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“We should shrink in horror from the idea that God actually died on the cross.”

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:47
…so said the late R. C. Sproul in a timely and succinct blog post just last year. Sproul was a master of theological summary, and it is only fitting that we remember him for this service to the Christian Church in the wake of his recent departure. Despite Sproul’s bluntness on this matter, support for... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

But I’m no good with languages!

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 09:30

As a Biblical Hebrew teacher, I have heard many reasons why people don’t study languages—or at least do not do so with excellence. Top of the list: I’m no good with languages! This reason betrays several assumptions. These assumptions, however, fall flat when met with substantive reflection.

(1) Language Gene – Students tend to think there are certain gifted individuals who can simply pick up a language quickly with little effort. When students find that they are not mastering Biblical Hebrew quickly, they throw up their hands and confess, “I just don’t have what it takes to learn languages.” Once they reach this conclusion, students simply stop. Sure, they still show up for class, but they stop trying.

So is it true? Is there a language gene possessed only by an elite group of people? In short, NO! The idea of a language gene flies in the face neurological study and common sense. Our intelligence is by no means fixed in such a way that we cannot improve cognitive functions, such as our memory. Furthermore, it is quite plain that language and being human just go together. Language is what we do.

(2) Difficulty = Stupidity – When students hit a rough patch in language learning, they can start to equate their difficulty with their (supposed) lack of intelligence. The problem here lies with the expectations students have for learning a language like Biblical Hebrew. Language learning takes time. For example, most students have forgotten basic grammar and syntax by the time they land in a Hebrew class. Thus, a professor has to teach the fundamentals of language and the actual language of Hebrew; that’s a tall order. Students become frustrated when, after one month, they do not feel comfortable with the language. They think there is something wrong with them.

When difficulty comes—and it certainly will—students should not let up. That is key. Students must become comfortable with the fact that learning a language is uncomfortable. Students are shaky with vocabulary at first. They are timid with translations. They cannot see how the system of the language fits together. But that is okay! With a proper teacher, a calm, dedicated student will learn more than he or she could ever dream. But the student must push through the difficulty.

(3) Effort is Evil – While students might be inclined to equate difficulty with stupidity, there is also the temptation to think that effort is criminal. Some students envision a week full of social media, Netflix, and SportsCenter with occasional moments of study. Reading, translating, and practicing a language should not constrain a student’s social life, should it? Can’t a student have it all? A life full of media entertainment, church ministry, and academic study should all go together, right? Well, if they do not all go together, then certainly academic training must go, especially if it takes substantial effort, right? Unfortunately, some students would answer in the affirmative. But is effort wrong? Of course not! More important, effort to study languages should limit one’s media exposure, not the other way around. Now let me be clear: Media, be it social or watching football, is by no means wrong. Entertainment, however, is not a right. It is a luxury that we should appreciate and enjoy in moderation. What’s more, we must not push off effort as if it were immoral. We must embrace it.

The riches of learning a language are many. The vivid nuances of Biblical Hebrew, for example, are often dulled by English translation. Beyond content, learning Hebrew can also affect our character. Often, studying Hebrew produces perseverance and discipline—characteristics that this world sorely needs from Christians. Learning Hebrew demands humility as well. No matter the natural intelligence of a student, each man and woman enters Hebrew I with virtually no understanding of the alphabet, vocabulary, syntax, or verbal system of that ancient language. A student might begin the course with arrogance, but over an entire semester, arrogance gives way to humility.

The ability to read the Hebrew Bible is not reserved for the elite. It requires no language gene. It does, however, necessitate effort. For those of us who have the privilege to study Biblical Hebrew, let us not squander our time. Rather, let us give ourselves to the discipline of learning!

Categories: Seminary Blog

31 questions to ask for a more Christ-centered 2018

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 07:00

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

In addition to these ten questions, here are twenty-one more to help you “Consider your ways.” Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.

11. What’s the most important decision you need to make this year?

12. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?

13. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

14. What habit would you most like to establish this year?

15. Who is the person you most want to encourage this year?

16. What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?

17. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?

18. What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?

19. What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?

20. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?

21. What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?

22. What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?

23. In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?

24. What’s the most important trip you want to take this year?

25. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?

26. To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?

27. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?

28. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?

29. If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?

30. What’s the most important new item you want to buy this year?

31. In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?

The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t considered the question.

If you’ve found these questions helpful, you might want to put them someplace—in your phone, day planner, calendar, bulletin board, etc.—where you can review them more frequently than once a year.

So let’s evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage” (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things let’s also remember our dependence on our King who said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

The post 31 questions to ask for a more Christ-centered 2018 appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

5 things your kids need to know about death

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 07:00

It wasn’t the first thing to enter my mind, but it might have been the second: How am I going to tell the kids?

The doctor had just laid out the cold, hard truth: “Your friend, Ken, has passed.” Ken was a dear family friend, a man my kids adored. A longtime staff member at the church I served as pastor, he died suddenly—at the church building, in the midst of his work. A heart attack ushered him into the arms of his Savior in an instant on that overcast fall morning. I was stunned. Our staff was stunned. The congregation was stunned. My children, who “helped him” regularly at the church while I sat in meetings, counseled members, or worked on sermon prep, would be most stunned of all. I planned my talk with them carefully and broke the sad news that evening.

