In Case You Missed It

In a recent post at the Intersect Project, Dayton Hartman shared the cure for a hopeless Christmas.

The Christmas season is marked by hope. Well, at least it is supposed to be. But instead of decorating their homes a la Clark Griswold, enjoying Christmas parties and watching cheesy Christmas movies, I’ve noticed among many believers a pervasive pessimism regarding the present and the future.

 

Yes, we live in difficult times culturally and politically. However, our celebration of the incarnation (Jesus’ first coming) ought to drive us toward hopeful anticipation of the consummation (Jesus’ second coming). In short, our eschatology ought to bring hope, not despair.

 

At the Center for Great Commission Studies, Dr. Alvin Reid shared about how to teach believers to share Jesus using the Sharing Jesus book.

This past April my book Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It was released by B&H Academic. Response has been amazing. So many pastors, students pastors, college and small group leaders have used it.

 

It’s designed to help everyday believers share Christ naturally through everyday conversations. B&H also made an incredible landing page that features an 8-week challenge to help the reader grow in their witness, free videos for each chapter and some role-playing videos as well.

 

In a recent talk at Southeastern Seminary both Michael Bird and Bruce Ashford shared responses to the Benedict Option. In this post, Alysha Clark shares a recap.

Christians can be peaceful public nuisances or counter-cultural practitioners for the common good, argued Michael Bird and Bruce Ashford in a recent Southeastern Seminary event.

 

Christianity has long held a position of privilege in the West. For a long time in Europe and the United States, Judeo-Christian values formed the normative framework for ethics and morality, and belief in God (even merely nominal belief) served as an asset for advancement in society and securing public favor.

 

Suddenly, it seems, this is no longer the case. Over the last 50 years, and especially the last 25, the West has become increasingly post-Christian and marches toward militant secularism, where belief in God is synonymous with immorality, where religious language has become flagged as hate speech and where the phrase “religious freedom” has become code for bigotry. Christians may feel the earth has given way under them and fear they will be swallowed up by the increasingly emboldened progressive secularism.

 

Numerous cultural thinkers have offered their analysis of the religious situation in the West and proposed a wide array of solutions. Some seek to dive into national politics and try to effect change and restore Christian morality through legislation and the judiciary. Some live as spiritual exiles in a foreign secular culture and want to preserve Christian culture through individual practice. Others, in the words of James Davison Hunter, aim to create a faithful presence of Christian disciples who seek to work for the common good of society and serve as a witness of the kingdom of God.

 

In a post at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared about sexual assault and the scandal of repentance.

During his lengthy tenure as an evening commentator on CNN, Larry King often posed two questions to pastors and theologians who came on as guests.

 

First, is Jesus the only way to God? This was Larry’s way of seeing if the Christian representative would insist on the uniqueness of Jesus no matter how offensive that claim might come across in a pluralistic world. You mean good people from other religions might be condemned?

 

The second question came from a different angle. Could a serial killer, or someone like Hitler, or a rapist, or a pedophile receive forgiveness and wind up in heaven? This was Larry’s way of seeing if the Christian representative would insist on the offer of grace, no matter how offensive that pronouncement might come across in a world that demands justice. You mean abhorrently wicked people might repent and be saved?

 

Larry King is not a Christian. But he knows where the scandalous power of Christianity is found. It’s in the narrowness of insisting on universal, eternal condemnation for all sinners who fall short of God’s glory, and in the broadness of calling everyone to repent of their sins, trust in Christ and be saved. Everyone, even the “vilest offender,” in the words of the old Isaac Watts hymn.

 

The “vilest offender” today is the person who engages in sexual assault and abuse.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared eight reasons why he chooses to be a friend to his pastor.

I’m excited to be a part of our church in Wake Forest, Restoration Church, and I love my pastor. I’m proud of him and enjoy working beside him. I’m also honored to carry some of his burdens for him. Here’s why all of us need to be a friend to our pastors.

