In Case You Missed It

In a recent article at the Intersect Project, Dayton Hartman shared how God can use heresy for our good.

Survey the evangelical landscape, and you’ll find a lot to be depressed about. Self-professed Christians are compromising on moral convictions for political expediency. Some are denying essentials of the faith to embrace political correctness. And then others are pandering a kind of theological ambiguity that speaks much and says nothing.

 

I recently heard someone say, “What a depressing time to be a Christian!” Well, I guess that’s true — especially with so many megachurch pastors wearing the ironically large hipster glasses. But it’s also entirely untrue. This particular Christian was lamenting what they classified as the rush toward heresy among once faithful evangelicals. In their estimation, these trends must mean the end of the church in America is drawing near. Two things are worth noting.

 

At the People’s Next Door Keelan Cook reminds us that “gospel-centered” must mean more than just the preaching.

Gospel-centered is one of those buzzwords today in evangelical Christianity. It, like so many others, has a great origin and a significant purpose. In a day when mission drift threatens to pull us away from our core purpose as Christian churches, terms like “gospel-centered”  (or “missional”) are calls back to our biblical foundations. However, when they stick, they soon become victims of their own popularity. In many ways, I fear this is happening to the idea of being gospel-centered as well. The term now falls into the foggy words category. Foggy words are those words we use in ministry circles that sound good but when pressed no one can really give you a clear definition. They often help more than they hurt for that reason. When it comes to gospel-centered, I think there are two ways that this term seems to shift in meaning.

 

Bruce Ashford posted an article at his personal blog with five ways to save free speech on college campuses.

During the past 18 months, college students have engaged in disruptive and even violent activities toward guest speakers whose ideas they considered offensive.

 

In response, college administrators have tended to capitulate to—or collaborate with—the demonstrators by disinviting scheduled speakers and disciplining students or professors whose views were considered offensive.

 

In fact, recent studies by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the National Science Foundation together reveal that approximately 90 percentof colleges and universities have policies that either prohibit or substantially restrict free speech that is constitutionally protected.

 

Americans should beware. Unless we act to safeguard free speech on campuses, this depressing trend will continue indefinitely until the censors have gained control not only of universities, but coffee shops, churches, and public squares.

 

What can we do to safeguard free speech on college and university campuses? Here are five ways that all of us can play our own unique role.

 

“To Tithe or Not to Tithe?” At the Intersect Project David Jones shared a New Testament guide to generous giving.

To tithe or not to tithe?

 

This simple question has been debated in small groups, in Sunday school rooms, over kitchen tables and in textbooks for decades. In my new book Every Good Thing, I address it at length.

 

We don’t have the space to address the question in detail here, but I’ll simply say this: It is difficult to apply Old Testament tithing laws in our own context. In fact, if we survey the New Testament, we’ll find that it does not prescribe a formal method or fixed amount for believers’ giving at all.

 

Nevertheless, the New Testament does provide several examples and principles of giving that can guide us in our stewardship and giving. These principles ought to encourage many (if not most) Christians to give far more than 10 percent to kingdom work.

 

In a post at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared why Netflix thinks you’re bored and lonely.

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by . . . 

 

So sang the rock band America in 1974. Forty years later, lonely people are probably streaming Stranger Things.

 

At a conference sponsored by the Wall Street Journal last year, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, offered a purpose statement for his entertainment juggernaut: “Fundamentally, we’re about eliminating loneliness and boredom. . . . That’s what entertainment does.”

 

Eliminating boredom and loneliness. Chew on that for a while, and you’ll realize that only one of these issues is truly a problem, while the other is actually an opportunity.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared an open “thank you” letter to Southern Baptists.

I don’t typically write a post specifically for my denomination, but I’m making an exception today. In the past few weeks, I’ve been with Southern Baptists in Maryland, California, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia. They’ve been college students, pastors, church planters, laypersons, and denominational leaders. I’ve been reminded in these weeks of how much Southern Baptists mean to me, so I’m writing this thank you note to you.

In Case You Missed It

At the Intersect Project, Christy Britton shared a post about being enslaved to sin titled “The Thief and I.” Christy writes:

It was my first trip to Kenya. I was still adjusting to the culture shock when our team arrived at a boy’s juvenile detention center outside of Nairobi. Our van parked, and lots of young boys of all ages approached us with machetes in hand. My initial fear vanished when we discovered that the boys had been using the machetes to cut grass. As we mingled with the group of welcoming boys, we were told that most of them were thieves. They had lived as street kids, and they survived by stealing.