Messenger of ill tidings

Our family faced death again in late-summer of 2015 with the sudden departure of my stepfather. Like Ken, he clearly loved Jesus and sought to please him. Gratefully, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). When the news came, my wife and I were again faced with delivering the sad news to our four children who range in age from 7 to 13.

As a pastor, I always found serving as the messenger of ill tidings particularly difficult. It’s even more tricky, though, when you’re telling young hearts whose ability to grasp death and all its implications is limited. Do we soft-pedal death, referring to it in vague, non-threatening terms? Or do we speak of it straightforwardly as we might with another adult?

My wife and I have found neither approach to be helpful. Obviously, how much and precisely what you say will be much different for a younger child than for a 12-year-old. Still, there are basic biblical realities they should all know.

Here are five fundamental truths we’ve explained to our kids when death has come close to home.

1. Death and judgment are coming to us all.

Sadly, death is part of our fallen world, and the Bible doesn’t shrink back from this truth. Psalm 139 tells us God has numbered our days. Since the Word doesn’t dismiss this truth as “overly negative,” neither should we.

Our family once had friends who never spoke to their kids about negative news stories, such as natural disasters or 9/11. They made it a rule never to discuss death. I believe this is unwise. By avoiding bad news, parents set up their children for unreasonable expectations and stark disappointment in a broken world. This approach subtly, even if unintentionally, communicates that life on earth is ultimate. Worst of all, it fails to provide a rationale for why the gospel is such good news. Every day brings us one step closer to that final day, and our children should be aware of that.

There is also a judgment awaiting every one of us (Heb. 9:27). I want my children to know that, as the great Southern Baptist pulpiteer R. G. Lee (1886–1978) famously put it, there is coming a “payday someday” for the way we have lived on earth (2 Cor. 5:10).

2. Death is not the way it is supposed to be.

This biblical truth is what makes death particularly sad. Tell your kids that death is an intruder in this world, that the first Adam’s sin opened the door through which the curse of death entered. Cornelius Plantinga’s book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Eerdmans, 1994) is a compelling resource (for adults) to help you put more biblical meat on the bones of this doctrine.

Explain to your children that this is why we are sad when someone dies. In our mourning, through our tears, we are admitting there’s really no such thing as death from natural causes.

3. Death for the Christian is to be with Jesus.

In Philippians 1, the apostle Paul toggles back and forth between whether it’s better for him to leave this world to be with Jesus or remain in it to advance the gospel. He then writes: “To live for me is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). In a culture that does all it can to stave off any hint that humans will grow old and die, this is a deeply countercultural truth. But for the believer, crossing the chilly river of death is the pathway to paradise and pleasures that defy the descriptive ability of human language.

4. Death will one day die.

Give your children the unfathomably good news of 1 Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” When the “already” collapses into the “not yet,” death will be dead, and this is cause for rejoicing. This is a choice opportunity to commend Christ to your children, to urge them to flee to the cross where Christ took the key to death and unlocked it from the inside in his resurrection.

5. Death is something we must all think about.

I don’t want my kids to obsess or become paralyzed in fear over the specter of eternity. That said, 18th-century pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards provides an excellent example of the necessity of ruminating on death, even at a young age. Granted, Edwards was much older than my young children when he wrote his famous resolutions, the seventh of which reads: “Resolved, to think much on the brevity and how short one’s life is (Ps. 90:17).”

Edwards understood that life is a vapor, and that death should motivate us to live for another world. Tell your children that for those in Christ, our best life is later.

What about the death of unbelievers?

What do we say to our children about those who seem to have died in unbelief? This is even trickier but presents a key opportunity to discuss eternity, both heaven and hell. We should be no less clear about hell than was our Lord, who spoke far more in the Gospels about judgment than about paradise.

Whether I’m speaking to adults or children, I always avoid weighing in on the eternal destiny of one who appears to have died in unbelief. Of course, I make clear that anyone who would be saved must come to God through faith in Jesus. But we’ve told our children (and I’ve told family members of unbelievers) that the deceased person is in God’s hands—a righteous and just judge who can be trusted to do the right thing. I don’t put it this way to avoid or minimize the reality of God’s wrath; it simply keeps me off the seat of eternal judge—a place that belongs to God alone.

Though there’s certainly much more that could be said about death, our kids need to be prepared—in age-appropriate ways—for life in a world captive to sin and death. And they need to be shown why the good news of God’s rescue mission in Christ, and his victorious war with death on Calvary’s tree, is good news indeed.

This is an adapted version of an article originally published at The Gospel Coalition.

The post 5 things your kids need to know about death appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Top 5 SHP titles of 2017

Southwestern Seminary - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 09:30

Seminary Hill Press is the publishing arm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, publishing works by the institution’s faculty and alumni. In 2017, the press produced multiple titles that would make great Christmas gifts for theologians and laypersons alike. Here are the year’s top five must-have books:

1. Youth Ministry That Lasts a Lifetime, by Richard Ross

The real criteria for evaluating youth ministry is this question: Are we consistently introducing teenagers to Jesus and then discipling them into believers who will, for a lifetime, love God, love people, and make disciples for the glory of God? The issue really is not, “How is our youth group doing today?” Instead, the core question is, “How will our youth group be doing for a lifetime?”

Combining biblical exegesis with current research and author Richard Ross’ many years of experience in the church, this work invites readers to consider a radical new model of youth ministry that is likely to lead many more teenagers to lifetime faith. (Available in both hardcover and paperback here.)

