Seminary Blog

Fatherhood – The Least Understood Profession

Southwestern Seminary - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 09:30

Most humans seem to perceive fatherhood as having exhausted itself at the end of a moment of intimacy with a member of the opposite gender. The male member of the species bows out since the conception inside the woman’s womb is thought to be “part of her body” and therefore of no consequence to him. Little difference is made for the man if the conceived baby is terminated in the womb or born into a fatherless existence. In fact “sperm banks” now make even his presence in conception totally unnecessary. How different the picture of fatherhood is in the Scriptures! And this loss of the concept of fatherhood introduces pandemonium into the entire human system, including an accurate comprehension of God as Father.  For purposes of this blog, the idea of fatherhood encompasses four unique perspectives. Fatherhood includes provision, protection, prudence, and the precepts of God. As anyone can see, this is a long-term assignment more challenging than climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. What do these assignments imply?

•    Provision suggests a job, an income to purchase food and clothing with hopefully something small left over to buy a ticket to March Madness or to take a vacation. Medical bills, taxes, and college will require the remainder and the man will have provided. Undoubtedly, that is all a part of provision – but only a part. Provision also includes passing on to children how to subsist in a difficult and expensive world. Each child must be taught a trade or develop a talent needed by others as provision for his own life. The teen must learn to walk with God who alone can provide for him in all circumstances. And he must see all of these attitudes and actions modeled by his father.

•    Protection is something about which men like to boast. That is why I keep an arsenal at home in the gun safe. No one is about to hurt my family. This I do not denigrate. The assignment from God to fathers is to protect the physical well-being of the family. But many a father lives his whole life without having to engage a physical threat to the personal lives of his family. Nevertheless, he must protect!  On his knees he earnestly intercedes with God for his family. His instruction includes the ways of peace and conflict avoidance. And when peace is not possible and conflict is unavoidable, then he must teach his children how to protect themselves and how to look to God for his intervention.

Protection includes assisting vulnerable young minds in grasping the real enemies who would destroy them: sex outside of God’s boundaries, pharmacological misuse, alcohol, slavery to money, and selfishness. A predilection for entertainment and addiction to electronics must not only be met with “no” but with substitutes that provide better substance for life.

•    Prudence is wisdom in all things relating to God and to life. Many attitudes are learned by children from their mothers. But wisdom or prudence is a virtue specifically delegated to fathers and grandfathers. Proverbs 1:1-7 clarifies the responsibilities of fathers. Wisdom or virtue underscores the development of justice, judgment, and equity on the part of the simple who need prudence. And if a child is wise, he will increase learning.

•    Finally, the precepts of God are to be modeled and taught. The work of priest and prophet is important as would be the role of pastor in the present age, but the primary responsibility for spiritual instruction outlined in Deuteronomy 6 falls completely to fathers and grandfathers. Ostensibly, they have more time with the children. Therefore, they are assigned the task of teaching the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments. They are told how to pursue this task and the extent of the instruction to be given.

A child with a father who meets these criteria grows up with a healthy view of the fatherhood of God, and he also enjoys a relationship with his earthly father that assists him in becoming a natural leader in his world. If you have a father who leads his family in this way, you have every reason to express gratitude to God on this Father’s Day. And work to be sure your son grows up understanding the responsibilities he will have on the day he fathers a child.

Categories: Seminary Blog

What Pliny the Younger Learned When He Interrogated Christians (ca. A.D. 110)

Talbot School of Theology - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 12:00

For many years I have been curious about a Roman governor known to us from history as Pliny the Younger. My interest initially arose because I resided for four years in one of the principal cities he governed—not to mention that one of my four daughters was born in that city. Moreover, since I have expended significant effort studying the writings of the earliest Christian authors after the period of the apostles (those authors known as the “Apostolic Fathers”), I continue to be intensely interested in learning anything I possibly can about the lives of Christians who lived during the first half of the second century ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Soldier Of Christ

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 16:30

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Warfare in the Ancient Near East and the Old Testament 3: Fighting Chaos

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 12:00

The second chapter of my book on warfare in the ancient Near East (see an overview to the book in a previous post) studies the casus belli of the ancient kings. Although presumably kings often went to war to gain plunder, this was not frequently stated in such bald terms. Instead, the most commonly stated reason for warfare was that the king fought to defeat chaos and preserve order in the world. In this post we will look at the Egyptian and Assyrian claims for preserving order as their goal for war and how these claims help us understand Scripture ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Parents and children: Read the Bible every day

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 18:32

I literally don’t remember not reading the Bible every day. Here’s how it happened.

I’m told I started reading fairly early, reading Dick and Jane books sometime before my fifth birthday. But while I remember reading the books, I have no recollection of starting to read them.

I do remember learning words and phrases by watching TV commercials that consisted of nothing more than an announcer reading exactly what was on the black-and-white screen. In particular, I recall a long-running commercial for a Memphis-area car dealer. It was just black words on a white background, like broadcasting a 60-second video of a poster, advertising a Volkswagen Beetle. Eventually I realized that the voice-over corresponded exactly to what I was seeing, and I learned to read along. On small-market stations—such as the four channels we could receive from Memphis television in the late 1950s—local advertising was a very low-budget enterprise.

So by sometime early in elementary school—though I don’t remember exactly when—I was able to start reading the narrative passages of Scripture.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of the greatest blessings in my life was not just learning to read at an early age, but being trained at that age to read the Bible every day. My dad modeled daily Bible reading, and lovingly encouraged me in the practice. My mother made sure I had adequate lighting above my bed, the place where I did most of my childhood reading.

