Friday, March 6, 2015
John the Baptist is an example of a leader who knows his position. The fact is that being in a leadership position is easy for us to take control and to forget that we are only servants. In John 3, we see that John the Baptist could have easily taken a position it did not belong to him, and lie to his followers and the rest of the people. Nevertheless, he did not fall into this temptation.
As leaders, we are always exposed to different temptations, being one of them, the pride of leadership. It is important, therefore, to understand our position in leadership. In order to do this, we should take into consideration the following guidelines from John 3:27-30.
Understand that what you have has been given to you by God.
In 3:27 John is referring to Jesus, saying that Jesus could not claim anything unless God had anointed him. In other words, Jesus could not claim to be the Christ, the anointed one, unless this was true. In the case of a leader, it is important for him or her to understand that his/her abilities are God given. To recognize this fact serves as a continual reminder that we are who we are because of the Lord our God.
Have a clear understanding of your calling.
John clearly understood his calling, to go ahead of Jesus (Jn. 3:28-29). This did not mean to be above, but only to prepare the way of the Lord (Mt. 3:2). In similar way, a leader must always remember that his/her calling is to serve and prepare the way to lead people to the Lord. It does not matter the level of influence a leader has, it might be a large circle of influence or a small one, the fact is that a leader must never forget that he or she has been called by the Lord God.
Seek to be continually transformed in your character.
John understood that Jesus would gain more and more popularity with the people, and that he needed to diminish (Jn. 3:30). This required a test of his character. A leader must understand that with time and personal achievements, his/her fame will increment, but he/she must transform his/her character in order not to confuse himself/herself and forget who called him/her. This requires a change; a transformation of oneself until Christ be formed in us and we reach his full stature (Eph. 4:13). Let us remember that Paul admonishes us to transform our minds (Rom. 12:2), which is something we do by letting the right thoughts into our minds, and rejecting those which my lead us astray from glorifying the Lord.
The irony of the Kingdom is clearly demonstrated by John the Baptists which is that if we want to be great leaders, we must be servants of all.
Augusto Rodríguez, PhD
Adjunct Instructor of Global StudiesPostedby Tiago Souza at 12:34 PM | Permalink
Friday, February 27, 2015
The task of systematic theology is, in part, to contemporize the Christian message. The truths of God's word are never out of date, but as the societies in which Christians live change, they raise new issues which must be addressed by believers. In recent days, more Christians have seen the need to address environmental concerns. While this is an appropriate move, it should be grounded in a biblical understanding of God's standard and purpose in creation.
The detailed account of the seven days in which God made heaven and earth begins with land that is t?hû w?b?hû, "uninhabitable wilderness," (Gen 1:2) and ends with creation that is "very good" (Gen 1:31). God's work over these six days is devoted to the task of bringing about this transformation. God's standard for a good creation should guide the Christian's environmental concern.
The goodness which God sees in his creation is often understood to be generic or moral. However, the details of the creation account point to a rather specific standard which God has for his creation. On day one, the light specifically is deemed good, but not the darkness. On day two, in which sky and sea are divided, God deems nothing good. On day three, the appearance of dry land when the seas are gathered is deemed good. Other specific elements which God dubs good are vegetation; the sun, moon, and stars in the sky for "signs, seasons, days, and years" (1:14); birds, sea creatures, and land animals; and gold. Most notably absent from the list of "good" things in creation is mankind, even Adam in his condition before the fall.
What criteria runs through God's judgment of his creation? The answer is something like, "That which is hospitable to human habitation." Neither the sky nor sea are home to humans, so nothing on day two is good. While I am something of a "night owl," I must admit that the darkness of night is truly home to beasts, not mankind. Thus God dubs light, not darkness, "good." Man himself, as the standard to which creation is held, cannot be deemed good. And who does Moses believe, as he writes, will use the sun, moon, and stars for signs, seasons, day, and years? For whom is the gold of Havilah good? It is humans who will make use of these elements of creation, by God's intent and design, and it is their fitness for this use which makes them good. God's final appraisal of his creation is that he has made it "very good," very fit as a whole for the humans he has made and no longer a wasteland of water and darkness.
This corresponds with God's later appraisal of land. When he brings forth the children of Israel from Egypt, he does so to bring them into a good land, good in that it flows with milk and honey, that is, good in that it offers bountiful provision for the Israelites (Exod 3:8). Likewise, the spies who search the land to see if it is good see its goodness in the same feature (Num 14:7-8). Time and again, it is dubbed a "good land" throughout Deuteronomy, and is described as "a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of oil olive, and honey, a land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness. You shall not lack any thing in it, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig brass" (Deut 8:7-9). Note that God's vision of their prosperity is not primitive. He conceives of the Israelites farming, mining, and working metal. God's measure of a good land, in creation, exodus, and conquest, is one in which humans have what they need to prosper and thrive in civilization.