2. Growing a Great Commission Church: Biblical Principles and Implications for Methods, by Mike Morris

From the perspective of a former pastor in America and a long-term IMB missionary to South Korea, Mike Morris discusses key biblical principles for growing a Great Commission church in both quality and quantity. Because of the cultural and racial diversification of American neighborhoods, a missiological perspective is greatly needed in American churches.

Morris discusses the biblical principles in detail, uses down-to-earth illustrations, provides some implications for methods, and deals with possible objections. He stresses the importance of both evangelism and discipleship for the healthy growth of a Great Commission church. (Available here.)

3. Everyday Parenting, edited by Alex Sibley; foreword by Dorothy and Paige Patterson

As anyone who has children can attest, parenting is hard. As such, many parents are overwhelmed by the responsibilities associated with raising another human being, and they would likely agree it is easy to lose sight of what parenting is truly about: raising children to walk in righteousness.

So how can parents maintain their focus? What tools has God provided for dealing with the various issues that stem from raising children? And where can parents turn for answers to their questions?

Through His Word and His Spirit, God has provided both the instruction and the power for parents to persevere in the parenting task. This volume—written by faculty, alumni, and friends of Southwestern Seminary—aims to illuminate that instruction so parents can move forward in the task of everyday parenting armed with the Sword of the Spirit in order to face head-on the challenges of raising children in the ways of the Lord. (Available here.)

4. Text-Driven Contextualization: Biblical Principles for Fulfilling the Great Commission in the 21st Century, by Michael Criner

How do 21st-century evangelicals carry out the Great Commission biblically but also effectively in a world full of cultural diversity? Does the Bible provide any principles for communicating and contextualizing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to particular demographics, people groups, and nations?

In Text-Driven Contextualization, Michael Criner argues that the Bible does, indeed, provide instruction for how to contextualize—and how not to contextualize—the Gospel in preaching and evangelism. A thorough examination of five sermons in the book of Acts (two delivered by Peter and three by Paul) reveals principles by which pastors and teachers can biblically contextualize their sermons for the 21st century with evangelistic fervor. (Available here.)

5. Advent: 25 Daily Devotionals on the Coming of the Son of God, by Armour

Advent, Latin for “the coming,” is a four-week period culminating on Christmas Day intended for extended reflection upon the meaning and significance of Christmas. That is, the coming of the Son of the living God into our world to dwell amongst us as one of us; His defining and embodiment of genuine love; and His service even unto His atoning death upon the cross from whence spilled the innocent blood that paid the ransom for many.

This resource comprises 25 daily devotionals directing attention to passages from the Gospels of Luke and John in order that families may devote the month of December to such reflection and begin to grasp the true significance of the coming of Immanuel, “God with us.” The book also contains four Christmas carols accompanied by explorations of their composition and rich theology. (Available here.)

To learn more about these titles or to browse through other Seminary Hill Press products, visit SeminaryHillPress.com.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Same Old Sam, Part 1

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 12:00

Imagine in the year 2047 that anti-aging therapies have developed so far that wealthy people not only cease aging, but some have begun to reverse. A few have even started to celebrate reverse birthdays in accordance with their rehabilitated age.

Once sixty-seven, Sam now marks his age at forty-two. With the turn around he has re-entered life with friends of his newfound youth ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Complicated Salvations

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 09:30

Dry dusty roads led into the village. Worshipers gathered. As a missionary guest that day, I preached at that church. Lively music and dancing are typical of African worship. This day was no exception. It came time for an evangelistic invitation. A sub-chief walked the aisle for a decision. That was all well and good, even celebrative. The only complication to this man’s expression of faith was that he brought his five wives with him to make this decision. What does a foreign missionary do?

Polygamy, a long-standing issue in most African settings, is characteristic of African Traditional Religious belief systems that pre-date the advent of both Islam and Christianity. These ideologies persist in the fabric of various Christian traditions, whether denominational or not, in African churches today.

Solutions are not simple fixes. The convention we were part of had already developed a policy to help normalize reaction to this issue. The convention’s historical practice was to ask the man to choose one of the wives and “put out” the remaining ones. There were usually children involved, and this act created serious and ongoing social crises. The wives who departed the family network usually were as destitute as widows. People in the rest of the culture viewed these women as still being the wives of the man who wished to join the church. That limited their likely options for any sort of familial support in the aftermath of such disruptions. More often than not, they were soon resorting to prostitution to provide basic needs for their children and even to eat. As supposedly new believers, this was no healthy discipleship program.

At the time, a recently developed policy recommended first in-depth counseling with them all in order to understand their own personal decisions regarding Christ. If confident in their decisions to yield their lives to Christ, one could proceed with discussion of church membership. After all, Christ’s blood covers the sins associated with polygamy too. Finally, they could be presented for church membership on the grounds that, in a group, they each gave testimony of their salvation; confessed having entered the practice of polygamy due to cultural norms without knowing about Christ or that this was sinful; and agreed to end the practice of polygamy with that generation and to never seek nor accept leadership roles in the local church. They would ask for the congregation to assist them in teaching their children not to continue polygamous practices when they would eventually have families.