 

In Case You Missed It

In a post at the International Mission Board, Dr. Bruce Ashford asks, “In Post-Christian America, Should Christians Retreat from Mission?”

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option is the bestselling and most discussed religious book of the past year. In it Dreher argues that the past few decades in American life have revealed the extent to which Bible-believing Christians have been decentered socially, culturally, and politically. An increasing number of Americans—including those with cultural power—view historic Christianity as implausible, unimaginable, and even evil. The effect of this attitude on America’s social and cultural institutions has been devastating.

 

For this reason, Dreher exhorts us to strengthen the church while there is still time. He sees encouraging signs that Christians have begun to come to grips with the reality of a post-Christian America, but argues that we have yet to take the necessary steps to strengthen our churches, families, and local communities for the difficult years ahead.

 

At the Intersect Project, Erik Clary discusses disasters, divine retribution, and the danger of rushing to judgement.

In North America, many will remember 2017 as the year of calamity. Catastrophic storms, massive earthquakes, devastating fires and a horrific mass-shooting have wreaked death and destruction. Amid the public response to these large-scale tragedies, some commentators—typically professing Christians—declare that the hand of God is punishing people and nations.

 

Similar claims, one may recall, were advanced in attempts to make sense of 9/11 in 2001, the Indonesian tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Haitian earthquake of 2010, and West Africa’s Ebola outbreak in 2014. Collectively, they suggest a particular approach to explaining horrific evil that we might call the “calamity-must-be-punishment” thesis—the notion that wherever we find horrific suffering and mass tragedy, God is in the mix exercising judgment in response to specific sin (individual or collective). In response, then, we must ask, “Do large-scale calamities necessarily signal divine punishment being meted out against its victims?”

 

Yet a careful examination of Scripture not only fails to support the calamity-must-be-punishment thesis, but it also exposes such thinking as spiritually shallow and, at least in some cases, downright sinful. In particular, there are three concrete examples in Scripture where this interpretation of evil is offered and then met with divine correction.

 

Matt Smethurst interviewed Walter Strickland at The Gospel Coalition giving a behind the scenes look at Dr. Strickland’s life as a reader.

I asked Walter Strickland—assistant professor of systematic and contextual theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, co-author of Every Waking Hour, and contributor to Removing the Stain of Racism (B&H Academic, 2017) [review]—about what’s on his nightstand, books he re-reads, books that have shaped his understanding of racial justice, and more.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared an article discussing how a satisfied church is not a holy congregation; it may just be a complacent one.

If you’ve been through a church conflict, you know the truth of Psalm 133:1How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (CSB)

 

When doctrinal disputes fracture a congregation, or when personal preferences lead to disunity, or when personality conflicts cause division, Christians naturally long for peace, a renewed sense of unity in the fellowship we have in Christ and the partnership we have in mission.

 

We crave unity. We want to experience contentment. We want to see the church united by what matters most–what God wants, not what we want. Or better said, we want to want what God wants for our church.

 

But it’s easy for Christians who have been through a season of conflict or discontentment to pursue peace and satisfaction as the goal. It’s easy for churches to imagine that it’s a sign of faithfulness when everyone is getting along and everyone is satisfied.

 

This is the mistake that robs many a congregation of missional effectiveness.

 

In a post at the Intersect Project, Alysha Clark reflected on how Reformation history came alive for her on a recent study tour with Southeastern Seminary.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. All around the world churches and theological institutions are marking this momentous occasion with special conferences, lectures and events. Some (including Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) have even scheduled trips to Reformation sites.

 

In June 2017, 48 students, faculty, pastors and friends of Southeastern Seminary, led by esteemed Southeastern professors Drs. Daniel Akin, Stephen Eccher, Scott Hildreth, Marty Jacumin and Dwayne Milioni, embarked on an 11-day tour through Germany and Switzerland to visit some of the major sites of the multidimensional and tumultuous Protestant Reformation. I had the privilege of being a part of this journey. What I experienced was more than a vacation; the Reformation came alive for me.