Some may question this understanding of the goodness of creation, for it is decidedly anthropocentric. One can see a parallel to it, however, in Paul's reading of the Pentateuch. In 1 Corinthians 9, he is discussing the propriety of ministers earning a living through the gospel ministry. To support his point, he quotes Deut 25:4, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn," and continues, "Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written." Note that this goes beyond what is necessary to apply the text to ministers of the gospel. He could easily argue from lesser to greater, that if oxen should eat from their labors so should men. But he does not read the text this way. He understands his first question to have an absolute "No" as answer. God has written this "wholly" for humanity. This is a bold assertion; a command to treat animals well presumably has their well-being at least somewhat in mind. Yet Paul rejects any such reading. The only proper way to read the commands of the Pentateuch is anthropocentrically. Both God's speech in creation and his words in the account thereof should be read likewise. All that is spoken by God is spoken for the good of humanity.
The Christian should always seek to give voice to God's view of things. And in His view, the goodness of his creation is its fitness for use by and prosperity of humanity. None of this is to suggest that evangelicals should not have a voice in environmental matters. Much of what is done to the earth, including some of what is done in the name of the environment, is not conducive to human wellbeing. But the evangelical voice should be clear that this goal is above all others in God's eye, and thus in theirs.
Michael Chiavone, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
I wonder what Apostle Paul would think of the modern Christian world. In 1 Corinthians 9, the great evangelical innovator states, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” For Paul, nothing mattered more than reaching people for Christ, and he did not let social conventions get in the way.
Still, the advancements of the past decade have brought technological innovations never before dreamt of by the ancient Christian saints. What used to take months to share across the globe now can be transmitted in milliseconds. The limitation of paper and pen has been swept away with the availability of electronic media in all its amazing, creative formats. More and more, the “People of the Book” have become the people of the E-book and the Internet.
Blogging, which was once the solitary voice of youthful hipster dudes and dudettes, is now accepted by most pastors and Christian laypeople as a viable and effective way to discuss religious thought. In fact, blogging is a hallmark of Pacific Northwest culture, and these online authors embrace the medium with enthusiasm and purpose that in many ways echoes the sociological voice of modernity.
In my PhD study of religiosity in the West (U. of Birmingham, 2009), I discovered that most believers in Oregon (at least) approach faith and religion as radical individualists—what I termed, “Sacro-Egoism” (Implicit Religion, 2008). There definitely are other methods to religion countering this extreme individualism--Institutional (Sacro-Clericalism), Communal (Sacro-Communalism), and Mystical (Sacro-Theism)—but the Sacro-Egoistical voice is evidentially the most prevalent in blogs from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia. Reading through many blogs from the Pacific Northwest reveals not only an enhanced religious authority of the individual, but also a personal embrace of spirituality and mystery, a negative approach to the institution of church, and a radical look at communal structure of religion.
Regarding other blogging types, a Sacro-Clerical blog would take a traditional approach to religion and give the ultimate authority to the church institution, a Sacro-Communal blog would suggest that ultimate authority of thought and interpretation rests within the local group of believers, and a Sacro-Theistic blog would focus on mystical encounters and direct divine communication in religious matters. For sure, blogs of these types exist, but they are more the exception than the norm, currently.
Perusing through popular blogging sites such as christandcascadia.com, patheos.com, and relevantmagazine.com, one can easily and repeatedly find examples of Sacro-Egoism within the various blogs. In these online communities, both language and topics demonstrate a radical, personalized approach to faith and interpretation. Bloggers consistently utilize words such as “I,” me,” etc. to present their own authoritative take on matters of doctrine, scripture, and praxis. Moreover, the authors are unabashedly willing to share their unique voices and understandings on religiosity, and they invite discussion on such matters, creating a milieu of accessibility and theological conversation.
For example, one blogger from relevantmagazine.com writes, “If God gave you a dream, you should pursue it. You should fight for it. Don’t ignore a dream God has given you. Your dream matters.” Another states, “I want to be a part of finding a way to live together with deep differences in a pluralistic society. And I want to do it in ways that allow me to reflect into the world the deep sense of divine love and grace I’ve experienced and on which I am entirely dependent.”