In parallel with these happenings, I had a very sharp African seminary student in my biblical ethics class. He asked me if an article he had read was true, namely that in America we have a problem of men marrying many women over time or sequentially. “It does, unfortunately, seem to happen in some families,” I replied. My own mother and father married each other three times and divorced each other three times. When my dad died, he was on his sixth marriage. The student said then, “Sir, in America, you have the same problems, then, that we face here. The main difference is that, in our cultures, it is common to have all the wives simultaneously.”

Eventually, I found academic articles that characterized our North American marriage and divorce cycles as “serial polygamy.” In the end, lest we get too prideful and ethnocentric in judging other cultures, we should look at ourselves. Could a man walk the aisle to present for membership this Sunday, and the pastor be asked to conduct him through the membership process, though essentially the gentleman is a “polygamist,” having had multiple marriages? It is not a question of one culture being more fallen than another. Instead, it is that we need mutually to assist one another with “beams” and “specks” in our eyes for better glorification of God’s design for the family.

Categories: Seminary Blog

3 reasons to not skip the “boring” parts of the Bible

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 07:00

A few weeks ago, I preached Nehemiah 3. It’s a chapter that lists the various men and women who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. Here’s a taste:

“…Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens…” (Nehemiah 3:10-11)

And more of that—for the entire 27 verses.

As the congregation surveyed the chapter beforehand, I’m sure many were thinking: “Is pastor Chad really going to preach on a chapter of obscure Hebrew names?” It’s one of those chapters you normally skip during your devotions, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Be honest.

My very first week as pastor–fresh out of seminary, no experience–I preached a genealogy from Matthew 1. It may have been a terrible sermon, it probably was, but I was trying to set a tone for our understanding of Scripture as a church:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

All Scripture–including the parts you might be tempted to skip or downplay. How do we view them? Here are three brief things we need to remember when we come to these passages:

1. It’s not about God fitting into our story, but us fitting into God’s story.

I think many of us come to the Bible and want to “get something out of it” — which is okay. However, it can create this idea that the Bible is only valuable if it proves to me how it fits into my life. So when we come across a genealogy and there are no little nuggets or quick takeaways, we turn the page.

But the Bible’s purpose is to draw us into the grand narrative of the Lord and his people. It draws us out of the darkness and into the light of the gospel. The Scriptures are the real story. We have to figure out how our lives fit into the Bible. Genealogies, number tables, and lists of land allotments all have a purpose in the story God is telling if we are willing to sit down and listen.

2. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

In your head you may protest: “But, reading this chapter is a waste of my time.” No. You “waste” your time on so many more trivial things: Netflix, Facebook comments, sitting in a fishing boat, catching up on scores on ESPN, or watching those annoying recipe videos in your timeline.

There are worse things you could waste your life doing besides reading the Word of God no matter what it says. If we feel anxiety about trying to struggle through a list of Hebrew names for five minutes, maybe we need to spend some time reflecting on our own self-importance. Sometimes God shows us our pride by consuming our day with what we perceive to be a “meaningless task” (I’m a parent of four, so I know all about that).

After all, to the rest of the world you are more obscure than Hashabneiah, Malchijah, or Hasshub—at least their names are recorded in Scripture forever. Still, God cares for you. When you hit those “boring” passages in your Bible reading, take comfort that God is at work even in the most mundane details of your life.

3. This is a relationship.

We don’t try to “get something out of” every conversation with our kids or our wife or our co-workers. Why must we “get something out of” every conversation with the Lord?

Use those seemingly mundane passages as an excuse to simply relish the fact that he is speaking to us, that he cares about us, that by the blood of Jesus we are his people. The Lord of the universe has revealed himself in letters, words, verses, and passages that we can read–some of them more easily than others. But he is speaking to us in every word—so let us listen.

There are no unimportant words in Scripture. So let us delight in them and preach them all.

The post 3 reasons to not skip the “boring” parts of the Bible appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Absurdity of Moral Relativism: A Student’s Perspective

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:00

When I was a full-time high school teacher, one of my favorite assignments was to have my students develop a creative project to illustrate what would follow if moral relativism were true. Students wrote stories, composed songs, made short films, and more.

My all-time favorite was a short poem written by a high school senior. She captures the moral absurdity that would follow if morality were truly relative to the individual ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Does God Have a Specific Marriage Partner for you?

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

This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.

 

Hi Dr. Craig,

I'd like to probe you more on your views of divine providence and marriage in particular. I believe you've said that God has a specific marriage partner intended for each person (unless perhaps that person is somehow called to celibacy) ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Believing…By Faith?

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:00
While talking to an acquaintance yesterday about a thorny Christological question, I made the statement that Christ was 100% God and 100% human. Pretty standard stuff. My acquaintance agreed, stating that he also believed this to be true, adding the caveat, “by faith.” I apparently looked confused when he used that phrase, because he persisted:... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

Why your church should support less missionaries

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 07:00

Like many families, churches are trying to balance their monthly budgets and make those valuable dollars stretch in a way that best honors God. Churches that are involved in missions want to make a huge impact in global outreach and be good stewards of God’s resources. As churches explore expanding their involvement in missions, the world map in the church lobby all too often becomes the benchmark for a successful missions ministry. Churches support missionaries so they can put pins in more countries or have a missionary on each continent.

Frequently you will see churches supporting 10, 20, or 30 missionaries at a small monthly amount. Missions involvement for most churches is a mile wide and an inch deep. Making a broad impact is nice, but making a deep impact would result in greater influence and bring greater glory to God. Churches that support 30 missionaries at a low level should prayerfully consider reducing their number of supported missionaries down to three to five and really dive deep into their ministries and lives.

