I recently received a book in the mail called Everyone Loves Sex: So Why Wait? by Bryan Sands. Given that my father launched the “Why Wait” sexual purity movement in the 1980s, when I was in my early teen years, I was curious to see what approach Sands would take. And I was pleasantly surprised! His book is balanced, biblical, hopeful, and grace-filled. In fact, when young people ask me for a book on sexual purity, this is going to be one of the first books I will recommend.
After thirteen years as a local pastor, Bryan has served as the Director of Campus Ministries at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA since 2011. He is also a public speaker who encourages students across the country. You can find out about his book at www.EveryoneLovesSex.org.
I recently caught up with Bryan and asked him a few questions. Enjoy! ...
This week, Southwestern Seminary begins its 110th fall semester. More than 45,000 graduates have matriculated through Southwestern’s hallowed halls. These students have either traversed their educational journey well or they have struggled. In my 27 years employed in higher education, with the past 9.5 years at Southwestern Seminary, I have witnessed students who needlessly struggled. The following 10 tips are offered to students who desire to have a successful semester and educational experience.
1. Worship God personally. This may seem like a strange statement to make to seminary students. However, it is all too easy to begin to substitute class assignments for your personal devotion time with God. Every class at Southwestern uses God’s infallible, inerrant Word as a textbook (this is a good thing!). Yet, translating Greek and Hebrew, reading the Old and New Testament, writing a systematic theology paper, or preparing for a sermon or Sunday School class cannot, and must not, substitute for your devotional time. You need to have a time where you let God speak to you and you respond in worship, through prayer, singing and meditation. Jesus modeled it (Matthew 26:36, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16) and James 4:8 exhorts us to do it. You must always put God first—this is discipleship 101.
2. Don’t let family become collateral damage. You have been called to become equipped to do ministry. However, pursuit of the calling never should come at the expense of one’s family. I instruct my Christian Home class, “If you lose your family, you lose your ministry.” I can give countless evidence for this in Scripture and in life. There will naturally be periods of study that will consume large portions of your time; agree about those times with your spouse. To make time to study may mean that you must sacrifice something personal to ensure your family remains your primary ministry (after all, husbands, aren’t we called to sacrifice in Ephesians 5:25ff?).
Here’s an example rubric I generally followed during my M.Div. studies that may be helpful to you. This rubric gave me 17.5 hours of study time each week while working full-time, taking a full-time course load, and teaching Sunday School.
- When I got home, I spent time with family until our four kids were placed in bed by 8 p.m.
- The time between 8-9:30 p.m. was dedicated to my wife. We, of course, ensured we had periodic dates, as well.
- I studied from 10 p.m. – midnight each weeknight and during the day when I ate my lunch (30 minutes). Occasionally, during exams or research paper editing, the night study period would extend to 2 a.m.
- On Saturdays, I got up early and studied 6-11 a.m. The remainder of the day was for family and house tasks.
3. Practice time management. Time management is a life skill that means more than just showing up to class on time. It also means more than just avoiding procrastination. Time management is a spiritual discipline. Brian Edgar states, “We tend to take space and time for granted, as basic categories of human existence.” Yet, we know that God created time. Wenthe reminds us, “Time is the context in which God reveals [H]imself … Although God is beyond time, yet Christ entered time. He came in the fullness of time (Gal 4:2) and promises to be with us till the end of time (Matt 28:20) … We live in a short stretch of time that moves from Christ to Christ (Col 1:15-20).” God commands us to steward our time properly for three reasons:
- The days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).
- Time is short (Proverbs 27:1, Mark 13:33-37, James 4:13-15, 1 John 2:17).
- We are held accountable (Matthew 6:19, Romans 14:12, Galatians 6:7-8).
Time management requires that you prioritize and plan your tasks, without sacrificing time with God (see tip 1) or your family (see tip 2), so that you can do all things well (see tip 5). So, after the first week, take all your syllabi, schedules for work and church, and a calendar and place them on a table. On the calendar, map out all your assignment due dates, assigning them to have an earlier due date if they conflict with an already scheduled family, church or work commitment. For writing assignments, make sure you have them due one week ahead of time to permit time for your papers to “marinate”—you can’t find holes in your arguments, missing support for your thesis, and grammar mistakes at the last minute. If you are going to use the Writing Center, schedule additional time to complete your writing assignments.
4. Use social media appropriately. Social media is not evil; technology is inherently neutral. However, how one uses technology can be morally good or evil. There are three inappropriate uses of social media:
- Don’t let social media become an idol. How much time do you spend on social media? Is it the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing you look at before you go to sleep? Do you incessantly check all your social media channels? Is your restroom time extended because you spend it looking at social media?
- Don’t use social media to disagree with another person or an organization. When did we, as Christians, decide it was fine to complain about someone on public social media? This is not biblical. Scripture is quite clear on how to handle a disagreement with someone. Matthew 18:15ff stipulates that we are to handle disagreements one-on-one, not in the public space. I find that the majority of people who complain about someone or an organization are trying to motivate a self-serving action or are promoting an agenda.
- Don’t let social media replace human interaction. God made us for face-to-face human relationships, and He chose humans as the vehicle to proclaim the Gospel through the organ of the church. Only 7 percent of human communication is verbal; the remainder is visual. If all your interaction is on social media via “verbal texting,” you cannot form a relationship with the person.
5. Have integrity. You are to pursue classes with excellence. I hear hallway conversations all the time where students state, “I only need to get a C on the paper,” or, “I can skip that assignment.” These statements grieve me, as they speak to a tremendous heart issue and lack of integrity.
- We are called to do all things with excellence to glorify God and as a testimony to the world (1 Corinthians 15:58, Colossians 3:23-24, 2 Timothy 2:15). You are being equipped for the Divine, not a degree. Will you be able to stand before God and declare you did your best? Does He deserve any less?
- We are to properly steward what has been given to us. Your tuition is paid in part by the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program. Moreover, the buildings in which you live and study were paid for by faithful men and women who supported Southwestern so that the Gospel could be declared to the ends of the earth. You have a responsibility to people in the pews and ministry partners who sacrificially gave to do the best that you can in class.
6. Serve at church. Attending seminary does not excuse you from doing life through church. Find a local church home and be an active member. There was a period when I recommended the expulsion of 13 students from Southwestern over a year’s time. The expelled students all had one thing in common (besides sin): none of them were actively involved in church or part of a small group at church. Serving at church brings accountability, provides discipleship, and allows you to turn the orthodoxy learned in class to orthopraxy. It doesn’t matter if you will only be at a local church home three to six years while you are at seminary—flourish where you are planted.
7. Attend chapel. This is where the esprit de corps of the campus is set. Will you like every speaker or song? No; I don’t either. Just as you do not at church. There are three critical reasons to attend chapel:
- Where else will you have an opportunity to meet pastors from around the world, meet our SBC leaders, and interact with trustees, guest music artists, missionaries, and a black dog named Chayil?
- Chapel is referred to as the president’s classroom. Attend and decipher what Dr. Patterson is trying to teach us.