Still, the blogs can be edgy and provocative, and easily demonstrate the key characteristics of Sacro-Egoism: “Believers” pick and choose their avenues of faith rationally in line with their personal vision for an inclusive society; they are more open to religious options, but more closed to religious institutionalism; and they uphold their personal authority and rights of religious expression and belief above all else.
From patheos.com, one blogger writes, “Every time I see some smiley TV preacher talk about God’s plan for me or hear Sara Palin say something irretrievably mean and stupid about poor people, every time I pass an embarrassing billboard featuring Jesus and a fetus, I totally get why reasonable people steer clear.” Still another proclaims, “But the church is changing. Because I AM the church. And I know many, many, many parents just like me. The church is shifting. I’m beyond grateful that God is ushering in a new day and age. Legalism, fundamentalism, literalism – all of it – is on its way out. The next generation will not tolerate it. God is refreshing the truth of unconditional love to all people.”
Regarding the future, Anastasia Karaflogka’s essay, “Religion on – Religion in Cyberspace” (Predicting Religion, 2003), suggests that the evolution and nature of spiritual quests and religious knowledge will only increase in this technological age, and that it could have both a corrosive and a creative effect on society. She states that religion on the Internet will continue to cultivate arenas “. . . where people can ‘meet’ to interact; to exchange ideas, knowledge, information and experience; to give substance to creative, imaginative and innovative new concepts and ideas; and to relocate, re-evaluate and deconstruct old concepts and ideas in a new setting.” Blogs are an effective medium to accomplish this notion.
Still, there are some dangers to blogging. In 1 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul spoke of the freedoms and rights of the Christian; however, he also spoke of the dangers of self-reliance and self-delusion. As he explained, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. . . but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
As technology continues to provide a worldwide platform for all people of faith to voice their personal opinions, the power of cyberspace and blogging will continue to grow and influence religious thought, church philosophy, and accepted doctrine. Blogs can be a wonderfully innovative way to open up discussions of God, but they can also be vain and vacuous soapboxes of empty value without proper humility and purposefulness.
The Apostle Paul admonished readers to “run in such a way, as not without aim;” blog authors and readers alike should heed his advice regarding this powerful and personal avenue of evangelism in the twenty-first century.
John S. Knox, PhD
Adjunct Professor of Apologetics
and Heather Harney (Student, GFU)Postedby Tiago Souza at 9:45 AM | Permalink
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Let’s consider here for a moment a proposal that, at first looks very attractive: to turn the training of ministers over to the churches rather than to the seminaries (John Frame proposed something very much like this in 1972, though he admits some seminaries are doing a much better job than his analysis at the time indicated. See http://www.frame-poythress.org/proposal-for-a-new-seminary/ accessed 1/25/2014.). After all, we are training ministers, not academic theologians. The traditional seminary setting is too bound up with concerns about grades, attendance reports, accreditation, and academic parity to focus on the really important matters that a minister needs, especially in a rapidly changing world. Let pastors mentor young ministerial candidates and give them “on the job training.” The result will be better prepared ministers, who are more aware of the real challenges of church life, something you can never get in the classroom.
That sounds very good, but the reasoning is flawed on several points. For one thing, many seminaries now include some kind of field education requirement. Seminary professors these days are often involved in church ministries and are acutely aware of the need to encourage students to gain hands-on experience while in seminary. In addition, there are essential aspects of ministry training that can best be gained in an academic, seminary type setting. Without these, the minister who has had on the job training only will be ill prepared for many of the challenges offered in today’s secular and pluralistic world. Seminaries offer a place where the ministerial candidate can be well prepared to meet those challenges. Here is why:
Seminaries offer a “safe place” where important biblical truths can be discussed, where ideas can be considered, adopted, and abandoned, and where (in general) no one’s spiritual life is in danger. Consider, for example, the question of the existence of evil. This “philosophical” and doctrinal problem becomes a very real question in our churches when a young couple loses their baby; when someone in the church dies in an accident, when the church bus crashes, or when a beloved church member is a victim of murder. Every pastor will face one or more of these circumstances in his lifetime. How much better, if he has worked through, in his own mind, a deep and settled conviction of the goodness of God, even in the face of tragedy. His tone of voice and demeanor will communicate that reality to those who are grieving. The minister who is faced with working out his beliefs on this matter at the time that a grieving young couple is sitting before him is in trouble, but so is the couple. If he can say nothing that comforts, and in fact is clearly floundering, he may damage the spiritual life of a young family for decades to come. It is well then that young ministers in training should “hack out” this issue in systematic theology, and apologetic classes, and even in the student lounge. These are places where all kinds of ideas can be tried out, rejected, refined, and replaced—and nobody is going to walk away from God because of it.
