Thursday, March 31, 2011
Join us for this special weekend with Dr. Wittmer on April 16-17, 2011. Here's the low-down:
Saturday, April 16
Mike will present a seminar on Christian Worldview entitled "The Meaning of Life: It's Less and More Than You Think" followed by a time of Q & A. This seminar is free and open to everyone. A continental breakfast will be available at 8:45AM followed by the seminar at 9:00. The seminar concludes at 11:00AM. Students are especially encouraged to participate in this event, hosted at Oxford Bible Fellowship.
Sunday, April 17
Mike will be speaking on "The Gospel & Social Justice" during our services at 9:00, 10:30, and 12:00.
About Dr. Wittmer
Mike is Professor of Systematic Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of Heaven is a Place on Earth, Don't Stop Believing, and the soon to be released, Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell's Love Wins. Mike lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and three children. You can find Mike's blog at mikewittmer.wordpress.com.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Preserving the Gospel
- Fan into flame the gift of the Holy Spirit (1:6-7)
- Maintain a clear grasp of the content of the Gospel (1:5, 9, 10)
- Maintain a willingness to suffer for the Gospel (1:8, 12)
- Guard the Gospel (1:14)
- Distinguish the betrayers and aligners of the Gospel (1:15-18)
- Pass on the Gospel (2:2)
And a pic from the weekend of Dr. Edwin Yamauchi and Dr. Carson:
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Here is a perceptive op-ed in The Wall Street Journal by Jennifer Moses, a Jewish “New Millennium mom,” wrestling with this question: “Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?”
Here’s the heart of her analysis:
We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn’t have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that’s certainly the norm among my peers.
So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn’t), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don’t know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We’re embarrassed, and we don’t want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.
Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don’t know one of them who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I’ve ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she’d “experimented” more.
As for the girls themselves, if you ask them why they dress the way they do, they’ll say (roughly) the same things I said to my mother: “What’s the big deal?” “But it’s the style.” “Could you be any more out of it?” What teenage girl doesn’t want to be attractive, sought-after and popular?
And what mom doesn’t want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.
You can read the whole thing here.
Entirely missing from her article is the same thing missing when it comes to this issue in the first place: dads.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Donald A. Carson, distinguished professor of New Testament will speak on the subject of his recent book, Christ and Culture Revisited (Eerdmans, 2008) at 8 p.m. in the Heritage Room of the Shriver Center on Saturday, March 26.
He will revisit H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic study, Christ and Culture (1951), which listed five positions held by Christians through the centuries: 1) Christ against Culture, 2) Christ of Culture, 3) Christ above Culture, 4) Christ and Culture in Paradox, and 5) Christ Transforming Culture.
Carson received his B.S. from McGill University, his M. Div. from Central Baptist Seminary, and his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He is the author or editor of over 50 books, and is a popular lecturer at conferences and universities.
The lecture, which is funded by the Edwin M. Yamauchi Lectureship and administered by the Oxford Community Foundation, is free and open to the public. Sponsored by the History Department, it is cosponsored by a number of campus organizations including the Oxford Bible Fellowship, the Faculty Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Navigators..
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
One of the first ways you can tell that you are moving beyond temptation into a pattern of sin is if you find yourself in a time of prayerlessness.
That isn’t just a “spiritual maturity issue”—it’s a gospel issue.
You are recreated through the gospel with a nature that longs for communion with God. The Spirit within you cries out, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Prayer is exactly how you experience the sympathy of your high priest who has triumphed over your temptation. After all, you are not the only one praying when you pray. The Spirit himself prays through you, and as he does so, he works to align your will and desires with those of Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:26–27).
If you are reluctant to pray, it just might be that you, like Adam and Israel before you, are hiding in the vegetation, ashamed to hear the rustling of the leaves that signals he is here.