 

This week, Southeastern Seminary had the honor of hosting Dr. Timothy George for the annual Page Lecture series. At The Gospel Coalition Justin Taylor put together a helpful post with videos of Dr. George’s talks at Southeastern as well as some additional resources from Dr. George on the Reformation.

Bruce Ashford, professor and provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the comment the other days that “It would be difficult to identify a scholar who can deliver a better public lecture than Timothy George.”

 

Dr. George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, delivered two of the Page Lectures at Southeastern this week on the Reformation:

  1. An Overview of the Reformation
  2. What Did the Reformers Think They Were Doing?

 

You can watch both lectures below, or go here to download the audio or video.

In Case You Missed It

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook shared a word of caution about “relationship evangelism.” Keelan writes:

I can remember  Monday night visitation at church. We would all meet up at the church building to pair up and take any visitor cards from the Sunday before and go visit the new families and share the gospel with them. In addition, it was standard procedure to go door-to-door in the neighborhoods around their house and talk to people we had never met and attempt to share the gospel with them. We were given tracts, taught simple presentations, and armed with some questions that should allow us to get into a gospel conversation with a stranger.

 

That is not cool anymore.

 

Over the last couple of decades, “door knocking” has passed out of fashion and been replaced by “relationship evangelism.” Now, before you think I am a critic of developing relationships with lost people to share the gospel, let me take my stand as a fan of relationship evangelism. I am largely in favor of this shift. Often (but not always!) it better suits the culture we find ourselves in today. However, like all good things, the term “relationship evangelism” has its fair share of abuse.

 

Working at a seminary, I get to see a lot of students attempting to share their faith. Here are a few abuses I regularly encounter concerning “relationship evangelism.”

 

Southeastern Seminary Ph.D. student Spence Spencer recently (successfully) defended his dissertation. He shared some thoughts at his personal blog about the experience.

I still have that feeling of contentment in light of last Tuesday. Not because of the results of the election, but because I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation. I’ll leave the politics to others; frankly, I’m just glad this election cycle is over.

 

Seminary has been the best decade of my life. I started on my Master of Divinity in the Fall of 2005. It’s now the Fall of 2016 and I’ve finally completed the final step of the process. All that remains are a few typographical revisions and graduation. I’ve invested the arm and a leg that it costs to get regalia, so that’s out of the way.

 

For the handful of folks that read my blog and are interested, I’ve been summarizing some lessons learned from each stage of the game. Today I’m going to do the same for my dissertation defense.

 

Readers should recognize that some of this depends on your topic, discipline, and committee composition. However, in general, here are the lessons I learned

 

Trevin Wax recently shared an article with two reminders about prayer from the Korean church.

Earlier this week, I posted a few pictures from our trip to South Korea, where we launched The Gospel Project in Korean. As I’ve been processing the events during our brief sojourn in this beautiful land, I’ve kept returning to a couple of Korean prayer practices that challenge me.

 

Here are two areas in which the Korean church has something to teach us in the West.

 

Alysha Clark posted at the Intersect Project website discussing how Christians should think about medical research. Alysha writes:

You scroll through your Facebook feed. One person shares an article that warns of the dangers of vaccinations. Another claims pharmaceutical companies are withholding cures for deadly diseases. Yet another person complains about the dangers of GMOs.

 

Each of these claims share one core assumption: We can’t trust medical or industrial research and development.

 

As Christians, what should we make of these claims? More importantly, how should we think about medical research?

 

Art Rainer recently published an article at the LifeWay Leadership blog sharing four ways a short temper can hurt your leadership.

There are several verses in the Bible that discuss the dangers of a quick temper. I have been able to work and learn from some great leaders so far. I truly feel blessed.

 

But I know those whose experience differs dramatically from mine. I know those who have worked for leaders with really short fuses. And they hated it. If you are a leader that finds himself or herself with a short temper, be careful.

 

Recently Midwestern Seminary shared a short video with former Southeastern Seminary faculty member (and graduate) Dr. Nathan Finn discussing mistakes churches make when pursuing ethic diversity.