Substantive investment

When investing more substantively into fewer missionaries a church and its leadership will truly get to know their missionary partners. As that relationship and trust grow a church can care for the needs of the missionaries they support like they would care for their own congregants. Missionaries are more prone to be honest and forthright with supporters they genuinely know. The vast majority of missionaries are not cared for by a church family, not even their home church. They have few people to turn to when a missionary is in need. A church that has deeply invested in a missionary can share the grace and mercy of Christ with them.

Churches should continue to send short-term teams and interns if that is what the ministry needs. Additionally, church leaders should consider visiting the missionaries on their turf for a “house call.” Spend time doing neglected chores on the missionary’s home, babysit the kids, do the grocery shopping, even counsel them. Get to know your missionaries in their environment. Walk in their shoes for a few days or a week. Love your missionaries how they need to be loved.

As your church continues to visit the same ministry site, year after year, your congregation will get to know the national partners. By better understanding the culture and the people, you will have a greater passion for them and their needs. It will benefit both your home church and the national church to view each other in a fraternal relationship instead of a paternal one.

Substantive returns

Over time and through regular contact you can have a more substantive impact on the ministry with which you partner. You honestly get to know the missionaries and ministries and can be viewed more like a partner and less like an ATM. If you go deeper you are creating a truly substantive, cross-cultural partnership. The depth benefits the missionary’s ministry and the spiritual growth of your congregation. Everyone begins to understand what it means to be a global Christian.

If you spend time with your missionary partners once every few years, at furlough, or once a year, during short-term mission trips, a substantive relationship won’t be created. Without substance your missionaries won’t open up to you and you can’t help them with their spiritual health. Call your missionaries on their VOIP phone. Almost every missionary has one and it is not an international call for you. Send them an e-mail to let them know the church prayed for them today. Remember their birthdays and anniversaries with electronic gift cards. Help them fund a small vacation or new electronics. You can help your missionaries heal.

A larger financial contribution from your church to your missionaries will ensure two important things. First, their need to find fewer supporters means they will travel less during furlough. Second, if they have fewer supporters they may visit your church for a couple of weeks instead of just one Sunday every four years.

Many missionaries have 20 or 30 supporting churches and dozens of supporting individuals. Nobody can keep in contact with that many ministry partners. A missionary with just a small number of large financial partners can invest more deeply in those relationships.

Substantive partnership

When churches support missionaries and international ministries by writing a small check once a month, neither the church nor the missionaries truly receive a substantive benefit from that relationship. A generous investment of time, energy, and finances into a missionary or global ministry helps the missionary feel connected and helps the church grow in their understanding of God’s Great Commission.

As part of this increased investment, churches must insist on reciprocation from the missionaries with whom they partner. No longer can churches tolerate missionaries who do not communicate and interact with church partners. Missionaries should communicate and churches should demand it.

When a more substantive relationship is formed, the church, the missionaries, and the nationals all benefit. Above all else, God receives greater glory from churches and missionaries who are connected and healthy.

The post Why your church should support less missionaries appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Is It Possible to Erase Poverty Around the World?

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

Politicians, civil leaders and concerned citizens continuously debate the causes and potential cures for the extreme poverty that has trapped many people-groups in a vicious cycle of impoverished lifestyle choices. Theologian Wayne Grudem and economist Barry Asmus have partnered to present a sustainable solution to poverty at the national level ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Hunger for Sacred Community, Part 3: The Deepest Longings of Our Souls

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:00

We are made in the image of God, an image that is tarnished yet has survived the fall. Who we are is intrinsically connected to who God is. Our spiritual depth, our being able to know ourselves, is linked to knowing God and who He is. This is where God’s word comes into the equation, because the Bible is one of the primary ways God discloses himself—what He’s done, what He’s doing, and what He promises to do. Spiritual depth is far more than how much you know the Scriptures or even how well you know it. It is knowing the Word of God and the God of the Word, the book and its author.  We come away with a better, more thought-filled understanding of what He is like, what He says, what He expects of those who bear His image, and why, and how He empowers those who follow His son Jesus ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Just Say What the Bible Says

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 09:30

Every pastor deals with a certain reality every single week. I’ve heard it referenced as the “relentless return of Sunday.” You preach your heart out, pour yourself empty, and exhaust yourself physically and emotionally only to wake up on Monday or Tuesday and realize the process begins for another week. In many ways, it is equivalent to writing and presenting a research paper every single week.

Any honest pastor will tell you there are days when you stare blankly at a certain passage of Scripture and have the thought, “How do I preach this?” We question how to make it into an outline. We wonder how we can apply this to our people’s everyday lives. Sometimes we even wonder what in the world the passage means!

I’ve discovered a secret that has been more helpful to me in sermon preparation than any other principle. I also believe it’s the key to personal discipleship, to counseling burdened people, and even to sharing the Gospel with a lost friend. Here’s the principle: Just say what the Bible says.

That may sound overly simplistic. In fact, I bet when you read that statement, you thought it was an extremely elementary thing. I understand that. I really do. I also believe that sometimes we complicate preaching, discipleship, counseling, and evangelism. I want to encourage you to begin implementing this simple principle in your everyday life. Here’s how this statement affects the following areas.