A second reason for Seminaries as a place for preparing ministers is that they offer a diversity of mentors, in the persons of the faculty. The Seminary at Liberty University, for example, has graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Baylor University, Wayne State University, Denver Seminary, University of Virginia, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Michigan State University among its faculty including those with degrees from Liberty University itself. These men come from a variety of pastoral and ministry experiences in large churches and small ones, and from various states across the US. The ministry candidate whose training consists of mentoring by one older pastor draws from a narrower vein of experience, and from the ministry of only one church. Seminaries bring together a community of people who have helped plant churches, revive churches, build youth groups, and who have served overseas short and long term in a variety of mission settings. Rather than being mentored by a single pastor (who may have a passion for theology, but little else, or a passion for evangelism but little interest in discipleship) the student is exposed to a broad variety of passions, emphases, philosophies of ministry, and interests. The experience gained from such a cloud of mentors cannot be replaced in any single local church setting.
The third reason has to do with the library resources available to students. In the course of a Seminary master’s degree, students will use a variety of Bible commentaries, as well as resources related to youth ministry, pastoral ministries, missions, and issues in church life. By the time the student graduates, there is a deeper awareness of what kinds of resources are most helpful for the student’s specific calling and gifts in ministry. Commentaries and other resources are expensive. By the time the student graduates, he has a mental list of favorite writers, and publishers and styles that will prevent much waste of money in the decades ahead.
And so, while it sounds attractive to train ministers “on the front lines” the fact is, Seminaries offer the best opportunity for upcoming candidates to try their gifts, develop their understanding of the things of God, and to gain knowledge and tools that will go with them through a lifetime of effective ministry. Pastors and churches should encourage young people called to ministry to attend seminary, and should educate themselves as to what seminaries such as Liberty University’s have to offer in terms of degree programs and opportunities. Churches should forge an alliance with seminaries in expectation of sending young people there, and should invite the Seminary to supply them with part time ministers, volunteer help and pulpit supply in an intentional effort to come to know the Seminary better. The Seminary will benefit, as will the churches, and especially those churches that receive well trained and ready leadership, able to maintain a steady hand while guiding the spiritual growth of the congregation.
- C. Fred Smith, PhD
Associate Professor of Theology and Biblical StudiesPostedby Tiago Souza at 11:09 AM | Permalink
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The Christian Church is a miracle.
Not many people in the world fully grasp the dark, toxic environment in which the first believers stepped into to share the light of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
Not many people today understand just how many people died for the faith in the first three centuries of the faith, so that we can worship the one who died and rose again to set us free.
But the historical truth is that the first followers of Jesus shocked the Mediterranean world with their crazy notions of kindness, and purity, and truth, and sacrifice.
Acts 2 tells us that “All the believers were together and had everything in common…Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Many embraced these new loving ideas, and pockets of Christianity began to pop up first near Jerusalem, then into Galatia and Antioch, Thessaly, Greece, and into Rome herself. But others found the new followers’ views troubling, vexing, and made it their life’s purpose to exterminate this new Christian sect.
The leaders were the first to be attacked—Stephen, James, Paul, Peter, Luke--and these Disciples and Apostles suffered too often from religious leaders threatened by the challenge of Christianity, and political leaders irritated by any social disorder that might interfere with the Pax Romana—the Roman Peace that brought so much wealth and power to the Empire.
Sadly, the Christians had little friends in political circles, and whatever money that they had was frequently distributed to the poor—“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” Thus, while others could buy or bribe their way out of trouble, the first followers could only suffer for their faith, just like Jesus.
In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul states, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Remarkably, the Jesus movement grew despite this intense hostility and persecution. The first Christians’ message of love and hope echoed in the hearts of needy men, women, and children oppressed by the greediness and violence of Roman tyranny. And they saw in Jesus Christ a leader with whom they admired and respected—unlike the Emperors who operated mainly on terror, vanity, and too often insanity.
The entire New Testament was composed and recorded during this fiery, bloody era of martyrdom and executions of the faithful. Reading through the epistles, it is easy to hear about standing strong despite turmoil, holding fast to the faith, remembering the reward in store for those who hunger after righteousness, and courageously refuse to abandon Him who saved them from the “rewards” of the World--neglect, immorality, paganism, and even death.
