In Case You Missed It

At The Peoples Next Door, Meredith Cook shared an article discussing how we should serve our churches. Meredith writes:

Have you ever taken a spiritual gift inventory? I have, and I assume many who are reading this blog have as well. Spiritual gift inventories, while a bit simplistic and overgeneralizing, can be helpful if you don’t know how you are gifted. However, they do not address the underlying purpose of spiritual gifts, nor do they accurately tell us what to do with the gifts once we know what they are. We need to understand what the Bible says about them, and let it tell us how to use them.

 

There are several passages that discuss giftings, but I will mainly focus on 1 Corinthians 12.

 

Art Rainer posted at his personal blog discussing why we should stop multitasking.

How often to you attempt to multitask to become more productive?

I often find myself doing this. Even as I write this, my phone sits next to me. I’m tempted to stop writing and check a few emails.

 

But I shouldn’t.

 

I don’t multitask well. And neither do you. This is what research about our brains and our attempts to juggle several tasks at once tells us. Studies consistently show us that God did not create most of our brains to do multiple tasks at the same time. We are at our best when we focus on a single task. So what does happen when you multitask? It’s probably not increasing productivity. Let’s look at what you are really doing when you “multitask.”

 

At his personal blog, Matt Emerson posted a touching tribute to Dr. John Sailhamer who passed away earlier this week.

I learned on Twitter earlier that John Sailhamer has passed away.  Due to his failing health over the last decade, his last major project – The Meaning of the Pentateuchwas published way back in 2009. In our consumer-driven, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately American culture, that may as well have been a century ago. But Sailhamer’s influence has always been more about his positive impact on students than his publishing per se. If you read his books – The Pentateuch as Narrative, Introduction to Old Testament Theology,The Meaning of the Pentateuch, even Genesis Unbound, as well as his commentaries – it seems obvious that these arise directly out of his teaching. And if you talk to his students, they’ll confirm that this is in fact the case.

 

Bruce Ashford posted an article at the Intersect Project  website discussing three authors who changed his life. Dr. Ashford writes:

In the space of two years in Russia, I began to realize even more fully the deep and resonant effects of religion upon culture, and vice versa. I was living in a social and cultural context that had been almost entirely devoid of evangelical gospel influence for generations. Conversations with many of my students revealed a deep skepticism about whether God existed, whether life had any meaning, and whether there are any moral absolutes. The institutions of this country — including its government, businesses, marriages and schools — reflected this deep sense of loss, this sense that its people could no longer believe in a God who endowed their lives with meaning and purpose or who gave moral law by which all people and institutions should abide.

 

During this time, I began to read books by Christian thinkers such as Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis. (On my journey to Russia, I carried one suitcase of clothes and four suitcases of books.) What I read changed my life.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Tony Merida shared six ways to stir your affections for weekly preaching.

Foundational instruction in expository preaching tends to focus on theology and methodology. This makes sense. Expository preaching is a theologically driven approach to preaching. We don’t commend this approach because we think it’s a great church growth idea, but primarily because of our theological convictions. Our convictions about God, humanity, the gospel, the nature of the Bible, the work of the Spirit, the centrality of Christ, the church, the role of pastors, the coming judgment, and more should lead us to embrace a high view of biblical preaching.

 

After theology, we then talk methodology. How do you prepare Bible-saturated sermons? How do you preach systematically through books of the Bible? Here we often discuss matters like studying the text in detail, considering the redemptive-historical context (how the text points to Jesus), identifying a dominant theme, constructing an outline, explaining and applying the text, and adding an introduction and conclusion.

 

But theology and methodology shouldn’t be all we emphasize. We can become skilled at crafting sermons, but not be affected by the Savior. If we don’t guard our hearts, sermon preparation can become mechanical. We must avoid becoming what I call “the Sermonator”—the pastor who mechanically cranks out sermons devoid of heartfelt passion.

 

Good exposition isn’t merely theological and methodological; it’s also affectional. It includes both light and heat, intellect and affections, seeing and savoring. It involves preaching the text from your own heart to your people’s hearts.

 

For those committed to exposition who have a sermon preparation routine, a vital question is this: How can we stir our affections for Sunday? Here are six ways.