Preaching

There are passages that are difficult to preach. Shocker, right? Some texts are hard to understand, difficult to work into an outline, or tough to try to apply to a group of people. My guiding principle throughout this is to just say what the Bible says. I believe it was Paige Patterson who once said, “Expository preaching is getting your people to read their Bible.” There is perhaps no better way to implement expository preaching than to just say what the Bible says. No more, no less. It’s important to notice that the most important question in sermon preparation is not, “What does the commentary say?” God wrote a book. Let that book speak to the people of God.

Discipleship

What is successful discipleship? People would probably answer this in a myriad of ways. I believe all successful discipleship has one thing in common: an intensified passion and focus on the Word of God in the life of the person being discipled. If that happens, then it truly will affect all other areas of his life. In other words, if we can get that person to begin to just say what the Bible says, we have helped put him on the path toward an abiding walk with Christ.

Counseling

The Word of God affects all of counseling. It doesn’t matter if it is a professional counseling environment or one friend counseling another over coffee. We have all had those difficult times in the midst of counseling someone else or simply giving advice to a friend where we have come to that line. You know, THAT line. Do I take a step out and tell him what he really needs to hear? Do I tell him what God’s standard is for his life? Or do I cower back in fear and just say something to appease him? We should maneuver through these times by simply saying what the Bible says.

Evangelism

The reality of heaven and hell are tough things for a lost culture to grapple with. If we’re honest, it is a difficult message to deliver to people who don’t believe the same way we do. Some, in an attempt to be loving and inclusive, change what the Bible says to make it more palatable to a lost person. How unloving! The most loving thing we could ever do is say what the Bible says. The Bible speaks of repentance, of faith, of surrender, of taking up your cross, of following the Lord Jesus Christ. Those words are life. Just say what the Bible says.

I truly believe that if you’ll begin to practice this principle in your everyday life, you’ll see the Lord do some amazing things. God loves to work in the lives of those who hold His Word as the source of life and truth in the world. Will you take God at His Word? Will you just say what the Bible says?

Categories: Seminary Blog

Why you need Advent more than you realize

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 07:00

As a culture, we can’t wait to get to Christmas. Retailers can’t wait to put out the Christmas decor and prep you for their “must have” Christmas deals. Children can’t wait for presents, and parents can’t wait for the extra vacation time. Everything in our frenzied Christmas culture is driving us to that 15-minute period on December 25 when meticulously wrapped presents will be clawed open to reveal an item that will likely be in next year’s garage sale or donation box.

As advertisers and retailers push the season of Christmas upon us with ever-increasing ferocity, it has increased our impatience and inability to wait. The very thing that was once part and parcel of the season has become its dreaded enemy: waiting. We have been trained to miss the weight of waiting during the season.

Waiting for Christ

First, we must understand that the church is not in the “Christmas season” but the season of Advent. Advent (from the Latin for “coming” or “arrival”) is the church’s celebration of the first coming of Christ. It’s the season of reflection upon the light of Christ shining after a long period of darkness.

The nature of Advent is all about waiting.

It points us back to the 400 years of silence following the last prophecy of Malachi who foretold the arrival of the Messiah and the era of justice he would usher in with this kingdom. As Malachi’s final pen stroke dried on the papyrus, the people began this period of waiting. In that period of waiting, God’s people faced intense suffering. Wars continued, famines struck, infertility persisted, and the broken world continued to demonstrate its need for redemption. A messiah was promised, yet the promises of God seemed to be null and void. Where was God in the midst of people’s affliction? Where was his promise of healing and restoration? How could he leave his people in the midst of their distress? These questions marked this agonizing period of waiting.

Waiting is good, waiting is difficult

Advent is all recognizing that we have real problems that require divine solutions. In the midst of this waiting, we ask God to intervene in our lives to bring healing, strength, and hope. The 400 years of God’s silence put his people’s faith to the test. Advent for Christians presents us with an opportunity to enter into this era of delayed gratification. Though on one side we recognize the Savior has come, we also need to acknowledge the dramatic nature and timing of this coming. Paul said at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6). God knew the timing of Christ’s coming; he had planned it from before the foundations of the world. Yet there was still a necessary time of waiting.

Waiting in Scripture is often characterized in two different ways.

  1. Waiting is for the sanctification of God‘s people. By waiting, we are trusting the Lord and our faith is tested as we hold to God’s promises. The Psalmist declares, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” (Ps. 31:24).
  2. Waiting relates to God‘s sovereignty and divine purposes. God challenges Job to ponder his sovereignty when he says, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:4). We were not present with God when he created the universe, nor are we able to give him counsel. This doesn’t make him capricious, but one who is sovereign and who has good and proper plans for his creation. Waiting, therefore, is the proper posture for a finite creature who is fully dependent upon an Infinite God.
But we hate to wait

The reality is this: we hate to wait. By nature, we are impatient. This tells us waiting is actually good for us and is molding us into the likeness of Christ. Paul encourages his readers, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col. 1:11). Indeed, one of the fruits of the Spirit is patience (Gal. 5:22).

Christ is the fulfillment of our waiting.

This does not mean however that we should neglect the heavy feeling of waiting which has marked the people of God and should still mark us today. The Christian faith is a waiting faith. The people of God in the old covenant waited for in the coming of the King born in Bethlehem. In the new, the people of God wait for the King to return a second time in glory.