- Worship together. It is true that Southwestern is not a church, but that does not mean we cannot come together to practice unity of the body and worship God. Don’t do what our people do at church—don’t come together to gripe. Glorify, don’t gripe.
8. Find time to fellowship. Equipping for ministry is not merely about deeply footnoted books and language paradigms. Ministry is ultimately about people. If you allow it, you will make lifelong friends while here. Take time to make cross-cultural friends and learn about doing ministry in a different context. Take advantage of Student Life events and on-campus conferences. Remember the church rule “people not programs” and apply it to seminary.
9. Take care of yourself. Studying is part of your educational journey and it will require countless hours of reading, reflecting, memorizing, writing and praying. However, you will not be optimally effective for ministry if you are stressed out or develop health issues related to not taking care of yourself. You are a clay vessel being shaped by God. Sometimes a vessel on the pottery wheel needs time to set (sleep), to be worked (exercise), or time to add more clay and water (eat well). A misshaped or cracked vessel is useless for its task. Don’t become ineffective or limited in ministry because of your health.
10. Find balance. Your educational journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Theological education is different than other academic degrees because theological training deals with God’s Word. Your education here is about more than increasing in knowledge and skills. Professor Holy Spirit is here helping form you. Your educational journey is a crucible whereby the Holy Spirit will refine you. This takes time, so don’t treat your educational journey as a sprint to graduation day. Jesus spent three years equipping His disciples, and Paul spent three years studying the Scriptures after his encounter with Jesus. Spiritual formation takes time (hopefully none of you will be on the 40-year Moses plan).
Brian Edgar, “Time for God: Christian stewardship and the gift of time,” Evangelical Review of Theology 27(2), 2003, p. 128.
Dean Wenthe, “Redeeming time: Deuteronomy 8:11-18,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 65(2), 2001, pp. 131, 142.
Greetings Dr Craig,
I am a Muslim, from the westernmost parts of Africa. I have been following your work for years, watching practically all your debates, reading some of your articles and much of the weekly Q&A section.
Even though I am not a Christian, you have helped me greatly in my own pursuit of truth, to identify much more with the issues that Christians face today, and in learning to appreciate the Christian tradition in philosophical and theological thought ...
What should church elders/leaders do if a congregation member asks for their child to be identified as the opposite gender (or neither gender)?
Each situation is unique because each child is unique. Pastors and/or elders will want to meet with the parent(s) and listen well and humbly to them, as well as discussing with them the Bible’s view on sex and gender.Different attitudes, different responses
It’s important to remember that the same request could be made with very different motivations. For example, a parent may hold to the Bible’s teaching but be trying to shepherd wisely a teenager who is feeling suicidal, so their request is based on a desire to enable their child to feel able to keep coming to church without it increasing their temptation to self-harm, while the parent seeks to model and teach loving biblical standards in the home.
That parent requires very different help than one who is wanting to ignore and deny God’s Word because they think that is in their child’s best interest. But whatever the situation in the home may be, pastors and elders should say they’ll be unable to comply with this parent’s request, or to ask anyone else in the church to do this, because it goes against what the Bible teaches about who this child is.
But if the situation were the first one above, this non-compliance needs to be accompanied by empathy, by prayer, and by putting structures in place to support and counsel the parent(s) and (if he/she is willing) the child. Remember that whatever the motivation of the parent, in such a meeting (or meetings—don’t assume one meeting is sufficient), your tone matters.Stand firm upon Scripture
If the parent is opposed to the Bible’s teaching (rather than in agreement with it, but struggling to know how best to love their suffering child), and refuses to change their mind, I’d see this as an issue of church discipline, because the parent is publicly living in rejection of God’s Word. Of course, the manner and means of church discipline will vary between churches.
The post Transgender and children: Responding in the local church appeared first on Southern Equip.
The following is an overview of one of the Bible studies from The Forgiveness of Jesus DVD Bible study in the Deeper Connections series:
Do you ever feel like you are too far gone for God to forgive you? Or, maybe you feel like he might forgive you, but he does it grudgingly? This fear is the main reason that I published The Forgiveness of Jesus because nothing could be further from the truth.
When Jesus calls Matthew the tax collector (Matthew 9:9-13), it shows us that God seeks out the lowest of the low in order to show that he loves to forgive. But in order to fully understand the meaning of this text, we must understand the first century context. When we take the time to learn this historical context, the passage comes to life!
Book Giveaway this week: Giveaway entries
Three syllables is all you have to remember, read, pray, sing. Read the Bible, pray together and sing together. Now, I think I can substantiate these from Scripture. We should do in worship what the Bible says to do in worship but there are three things the Bible says to do in worship you can do, whether it is congregational worship, whether it is private worship, or family worship. Some things in the Bible about worship are clearly for congregational worship only. Preaching, for example, requires a preacher, and hearers, a God called man. The Lord’s supper, we’re told, do this in remembrance of Me, by Jesus, that’s given to the church. We’re not to serve the Lord’s supper to ourselves in our private devotional life, we’re not to give that to the family. So, there are three things, though, the Bible says to do in worship we can do, whether it’s with the church, all alone or with the family, and that is read the Bible, to pray together, and to sing together. So, read the Bible. Just read through the Bible, book by book. The younger the children you have, the more you’re going to want to use narrative passages, and short sections, because young children can’t think conceptually like adults can. For that reason, a lot of Christians choose to use some sort of children’s Bible that focuses on the narratives. Then, as they get older, set a goal for a complete reading of the New Testament, then the entire Bible, but read the Bible together, first of all. Second, pray together, and there are so many ways this can be done. Whether one person prays, a different person each night, whether people take turns, or everyone prays, however you do that. But I would suggest at least one thing, and that is, when you pray, pray about at least one thing you read in the Bible that night. So, for example, if you read through John 3, you might say, who’s someone we know who needs to meet Jesus, like Nicodemus met Jesus in what we read tonight? The next night, John 4, you might say, who’s a woman we know we can pray will meet Jesus, like the woman at the well met Jesus? You know, this takes no preparation. I’ve come across a lot of men who think that somehow they have to gather some sort of devotional together and they think, I don’t have the time to do that, I don’t have the skill to do that. I’ve never prepared. Just pick up your Bible, open to where you left off the previous day, and just read, pray, sing. Ten minutes, maybe, I think is a good workable goal. If you have much younger children, then even a shorter time because their attention span is even smaller. One encouragement I really want to leave families with, and when I say families, by the way, this is not just for couples with young children in the home. That’s often our stereotype of family worship. This is for all couples, whether they are newly married and don’t have children, whether they are empty-nesters, and may be starting family worship for the first time. So, family worship is for couples, whether they have children or not. But, a final encouragement I would give to families with family worship is, don’t get the idea that if you do this rightly, all the family members, including the children, will sit with their hands reverently folded and cherubic looks on their faces. That won’t happen. This is a real family in the real family room, and real families do what real families do in a real family room. The three year olds are rolling on the floor, and the dog maybe is coming in and throwing up on the carpet, and all these kinds of things of real life happen in family worship. In my own experience, one of my favorite memories involves my daughter when she graduated from a Christian high school who’s custom it was for the parents to give the diploma to their graduate, and then say a few words of encouragement, and the graduate would say a few words of thanks to the parents. So, when my daughter received her diploma and then had some words of thanks to my wife and I, when she addressed me specifically, she began talking about how much family worship had meant to her but she didn’t get very far, for she collapsed on my shoulder. She began to sob, and I mean she sobbed harder, literally, than she had since she was a preschooler, and someone took a picture of that and it’s my favorite photograph of us together. But in the thousands of nights that preceded that photograph, not one time would I have walked away from family worship saying, oh, the Spirit of God came powerfully on our family tonight,” you know, the presence of God was atmospheric in our home tonight.” That never happened, not one time in the thousands of nights that led up to that. In fact, most often, I walked away from family worship thinking, I wonder if anything was accomplished tonight. And, in fact, to this day, when my daughter and her husband and our grandchild are in our home, we have family worship. You know what it looks like? It’s more like this, “hey, would you all put your phone down? Hey, I’m trying to read the Bible here, would you all listen? (chuckles) I mean, it’s what real families do in a real family room. But, you know, we’re growing oaks of righteousness, the Bible says, and you don’t grow an oak by an occasional, spectacular exposure to the elements. It’s an unspectacular, ongoing, daily exposure to the elements that produces an oak. So, if you do family worship rightly and consistently, you may not see the fruit of it for many, many years, but you consistently bring the Gospel before your family. How blessed is that family where what God has done through Christ is declared and discussed day after day, and you may discover, at the end of it all, that, indeed, the Word does its work.