We attended a church where my Sunday School teachers asked every week if each of us boys had read the Bible every day. In fact, this was a churchwide practice. Each Sunday School class, from the school-age children on up, kept records of how many in each class brought a Bible that morning, had read it every day the previous week, had read the printed Sunday School lesson, were staying for the worship service, and more. Each class reported its results to the church Sunday School superintendent who compiled them as a weekly snapshot of some measurable aspects of the church’s discipleship. In those days, this was done in virtually all of the thousands of churches in the denomination.

For most of my boyhood and teenage years, two men—first one, then later the other—taught my Sunday School class. Both were deacons in the church, and I respected them. I never thought of either of them as particularly holy men, at least not in the sense that I did of a couple of the elderly men in the church. Yet Sunday after Sunday, at the beginning of class my teacher would ask each boy in the class who had read his Bible every day that week to raise his hand. There was no pressure or shame. It’s just what we did. Everyone who came to church was expected as a normal part of life to read his or her Bible every day. It was in the air we breathed.

But this was more than a mere expectation, for the church provided practical, if simple, help for daily Bible reading. Every person who attended Sunday School was given an age-graded publication called a “quarterly.” This was a booklet of about fifty pages which contained the “lesson” for each Sunday in a quarter of a year, thus the term “quarterly.” This was published by the denomination, purchased by the church, and distributed with the hope that each person who attended Sunday School would read the week’s lesson before it was discussed in class on Sunday morning,

But the quarterly also served another purpose. Inside the back cover was a list of the suggested Bible readings for each day in the quarter. I don’t recall the scheme of the schedule used in my childhood. I seem to remember that most of the time the readings were not sequential in terms of reading through complete books of the Bible. But eventually, I think that at least for older readers, the plan was modified to one that took you through the entire Bible in a three-year cycle.

Legalistic? Well, any sort of structure in the Christian life can contribute to legalism if one is inclined that way. And any who thought (and I’m sure some did) that reading the Bible every day (or doing any other good deed) would earn them a ticket to Heaven were gravely mistaken. In my church, Ephesians 2:8-9 (we’re saved by grace through faith, and not by works) was a constant theme.

But I was a child, and we all—but especially children—need some structure when beginning to learn something as big and important as the Bible. Without guidance and a plan, children will flounder when trying to read and understand the Bible on their own.

So I was encouraged at home and at church to read the Bible every day, and I was given a simple plan for doing so. And it worked. It served me well. It helped me begin a practice that became second nature and has continued for a lifetime. Every day, for almost sixty years, I’ve not had to stop and think about whether I’m going to read the Bible, at least not think about it any more than I’ve had to decide whether to put on clothes or to eat that day. And by grace, the Word of God has done it’s work in my soul. My earthly and eternal life are immeasurably different because of the simple practice of reading the Bible every day and what has resulted from it.

Well, that’s my story. I believe the same simple factors, that is, Godly influences and reading plan, with the specifics adjusted for your own context, can work for you and your family, too.

P.S. I was prompted to write this story as result of being asked to consider writing an endorsement for a forthcoming Crossway book by David Murray called Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids (Crossway, 2017). Writing the endorsement reminded me of the beginnings of my own Bible reading. That expanded the endorsement into a foreword for the book. The foreword expanded into this blog post.

Simple resources like David Murray’s book are so important. I don’t even want to imagine what my Christian life and my ministry would have been without the encouragement and structure for daily Bible reading I received as a child. But if I’d had something like Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids. I think my scriptural foundations would have been even stronger. Blessed beyond their knowing is the boy or girl who receives a workbook like Murray’s and the loving help to complete it.

P.P.S — A few years ago, Justin Taylor did the church a great service when he complied a long list of links to various Bible reading plans.

 

The post Parents and children: Read the Bible every day appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Remembering the Value of the Individual

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 10:42

The Southern Baptist Convention begins meeting today (June 13). During the next two days, messengers representing 46,793 churches with 15.3 million members[1] will make important decisions, hear reports about our work, worship together, and fellowship. These two days remind us of the greatness of the task before us and the responsibility that we share to impact the world with the message of the Gospel. In the midst of the complexities of our work, may we also be careful not to forget the value God places on individuals.

The Lord reminded His people, Israel, of this truth in Numbers 3, which tells the story of the redemption of the firstborn. Theologically, this passage teaches three important truths about faith: ownership, redemption, and value. The Bible teaches that while God owns everything, He has specifically designated that the first things are to be dedicated to Him. That includes both resources (animals, income, etc.) and people.

Numbers 3 addresses the redemption of the firstborn of the Israelites. The census determined that the number of the firstborn males was 22,273. Rather than have every family commit their firstborn to the Lord, God stipulated that He would take the tribe of Levi in their place. The math worked out exactly—almost. According to the census, the population of the tribe of Levi was 22,000. Thus, while the Levites were taken in the place of the firstborn of Israel,[2] that left a difference of 273. For these 273, the Lord commanded that five shekels be taken for each individual (1,365 shekels total) and given to Aaron and his sons as a “ransom.”