 

Dr. Alvin Reid posted an article at The Center for Great Commission Studies discussing the tension of Evangelism.

Tension.

 

What does this word conjure up in your mind?

 

I asked a class this week whether their immediate response to the word “tension” was positive or negative. Almost all said negative. We see tension as something bad, something that’s a nuisance at best or a hindrance at worst.  I would beg to differ. Our world would not function without tension. Try building a bridge without it. Try walking upright without it. I know; for a while I could not walk upright because of lumbar spine issues. My body simply could not maintain the appropriate tension to stand up straight without pain.

In Case You Missed It

At his personal blog, Art Rainer shared what could be the worst goal to pursue in 2017.

What are you going to chase in 2017?

If it’s on the leadership level, what mountain are you going to ask your team to climb with you? If it’s on the personal level, what in your life do you want look different 365 days from now?

 

In my last post on goals (5 Reasons You Can’t Avoid Goal-Setting), I pointed out what characteristics make up really good goals. They are S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. These are the types of goals you want to pursue over the next twelve months.

 

So what characteristics would make up really bad goals? What does the worst goal to pursue in 2017 look like? How can you spot one? S.M.A.R.T. goals can provide us some guidance.

 

Here is how the worst goal to pursue in 2017 will present itself

 

At The Intersect Project, Meridith Berson discusses the virus of moral superiority. Meridith writes:

The past election cycle was hard on this country. For starters, it was long. The Republican primary debates started in early August of 2015, leaving us with fifteen grueling months of a politically charged news cycle. As a country we watched as the various Republican candidates spared, dropped out and endorsed or denounced their peers.

 

We then watched as a left-wing Independent from Vermont began what was dubbed as a revolution, aimed at taking the Democratic Party further left than it was accustomed. The reactionaries in the Party then pivoted to bring this wing into their fold. While it was a calculated attempt to reunite the party, it left the remnants of the revolution confused and alienated.

 

Somewhere in the midst of the unfolding drama, the voters spoke and the results yielded two opposites. One was a carefully calculated, and seemingly handpicked, candidate. Her name had been circulating in political circles for longer than most Millennials — the base she desperately needed — had been alive. She came across as scripted, elitist and, for many, the paradigm of corruption. Yet, there she was, the representative of the party that presents itself as the caretaker of the marginalized, the party that fights inequality, the party of the people.

 

Bruce Ashford shared five reasons for atheists to join Christians in church this Christmas.

Earlier this month, American Atheists launched two nationwide billboard campaigns urging Americans to celebrate the holidays by skipping church. The first billboard depicts a text message exchange in which one young woman tells a friend that she plans to skip church during Christmas and that her parents will “get over it.” The second billboard parodies President-elect Trump’s campaign slogan, urging Americans to “Make Christmas Great Again!” by skipping church.

 

In an interview explaining the billboard campaign, American Atheist President David Silverman said, “It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe—and don’t believe—is the best gift you can give this holiday season.”

 

While we are a little confused by Silverman’s apparent delight in fantasizing about family division during the holidays, we agree with Silverman that openness and honesty are good things and, in that spirit, we offer a few reflections.

 

At the Baptist Press, Micah Fries, Nathan Finn, and Jon Akin shared an open letter discussing the need for cooperation amid SBC tensions.

Controversy surrounding ethicist Russell Moore’s past comments on President-elect Donald Trump has led three Tennessee Baptists — all under the age of 40 — to issue an open letter calling “the [conservative] resurgence generation and their protégés” to “be the statesmen we need them to be in this season of denominational tension.”

 

Jonathan Akin, Nathan Finn and Micah Fries wrote in a Dec. 21 open letter provided to Baptist Press, “Now isn’t the time for acrimonious debates over secondary and tertiary doctrinal matters,” such as the extent of the atonement, church polity, methodology and the appropriate means of cultural engagement.

 

They directed their comments especially toward Southern Baptists who led the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s as well as those mentored by that generation, noting, “Our real enemy is the Prince of Darkness.” The resurgence attempted to make biblical inerrancy a bedrock commitment of Southern Baptist Convention entities.