My friend and Biola colleague Greg Ganssle has written a fascinating new book called Our Deepest Desires: How the Christian Story Fulfills Human Aspirations. Professor Ganssle takes a unique approach to the apologetic task. Essentially, his goal is not to show that Christianity is true, but to argue that when it is properly understood, people should wish it were true. He talks about how tragedy, beauty, and freedom make the most sense in a Christian worldview and that only Christianity fulfills our deepest desires ...
Did Christians in the first few centuries of the church read Scripture regularly outside the formal worship gathering? While this might seem like a straightforward question, the historical complexities of the ancient literary culture make it notoriously difficult to answer.
There is little doubt that the church read Scripture publically. After all, Paul reminds Timothy not to neglect the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13), and as early as Justin Martyr, we find the church gathering and reading long portions of biblical texts.
The question of private Scripture reading, though, is important. I can recall from my earliest days in the church pastors and church leaders exhorting me to “study the Scriptures!” or “take time to read Scripture every day!” They assured me that regular encounters with the Word of God were essential for healthy spiritual growth. But can it be said that the early church shared this same conviction?
These questions surfaced for me while working on a project on patristic exegesis and re-reading the little treatise Bible Reading in the Early Church, composed by the great champion of Protestant Liberalism, Adolf von Harnack. This book is one of the first complete treatments of the topic and, though it suffers from Harnack’s larger Hellenizing thesis, it’s rather helpful for a general survey of private Scripture reading in the first four centuries of the church.
After navigating his way through many allusions to Scripture reading in the early church, Harnack concludes that laypeople not only read texts outside their worship gatherings, but the church actually encouraged them to do so. In Harnack’s words, laypeople in the early church “actually did read Holy Scripture; the presbyters had not to give any permission; the Holy Scriptures were not in their ‘keeping’ but were accessible to all, and were in the hands of many Christians.”
In one sense, Harnack is correct. The patristic exhortations to read Scripture begin very early. The second century apologist Aristides, for example, describes his own encounter with Scripture, saying:
Take, then, their [Christian’s] writings, and read therein, and lo, you will find that I have not put forth these things on my own authority, nor spoken thus as their advocate; but since I read in their writings I was fully assured of these things as also of things which are to come.
In fact, many of the apologists in the second century, including Justin, Tatian and Theophilus, describe their conversions through personal interactions with Scripture. In another passage, Irenaeus encourages regular contemplation of the Scripture, saying:
A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall plainly under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures.
Other fathers of the church, such as Clement of Alexandria, encourage Christians to read Scripture before meals.
Beginning in the third century, the works of Tertullian, Hippolytus and Origen contain references to private Scripture reading. Hippolytus commends his readers to attend worship frequently, but on days when there is no service, they should read Scripture at home. Origen speaks often of reading Scripture privately, and in one sermon, he even challenges those who are so devoted to eating and drinking or other “secular affairs” that they give God only “one hour or two out of the whole day.”
By the fourth century, Cyril of Jerusalem exhorts his catechumen, “What is not read in church is not to be read privately” in order to encourage new converts to avoid pagan writings and dedicate themselves to reading Scripture.
From these few scattered allusions, it’s evident that, whenever possible, the regular encounter with Scripture was encouraged in the early church, at least for those who could acquire to copies and actually read them.
In another sense, though, Harnack falls short. He never really takes up the larger historical questions, such as the extent of literacy in the ancient world (a point that is still hotly debated), the actual availability of copies of different biblical books, and even the cost of purchasing books for private use. These and related questions have been taken up by others.
But the greater problem with Harnack’s work is that while the early church encouraged reading Scripture privately, they also exhorted the church to read the Scripture rightly. Private Scripture reading did not mean that all private interpretations were equally valid.
When the early church exhorted the faithful to pick up and read, they also reminded them that any reading should be faithful to what Christ taught and apostles proclaimed.
Irenaeus, for example, speaks often of the church’s rule of faith as a helpful guide for reading Scripture. He characterizes the rule of faith as that which the church believes, professes and hands down, saying:
… the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points of doctrine just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth.
The one who rejects the church’s faith but still turns to read Scripture will “always be inquiring but never finding, because he has rejected the very method of discovery.”
Like Irenaeus, Tertullian advocates for reading Scripture with the rule of faith. He describes how some heretics even appeal the Lord’s words from the Sermon on the Mount—“seek and you shall find”—to justify their own private interpretation. Tertullian responds, “Let our ‘seeking,’ therefore be in that which is our own, and from those who are our own: and concerning that which is our own, that, and only that, which can become an object of inquiry without impairing the rule of faith.”
In a similar way, Athanasius also writes about the rule of faith and Scripture, saying, “We may easily see, if we now consider the scope of that faith which we Christians hold, and using it as a rule, apply ourselves, as the Apostle teaches to the reading of inspired Scripture.
This is only a sampling, but in the early church, the urging to read Scripture rightly is just as strong as the encouragement to read Scripture privately. This manner of reading Scripture celebrates, rather than ignores, faith in Christ and the way that Christ has fulfilled what was proclaimed through the prophets and apostles.
So did early Christians read Scripture privately? It seems that many did, and they even saw Scripture reading as a vital part of a healthy spiritual life. At the same time, they also insisted that whenever Scripture is opened, it is read with “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).
Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 67.
Harnack, Bible Reading in the Early Church, 145.
Aristides, Apology, 16.
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 7, Tatian, Address to the Greeks, 29, Theophilus, To Autolycus, 1.14,
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.27.10.
Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus, 2.10, Stromata 7.7.
Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 41.