The author of Jude writes,
“But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’ These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”
The message rings strong throughout the New Testament—God sees you. God wants to call you friend. God has made a way just for you. He doesn’t care about your social status. He doesn’t care about your gender. He opens His arms of forgiveness to you, no matter what their transgressions or sins. He wants to walk with you once again. Because you matter to God. He loves you, ultimately and unconditionally.
Affirming this, Galatians 3 states, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The Mediterranean was a dry desert--religiously and morally—and the people had been dying of thirst for so long, so very long. The first group of Christians should have been too small to change the world, logically. But these believers opened the floodgates of living water to all they encountered, and the people drank deep the loving waters of redemption and renewal, and they felt the fullness of Christ fill their hearts and souls, which had been so empty before.
The Prophet Zephaniah spoke of this human need centuries earlier:
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.?He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honor?in every land where they have suffered shame.
At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth?when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes, says the Lord.”
That promise, that miracle is still available today for all who are thirsty and hungry for healing and wholeness, for those craving an eternal relationship that they can count on despite the turmoil in their lives.
Wonderfully, 2,000 years later, God still reaches out His holy hands and says, “Come and drink the living water, my friends.
I have poured out a cup just for you.”
-John S. Knox, PhD
Adjunct Professor of ApologeticsPostedby Tiago Souza at 9:36 AM | Permalink
Monday, March 24, 2014
In the post-modern world, societal mores are changing in all aspects of life —not least of which is that of marriage, perhaps the oldest social institution of them all. Some sources (www.prb.org) suggest that close to 108 billion people have lived on the earth since life began, and no one would doubt that marriage was an important event for the majority of those people, regardless of their cultures.
Unfortunately, historians and sociologists do not have an exhaustive reservoir of cultural data to examine regarding marriage throughout history. We know about the lives of the rich and the famous, but scant about the commoners in their society. Yet, often without any evidence to back it up, one can read in the media assertions like, “For most of human history, marriage wasn’t a very romantic institution. It was more akin to a business deal between men, the bride in question had very few rights or other options” (people.howstuffworks.com), and “When love entered the picture as the reason to marry, dissolutions became more commonplace” (www.psychologytoday.com). Proclamations like these only add darkness to the matter and provide an ulterior, but not necessarily helpful explanation for the presence of divorce and annulment.
Reading the article in Psychology Today entitled, “Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Marry for Love” (Gadoua 2013), it is evident that modern thinking discards traditional understanding and incentives for marriage, opting for a more self-serving agenda. Considering the individualistic spirit of the age, it is not surprising; however, shallow argumentation is evident, especially concerning marriage in the context of Christianity.
The article begins with the (incorrect) axiom of “But if you really think about it, love is a luxury.” The dictionary defines a luxury as “an inessential, desirable item that is expensive or difficult to obtain,” but if love comes from within a person’s heart and mind, then its expression and application costs nothing, materially.
The author, Gadoua, continues, “When you marry for love, it generally means you have all—or at least most—of your other needs met (like food, shelter, warmth, etc).” Few young adults have luxurious riches when they decide to wed; typically, it is the opposite—couples with no steady job or abundant income for either, with more bills than money, but still with a long-term expectation of loving and working and struggling to survive.
According to the article, however, “in our attempt to make marriage stronger by raising the bar to meet our higher love and romance needs, we have seriously weakened the institution. These are both highly changeable emotions: When love wanes, the marriage gets shaky; when the romance stops, the nuptials die.” The mistake in this evaluation is the author’s separation of “love” and “romance.”
In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, Lewis presents the basic types of love demonstrated in humanity: Storge or natural affection, Philia or friendship, Eros or romance, and Agape or charity, which is the highest, selfless form of all loves. Each one of these kinds of love has a different goal and implementation, and working together can bring harmony and health to any relationship. The problem is if one embraces or exhibits only one of these in a marriage or intimate relationship; then, the union will be strained, which the article misses in its conclusions on marriage.
Instead, Gadoua offers, “People whose primary reason to marry is other than love — such as to have children with someone they believed would be a good co-parent, to have financial security, or for companionship — generally have longer and perhaps better marriages because their choices are made for a defined purpose.” Of course, the author offers no evidence or statistics to back up this jaw-dropping advice. She concludes, “I’m not saying love shouldn’t be on the list of things that need to be in your relationship, but it doesn’t need to be number one (and perhaps shouldn’t be).”
For the Christian, though, love must begin all life choices. In Matthew 22 (ESV), Jesus commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Such advice negates the self-focused, problematic guidance in Gadous’ article.