The number 273 is very specific and stands out from the other seemingly rounded numbers in the chapter. I am not a numerologist, but I am curious about that number. Not surprisingly, there have been quite a few interesting speculations about that number. For example,

  1. Some have found significance in the fact that 273 is the conversion of Celsius to kelvin (273.15), making -273 the lowest limit of the thermodynamic temperature scale, or absolute zero.
  2. One of my favorite explanations for the significance of the number 273 is that it represents the sum total of the 153 fish in John 21:11 and the 120 in the upper room in Acts 1:15.
  3. 273 is the number of people on the boat with Paul in Acts 27:37 (if you subtract Paul, Luke and Aristarchus).
  4. Finally, one might find significance in the 273rd word of Hebrew Bible (yes, I counted!), which is found in Genesis 1:22. That particular word is actually the (untranslated) sign of the direct object of the sentence. Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure of the theological implications of that.

But perhaps the significance is not necessarily in the number, but in the people the number represents. The 22,000 Levites were taken in the place of all but 273 of the firstborn. But what of those 273? They were the extras; the leftovers. Certainly, there’s something more here than simply precision of numbers. God could have just said, “We’ll call it even”; or, “That’s good enough.” But instead, God demanded redemption even for the 273.

I believe there are several lessons that Southern Baptists can learn from the 273. The lessons center on the same three fundamental truths of the passage: ownership, redemption, and value.

  • First, the 273 remind us that God owns all. Indeed, everything we have and all that we are belongs to Him. My prayer for Southern Baptists is that we never forget that our ministry is all about Him, not us. It’s His work; and those whom we are called to serve are His people.
  • Second, the 273 remind us that redemption costs. Every time someone from Israel saw the Levites, they were to remember that they were taken “in our place.” The price for our redemption must be paid; and the inclusion of the 273 emphasizes that the full price had been paid. Today, as believers in Christ, we understand that we are not redeemed with silver or gold, but with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). His sacrifice covered our sin. Southern Baptists must remember that our message is about the One who was sacrificed in our place, and the victory we proclaim is that the full price has been paid.
  • Third, the 273 remind us that all are important to God. It is His desire for all to be redeemed and that whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). This must be our focus. We cannot sit idly by as those for whom Christ died are lost, overlooked, or aborted away. They must be counted because they matter to Him.

So, my prayer for this year’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is that our decisions, business and worship would reflect the God who came in our place; the God who ransoms and redeems; the God who sees the big picture and yet values the individual. May this always drive our methods and our message.

Categories: Seminary Blog

How Do You Best Prepare Students for College? An Interview with Author Jonathan Morrow

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 12:00

Jonathan Morrow is one of the top communicators for both students and adults on apologetics and cultural issues. He is adjunct professor of Apologetics at Biola University (with me!) and director of cultural engagement at Impact 360 Institute where he teaches high school and college students. Check out his website and Twitter account: jonathanmorrow.org and @Jonathan_Morrow.

We co-authored the book Is God Just A Human Invention? together in 2010. Last week he released an update of his classic book Welcome to College. This has been one of the top books I recommend for future college students to read so they can experience relational, emotional, academic, and spiritual success. Check out this interview and if you are an aspiring college student, or you know one, consider getting a copy of his excellent book ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Resurrections prior to the World’s End?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 12:00

Fact 4, Point 2 in your opening statement of the debate with Bart Ehrman: you state that Jewish views of the afterlife precluded having a glorified existence prior to the general resurrection. Yet, the accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus, three disciples saw Moses and Elijah. Elijah, according to the account in Kings, never died, but Moses is recorded as having died at the end of Deuteronomy. Whether or not he was actually raised and glorified in the same sense they came to believe Jesus was, could they not have believed that to be the case? Apparitions of the dead (Samuel to Saul and the medium at En-dor) were not unknown in the OT ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Give your church the multivitamin of evangelism

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 08:21

Diagnosis is never as simple as treatment. Not surprisingly, the Christian blogosphere swells every passing day with critical analysis or cutting satire of the church. Biblically illiterate, check. Self-centered, check. Hypocritical rather than holy, check. Stagnant in growth, double check. Quite frankly, a flawed church makes an easy target. But the real challenge is finding a solution.

Recently I’ve begun to wonder if personal evangelism isn’t the prescription for what ails us. No, I’m not talking about a cure-all. But what if evangelism was not simply the remedy for church growth but also for many other systemic problems in our congregations? Beyond making new converts, I believe that increasing our evangelism is crucial to supplement the health of our churches.

Biblical literacy

Many of us have witnessed it. For all the resources available to us, Western Christians know embarrassingly little about the religion they espouse and the Bible they believe. Discipleship rarely develops beyond the elementary. Rigorous study is only for those in ministry. Ignorance, especially among men, has become accepted and expected. Apathy toward Scripture, common.

But regular evangelism has a way of promoting biblical literacy. When Christians engage in dialogue with non-believers it naturally propels them to search the scriptures for ways to engage with the gospel. Not only that, but a questioning world forces believers to face difficult challenges head-on, perhaps ones they have never considered. If a believer rarely feels the need to open his Bible, it’s likely because he isn’t evangelizing his neighbor. But a faithfully witnessing Christian will inevitably be faced with questions and thereby incentivized to focused biblical study.

Christian unity

The petty squabbles that plague the church in the West are undeniable. Just listen to Christians poke fun at ourselves. We talk about deacons the same way we do lawyers. A committee deciding the shade of the sanctuary carpet has become a worn-out punchline only because it is an all-too-common experience of frustration. Then there are the theological squabbles. Beyond pragmatic and procedural issues, some minor doctrinal issues continue to unnecessarily fragment the church in the West.

But I believe a healthy emphasis on evangelism may help us here as well. Ask any politician, any business guru, even a military strategist. They know practical unity comes through shared vision and purpose. Which is why so many Christians who would never associate in the states end up linking arms on the mission field to reach the lost. The great need and unfinished task has a way of bringing us together. This doesn’t just happen across denominational differences but relational ones as well. People who wouldn’t otherwise work together suddenly can find deep unity when they collaborate to reach others with the gospel.