Origen, Homilies on Numbers, 2
Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical lectures, 4.35.
The best place to start with this topic is Harry Gamble’s work Books and Readers in the Early Church.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.10.2.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.27.2.
Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics, 9-12.
Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics, 12.
Athanasius, Against the Arians, 3.28.35.
I recently had a student tell me that he preached in a church in Tennessee that had him speaking from a platform that turned into the equivalent of an IMAX experience for the congregation. The technology allowed him to “take” his listeners to places like outer space and the holy land of Israel with moving, high-definition digital images, changing weather patterns, and movie-theater quality sound.
As he was selling me on this experience and the value of it for all churches, I kept thinking to myself, “In all this noise, how could they hear a word he said?” But being distracted from my student’s words is not the biggest risk of using technology in preaching. The greater danger is missing God himself.Monologue from heaven
My theology of preaching understands the preaching exercise as nothing less than a monologue from heaven. In other words, the expositor (peaching as monologue from God requires exposition of biblical texts) is a messenger for God as he heralds the truth of any particular biblical passage. This, of course, is how the apostle Paul understands preaching when he describes preachers as “ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). According to this text, God is actually appealing to the world through a human herald. Breathtaking.
What does all of this have to do with technology use in preaching? Everything.
Let me explain this with the help of Jean Twenge from an article she wrote for The Atlantic posted recently. In “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” Twenge chronicles the thinking of a 13-year-old girl regarding her smartphone use and that of her peers. At one point the girl (under the pseudonym “Athena”) admits her frustration over friends who do not listen to her when she’s trying to talk with them about something important to her:
In my conversations with teens, I saw hopeful signs that kids themselves are beginning to link some of their troubles to their ever-present phone. Athena told me that when she does spend time with her friends in person, they are often looking at their device instead of at her. “I’m trying to talk to them about something, and they don’t actually look at my face,” she said. “They’re looking at their phone, or they’re looking at their Apple Watch.” “What does that feel like, when you’re trying to talk to somebody face-to-face and they’re not looking at you?,” I asked. “It kind of hurts,” she said. “It hurts. I know my parents’ generation didn’t do that. I could be talking about something super important to me, and they wouldn’t even be listening.”
Once, she told me, she was hanging out with a friend who was texting her boyfriend. “I was trying to talk to her about my family, and what was going on, and she was like, ‘Uh-huh, yeah, whatever.’ So I took her phone out of her hands and I threw it at my wall.”
Most everyone today, I imagine, can relate to Athena’s experience. Many of us have felt the urge to grab someone’s phone and move it aside in an effort to make way for real, uninterrupted conversation.Message from a King
Now, here’s the simple (and profound) point I want to make from this regarding preaching: if it really is God speaking through the preacher (which it is) then God forbid we miss one word he’s saying. And technology use (whether screens up on the stage or in a listener’s hand via smartphone or tablet) dramatically increases the risk of this happening.
As an expositor I am delivering a message from the King. Therefore, when I’m preaching I want all eyes on me, not wandering into some starry abyss of high-def images born along by a Hans Zimmer-like score. (Can you imagine coming into the presence of the King of glory and while he’s talking you look down at your smartphone to read a text? Do not expect him to take it lightly when you look up and say, “Wait, what was that? I missed what you said because I had to reply to a text real quick.” This would not end well for you.)
O preacher! Preach as if God really has spoken in the inspired Scriptures (all 66 books of the Bible), and with the conviction that he still speaks through what he has spoken! And as you listen to sermons by faithful expositors, do everything in your power to give the preacher your undivided attention. For in his words you’ll hear something infinitely greater than any text or tweet or chat — you’ll hear God himself.
Along with asking good questions, cultivating the art of listening well is one of the most important skills for Christians to develop today. And it is especially important for those who want to be effective apologists in our “argumentative” culture ... So, how does one develop the art of listening well? Here are four tips I have learned from personal experience as well as through my undergrad Communication Studies program at Biola University ...
... Before I address your question, David, let’s make sure that we state accurately the view I have defended. God’s freedom to issue commands to do certain things that would be immoral in the absence of a divine command is not rooted in God’s having morally sufficient reasons for so commanding. Rather it is rooted in the idea that the source of moral obligation is divine commands, and since God doesn’t issue commands to himself, he therefore has no moral obligations ...
As you grow in your skills and leadership, be careful to not find your identity in what you’re particularly good at doing. If you begin to lead, and if you show a type of grit that is befitting of a person of God, and you’re making those decisions, and if you begin to be recognized for being gifted in that arena, you are in the dangerous spot of easily letting that gift define who you are as a man or woman. It’s where your confidence comes from. It’s where you’re most comfortable with who you are. It’s where you know what to do. It’s where you have direction. Perhaps this reveals itself most on your days off of work. You know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s when you wake up on your day off and you feel kind of lost and you don’t know precisely what to do and you kind of look forward to getting back to work or back to the role where you know you are gifted. Be careful! This might be a sign of finding your identity in the wrong place. How do you guard against finding identity in your leadership and work? Contemplate your true identity!
You are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
You are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
You are the recipient of the free gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus
You are the ones that now know no condemnation for you are in Christ Jesus.
You are the ones that the Spirit of life has set free from the law of sin and death in Christ Jesus
You are the ones that neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Your identity is to be found in Christ Jesus alone. Do you want to lead well? Then you must not be tempted by what worldly leadership has to offer in this life.The benefit of identity in Christ
Guarding yourself against improper identity in those leadership roles allows you to transition out of roles when the time comes. There will come a point in certain leadership roles where the most God glorifying thing and the thing that best serves those around you is for you to transition out of that role. If your identity is wrapped up in Christ, this will come much easier. If your identity is wrapped up in what you’ve become good at doing, this will be a painful process for you and those around you.Do stuff with your hands
As you grow in leadership, much of your work becomes knowledge work. In our western civilization, much of our work is research, or computer work, or teaching, or things that are not done with the hands. Make sure that you encourage yourself with occasional concrete and definitive work. This is more than completing a checklist. This is starting a physical task and completing it.
Maybe it’s building a tree house for your kids. Maybe it’s running or gardening. Think here of Ronald Reagan at his ranch taking care of the land. It’s something concrete that can be measured. You can physically see improvement. You can work on specific aspects to affect improvement. Encourage yourself. Take a break from the knowledge work that is before us. These physical tasks have a way of simultaneously humbling you and encouraging you all at once.Ask the Lord for wisdom
Remember to ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance. When I was young, a mentor and I were speaking and parted ways on a Sunday morning. And I was talking with my friends in youth group, he ran up to me and said, “Jeremiah, I forgot to tell you, every time you sit down to read the Word, or even when you’re reading something like theology, ask for the Spirit to guide your heart and mind and illuminate God’s truths to you.” That has always stuck with me.
And I pray every time I sit down to read the word that the Lord would send His spirit to guide my heart and mind. The same goes for tasks that you set out to do. Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance in your leadership every day. Everyday at work, I ask for the Lord’s wisdom in guiding our company. Remember, these do not have to be complex and amazing prayers with wonderful insights. You’re just a person.