Wisdom and love comes from someone outside of us—God, whose amazing love for us, once embraced, covers and flows through us to everyone else, spouses included. This good counsel is seen in other Biblical passages. 1 John 4 (ESV) states,
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
In simplifying marriage to a mere social contract present to provide mental peace and physical comfort alone, Gadoua has missed the holistic nature and divine origins of love, which begins in and is sustained through productive, charitable actions without absolute certainty of reaping benefits for oneself. It is hard to see the big picture when you only stare into a mirror.
Marriages don’t fold because spouses are kind, affectionate, self-sacrificing, and understanding. Unions end because of self-absorption and hatred, because of an unwillingness to submit to God’s ethical design for relationships. Gadoua places the focus on what one can get from the marriage; God places the focus on what one can give to the marriage. It is doubtful that any marriage would end if spouses simply and devotedly followed Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 13 (ESV):
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
In contrast, Gadoua’s article reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes, with its emphasis on human pursuits without God (and His love) in the center—vanity, vanity--a chasing after the wind. Instead, let us follow God’s lead in our relationships and in marriage, which, after all, is just a glimpse of the joy to be had for eternity in Heaven.
Thus, I end with my own three reasons why you must marry for love.
- John S. Knox, PhD
Adjunct Professor of ApologeticsPostedby Tiago Souza at 9:49 AM | Permalink
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
I have often heard what churches need from their pastor. Usually the expectations are set extremely high. Today, I would like to reverse the equation and provide a glimpse of what a pastor needs from his flock. Here are my thoughts.
He needs for you to embrace a biblical understanding of his role and responsibility. God has called him to shepherd the flock of which you are a part. God holds him accountable to lead, feed, and intercede. That comes from Acts 6 where Deacons are appointed to assist the pastors with the work of the ministry. You must understand that for your pastor, it is not just a job. It is a calling from God.
He needs your prayers. In Ephesians, Paul asked the congregation to pray for him. During the crisis time leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus told Peter that Satan had requested to "sift you like wheat." Then Jesus states, "but I have prayed for you." If Paul and Peter needed prayer on their behalf, certainly your pastor does as well. Every pastor trying to accomplish God's work faces tremendous opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Please pray for him. You have no idea what he is dealing with on a daily basis and it is difficult to understand the burden he carries as God's shepherd of your flock.
He needs your loyalty. By this, I mean loyalty to the Lord, to him, and to your local church family. When you become a member of a congregation, certain obligations come and one of those is your support. Let me suggest that you talk with your pastor to see if disagreements, disappointments or differences of opinion can be worked out. No doubt, expectations clearly understood and clarifications should be made if possible. If you cannot be supportive of your pastor and you find yourself at an impasse, that may well be an indicator that you need to be in another church.
He needs your commitment to a biblical vision. This means that you embrace the biblical mandates that the church exists to fulfill the Great Commission, to impact your community and the world with the gospel, and to equip believers to accomplish the work of the ministry. Way too many churches seem to have lost that biblical vision of why they exist. Some even go so far as to question whether or not a church which has become completely inward focused instead of outward focused is even a church in the biblical sense. Perhaps that needs to be studied further.
He needs for you to give him the benefit of the doubt. Every pastor is human and makes mistakes. I challenge you to give him the benefit of the doubt that his heart is in the right place. It amazes me how many church members are quick to be critical and quick to speak. Perhaps we need to be reminded of James' words that we are be swift to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Before you make a snap judgment or listen to gossip, it would be wise to exercise caution. Way too many pastors have been hurt by carnal gossip, and unquestioned and distorted perceptions of reality. If there is a problem, talk to him not about him.
He needs for you to be present and participating. No one can be present every time the church doors are open, but every member of a church family should be present on a consistent basis. Does not the Scripture admonish us "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together?"
He needs for you to love him and his family. This includes encouragement, making sure he is provided for, that he has adequate time off, and that he has necessary tools to work with. He needs books, resources, time to learn and appropriate help.
As a member of the flock, you can help your pastor be the man God has called him to be.
-Jerry Sutton, PhD
Adjunct Professor of Practical Studies
Friday, February 21, 2014
In Matthew 9:36 the Bible tells us that Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes. In our busy lives, with our familiar surroundings, it is often hard for us to see the multitudes of lostness around us. There are times, however, when the Lord gives us eyes to see. Such a time happened to me this weekend at an unusual place – a youth wrestling meet.