Personal holiness

People say that fear is the main reason Christians don’t evangelize. I tend to believe a close second is a lack of personal holiness. We never want to be accused of talking where we’re not walking. Of being hypocrites. So we keep our mouths shut. And the longer we keep our mouths closed in evangelism, the less we have to worry about the way we live.

But the moment we start approaching others about our beliefs, the moment we would dare claim to know the truth, our personal lives come under scrutiny. Our marriage, our finances, our work ethic, our speech, our entertainment, it’s all on trial. Evangelism, then, is an incredible motivation—though not the primary or fundamental one—to growth in sanctification.

Christian parents know this, because we realize our kids are always watching. But so are the people at work and school. Thus, a commitment to speak openly and regularly about our faith can be a powerful encouragement to sincere piety and personal holiness, something we desperately lack in the church today.

Evangelism as multivitamin

Evangelism has a way of nourishing the church in so many ways. Of course, welcoming new converts addresses the obvious need of numeric growth. But seeing hearts transformed brings immeasurable joy to a church otherwise prone to discouragement and languor. Personal evangelism also provides Christians with the unique satisfaction that comes from a kind of occupational purpose. After all, it is for this that we were called, that we would bear much fruit.

Then there is the benefit to our faith. Our confidence in God flourishes when we see him answer prayers, intervene miraculously, and change lives. Evangelism also impacts the faith of the next generation. When children hear their parents witnessing to others, they realize that Christianity is more than a domestic experiment or family requirement. Children are impacted powerfully by parents who are active in reaching out to others with the gospel.

Of course, I’m not saying that proclaiming Christ should be so inward-focused that we do it only for our sakes. I’m also not suggesting it’s a wonder drug. That would be a snake oil scam. But I truly believe that personal evangelism can be a kind of multivitamin for the church, with benefits that are both tangible and corporate. For that reason, I have to think that active gospel proclamation could helpfully address much of what’s lacking in our churches, bringing the body health and growth to the glory of Christ.

The post Give your church the multivitamin of evangelism appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

5 Game-Changing Books to Read this Summer

Talbot School of Theology - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 12:00

love reading. And what better time is there to read than summer? While there are certainly plenty of good books to read, here are five of my personal favorites. While they tend to be in the category of apologetics and culture, these books were all “game changers” for me that either led me to act or see the world differently ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

King David in Archaeology

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 12:00

In his forthcoming summative book, called Beyond the Texts, the Syro-Palestinian archaeologist William G. Dever summarizes what is presently known about ancient Israel and Judah based primarily on the artifacts—the material culture that includes textual sources. One example is Dever’s portrait of the historical King David. He offers the following seven propositions about David that are inferred from archaeology and also converge with what is attested in biblical texts ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Did God create evil?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 09:54

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Categories: Seminary Blog

How to Remain a Truly Christian University

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 12:00

I just finished reading Owen Strachan’s book, Awakening the Evangelical Mind: An Intellectual History of the Neo-Evangelical Movement. He has some good words for how to keep evangelical universities, well … evangelical. These three paragraphs are worth the three minutes it will take you to read them ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Your audience may be small, but your sermon’s impact may be huge

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 09:45

On April 27, 1791, Andrew Fuller preached a message at a Minister’s Meeting at Clipstone. The title of the message was “Instances, Evil, and Tendency of Delay, in the Concerns of Religion.” The text was Haggai 1:2, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.”

In the sermon, Fuller pleaded with his fellow ministers not to delay in regard to the work of missions and to use means for the spread of the gospel among the nations. It was a bold sermon. Not only was William Carey in attendance, but so too were many of those, as Fuller’s son Andrew Gunton Fuller recounts, “who had refused—some of them not in the kindest manner—to listen to his proposal.” Fuller preached in part,

Had Luther and his contemporaries acted upon this principle, they had never gone about the glorious work of the Reformation. When he saw the abominations of popery, he might have said, “These things ought not to be; but what can I do? If the chief priests and rulers in different nations would but unite, something might be effected; but what can I do, an individual, and a poor man? I may render myself an object of persecution, or, which is worse, of universal contempt; and what good end will be answered by it?” Had Luther reasoned thus—had he fancied that, because princes and prelates were not the first to engage in the good work, therefore the time was not come to build the house of the Lord—the house of the Lord, for anything he had done, might have lain waste to this day.

Instead of waiting for the removal of difficulties, we ought, in many cases, to consider them as purposely laid in our way, in order to try the sincerity of our religion. He who had all power in heaven and earth could not only have sent forth his apostles into all the world, but have so ordered it that all the world should treat them with kindness, and aid them in their mission; but, instead of that, he told them to lay their accounts with persecution and the loss of all things. This was no doubt to try their sincerity; and the difficulties laid in our way are equally designed to try ours.

Let it be considered whether it is not owing to this principle that so few and so feeble efforts have been made for the propagation of the gospel in the world. When the Lord Jesus commissioned his apostles, he commanded them to go and teach “all nations,” to preach the gospel to “every creature;” and that notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions that would lie in the way. The apostles executed their commission with assiduity and fidelity; but, since their days, we seem to sit down half contented that the greater part of the world should still remain in ignorance and idolatry. Some noble efforts have indeed been made; but they are small in number, when compared with the magnitude of the object. And why is it so? Are the souls of men of less value than heretofore? No. Is Christianity less true or less important than in former ages? This will not be pretended. Are there no opportunities for societies, or individuals, in Christian nations, to convey the gospel to the heathens? This cannot be pleaded so long as opportunities are found to trade with them, yea, and (what is a disgrace to the name of Christians) to buy them, and sell them, and treat them with worse than savage barbarity! We have opportunities in abundance: the improvement of navigation, and the maritime and commercial turn of this country, furnish us with these; and it deserves to be considered whether this is not a circumstance that renders it a duty peculiarly binding on us.