And you’re talking to the almighty creator of the universe. It’s a simple request. Ask for wisdom. He knows your needs. Go about your day. But be consistent about praying for wisdom. (James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.)First, work hard, then smart
You’ve heard it said, work smart, not hard. I would say, work smart, yes. But first, work hard. In our rush to become leaders, we’re often prone to skipping the step of working hard. There is no better way to understand how to work smarter until you have done the very hard work of what it takes to get the job done. There is no better way to learn how to lead those under your leadership until you know precisely what it takes to get the job done. This will increase your understanding of what it means to be efficient in that particular role. So, if you’re a dad, help your kids clean their room from time to time. If you’re a manager, help unload the truck from time to time. Also, engaging in this hard work leads to the grit and perseverance that is needed later on in successful leadership.Other people are great leaders too. Get used to it. Enjoy it.
Guard yourself from secretly delighting in the demise of your co-leaders or being jealous of their victory. When you decide to lead, you will find yourself in the company of talented individuals. Get used to it and enjoy their success. Do not be jealous and insecure because of this. If you’re following your biblical decision filtration system, that we spoke of earlier, you’ll be able to weed this out through careful meditation on God’s word.
Are you glorifying God by comparing yourself in this way? Are you serving them by thinking this way? A helpful note here is to meditate on Moses and Joshua’s relationship in Numbers chapter 11 where Joshua is jealous for Moses to be the only one who prophesies and Moses says, “are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.” There is no room for jealousy in godly leadership!Guard your friendships
As you progress in leadership, you are also progressing in age. As you age and become better at what you do, this creates a recipe for loneliness. You find yourself in a spot where because of your giftings or because of your busyness, or whatever it might be, you wake up one day to realize that you don’t have a friend that you can confide in. You can find yourself in a lonely spot quickly. Be careful to identify your role as a friend to those around you and work on being a good friend. Seeking out close friendships is part of healthy leadership.Have a short memory
Finally, as a leader, you need to be quick to accept the blame for what has gone wrong. However, do not dwell on failures in an unhealthy way. Learn from them and wipe the slate clean. There is no better example of this than king David. Read and re-read the books of Samuel. Learn from, but do not be distracted by your failures. More importantly than that, do not be distracted by your victories and successes. Nothing detracts from progress in leadership more than reveling over one’s own brief success. A good leader has a short memory when it comes to failures but he has an even shorter memory when it comes to his victories. Properly focusing on Christ and God’s glory have the humbling effect of shaking failures and victories away so that we don’t depend on them in improper ways.
Let me leave you with a couple of questions to ponder:
What role do you play where you feel like you need the most improvement as a leader?
What is a way that you can take action as a leader today?
Dr. Matt Williams (Professor of Biblical & Theological Studies) recently released a new DVD Bible study series titled The Forgiveness of Jesus (a DVD Bible study, in the Deeper Connections series). We were able to catch up with Dr. Williams to learn more about this exciting series ...
Hundreds gathered in the Alumni Memorial Chapel on Wednesday, June 28, to remember and honor Charles W. Draper, a professor of Boyce College and chair of the school’s department of biblical studies, who died from a heart attack during the early hours of Sunday, June 25. He was 70.
Draper was a highly accomplished scholar and teacher, particularly in the realm of biblical studies and textual criticism. But those who knew him best say he was in his element in private conversations with students, encouraging and challenging them to grow both inside and outside the classroom.
“Professor Charlie Draper was a cherished member of the Boyce College and Southern Seminary faculty, and he will be greatly missed,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College. “He has taught an entire generation of students, and he was known in the classroom for his passion for the Bible and his love for students. Time after time, I would hear from Boyce students about the influence of Dr. Draper on their lives. His personal investment in them and in their ministries is a timeless gift.
“Charlie Draper was always an encourager to me, to students, and to all his colleagues on the faculty. To know him was to know his joy in Christ.”
For more than 50 years, Draper taught the Bible in numerous contexts — pastoring churches from Florida to Hawaii for more than 20 years, speaking in five different countries, and teaching at the college level. He was also the general editor of the bestselling Bible reference book, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
Draper was a founding professor of Boyce College in 1998, when the school relaunched as the fully accredited James P. Boyce College of the Bible, replacing the non degree-granting Boyce Bible School. From that time, Draper served as associate professor of biblical studies before becoming chair of the department of biblical studies in 2013.
“Only those who knew Dr. Draper as a professor or colleague can fully grasp the magnitude of his nearly two decades of service at Boyce College,” said Matthew Hall, the current dean of Boyce College. “His teaching ministry shaped an entire generation of alumni who are now spread out across the globe. And he was a kind and generous friend and mentor to virtually every member of our faculty, shaping so much of what makes Boyce College exceptional. We grieve the loss of a teacher, a colleague, and a friend.”
Before joining the faculty at Boyce College, Draper was assistant professor of religion at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina, and adjunct professor at several institutions, including New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Mohler also emphasized the personal influence and friendship of Draper and his family.
“Charlie and [his wife] Retta Draper have been such an example of devoted marriage,” Mohler said. “We will be praying especially for Retta and the Draper family. Our hearts are grieving with them, even as we share their confidence in Christ.
“Mary and I have treasured Charlie and Retta as dear friends. Given Charlie’s background and family in SBC leadership, they understood some of the challenges we faced. I am so deeply thankful for Charlie’s devotion to Christ, his love for the church, and his commitment to our work together.”
Draper was born in Jacksonville, Texas, on May 25, 1947. His older brother, Jimmy, was a major figure in the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980’s and 1990’s, serving as SBC president from 1982 to 1983 and then as president of LifeWay Christian Resources from 1991 to 2006. Charles Draper was ordained as a minister in Warren, Arkansas, in 1964, and took his first pastorate at age 17.
He completed a bachelor’s degree at Baylor University in 1968. Draper then went on to earn a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1971), a doctor of ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia (1981), and a doctor of philosophy from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (2000). For his Ph.D. dissertation, Draper collected and organized manuscripts of the Gospel of John in order to build a critical apparatus of the original text of John’s Gospel.
Draper leaves behind his wife of 48 years, Retta, who is also a long-time employee of Southern Seminary; his children, Shelly Hardin and David Draper; and his six grandchildren. He was a member of the East campus of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
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‘Blessed are the flourishing’: how the wise teachings of Jesus in the sermon on the mount lead to true happiness
EDITOR’S NOTE: Below, Jonathan T. Pennington, assistant professor of New Testament interpretation, talks with Towers editor Andrew J.W. Smith about his new book, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing.
AJWS: This book is part commentary, part instructional for reading the Sermon on the Mount. How does that affect the structure?
JP: The first half of the book is how to read the Sermon. The second half, 150 pages, looks at distinct sections of the Sermon. At the end of each section, I have a short explanation of how the section talks about human flourishing. The final chapter is where I try to pull together the ideas and form six theses on the Sermon, including showing from the whole Bible how human flourishing is a theological category. There were moments during the writing process — more than one — where I panicked, like the book can’t decide what it is. Is it a monograph about the historical and literary background of the Sermon or is it a commentary? At the end of the day, we pressed forward, and I talked to my editors over the years and they said, “Let’s just go for it.” I’m really happy with how it came out — that it is a combination and mixing of genres.