This was the second year that I accompanied a local youth wrestling team from Las Vegas to the Beehive Brawl in Richfield, Utah. As the second day of wrestling was about to start all of the kids competing gathered into the stadium’s tunnel and grouped together by their home state. As the kids came running out there was great excitement. The house lights were dimmed, rock music was blaring, and spotlights and multicolored lights were flashing as a fog machine rounded out the ensemble of effects to welcome these young athletes. The crowds cheered as the boys came running out as their state was called. Finally, the host state, Utah was announced. Several hundred boys came running into the arena excited to wrestle in such a big tournament as the crowd gave the loudest cheer of the morning.
As I watched these boys run into the arena I was suddenly overwhelmed with the reality that there is a really good possibility that every one of them is lost. They live in one of the most unreached states in the union that is dominated by the Mormon religion. Dr. J.D. Payne posted the least reached metro areas in the United States, and Utah, with a population of only 2.8 million, had two cities that took the first and seventh positions. As I began to process this information, several realities hit me:
So how does this impact you? What can you do to change the situation in Utah?
Let me challenge you to pray for four things:
I thank the Lord for the times that He opens my eyes to see the multitudes the way He does. I pray that you too would see the multitudes afresh and that God will use you in a mighty way to be His witness to the lost. Finally, I pray for those boys and their families – may their eyes be opened to the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done for them!
- Neal H. Creecy, PhD
Instructor of Global StudiesPostedby Tiago Souza at 9:15 AM | Permalink
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
"What you don't know can kill you." This is a common truism which in the case of ministry may be an overstatement. Nonetheless, when it comes to ministry, what you don't know can certainly hurt you. That said, what is it that pastors and ministers need to know? Here are nine knowledge clusters that I believe are critical for ministry success.
1. A successful pastor knows the Scriptures. He knows them intellectually and devotionally. He has worked to understand the structure of the Word, what it says and what it means. More importantly, he has let it shape his own life and ministry, his purposes and priorities. He has a confidence that the Scriptures reveal the mind, heart, ways, and will of God. He is assured that the Scriptures have the spiritual power to transform lives, his own and others. Because of this conviction, he has confidence to stand on God's word as he embraces its promises and obeys its commands. He believes without hesitation that all Scriptures point to Jesus.
2. A successful pastor knows leadership principles. He has worked to understand how to be a leader. He knows how to assess the present condition of his flock and his community. He knows how to go from where he is to where he needs to be. He knows how to persuade those he leads. He understands how authority, responsibility, and accountability interact. He understands the importance of problem solving, decision-making and, planning. He understands how to delegate. He has a grasp of how to recruit and how to provide direction.
3. A successful pastor knows people. He works to understand how each person thinks, feels, and decides. He seeks to understand people's hurts, failings, fears, and scars. He knows that no two people are the same. He is diligent to motivate people and point them to Jesus. He is compassionate yet cautious. He wants to believe the best about people unless he has a clear reason not to. He is constantly on the lookout for wolves among the sheep as Paul warned the Ephesians pastors to do. He understands that everyone is on a spiritual journey and is located on a different part of the maturity-immaturity spectrum. He labors to move people to a closer walk with God. He is not naive, however, about the ravages of sin and the snares of the devil.
4. A successful pastor knows hardship. No ministry is comfortable. No ministry is easy. To be a pastor is to be in constant spiritual war. Temptations, disasters, inconveniences, and pressure never cease. Yet the good news is that God uses the suffering we endure to mature us, to strengthen us, and to equip us for greater service. When we are faithful to our calling, God watches and rewards. The hardships we face prepare us for greater opportunity. Recall David's words to King Saul on how fighting lions and bears had prepared him to face Goliath. Remember how Jesus promised that the one faithful in that which is least will be made ruler over much. Hardship has its benefits.
5. A successful pastor knows systems. Particularly when he looks at the church, his attention is to observe how things operate. He looks for power structures, legitimizers, and past patterns of handling conflict. He understands the dynamics of transitioning the congregation through decision-making and ministry divisions of labor as the church grows. He sees growth restricting obstacles and anticipates needed steps to overcoming them. He is constantly anticipating what needs to be done in the present as well as the future. He is continually crying out for wisdom and discernment. Like Nehemiah of old, he is trying to address problems at hand, deal with the consequences of past failure, and bring about change for the good of the people he leads and the glory of the God he serves.
6. A successful pastor knows the culture. He is diligent in his efforts to see trends, understand who is shaping public perception and mores, and perceive what direction the world is moving. He watches the media with its news and entertainment in an attempt to know what people are thinking. He is not afraid to address the moral and cultural issues as he proclaims God's assessment. He is not concerned with public opinion. He is concerned with God's.