In a season fraught with busy schedules, waiting is counter-cultural. But we do not wait without hope. We wait and we hope because we recognize that we have a God who fulfills his promises, even though we may not always recognize how he does so. We wait because we know God has a redemptive plan which is more beautiful than any other vision this world can offer. This plan, so clearly demonstrated in Scripture, has as its fulcrum the coming of God’s Son in the flesh.

Put Christ at the center of your waiting

Thus, Christ is at every point the focus of our waiting. This season should instill in us a richer understanding that God has a plan which will be accomplished according to his will and purpose, and ultimately for our good. As ministers of the gospel, we should not be remiss in communicating this glorious truth to our people.

What would it look like to be a Church once again marked by the weightiness of waiting? While war continues, relationships fracture, sin and suffering persist, we wait for the return of the King. So let’s avoid the temptation to make this season of Advent more palatable by neglecting the weightiness of waiting. Let us reflect on the period of silence preceding the coming of Christ, and find strength in our current waiting. Advent means “to come,” and we wait longingly for the Lord to come again.

And let us pass this critical message on to those whom God has graciously put in our care.

The post Why you need Advent more than you realize appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Body: Why your soul is not enough

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 13:59

Early in my career of teaching systematic theology, a student arranged an appointment with me in my office. After the customary small talk, he cut to the quick: He was experiencing multiple physical problems, plagued by insomnia, digestive and excretory problems, blood in his urine, lethargy, and attention deficit. He wondered what spiritual causes could lie at the heart of these physical symptoms, and he wanted my advice about how to become well again. I hardly needed to probe much, but my questions caught him off guard because they focused on physical matters: What are you eating? His answer: “junk food.” Are you scheduling rest periods? “Too busy for relaxation.” How are you exercising? “No need for that.”

Becoming irritated with my line of questioning, he said that because his body was going to be sloughed off at death anyway, he did not need to be concerned about eating well, resting well, and exercising well. I countered with an observation: His body was (literally) breaking down before his eyes, and he would soon be no good for himself, his family, and the church ministry for which he was preparing through his seminary studies. And, I added, I thought the problem was a physical one, not a spiritual one. But that was not the answer a “spiritually minded” evangelical like him was accustomed to hearing. Besides, this student had come to me with an expectation that I would share something with him from the Word of God. But I was not prepared to do so.

This encounter plunged me into a crisis: As a professor of theology at an evangelical seminary, I wondered what I should have shared with this student from Scripture that would have helped him with his physical problems. If you found yourself in a similar situation, what would you communicate?

At best, evangelicals express an ambivalence toward the human body, and at worst manifest a contempt for it. Many abhor their body — often because of tragic experiences with it (like physical or sexual abuse). Other Christians, due to either poor or non-existent teaching on human embodiment, consider their body to be a hindrance to spiritual maturity, or even inherently evil.

However, in my study of Scripture, I have discovered a remarkable perspective toward the body, one which affects how we live out our existence as created beings, how we view and experience our salvation, and how we trust and obey God as maturing believers in Jesus Christ.

The human body is an essential aspect of human beings during their earthly existence and, following Christ’s return and the resurrection of their body, in the age to come. Specifically, the body is the material component of human nature distinct from— but intimately linked with—the immaterial component, commonly called the soul (or spirit). Only between physical death and the return of Christ will human existence be a disembodied one. The soul (or spirit) will survive death and continue to exist while the body is sloughed off, but this is an abnormal condition (2 Cor 5:1-10). Embodiment, therefore, is the state of human existence between conception and death, and again after the resurrection of the body and for all eternity. The normal state of human existence is an embodied existence.

The Created Body

Human beings are this way because God designed them so. This was true of the first man, the first woman, and it is true of each and every human being since the original creation, as God is intimately involved in fashioning human life from the moment of conception. As David extols God in a psalm, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb…. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Ps 139:13, 15).

Embodiment is God’s creative design for human beings, who should be grateful for their physical existence. Moreover, the church is called to minister to people as holistic human beings created in the image of God. This worldview entails treating all people — both Christians and non-Christians alike — with respect for their inherent dignity. Furthermore, the church should be engaged in helping the poor and marginalized through deeds of mercy, communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone, and discipling Christians by addressing their many needs — intellectual, emotional, volitional, physical, educational, and socio-economic.

The Gendered Body

As embodied creatures, human beings are either male or female (Gen 1:26-27); indeed, gender is a fundamental reality of human existence. Unlike secondary characteristics such as hair and eye color, height, and body type, gender is a primary characteristic. God does not create a generic human being and then add on gender; rather, he creates a human being either as a male person or as a female person. Human genderedness means that a man is conscious of and knows himself as a man, he relates to other human beings as a man, and as a man he relates to God. Similarly, it means that a woman is conscious of and knows herself as a woman, she relates to other human beings as a woman, and as a woman she relates to God. Try as I might, even urged on by my wife, I cannot see life from her — a woman’s — perspective. Human beings are perspectivally gendered — as designed by God. Accordingly, men and women should be thankful for the gender with which God created them, and any sense of superiority or inferiority because they are male or they are female is wrong and dangerous. Gender differences should be celebrated, and men and women should learn to enjoy personal, pure relationships with the other gender.