AJWS: In the book, you talk about how the Beatitudes are often misunderstood. How does that affect your reading of the Beatitudes as a whole?
JP: Protestants reject the view that sees the Beatitudes as entrance requirements, but end up doing the same exegetical gymnastics in Matthew 5 that they do in Psalm 1. We don’t want to say so baldly — “If you do this God will bless you,” because we recognize that this can confuse the notion of grace. So according to the common interpretation, there’s grace first, then you obey Jesus’ command, then God blesses you — but he actually started the whole thing so it’s okay! I think that misses the point. Macarisms, or statements of blessing like Jesus’ in Matthew 5, are very common in the ancient world and they are ways of describing what true flourishing and true happiness looks like. That’s why some translations even render the Beatitudes as “happy,” which is good. I think that communicates more clearly than “blessed” because blessed sounds like divine stamp of approval. But “happiness” is too weak in English today, probably, as well.
AJWS: What is involved in translating makarios, the Greek word for “blessed,” into English?
JP: Interestingly, when I’ve asked international students to look at their own translations of Matthew 5, every language I’ve found so far — Persian, Chinese, Spanish, French, German — every one has a clear distinction between “divine favor” and a description of “happiness,” except English. We use “blessed” for both of them, and it has perpetrated this huge confusion where in other languages it’s very clear: divine favor is one word, and someone describing a state of happiness is a totally different word. The word in the Beatitudes describes a state of happiness. Latin’s an example: beatus, where we get the word for “Beatitudes,” means happy or flourishing. It’s not benedictus. Greek is the same way — it has makarios, which means happy or flourishing, while eulogeomai is blessed in Greek. It’s the same thing in Hebrew: baruch versus ashre.
This distinction is absolutely essential to read the Beatitudes well. It frees us from reading them as either blessings, curses, or entrance requirements. Instead, we recognize they’re pointing to Jesus the sage, the philosopher showing what true happiness is. That’s where it gets interesting, because what he defines true happiness as is shocking. It’s totally unexpected. He doesn’t say, “Flourishing is when you have lots of kids,” “Flourishing are those who have tons of money,” “Flourishing are the prestigious ones in society,” “Flourishing are the virtuous ones in society.” Instead, it’s flourishing when you have a poverty of spirit, a hungering or thirsting — not positive things. When you are humble, that means not getting your rights. When you’re merciful, you are giving up your rights and forgiving someone who has wronged you. All these things he describes as flourishing are totally unexpected.
That’s why the second part of each macarism is essential. Why in the world is that craziness true? Why is it flourishing to have poverty of spirit? Because you’ll be comforted. Yours is the kingdom of heaven. You are actually the sons of the kingdom.
For me, that was one of the many crucial parts in my study of the Sermon — recognizing that we have completely misunderstood the Beatitudes, right out of the chute. Then one of the bigger implications of that is that it’s one of the smoking guns that this is wisdom literature. This is what sages do — they offer macarisms or explanations of what true human flourishing looks like. And then, at the end, how does Jesus describe this whole Sermon on the Mount? Are you going to be wise or are you going to be a fool? The wise one builds their life on these words, the foolish one doesn’t and the result is either flourishing or destruction. It’s all throughout the Sermon, and studying the Beatitudes was one of the real turning points when I came to understand that.
AJWS: How do you connect your reading of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount to the passion in Matthew’s narrative — the climax of his plot?
JP: I would not say that Matthew’s whole point is the passion of Jesus. I’d say that Matthew wants to communicate a lot of key information about how to be a disciple and that the people of God are defined differently now. That includes and is inaugurated by Jesus’ death and resurrection, but those events are part of something bigger.
One crucial thing to recognize is that the message of the Gospels isn’t just that Jesus died for your sins. It’s that Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice and rose from the dead to inaugurate a new covenant, which is the means by which the reign of God is to be restored from heaven to earth. Once you define the gospel that way (which is a more biblical way of defining it), then things like the Sermon on the Mount and the other four discourses in Matthew that present Jesus as the sage-king, the philosopher-king, make sense. What a king means in the ancient world is the one who rules wisely, the one who takes care and shepherds his people with wisdom.
Once you see that and connect it with the bigger message of what the gospel is in the Gospels, we recognize this is not in conflict at all: Jesus is being presented as the king, the one who is inaugurating the reign of God on earth, so of course he is going to be giving teachings of wisdom for what it means to be a citizen of his kingdom.
AJWS: How did you get so interested in the Sermon on the Mount in the first place?
JP: It’s hard to remember exactly. Honestly, it was probably just from teaching Matthew, and then one year I decided to offer a course just on the Sermon. I saw it in the course catalogue, no one had taught it forever, and I thought, “I can probably say something about the Sermon on the Mount.” But when I started teaching I realized, “Holy cow, I have a lot to learn!” As a result, it’s helped me understand Matthew better — even writing this book helped me understand so many things about Matthew I’ve never seen before.
The origins are not very glamorous — in that sense it was just a class to teach. The things that struck me immediately were that I didn’t know anything about ethics and that I generally don’t agree with how most Christians approach them. So I quickly began to educate myself on ethics, and from that, Greek philosophy. The second thing I realized was that the history of the interpretation of the Sermon itself is just a tour de force and a fascinating revealer of all kinds of things — it has a Lutheran reading, a two kingdoms reading, a virtue ethics reading, a monastic reading. It quickly started to consume my thinking, and I’m very glad that it did.
Early in his efforts to reform the worship of the church, he expressed in a letter to his friend Georg Spalatin, “Following this example of the prophets and fathers of the church, I intend to make vernacular psalms for the people, that is, spiritual songs so that the word of God even by means of song may live among the people.” The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is blessed to own reproductions of Luther’s hymns, which are a testament to his commitment to congregational singing. Luther’s first attempts at hymn writing were published in a very small collection called Etlich christlich lider Lobgesang un Psalm (sic, 1523), nicknamed Das Achtliederbuch (‘The Eight-Song-Book’) because it contained only eight hymns, four of which were by Luther, the others by Paul Speratus. Speratus worked alongside Luther in 1523 but was later sent to Prussia to be a vital reformer there. Probably the most well known of these initial hymns by Luther is his paraphrase of Psalm 130, “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir,” known to many English worshipers as “Out of the depths I cry to Thee,” translated by Catherine Winkworth.
The following year, Luther published a more expansive collection, Geystliche gesangk Buchlein (sic, 1524, or Geystliches Gsangbüchlin), including 24 hymns by Luther, in cooperation with his friend and composer Johann Walter. This collection was unique in that Walter composed five-part harmonies to be sung by a choir. Luther was an advocate for congregational singing, with most of his collections containing unison melodies, but the choir arrangements were intended to help introduce the congregation to the new hymns. Additionally, Luther felt the part-singing would be attractive to the younger generation, “to wean them from love ballads and carnal songs and to teach them something of value in their place.” Each voice part was published separately in small booklets. Luther, a skilled singer in his own right, preferred to sing from the alto partbook. Among the hymns in this edition were Luther’s renditions of the Ten Commandments, Simeon’s song (Luke 2:29-32), the Nicene Creed, and some adaptations of venerable Latin chants.