The truth is, if I am not mistaken, we wait for we know not what; we seem to think “the time is not come, the time for the Spirit to be poured down from on high.” We pray for the conversion and salvation of the world, and yet neglect the ordinary means by which those ends have been used to be accomplished. It pleased God, heretofore, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believed; and there is reason to think it will still please God to work by that distinguished means. Ought we not then at least to try by some means to convey more of the good news of salvation to the world around us than has hitherto been conveyed? The encouragement to the heathen is still in force, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved: but how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?”

Small audience, huge impact

Fuller’s son records that the “impression produced by the sermon was most deep; it is said that the ministers were scarcely able to speak to each other at its close, and they so far committed themselves as to request Mr. Carey to publish his “thoughts.”

The next spring, Carey preached his famous sermon at Nottingham based on Isaiah 54:2-3 calling on ministers to “expect great things from God” and “attempt great things for God.” Also in 1792, he published his “thoughts” as An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. On October 2, 1792, in the home of Mrs. Beeby Wallis, The Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Heathen was launched. Thus, Fuller’s sermon, and therefore the example of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, played a pivotal role in paving the way for the Modern Missionary Movement.

How might God use you?

Fuller could not have foreseen how his sermon, preached to a small group of ministers in an obscure part of England, would be used to influence the next two hundred plus years of church history. Pastor, you likewise can never know how one of your sermons, although seemingly preached in obscurity and to only a few, might be used to impact future generations. Preach on!

The post Your audience may be small, but your sermon’s impact may be huge appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Confronting the World with Christian Affections

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 09:30

Jonathan Edwards, the extraordinary evangelist of the Great Awakening, wrote the classic book A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections in 1746. This amazing manuscript instructs how the presence of “True Christian Affections” in the life of a Christian will lead him to do God’s work and live holy. This lifestyle is inspired by the Holy Spirit, who enables the believer to love the things of God. Edwards describes “Christian Affection” as the love true believers have for God. Essentially, Christian affections are necessary characteristics for effectiveness in the ministry. This can be observed in the gifts of teaching, preaching and evangelism, which are all designed to work against sinful issues in society.

Thus, Christians cannot be ashamed or fearful to address all sinful issues with the Word of God. For in Scripture is the power to influence change in a hostile world. In 2017, Christians are better equipped to present the Gospel than any time in history. The scholarly training in our seminaries and the availability of the Gospel on the information highway makes this possible.

The apostle Paul, in Romans 12:1-3, exemplifies his Christian affections by beseeching other Christians to surrender all to God. For example, he pleads for Christians who love the Lord to present their bodies as living sacrifices. He begs them to be transformed from this world by renewing their minds. He entreats them to try God’s will for their lives so they will know His good and right plan. Each of the above invitations is present in every believer’s pursuit for Christian affections. Loving God and mankind is the highest aspect of having Christian affections. In serving humanity, Christians show their love for God, and the Lord responds by strengthening His followers to live holy among sinful people. While living amid worldly chaos, Christians are called to live by the moral standards set by God as a witness to our fallen society.

When considering all the troubles and evil in this world, the Christian has his work cut out. Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a recent interview on a popular cable news station, said, “I have never seen the world so messed up.” Her statement was in response to the political climate and its residuals across this country. Followers of Christ also find it challenging to remain committed to godly principles in this world’s system. John, the beloved disciple, reminds us to love God enough that we let go of the things of this world:

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)

In other words, John is saying we must renew our minds with Christian affections and live with a Christian worldview. Make Jesus the reason for all your commitments, or you will soon find yourself out on a tree limb with it being cut off behind. Why is the world impacting the church more than the church is influencing the world?

Marvin Gaye, a popular rhythm and blues and soul singer from the 1960s through the ‘80s, asked this question in a song: “What’s going on?” The answer to his question was the problematic social issues of 1971. In 2017, the world is a very confusing and evil place. This irreligious society, at times, takes us through things we will never understand. For example, officiating funerals for 15- and 16-year-old Christian boys killed by gun violence on consecutive weekends. They were so young, and now they are gone—too quickly. In tragedies like these, Christian affections are important for healing. The power of love can heal and sustain amidst every emotional trauma created by a hostile culture.

What will happen next, no one knows but God. The warning is given by our Lord to watch for an increase in worldly troubles during the last days. In each of life’s disappointments, Christians have a teacher and comforter in the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). The Spirit must give the Christian wisdom to overcome the perplexing social issues of our world, such as:

  • The depraved nature of humanity in world events creating wars of terrorism.
  • Our police killing people for trivial reasons, and people killing the police in fear and anger.
  • Too few ministries to reach the lost for Christ behind prison doors.
  • Racism hidden in the hearts of confessing “Christians” across America on Sunday mornings in segregated churches.
  • The LGBTQ agenda defended by almost every industry in America, which has opened the doors for gender-neutral bathrooms.
  • Mothers aborting their babies in the womb at an all-time high.

Where is the impact of Christianity amid these issues? There is something missing when the world is so far removed from living by Christian principles.