HT: Justin Taylor
Monday, March 14, 2011
+ Tim Challies provides a shorter review
+ Kevin DeYoung provides a comprehensive review:
Love Wins, by megachurch pastor Rob Bell, is, as the subtitle suggests, “a book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived.” Here’s the gist: Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. But hell is not forever. God will have his way. How can his good purposes fail? Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but he does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and he certainly does not punish for eternity. In the end, love wins... Read on.
Tonight (Monday, March 14) at 7:00 PM EDT Rob Bell will host a live on-line event from NYC about the book.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
For some help in this, check out the following article by Mark & Grace Driscoll. While I have a bit of skepticism about some of the stats, the overall advice is excellent. The article begins:
Read the rest here.
A child’s sex education often comes through schools or churches. But a Christian parent should always be the first person to speak with their child about sex related issues. As Ephesians 6:1-4 tells mothers and fathers:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Talk to your kids early
The appropriate age to discuss these matters varies from child to child but if a parent is going to err, it should be sooner than later. Ensuring the lines of communication are open and honest between a parent and child is paramount. For younger children, this includes talking to them about inappropriate viewing and touching as well as keeping them in safe surroundings. Here are some tips for keeping your environment safe for your kids:
- Children are never to be left with people that are not fully trustworthy.
- If your child plays at a neighbor’s home, make sure you know who is there and that a trustworthy adult is in charge.
- Ensure there is not pornography in the home.
- Remember that abuse often comes from other children.
Dialogue about inappropriate touching and viewing should begin when your child is very young to help prevent sexual abuse. Conversations about sexual contact and inappropriate exposure should happen no later than age 10.
Parents are not always well educated about the facts surrounding childhood sexual abuse or wait too long to open lines of communication. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and go with your gut. For more helpful information, visit the Kids Need To Know website.
Talk regularly with your kids
The “sex talk” is not a one-off conversation. Regular dialog about sexuality should begin when children are young and last until they’re married for the sake of loving, biblical guidance. The fact is parents are not always able to shelter their kids from every single outside influence. Whether information is coming from neighborhood kids or through inappropriate media content (even when its viewed accidentally), healthy, regular rhythms of communication is vital.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
- Tim Chester & Steve Timmis on the church: "We need to be communities of love. And we need to be seen to be communities of love. People need to encounter the church as a network of relationships rather than a meeting you attend or a place you enter...In our experience people are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message." (Total Church, p. 59)
- More from Chester & Timmis on spirituality in community: "A personal relationship with God has all too often become an individual relationship with God." (Total Church, p. 148)
- Stetzer on the need for small groups/small community: "People are more likely to get on mission with God in a squad than in an army."
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
- This morning's focus was primarily on the issue of the Gospel and social justice. Is the church simply called to proclaim the Gospel message, or should the church be a part of societal transformation?
- The church's call is to make disciples of all nations with societal transformation (social justice, caring for the poor) as a necessary corollary. Social justice is not the Gospel, but it naturally flows from and with the Gospel. We must be careful not to abandon or diminish the Gospel, but we also must recognize the call to love our neighbor and model the heart of God for the poor.
- In many countries outside the U.S. and many places within the U.S., sharing the Gospel without caring for the poor would make no sense to people.
- John Piper: "We care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering."
- Stetzer: "Gospel transformation without Gospel proclamation is not Gospel transformation."
- We must keep the main thing the main thing, but we must make sure the main thing doesn't become the only thing.
- Some helpful books on this issue: Generous Justice by Tim Keller | To Transform a City Eric Swanson & Sam Williams
- To become missional we must love the lost more than we love the way we do church.
- Jeff Foxworthy once commented that everyone chooses to get off the fashion train at some point, choosing to just live in a bygone era. Has our church chosen to get off the relevance train? Are we still ministering like a church in the 50's, 80's, 90's? Or are we seeking to remain relevant to the current time and context?
- You need to understand the way people think if you're going to lead them, just like you need to understand the way your spouse receives love if you are going to effectively love her/him.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
March 8 Morning Sessions
- As God sent Jesus to the world, and Jesus sent the Spirit, we have likewise been sent. God is a missionary (sending) God, and he calls us to be on mission with him. We are all missionaries, called to join Jesus on his mission of saving the world.