 

At his blog, Chuck Lawless shared 10 gift ideas which do not cost money. Dr. Lawless writes:

Christmas can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, we usually give gifts that don’t last anyway. This Christmas, give one of these gifts to someone.

In Case You Missed It

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently shared a visual tour of the History of Ideas in the form of some of his student’s timeline projects.

One of the great privileges of my life has been the opportunity to teach History of Ideas at The College at Southeastern. Under the leadership of noted author and philosopher James K. Dew, the college requires its undergraduate students to take four courses in the History of Ideas.

 

The first History of Ideas course is a lecture-style grand tour of the rise and development of “thought,” of the way certain ideas have shaped our world, especially in the West. I teach this course and I lead the students to evaluate various ideas and ideologies in light of their logical coherence, empirical adequacy, and existential viability. But we also evaluate them from a distinctly Christian perspective, in light of Scripture and the Christian tradition.

 

During the course, I require my students—almost all of them freshmen—to create a “History of Ideas Timeline,” a sort of visual tour of the history of ideas. This year, several of those students did such a good job that I decided to post their timelines here on my website.

 

Steven Madsen shared a post at his personal blog discussing the difference between just knowing about Jesus and truly knowing Jesus and experiencing a relationship with Him.

Have you ever thought about the massive claims of Christianity?  “There is One God who created all things”, “God became man & dwelled among us”, “Jesus was crucified, buried, & resurrected, becoming the atonement for sin”. Even more so, “the God of the universe wants to know you, personally”, and “He loves you deeply”.  And what about the words of Jesus Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The weight of these statements cannot be overstated.  In fact, if true, these assertions are of eternal importance! All of history & every existing thing hinges on the claims of Christianity.  That’s big.

 

Its 2.2 billion, big.  Christianity is the largest religion in the world, making up nearly one-third of the world’s population. Or so the statistics say.

 

And there lies my question.  If one-third of the world claims Christianity why isn’t it more…noticeable?

 

For years I asked this question of myself.

 

Earlier this week, Chuck Lawless shared eleven reasons to love the senior adults in your church. Dr. Lawless writes:

Occasionally, I speak in a church that is predominantly senior adults. Each time I do, I think about how a church like that is going to survive – but I also remember why senior adults matter. Remembering these things reminds me to love them even as we make changes to grow the church.

 

Art Rainer posted an article this week discussing if pastors should give to their church.

God has designed us, not to be hoarders, but conduits through which His generosity flows.

When we give to our local church, we get to participate in all the amazing ministry God is doing through the church. It is a place of significant impact. He uses your generosity to your church to make a difference in the lives of those in the church, in your community, and around the world.

 

But what about the pastor of a church? Should he give to the church he pastors? It is a question many ask. His salary is derived from gifts given to the church. So if he gives back to the church, isn’t it just creating an unnecessary giving loop?

 

The quick answer is yes, the pastor should give to his church. Here are a few reasons why.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax recently shared some things to consider before going for a Ph.D.

In December of 2015, I graduated from Southeastern Seminary with a Ph.D. in theology (with a focus on North American missiology). I’ve written before that the Ph.D. experience was one of the most demanding and rewarding of my life. It stretched me in ways that escape easy description.

 

The stamina that is required to persevere through the dissertation phase is enough to sidetrack a number of great scholars, and I now understand why I have friends and colleagues who have done everything necessary for their doctorate except finish their final dissertation. Just imagine. You come to the end of seminars and papers and comprehensive exams, only then to begin work on something that will require 100,000 words of writing and literally millions of words of reading. It’s enough to send shivers down the spine of the most committed student.

 

Earlier this week, a friend who is about to enter a Ph.D. program asked me a few questions about how I managed that season of life.

 

I hesitate to answer because, first, I’m not sure that I always managed it well or in an exemplary way. And secondly, because we are all different, we have different gifts and responsibilities. To say “here’s what you should do” seems woefully ill informed if not designed for someone’s unique situation. It would be much better to work with the people who know you and your situation best—your wife, your family, your church—to get specific answers on most questions.

 

But what I can do is offer some counsel based on what worked well for me.