This generation is watching the church and world go in the wrong direction. In like manner, many Christian believers have put their Bibles in the top drawer and embraced the ways of the world in despair. Others have lost their love for God and the principles of His Word. Nevertheless, Christian affections in churches can change the pulpit and the pew, which has become inundated with Christians who are not living by the Word of God. A love for God to stand against sin will bring revival to Christianity, which seems to have lost its purpose and witness. The Lord Jesus would have the church function in love and as a called-out body of baptized believers with the mission of evangelizing lost sinners for Christ. The objective is for Christian conversions to deliver new converts and the Holy Spirit to keep mature believers from the sinful issues that trouble their lives. In this age, we are observing too many Christians who live as if they are not free from sin.

What is the problem? Is the difficulty in converting lives with the message or the messenger? Maybe the issue is in the unsaved hearts and ears of those listening in the pew? Perhaps the problem is in the heart of the preacher who has a fear of delivering a fire and brimstone message that convicts of sin? Is it feasible the solution can be found in both the preacher and the pew, which must be in touch with the Holy Spirit by loving God enough to do His will?

One job of the Holy Spirit is to keep God’s people from failure in sin and ministry. The Bible promises the Holy Spirit will keep believers until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30); the Spirit now lives in our hearts. If God does not keep us, we cannot keep ourselves. So, let us cry:

Come, Holy Spirit. Fall afresh on us. Fill us with your power. Satisfy our need. Pour it out, Lord. Pour it out, Lord, that we might have Christian affections and we will say, “Yes, yes, yes.”

Categories: Seminary Blog

Confronting the World with Christian Affections

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 09:30

Jonathan Edwards, the extraordinary evangelist of the Great Awakening, wrote the classic book A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections in 1746. This amazing manuscript instructs how the presence of “True Christian Affections” in the life of a Christian will lead him to do God’s work and live holy. This lifestyle is inspired by the Holy Spirit, who enables the believer to love the things of God. Edwards describes “Christian Affection” as the love true believers have for God. Essentially, Christian affections are necessary characteristics for effectiveness in the ministry. This can be observed in the gifts of teaching, preaching and evangelism, which are all designed to work against sinful issues in society.

Thus, Christians cannot be ashamed or fearful to address all sinful issues with the Word of God. For in Scripture is the power to influence change in a hostile world. In 2017, Christians are better equipped to present the Gospel than any time in history. The scholarly training in our seminaries and the availability of the Gospel on the information highway makes this possible.

The apostle Paul, in Romans 12:1-3, exemplifies his Christian affections by beseeching other Christians to surrender all to God. For example, he pleads for Christians who love the Lord to present their bodies as living sacrifices. He begs them to be transformed from this world by renewing their minds. He entreats them to try God’s will for their lives so they will know His good and right plan. Each of the above invitations is present in every believer’s pursuit for Christian affections. Loving God and mankind is the highest aspect of having Christian affections. In serving humanity, Christians show their love for God, and the Lord responds by strengthening His followers to live holy among sinful people. While living amid worldly chaos, Christians are called to live by the moral standards set by God as a witness to our fallen society.

When considering all the troubles and evil in this world, the Christian has his work cut out. Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a recent interview on a popular cable news station, said, “I have never seen the world so messed up.” Her statement was in response to the political climate and its residuals across this country. Followers of Christ also find it challenging to remain committed to godly principles in this world’s system. John, the beloved disciple, reminds us to love God enough that we let go of the things of this world:

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)

In other words, John is saying we must renew our minds with Christian affections and live with a Christian worldview. Make Jesus the reason for all your commitments, or you will soon find yourself out on a tree limb with it being cut off behind. Why is the world impacting the church more than the church is influencing the world?

Marvin Gaye, a popular rhythm and blues and soul singer from the 1960s through the ‘80s, asked this question in a song: “What’s going on?” The answer to his question was the problematic social issues of 1971. In 2017, the world is a very confusing and evil place. This irreligious society, at times, takes us through things we will never understand. For example, officiating funerals for 15- and 16-year-old Christian boys killed by gun violence on consecutive weekends. They were so young, and now they are gone—too quickly. In tragedies like these, Christian affections are important for healing. The power of love can heal and sustain amidst every emotional trauma created by a hostile culture.

What will happen next, no one knows but God. The warning is given by our Lord to watch for an increase in worldly troubles during the last days. In each of life’s disappointments, Christians have a teacher and comforter in the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). The Spirit must give the Christian wisdom to overcome the perplexing social issues of our world, such as:

  • The depraved nature of humanity in world events creating wars of terrorism.
  • Our police killing people for trivial reasons, and people killing the police in fear and anger.
  • Too few ministries to reach the lost for Christ behind prison doors.
  • Racism hidden in the hearts of confessing “Christians” across America on Sunday mornings in segregated churches.
  • The LGBTQ agenda defended by almost every industry in America, which has opened the doors for gender-neutral bathrooms.
  • Mothers aborting their babies in the womb at an all-time high.

Where is the impact of Christianity amid these issues? There is something missing when the world is so far removed from living by Christian principles.

This generation is watching the church and world go in the wrong direction. In like manner, many Christian believers have put their Bibles in the top drawer and embraced the ways of the world in despair. Others have lost their love for God and the principles of His Word. Nevertheless, Christian affections in churches can change the pulpit and the pew, which has become inundated with Christians who are not living by the Word of God. A love for God to stand against sin will bring revival to Christianity, which seems to have lost its purpose and witness. The Lord Jesus would have the church function in love and as a called-out body of baptized believers with the mission of evangelizing lost sinners for Christ. The objective is for Christian conversions to deliver new converts and the Holy Spirit to keep mature believers from the sinful issues that trouble their lives. In this age, we are observing too many Christians who live as if they are not free from sin.

