7:1-2.
Can a small church really have an impact on a college campus? Even if it has a tiny staff, lacks modern facilities, and has no coffee bar? The answer is unequivocally yes.
Almost five years ago, my wife and I moved to South Carolina to pastor a church situated just a few blocks from a small college. When I began to ask local pastors about the campus, they joked that it was as spiritually alive as the vast cemetery that bordered it. One church in town had a handful of college students on Sunday. That was it.
So we set to work. And it was rough. College ministry took place during odd hours. Initially, the staff were less than enthusiastic. Most students were at games and practices, studying, or sleeping in on Sunday morning.
I now understand why most churches give up on campus ministry: It’s inefficient and can produce frustrating results. Campus ministry sucks up time, money, and energy that can be easily spent elsewhere. But I want to encourage churches like us to persevere. Ministering to students will cost a church a lot, but it’s worth it for the sake of Christ’s kingdom.
Here are four realities that should drive even small churches to minister to college students.
- They need the church more than you need them.
When a small church begins to pour into college ministry, it makes no practical sense any way you slice it. Spending your precious resources to reach penniless young people seems like financial foolishness. Even if they begin to attend or even join your church, they can’t give back in a substantial monetary way.
On top of that, college students bring heavy spiritual burdens to a congregation. Just sit down for lunch with one sometime. They will unload about the inability to afford the next semester, the stress of their parents’ looming divorce, the panic of failure on the field, in the classroom, or in a relationship.
One of my best friends is regularly burdened for the nominally Christian students he tries to mentor throughout the semester. Many of them know they are living in sin. They struggle with guilt and aimlessness. In conversation I’ll ask him, “Are any of these kids going to church?” To which he says, “No.” “Are they reading their Bibles? Are they praying?” He only smiles knowingly. They don’t realize it, but we both do. They need a local church—a body of believers to disciple, challenge, confront, and encourage them week by week.
- They have theological and experiential hang-ups.
College ministry often means dealing with the fallout of entertainment-driven youth group. The only contact that many Christian and non-Christian high school graduates have with the church is bounce-off-the-walls retreat weekends, gross out games, and Nerf guns. When they arrive at college, local congregations have the hard, unpleasant task of walking them through the let down of joining “normal” (read boring) church.
They may come to college with a bad taste in their mouth from hypocrisy they witnessed in a home church. Many international students may come to America with a completely secular worldview. I met a student this year who marveled that we had a church building like it was some kind of tourist attraction, saying, “I’ve never been in a church building before!” Churches who reach out to these students must have the patience to share the gospel slowly and intentionally. It will require lots of time, and still many students may disappoint and fall away.
Students can be a bit like theological kayakers. Minor rapids feel like waterfalls and every cultural or personal issue threatens to overturn the boat. What they need are spiritual fathers and mothers who will gently and calmly talk through their real issues and struggles. They need mentors who are willing to listen, willing to ask probing questions, willing to love them as they work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.
- College ministry is an investment in the future of other churches.
Perhaps the most selfless aspect of college ministry is that you are going to so much effort to pursue and invest in young men and women who will leave in four years or less. This alone seems exhausting. Wouldn’t churches—especially small churches—be wiser to invest in reaching established families in the community?
Campus ministry requires a kingdom perspective. There is a reason why the Lord is gathering students from across the world into your city. It is an opportunity for churches to invest in the future of the capital “C” Church. This is the greatest joy and act of selflessness: training up disciples of Christ and sending them out to serve other local churches. Our ministry among even a small handful of students can have immense kingdom impact as they depart our fellowship and enter the world to become faithful husbands, wives, businessmen, teachers, and church members elsewhere.
- You will see mustard seed success stories.
Certainly, college ministry will drain your church. However, you’ll be surprised by how your church comes to love—even need—these students. Our college students have become vital to every aspect of our ministry: music, children’s Sunday school, ushering, outreach, prayer, small groups, the list goes on. Their energy and enthusiasm can inject a church with new life. The Spirit has given them gifts that were meant to build up your church. (And they make dependable babysitters!)
I think you’ll also be surprised how college students come to appreciate the authenticity of “boring” church. Many of them are just looking for honest relationships. So much of college life can be about faking it and hiding insecurities. When a church is comfortable with its uncoolness, it allows students to feel safe to open up and ask questions. Doors for the gospel will swing wide.
Pray about how you and your church—large or small—can begin to engage the student population in your community. Four years is longer than you realize. So much discipleship can happen if churches will see the need for the Gospel on these campuses. Pray and strive for mustard seed-sized success. Success is a small Bible study with three or four young men. Success is two students catching a vision for church membership. Success is a student spending time with an elderly church member.
These small successes will require a vital selflessness from your church. We have to trust that though Christ’s kingdom begins as a mustard seed, it grows to become a large tree (Luke 13:18-19). May the love of Christ compel us into the sticky lives of these young men and women with patience, mercy, and grace.
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How do we make theology engaging and interesting for students? While I certainly don’t claim to have it all figured out, and am always looking for some creative and new ideas, here are four lessons I have learned from roughly two decades of teaching and speaking to students on theological issues ...