Luther’s most famed hymn, “Ein feste burg ist unser Gott,” known to English worshipers via Frederick Hedge’s translation, “A mighty fortress is our God,” was first published in a 1529 collection, Geistliche Lieder auffs new gebessert. Unfortunately, no copies survive, but the contents were repeated in a 1533 edition by Wittenberg publisher Joseph Klug. Modern Protestants might be surprised to hear the vibrant rhythms of Luther’s classic Reformation hymn as it was first published, versus the stately march it had become by the time of J.S. Bach. This collection contained 29 hymns by Luther, including an alternative version of the Latin Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy,” from Isaiah 6:3), “Jesaia dem Propheten das geschach,” which was later translated by Richard Massie as “These things the seer Isaiah did befall.”
Luther’s final collection was published in 1545, the year before his death. Geystliche Lieder Mit einer newen vorrhede, printed by Valentin Babst, contained 120 German hymns, 35 of which were by Luther, with his final revisions. Among the newer pieces were Luther’s two Christmas hymns, the longer “Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her,” known in English as “From heaven above to earth I come” by Catherine Winkworth, and the shorter hymn, “Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schaar,” translated as “To shepherds as they watched by night” by Richard Massie.
Luther made good on his intentions to craft congregational songs in the German language, and this legacy is preserved in these facsimile editions, but moreso it is preserved in Lutheran churches and hymnals, where Luther’s corpus of hymns is still performed via carefully curated translations. Baptist hymnal compilers and worship leaders have generally limited themselves to “The battle hymn of the Reformation,” but this year’s grand anniversary is an opportunity to explore the greater breadth of Luther’s hymn writing.
To learn more, visit the Archives and Special Collections in the James P. Boyce Centennial Library.
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Turn on your TV. Find your favorite channel. Wait a moment, and you will be confronted with an ad that offers an immediate miracle solution to a nagging problem. Whether you need a perfect pan for your cooking woes, an unkinkable hose for your garden gloom, or a miracle medicine for your many maladies, modern media is loaded with ads and gimmicks promising to heal anything that ails you in just a moment. As a society, we have been conditioned to expect quick fixes and instant successes. We long for solutions simple enough “for dummies.”
When it comes to marriage and family, we are prone to seek out the same solutions: miracle cures and momentary fixes. Book after book, blog after blog, and page after page has been written to instruct us on how to have a better marriage. Certainly, many of these books offer wisdom on how to live with and love your spouse better, but they are short on a practical path for making lasting changes in your marriage. Where these books often fail us, Scripture rewards us.
Micah 6:8 reads, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
These words from the Lord provide for Israel and for us a summary of God’s expectation for the life of His children. J.M.P Smith describes this verse as “the finest summary of the content of practical religion to be found in the OT.”
Each of these principles will serve to better not only the lives of God’s children but also the marriages of God’s children. Consider each of these principles individually.
In Micah 6, the Lord requires his children to do justice. This means simply doing what is “right, that which is just, lawful, according to law.” In all times, in all places, and with all people, those who do justice seek to do the right thing. To apply this in the marriage context, the spouse who seeks to do the right thing in every situation will be a spouse who limits the areas of potential conflict in his or her marriage.
The most common martial stressors and causes of divorce are infidelity and financial issues. If, as a spouse, you are always seeking to do right, you would never commit infidelity, as that would be doing wrong by your spouse. The one seeking to do right would also always handle his finances in a way that is right and correct by his family and by those with whom he interacts in financial dealings.
Doing what is right may not be easy, but if this is the desire of both spouses, the points of contention in the marriage will be severely limited. Even when areas of dispute arise, if you can trust that your spouse was ultimately seeking to do right in a situation, you will be much more prone to forgive and forget any wrong that was done.
The second principle required by the Lord is to love kindness. God’s reminder in this passage is centered on Israel loving the kindness, or mercy, that God has shown them as His chosen people.
Just as the people of Israel were to love and cherish the mercy that God had shown, so should modern believers. Consider the words of Paul in Ephesians 1:7-8a: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” The mercy of God given to us in Christ Jesus is a mercy that not only covers over our sin; it also abounds in its graciousness and goodness toward us.
Loving the mercy of God will help us love showing mercy to others, especially our spouses. When one considers the depth of his own sin and the abundant mercy of God to forgive his sin, he becomes much more prone to show mercy to his spouse, no matter how heinous the offense.
Dave Harvey, in his work When Sinners Say I Do, writes, “And when I find myself walking in the shoes of the worst of sinners, I will make every effort to grant my spouse the same lavish grace that God has granted me.” A spouse who is committed to loving mercy will extend mercy to his spouse every time his spouse fails. Cherishing each day the mercy of God makes giving mercy in return much easier.
The third principle required by the Lord is to walk humbly. The figurative use of “walk” here is a reminder of the daily commitment required to walk in humility. The challenge for the Israelites—and for us—is that our natural inclination is to daily walk in our own pride instead of in humility.
Just as gasoline is a poison and an ignition hazard to a field, so pride is to a relationship with God and a relationship with a spouse. Pride seeks to sabotage and sink both of these relationships by telling us that our desires are the best desires and our plans are the best plans with no consideration of God’s will or, in the case of marriage, any concern for the needs of our spouse.
Pride is always a liar. Pride tells us we are in control when the reality is that God Himself is in control. If we want to walk humbly with God, we must eradicate the sin of pride from our lives. Philippians 2:3 states simply, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Humility before God is regarding God’s will above our own. Humility before our spouses is regarding their needs and desires above our own.
This is why Paul, in Ephesians 5, reminds husbands to give themselves up for their wives, and for wives to submit to their husbands. Paul understood that humility is the primary key to the prosperous marriage. Just as pride is like gasoline, humility is like water to a field. Whereas gasoline brings the threat of death and flames, water brings life and refreshment. Humility is life-giving and growth-inducing to a marriage and to a spouse. When you choose to sacrifice your own pride for the needs and desires of your spouse, you will deepen your relationship and commitment to them.
A marriage built on pride is destined to fall. A marriage built daily with humility will be impossible to sink.
Ultimately, the point of Micah 6 is not marriage; its primary concern is how all people should walk rightly with God. All of these principles are life-giving to everyone’s spiritual health, not just those who are married. Anyone who has trusted in Christ as Savior and daily commits to these principles will see growth in his relationship with God and his relationships with others.
That is not to say this will come easy; this is no quick-fix miracle cure. But certainly Psalm 19:8 is true when it says, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” The one who follows the Lord in this way will receive joy from the Lord.
Thus, the key to navigating marital strife is spiritual growth. The more we follow the commands and expectations of the Lord, the better our marriages will be. The more we commit to do rightly, the less we will wrong our spouses. The more we commit to love mercy, the more we will forgive our spouses. The more we walk humbly with God, the more we will serve our spouses. Ultimately, the more we follow God’s will and walk in His ways, the better and stronger our marriages will be.