What is the problem? Is the difficulty in converting lives with the message or the messenger? Maybe the issue is in the unsaved hearts and ears of those listening in the pew? Perhaps the problem is in the heart of the preacher who has a fear of delivering a fire and brimstone message that convicts of sin? Is it feasible the solution can be found in both the preacher and the pew, which must be in touch with the Holy Spirit by loving God enough to do His will?

One job of the Holy Spirit is to keep God’s people from failure in sin and ministry. The Bible promises the Holy Spirit will keep believers until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30); the Spirit now lives in our hearts. If God does not keep us, we cannot keep ourselves. So, let us cry:

Come, Holy Spirit. Fall afresh on us. Fill us with your power. Satisfy our need. Pour it out, Lord. Pour it out, Lord, that we might have Christian affections and we will say, “Yes, yes, yes.”

Categories: Seminary Blog

DNA of a Christian work ethic

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 14:36

Entitled, lazy, obnoxious, and presumptuous — words that should only describe a cat, never a Christian.

The believer’s work ethic should be nothing short of exemplary. Yet many of the worst workers also claim to belong to Christ. They see work as a necessary evil, not a means of God’s provision. They are allergic to prolonged effort and magnetized by ease. They proclaim salvation by grace but lament that their paycheck is earned by works. The Bible calls them sluggards (Prov 6:9-11).

They lurk where Christians gather. They abscond supplies needed by the widows and orphans, siphon off the generosity intended for the disabled, and erode the fibers of strength that hold relationships together. Their parasitic hooks dig into the muscle of the church and consume its ministry capacity. Male sluggards rebel against God’s design and are worse than insurgents in their own homes (1 Tim 5:8). Female sluggards chew the cud of gossip and spew the venom of slander (1 Tim 5:13). Together they are intoxicated with leisure (Prov 26:14), envious of ease (Prov 19:24), carnivorous for comfort (Prov 13:4), and prolific with excuses (Prov 26:16). While some may find minimal employment, the vast majority of able-bodied sluggards will perpetually find their home in the comfort of the couch.

The Scripture wastes no time trying to reason with sluggards. The rule is simple: “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat” (2 Thess 3:10). But that is not the way the church often handles the lazy. If a prodigal son shows up in most churches today, he would be given a place to live, meals to eat, probably a car to drive, and never feel the full weight of his sinful heart. God’s plan is for lazy people to repent and work; then they will see how he provides.

The Apostle Paul exemplified this when serving the church at Thessalonica. He said, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (1 Thess 2:9). He refused to let his personal needs become an obstacle to others hearing the gospel. He even refused to “eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thess 3:8).

Hard work is nothing new to God’s people. From the Old Testament through the New, the history of God’s people is a history of hard work. Scripture gives us many examples of a hard working God follower, from Noah building the ark to Ruth gleaning diligently to provide for herself and those in her care. There are even more examples of believers known for their work in the New Testament. Imagine the discredit it would bring if Joseph was a reckless carpenter, or the damage done to the gospel if Paul made poor quality tents.

Their capability in the workplace gave them credibility in the marketplace. Recklessness in the workplace undermines any level of gospel influence we may hope to have. Our example in the workplace is critical to any gospel we proclaim. Paul said it this way: “With labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example” (2 Thess 3:8-9).

Yes, there are sluggards in society, sluggards in the church, and sluggards in the pulpit. But the sluggard of greatest concern is the one in us: the embedded tendencies that weaken our resolve and threaten our witness. The seeds of laziness grow in the fertile soil of an undisciplined heart. It’s the pastor’s duty to root out idleness, destroy lethargy, and bring every impulse under the control of the Spirit. The preacher’s credibility is at stake. Paul said, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27).

The DNA of a believer’s work ethic is described in Colossians 3:22-24: “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

diligence – Colossians 3:22a

Obey. It’s a simple command. Do the job, right away, in the right way. In Ephesians 6:5, Paul exhorts us to immediately carrying out our responsibilities, without delay, without excuse, without debate. It does not take salvation to obey an employer; a faithful believer, however, does this work with an attention to detail where only God will see. That awareness is what drives our diligence.
Diligence does the job. Perhaps no other word summarizes the believer’s work ethic better than the word diligence. It encapsulates the obedience, discipline, endurance, and attention to detail that is critical to a job well done and a life well-lived.

Diligence is being concerned with both the quality and quantity of the work. More than just working hard, it is working smart so as to maximize both the time and resources available. Our goal is to work with sincerity of heart (Eph 6:5), doing our work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men (Col 3:23).

integrity – Colossians 3:22b-23

Spurgeon once asked a young girl who worked as a maid how she knew she was saved. She answered, “I now sweep under the mats.” Her transformed heart was concerned with honoring God where only he would see. That is what separates a believer’s work ethic from the world. We are concerned with excellence in the places that only an omniscient God will inspect. The world seeks only to gain the approval of the employer but disregards the heart visible only to God. We work for God. He expects us to have the same work ethic regardless of any human audience.
Be a faithful employee. Integrity in our work demonstrates the beauty of God’s transforming work in our lives. Whatever we do, we do it before the Lord, in his presence, in his name, and for his glory.