7. A successful pastor knows that he needs to be a learner. He reads, he listens, and he gives time to cultivating his understanding. He discusses issues and works at increasing his understanding. He not only sets aside time to cultivate his mind, he guards that time. Because he understands that preparation precedes performance, he prepares. He took the time for school and he has now transitioned into becoming a life-long learner.
8. A successful pastor knows what is at stake. When he stands to preach he knows that he represents God and he is God's spokesman. When he ministers to people in their pain, he is God's representative. He realizes that people's response to his messages and witness are a matter of life and death. He understands what is at stake.
9. Finally, a successful pastor knows that his opportunity is short. He has only so much time to serve God and then it is over. So he works in light of Jesus' words that the night is coming when no one can work. He is constantly aware of Moses' prayer, "Lord, teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom." He desires to make the most of his time and his life. He lives with the sense that he needs to do all he can while can.
These are some things that a successful pastor knows. Let's be diligent to show ourselves approved by God because we have been diligent in our pursuit of knowledge and its application.
- Jerry Sutton, PhD
Adjunct Instructor of Church HistoryPostedby Tiago Souza at 10:09 AM | Permalink
Friday, February 7, 2014
Each time I moderate the discussion centering around John Calvin, I inadvertently see the same reaction from students. While some of them find something to emulate from Calvin’s handling of the church in Geneva, the majority of my students responds with the same “you can’t legislate morality” sentiment. I wonder if I can challenge that sentiment just a bit here.
I absolutely agree with the understanding that Jesus’ primary function on this earth was the transformation of the heart and not to overthrow the Roman government. In fact, remember when after the feeding of 5,000 Jesus had to withdraw from the people because He knew that they were going to come and take Him by force in order to make Him a king (John 6:15)? Certainly, the largest part of that which drove them to want to do so was the fact that they would be the first welfare society on the earth. After all who wouldn’t want to have a king that can miraculously feed everybody without their doing any work for it? But I do believe that another reason why Jesus withdrew was because He did not want to engage in a political challenge to Rome, that was not His mission after all. His primary mission was to offer His life as substitutionary atonement for the sins of humanity and Jesus stayed focused on that.
Allow me to submit to you that, while we are certainly to emulate Jesus, we must do so intelligently and in the way that is biblically defensible. As such, it is not valid to say that because Jesus did not get involved in politics, neither should we, for at least two reasons. First, our political environment is completely different today from that of first century Rome. There was no context within which a Jew could get involved in the political process of the Roman Empire without being perceived as a threat and ending up crucified.
Second, our mission on this earth is not to offer our lives as a sacrifice for sin, but to be light and salt in this world (Matthew 5:13-16). As salt, our presence is to preserve the wicked and sinful generation in which we operate. I like the way Craig Blomberg expresses this idea as he comments on this passage in The New American Commentary: “Of the numerous things to which salt could refer in antiquity, its use as a preservative in food was probably its most basic function. Jesus thus calls his disciples to arrest corruption and prevent moral decay in their world (Craig L.Blomberg, Matthew, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 102). And again, “Christians must permeate society as agents of redemption” (Ibid.). As lights, we are to let Jesus, who is the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5), shine through us exposing the deeds of darkness and illuminating the rest of the world in pointing the way to God. Nowhere in Scripture do we have an instruction to limit our saltiness or our light to the church contexts alone. No, we are to shine brightly in all contexts in which we currently find ourselves.
We are to share the good news of salvation with the lost and dying world first, and we are to do everything within our power to preserve the moral standards of our society, even including participation in the democratic political processes of our nation. It doesn’t have to be either or, it can, and, in my opinion, should be both and. Both light and salt. Both shine and preserve. Both share the gospel and participate in politics for the purpose of advancing God’s kingdom in every arena.
We know that in the end it is not going to be our efforts but God Himself who will make all things new, but nevertheless we are not to ever quit trying to do everything within our power to continue spreading preserving influence of the gospel around us. Including political involvement, whether it may be opining on the current events in light of biblical message, staying abreast of the latest developments in the political arena in order to ascertain their scriptural significance, educating those around us of what biblical values look like, and voting those values. Withdrawal from the political process in the name of our Christianity in the nation where we can still make a difference is tantamount to restricting our saltiness to the boundaries of our church buildings. Whatever we do, Blomberg is absolutely right in his warning that “we dare not form isolated Christian enclaves to which the world pays no attention.”
- Simon V. Goncharenko, PhD
Adjunct Instructor of Theology and Church History
Postedby Tiago Souza at 9:38 AM | Permalink