Kenneth L. Barker, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, vol. 20, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 113.
Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 520.
Harvey, Dave (2010-12-01). When Sinners Say “I Do” (Kindle Locations 503-504). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.
My goal for in this article is to give you ten or so practical ideas that you can use to cultivate the discipline of leadership in your life. Let me say briefly, this is not a biblical theology of leadership. For instance, much more could be said about the role of prayer in leadership. And the ten points that I give you are not necessarily linear…we’re going to kind of jump around a little bit. But at the end, we’ll have a small package of instruction that comes together nicely.
Also, you won’t find inspirational stories or quotes that pluck at the “leadership” strings that are in all of us. That’s what fantastic biographies are for and that’s what movies like Braveheart and Last of the Mohicans are for. They strike at something in us in such a unique way, that it stirs us to new heights of thinking and dreaming. We identify personally with those glorious leaders.
No! My aim is much more humble! I want to do something more like opening a Lego instruction booklet and look at it together. It’s practical. There are concrete steps that you can take. And at the end of it, you have a clear result. To put it another way, if what we talk about today doesn’t change the way we act today or tomorrow or Monday, then we’ve missed our objective.Grit and Resolve
You’ll hardly hear someone talk about the discipline of leadership who doesn’t at some point talk about grit or determination or perseverance. It is no doubt the key active ingredient for any recipe to leadership success. Calvin Coolidge said:
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination alone are omnipotent.
(I know, I said I wouldn’t use quotes.) But how do you cultivate resolve?
In my thinking, resolution or resolve can be boiled down to this. To be resolved, is to be a decision maker . . . again and again. To be resolute is to be a decision maker. You are making a decision over and over to achieve your objective. And as Christians, we should have the greatest resolve in anything that we do because we have the greatest objectives. Objectives like this: What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever? And how will people know that we are his disciples? If we have love for one another. (John 13:35). Having those core objectives should give us a great advantage in developing grit and determination. Huge ideas are at stake!
So, using biblical principles, you’ll need to make a decision filtration system. You’re going to have a lot of stuff come at you in your different roles. And if you’re going to lead well, you’ll need to be able to handle those decisions with consistency. You’ll need to be guided by informative objectives that you’ve already determined. Your decision filtration system needs to be able to filter visionary-level concepts, mission-level concepts and ground-level tasks. This is how you increase your grit and resolve. To decide over and over that you’re going to accomplish what you set out to do according to your decision filter. This is your compass when you’re lost. And it gives you direction when you need it, whether the task is large or small; visionary or ground level. It’s not a lofty concept. In fact, it’s very practical!
Let me give you an example of how I filter decisions at work:
When a quandary or a dilemma comes to me at work, or when we need to make a policy, I filter the decision in this way.
My first filter is that all things must be done for the glory of God.
My second filter is that all things must serve my co-workers.
My third filter is that all things must benefit and serve my customers.
And in that order. (Yes, we look to serve our co-workers even before our customers. In the end, that’s what serves our customers best.)
These shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. In other words, if something is permissible and potentially God-glorifying and it potentially serves my customers well, but to do it that way routinely does not serve my co-workers well, then my decision filter is indicating to me that I’m not leading well because I am failing at one of my objectives.
If I work at Trader Joe’s, this might look like talking and interacting too long with customers when I should be stocking shelves. It’s potentially God-glorifying to talk with customers. The customers like it when I talk with them. But I’m taking so long that I’m not completing my tasks and therefore I’m not serving my co-workers well. I’m losing sight of what it means to lead.
Remember, we’re a third party looking in on this situation, so it’s easy to see immediately what the error is here. However, when you are the individual who’s been stocking shelves for six hours, it’s easy to lose resolve and kickback to talk to some customers instead of doing the task at hand. A leader is guided and balanced based on good objectives that steer him in the right direction. Also, notice that the decision filtration system prevents someone from being too focused on their work so that they’re not short with customers–because that violates one of the filters of serving the customer well. To be short with a customer is no longer serving them well and therefore not meeting the requirements of a leader who should succeed at his position.
This is how we develop grit and perseverance. Have a decision construct for how you approach life’s decisions and stick to it. The Scriptures are pretty clear about what your over-arching objectives are as a believer. Believe in Christ. Trust in Him for your salvation. Repent of your sins. Do all things for the glory of God. Love one another. And go make disciples. So apply what you know about those objectives to your situations and roles and persevere in that decision making process. That’s how you develop that grit…that stick with-it-ness that sees a task through to the end. That’s how you properly set your visionary goals.
To clarify, that is a decision construct for that particular role in my life. When I go home, I’m not asking what is the best thing for my customers? In fact, to be thinking too much about work does not serve my customers in the end! And it clearly does not serve my family! So, for my role as a husband and father, I would tweak that a bit…it might sound something more like:
All things for the glory of God
All things for the love and service of my wife
All things for the love and service of my kids
So, understand your roles, create a decision filtration system, stick to it and develop that grit that is needed to lead…that resolve to decide over and over to stick to your guiding objectives.
The opportunity to lead is constantly before us.
This leads to the next point, leadership is an ambition that ought to be strived for in whatever you do. Are you a father? Are you an employee? Are you a garbage man? Are you a plumber? Are you a city worker or in government? Are you a manager? Then strive to lead! The opportunity to lead is all around us. We do not have to be William Wallace to lead. We do not have to be the president of an institution or the lead pastor at a church in order to lead. You have several roles that you play in your life. Identify those roles. And identify ways that you can lead in those roles. It is helpful to identify the roles that you need to fulfill and spell out your objectives for those roles. Literally, write them down. E.g., husband, church member, deacon, business owner, etc.Leadership looks a lot like curiosity and problem solving
Leading in those roles does not always look like a promotion or a raise or the opportunity to preach from the pulpit more often. Catch the importance of that sentence. Leading does not always look like a promotion, or a raise or the opportunity to more often take the public spotlight. Often times, leadership looks like being curious about the world around you and the roles available to you. Problem solve what is before you. Being curious and excited and enthusiastic about what is around you. When I’m recruiting, I’m looking for curious problem solvers. Because those are the folks that will most likely develop into natural leaders. Are there some closet shelves that your wife wants you to build? Then do it well, to the glory of God and to the service of your wife. Learn more about carpentry. You might not be a professional at it. But under your watch, as a leader, it will be done well! Be relevant and on point, but be curious and problem solve. Look for ways to improve life around you. This is part of having dominion over creation in your God-given work.
Jeremy Rhoden (BS, Boyce College) is the co-owner of Louisville Overstock Warehouse and serves as a trustee at SBTS. Jeremy lives with his wife, Catherine, in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is an elder at Clifton Baptist Church.
With the release of his 2000 book Icons of Evolution, Jonathan Wells became one of the leading evolution critics of today. Unlike some detractors, Dr. Wells has impeccable credentials—with Ph.Ds. in molecular and cell biology from U.C. Berkeley and religious studies from Yale.
Last week he released a new book that is just as controversial (and frankly, just as fun) called, Zombie Science: More Icons of Evolution ...