How does God evaluate our efforts? Is he pleased with our honesty and excellence in our work? Is our attention to detail fitting for one who has been saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Remember, it’s not what we are doing that makes the difference; it is how we do it. A dishwasher with a pure heart trumps a preacher with a putrid heart.

ETERNITY – Colossians 3:24a

The world has its eyes on the paycheck. Christians have their eyes on eternity. Yes, that paycheck is critical, but it is not satisfying. It is immediately absorbed by bills, taxes, and necessities of life. Like sand through a sieve, it slips away.

Our reward for a job well done is so much more than any monetary gain. Our reward is the eternal inheritance of a home in heaven. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve and it is he who is preparing that eternal home for us.
Work is not our enemy. It is not punitive. It existed before sin began on earth and is a perfectly balanced part of God’s design. In the perfect garden of Eden, Adam was tasked with subduing, cultivating, and caring for creation (Gen 1:28; 2:5, 15). The fall of man invoked the curse that complicated the environment in which man would work (Gen 3:17–19), showing us that work is not a result of sin, but sin will complicate our efforts to work.

Work is a means of God’s provision. It is a common grace given to humanity as the primary way the necessities of life can be afforded. With every ounce of strength, we are saying “thank you” back to God not only for the power to engage our work, but for the privilege of providing in this way. The sluggard presumes on the goodness of others while shutting down a natural conduit of God’s blessing.

Work is often where we find our mission field. It is where our transformed lives are on display so that unbelievers may “see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16). The works they see are not just done to earn a paycheck — they can be an act of spiritual service, an act of worship (Rom 12:1).

Our goal is to honor Christ until we see him face-to-face and hear the precious words of our Lord: “Well done good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt 25:21).

We labor with diligence, integrity, and our eyes focused on eternity so that we say along with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).

The post DNA of a Christian work ethic appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The personal stewardship of James P. Boyce

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 14:35

James Petigru Boyce, Southern Seminary’s co-founder and first president, was born into a family that thought carefully about money. His father, Ker Boyce, was a shrewd businessman of Irish descent who had cut his teeth in financial expertise as a tax collector in South Carolina’s Newberry District before becoming a bank president in the early 19th century. Ker Boyce’s defining moment as a financial entrepreneur came during a panic in 1825 that threatened to crush the local cotton industry. While other banks closed fearing insufficient funds to cover their large advances to planters, Boyce leveraged an accumulated $50,000 in requisition to save his business and inspired sufficient confidence in other financiers to weather the storm.[1]  Comparable to a real-life version of George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life, Ker Boyce’s prudence and perseverance earned him a high reputation with his business partners.

As a youth, James Boyce stayed close to his father, often traveling into town together so that he could check out a pile of books from the Charleston Library while his father attended to banking duties.[2]  He also took advantage of the privileges available to him through his father’s patronage of Charleston’s great institutions, one of which was membership in the Charleston Library Society.[3]  Library access allowed Boyce to read hundreds of books despite the fact that he did not have the funds to start a personal library until after his college graduation.[4] 

After a brief stint as editor of a Charleston Baptist newspaper, Boyce attended Princeton Seminary to strengthen his educational acumen, but he left prior to graduation in order to pastor the First Baptist Church of Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to his preaching and pastoral service to the congregation, Boyce put his financial prudence to use by leading a campaign to construct a new worship house. Even after resigning the pastorate, he pledged $10,000 from his personal reserve provided the church could raise an additional $15,000, a decision which spurred other churches across the state into greater giving.[5] 

Perhaps the most difficult chapter of Boyce’s life prior to his founding of Southern Seminary was the heavy burden which fell upon his shoulders in 1854, when his father passed away after an apparent cardiac attack while visiting him in Columbia. Boyce became executor chief responsible for his late father’s estate, which made him more wealthy but also bound him to the work of designating inheritances between Ker’s seven children and other connections. The specifications of Ker’s will were complex in detail, as he had owned stock holdings, outstanding loans, and properties in multiple states. Boyce continued to pay out distributions and interest on investments (sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars annually) until 1886, two years before his death.[6] 

Boyce opposed the Confederacy’s secession from the Union because he believed it would bring about the financial ruin of the Southern states and their institutions.[7]  In that regard, he was correct; though he served as a Confederate chaplain, his own personal fortunes suffered greatly as a result of the Civil War and its aftermath. The seminary’s endowment was also wrecked, and Boyce spent much of his next two decades traveling extensively to find willing donors for the institution. Even periods of financial strain did not prevent Boyce from being a generous giver, and, by some assessments, he might have given away more money in the service of others than he had spent on his own family’s interests.[8] 

Throughout his life, Boyce handled large financial trusts with faithfulness and prudence. Though he attended to the needs of his own nuclear family, he was often responsible for stewarding over money for extended family and institutions such as Southern Seminary. Boyce’s trustworthy reputation for handling money instilled confidence with many other benefactors of the seminary that their contributions would be put to good use in service of Christ’s kingdom.
 

The James P. Boyce Papers and Boyce’s personal books are accessible in the Archives and Special Collections office on the second floor of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library.

[1] John A. Broadus, Memoir of James Petigru Boyce (Louisville: Baptist Book Concern, 1893), 7–8.
[2] Ibid., 18.
[3] Thomas J. Nettles, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 36.
[4] Broadus, Memoir of James Petigru Boyce, 20–21.
[5] Nettles, James Petigru Boyce, 101–102.
[6] Ibid., 102-106.
[7] Ibid., 186, 532.
[8] Ibid., 533. Broadus, Memoir of James Petigru Boyce, 174–75, 362.

The post The personal stewardship of James P. Boyce appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

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