The Sexual Body

An important aspect of gender, and hence of human embodiment, is sexuality. Indeed, God created human beings as both male and female so that they could fulfill the cultural mandate to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). This universal command means that the majority of human beings will be married, and the general portrait that arises from Scripture is that marriage is between a man and a woman who commit themselves to living in a monogamous relationship. Sexual intercourse is to be enjoyed within the bounds of this covenantal framework and is designed for several purposes, including pleasure, procreation, and unity. Tragically, the fall into sin wreaks havoc with human sexuality, and Scripture presents instructions intended to help people overcome temptation and failure in this area. In no uncertain terms, Paul warns against sexual immorality, placing it into a category by itself by explaining that “every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (v. 18). This heinous sin wrenches away one’s body from its rightful membership and unites it in membership with the body of someone other than one’s spouse.

Anyone reading this article is certainly aware of the many troubles the church encounters in this area of human sexuality: rampant sexual immorality, adultery, homosexuality, sexual abuse of children and women, pornography, “sexting,” prostitution, and other problems. Cognizant of these many challenges, we should never lose sight of the fact that human sexuality, and sexual intercourse between married couples, are wonderful gifts from God for his embodied creatures — gifts that should be celebrated and enjoyed.

The Disciplined Body

Paul’s reminder to Christians “that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:19), while specifically directed at the problem of sexual immorality, has a broader application: Human beings are to respect and care for their body, and such attention requires physical discipline. Elsewhere, the apostle gives instruction to Timothy: “train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim 4:8). Using the metaphor of athletic preparation for the Isthmian games, Paul urges his disciple to focus on training in godliness, which would include study of Scripture, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines.

Bodily discipline includes regular exercise, good nutrition, proper rest and sleep, and avoidance of body-harming substances. Insights from exercise physiology and nutrition can be helpful in this regard. It would be embarrassing to ask when was the last time you heard a sermon on physical discipline or participated in a Sunday school class about diet and exercise. While it is not my purpose to minimize the importance of practicing spiritual disciplines, a proper theology of human embodiment corrects a much-overlooked aspect of Christian living and church education: physical discipline in regard to eating, exercising, resting, and avoiding harmful substances is an important component of life in the human body. When spiritual disciplines call for accompanying physical activities like fasting, solitude, temporary celibacy, and the foregoing of other legitimate bodily pleasures, the goal should always be increased spiritual vitality and never the punishment of the body as an opponent or enemy of spiritual maturity.

The Body and the Worship of God

When most Christians think of worshipping God, they imagine singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the Word of God read and preached, praying corporately, and the like. Few would consider the role of their body in worship. In a popular definition, Archbishop William Temple described worship as involving a person’s conscience, mind, imagination, heart, and will — with no mention of the human body! Scripture, however, presents an active, physical involvement in worship: the raising of hands, indicative of both blessing God (Ps 134:1) and pleading for his help and mercy (Ps 28:1-2; 88:8- 10); kneeling, bowing, and falling down, exhibiting humility and abject shame before the Lord (Rev 4:9-11; 5:8-14; Ezra 9:5-6; 2 Chron 6:12- 14; Ps 35:13-14; Neh 8:5-6); dancing or leaping, manifesting intense joy (Ps 149:3-4; Ex 15:20- 21; 2 Sam 6:14-17); and clapping and shouting praise to God (Ps 47:1-2; 66:1). Certainly, many cultural realities must be considered in this discussion, but embodied human beings qualified to worship God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) are to engage in this activity with the entirety of their being — and that includes their body.

Worship, then, involves bodily participation as Christians physically express their praise, confess their sins, plead for divine mercy, and exalt in God’s blessings, which are also tangibly exhibited by the tangible rites of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Unsurprisingly, then, Paul urges Christians “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1).

The Future of the Body

Finally, for those who have died as Christ-followers, who exist as disembodied beings in heaven with the Lord (2 Cor 5:1-9), the return of Christ will result in the resurrection of their bodies. They will be brought back to life with glorious, renewed bodies. For those who are still alive at the second advent, the return of Christ will result in their bodies being instantaneously changed into glorified bodies. In both cases, these resurrected and glorified bodies will be imperishable, glorious, powerful, and dominated by the Spirit (1 Cor 15:42-44; Phil 3:20-21; Rom 8:11).

Embodiment is the future hope and blessing for human beings. Thus, as fallen and sinful human beings are called to salvation through Christ, and they are not just “souls to be saved,” but the human body is included in this divine work. Indeed, against the prevailing view held by many Christians, death resulting in disembodied existence in the presence of the Lord is not their ultimate hope. Rather, the resurrection and glorification of the body at his second advent, leading to embodied existence in the new heavens and the new earth, is their ultimate hope.

As divine image bearers created for embodied existence both now and in eternity, we do well to live our human embodiment cognizant of the rich instruction given in Scripture and here developed in a brief article. Whether we are confronting questions from people experiencing physical problems, addressing the uniqueness of human genderedness and sexuality, struggling personally with gluttony or sloth, selecting clothes to wear, expressing our worship through physical acts, praying for the sick, or pondering the mystery of the life to come, Scripture provides abundant teaching that corrects wrongful attitudes toward the body and underscores the wonderful reality of human embodiment.

Editor’s Note: This article is revised and adapted from Gregg R. Allison’s 2009 paper Toward a Theology of Human Embodiment, published in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Used with permission.

The post The Body: Why your soul is not enough appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

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