 

Our team divided the boys into small groups so we could interact more personally with them. I’m a mother of 4 boys, and I was shocked to realize how much these boys reminded me of my own. They were curious and funny and full of energy. We opened the Scriptures and taught them some stories. Then, we gave the boys a chance to tell us their stories.

 

After hearing several boys share, I assumed we were done. But then a tall, skinny boy stood up to speak to our group. He introduced himself as Elvis and started to explain his predicament. “I’m a thief. I like to steal and I’m good at it. But I don’t want to like it. What’s wrong with me? Will you pray for me that I won’t want to be a thief?”

 

His words stunned me. Initially, I was shocked at how openly he talked about his sin. But then I began to see how freeing it was for him to do so. That day, in a children’s jail and with the voice of one of its prisoners, God taught me about the freedom that comes in Christ.

 

Shaq Hardy shared a post this week highlighting seven ways Paul shows us how to live by faith in Romans 1:8–17.

At the end of Romans 1:17, Paul says, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Faith is believing what God says about salvation and trusting in God for salvation. With that said, Paul shows us how to live by faith in these 7 ways in Romans 1:8-17.

 

Brent Aucoin posted at the Intersect Project highlighting Thomas Kidd’s recent visit to Southeastern Seminary. Dr. Aucoin writes:

Dr. Kidd’s lunch and evening presentations were engaging and entertaining, but more importantly provided necessary correctives to the historical scholarship of two important American religious and political figures, George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin. In both his writings and his presentations, Dr. Kidd is showing young, budding Christian scholars how to serve the church while also engaging the American academy professionally and with integrity.

 

In a post at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax highlighted Martin Luther’s ‘parasite’.

This month marks the 500th anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, long considered the start of the Reformation. Luther is a hero to me and many other Protestants for his courage, his conviction, and his rediscovery of the truth of justification by faith alone.

 

It may seem out of place to interrupt our celebration of Luther’s legacy by discussing some of the darker aspects of his life and thought. That’s how some reacted earlier this week when I tweeted a link to an article called “Luther’s Jewish Problem,” which lays out in all its awfulness the anti-Semitic turn of Luther in his later years. I agreed with the article in saying that we must look this evil square in the face and not explain it away.

 

The truth is the truth. And truth is not served by hagiography and exalted biographical sketches that minimize our heroes’ flaws. I believe Luther, who never minced words regarding sin and evil, would recommend we not minimize his sins.

 

At The Baptist Press Dr. David Dockery shared about the Reformation and Baptist life.

The Lord blessed me with the wonderful privilege of growing up in a Christian home — a faithful, Baptist home. Sundays included Sunday School, church services, afternoon choir practice as well as Bible Drill, Discipleship Training and Sunday evening after-church fellowship. It was generally a very busy day. Wednesdays included church suppers, prayer meetings, mission organizations, committee meetings and choir practice.

 

During the week there were opportunities for outreach visitation, WMU and other activities. Summer calendars were built around Vacation Bible School, church camps and other church-related events. My family planned weeks and seasons around church activities. Our heroes were Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and Bill Wallace of China.

 

But apart from a world history course as a high school student, I do not recall ever hearing stories about the Reformation, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin or other early 16th-century Protestant leaders in any church-related activity.

 

My guess is that my experience parallels that of many other Baptists. Why, then, should Baptists pay attention to the many events and programs taking place this year to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation for we are not Lutherans nor Anglicans nor Presbyterians. Yet, whether we realize it or not, many of our core convictions as Baptists have been influenced or shaped by those 16th-century thinkers.

 

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook shared about reaching the Nations in North America.

For those of you who are not aware, this weekend a conference is happening here at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to discuss one of the most important issues facing the church in North America today: how we will discover and engage the scores of internationals coming to our communities with the gospel. The summit is a joint endeavor of several missions agencies, state Baptist conventions, and other organizations who all see the need to train and equip our local churches for cross-cultural ministry right here in our own backyard.

As Keelan mentioned in his article, Southeastern is hosting a conference this weekend on Reaching the Nations in North America. If you can’t be here in person, be sure to check out the livestream at sebts.edu/streaming.

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.