- How do the concepts of kingdom and church interact? Jesus came announcing his kingdom and seeking to build his kingdom on earth. The church (God's kingdom people) on mission with God is the means of advancing Jesus' kingdom. So the kingdom is what Jesus is doing through the church. And the Gospel is the message the church uses to bring people into the kingdom.
- Unless the church can see that we are God's means of advancing his kingdom (i.e. that we are all a part of sharing the Gospel so that people can join the kingdom of God), we will tend to be all about ourselves - what serves us, what we like, how much the church meets all my preferences. We will tend to be customers or consumers instead of missionaries.
- We may need to give up what we love (our preferences, forms of church we like, comforts) in order to reach the people God has called us to love.
- The prevailing way people think of their pastor: Superman. The pastor is an expert who teaches, leads, visits, prays, and "does ministry" while everyone else receives the benefit. To become missional the church must change this perception - shifting the culture to embracing everyone as ministers that teach, lead, visit, pray, etc. Pastors must still lead the charge and model missional living, but in order to be most effective they must be free to focus on training other leaders and engaging with the lost while the members of the church minister to each other and to the community.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Our church gives 100% of its budget to missions. That’s because our church is a mission.
Staff salaries are mission. Benevolence (our fund to support those who are in need financially) is about missions. Paying the rent, again, missions.
And why shouldn’t we think of church in America like this? Are we still under the assumption that we are the chaplains to our culture, to use Ed Stetzer’s apt illustration? We are missionaries. We are not at home, even in our home country. We don’t share similar world views with people outside of the body of Christ.
It’s hard to think like missionaries. It is not intuitive to see the world where WE LIVE as missions. After all, it’s home. We speak the same language, we wear similar clothes, listen to similar music. But we have forgotten, or maybe never learned, that we are really different. This culture doesn’t share similar assumptions about God, man, justice, love, righteousness, etc. We don’t have a common language anymore for these concepts.
So we must adapt, just like a missionary would. No missionary would think that the culture where they are sent has to adapt to the missionary’s cultural norms. The missionary, if they are worth anything, seeks to understand the culture and then find creative ways to communicate the gospel in a way that the people will understand.
All of this is rooted in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If we are to walk as He walked, then we need to be a missionary like He was; a missionary that did not look to his own interests, but the interests of others. The Son of God came in a way we could understand. He laid aside His rights as God to reach us — why should we not do the same?
Thursday, March 3, 2011
We also tend to either completely shelter ourselves from our culture or completely embrace our culture without discernment. But to be missional, we must take a middle approach demonstrated to us by Paul in Acts 17.
Paul's Approach in Athens (Acts 17)
- Observe the culture (v. 16)
- Spend time in the marketplace (v. 17-21)
- Connect and confront (v. 22-29)
- Point to Jesus (v. 30-31)
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
While the Scripture's teaching on hell is not an easy doctrine, it is not something we can reinterpret and redefine without serious consequences. We must hold to what the Scriptures teach with humility and grace. And we must communicate with great love. The doctrine of hell must be partnered with equal teaching that God loves all people and desires to rescue them. But if indeed hell is real, it would be the most unloving thing to lead people to believe it is not.
So what does the Scripture say about hell? Check out this message I did a while back on Jesus's teaching on heaven and hell. Then check out the links and info below for more. One note on the promotional video: read Matthew 7:13-14 before you watch the video and see if Jesus' words square with Bell's thinking. It's amazing to me how Bell seems to contradict the very words of Jesus.
Publisher's Description of Love Wins
Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.
Rob Bell's Promo Video for Love Wins
Justin Taylor on "Rob Bell: A Universalist?"
Kevin DeYoung on "To Hell with Hell"
Kevin DeYoung on "Two Thoughts on the Rob Bell Brouhaha"