Friday, April 28, 2006

Taking A Break for the Gospel

Today marked the conclusion to the Together for the Gospel Confrence here in Louisville. What a remarkable time this has been as 3,000 men gathered together from various parts of the nation (and world) and from various denominations. The Lord moved amongst us, blessed me richly as well as convicted and challenged, and has granted to his churches pastors returning fueled up to preach the gospel to their congregations.

The Gospel is indeed the most important and the center of life for all Christians, this confrence was a fresh reminder of that. As C.J. Mahaney has said in his book The Cross Centered Life the gospel is not one part of the Christian life, it is the main part of that life from which all other things flow. We must never lose sight of the cross. It is with this fresh reminder that I now write to you saying that this will be my last post for a while. I feel the need to spend the time I would be engaged in blogging doing more to focus on the gospel. The Lord through my former pastor, and through these godly men at Together for the Gospel, has convinced me of the need to simplify. At this point my concerns need to be to read my Bible, love my wife, serve my church, get my education, and do my job...that, at least for awhile, will be my sole focus.

But I am sure I'll be back brothers, so God bless, and those of you who still wish to may e-mail me.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Southern Seeks to Change Culture

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary continues to embrace a full orbed Christian Worldview. It is one thing for a Seminary or Christian institution to be focused on the local church at its basic level, it is something extraordinary for one to be focused on helping the church engage the culture. That, however, is exactly what Southern is doing.

This institution continues to open the door to wider areas of study for its students. It was only recently that the trustees of the school approved programs in Biblical Counseling and in Intelligent Design, but as of April 11 the school has now opened the door for more avenues of study. The two new programs focus on law and the arts. The Center for Theology and Arts, headed up by Steve Halla, and the Center for Theology and Law, headed up by Peter Richards, will focus on "helping evangelicals and Southern Baptists in particular to engage some of the most critical issues of our day," says President Al Mohler.

This is an exciting time for Christians and for Southern Seminary as well. The more that evangelicals are willing to engage the culture the more we will shape it. For far too long we have stood on the sidelines and fought to resist changes from the culture, it is high time that we return to the aim of effecting change ourselves!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Explaining the Decline

I thought I should give an explination for my recent decline in posting. Due to the upcoming end of the semester here at Southern my posts and updates have diminished. We now have aproximately two weeks left of classes and I have much that needs done in the way of research, paper writing, and studying. So until things slow down Weirsein Bettler will have to take a back seat. But check back soon as I have a number of topics that are beckoning me to write on them.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Hypocrite Criticizes

As the controversy over the harrassment at Ohio State University continues to brew I was struck by the sheer hypocrisy of one of the leading figures in the case.

Professor JF Buckley, assoc. Prof. of the English Department, has written a fierce e-mail to all his colleagues charging school librarian, Scott Savage, with sexual harrasment for recommending a book that is anti-homosexual to a freshman reading class. His chief criticism seems to be that Savage and all other conservative types are unwilling to listen to any one with opposing views. The following article very humorously brings out the hypocrisy of Professor Buckley's own words.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter is a Different Kind of Celebration

I was reminded this weekend that Easter is a different kind of celebration. On Birthdays people celebrate individuals, and we get gifts simply for having been born. For Halloween little children are given candy and toys for dressing up and pretending to be something they are not. Christmas is the real big "present-holiday". The culture has turned it into a works based gift-giving season. If we are good Santa Clause gives us whatever we want, if we are bad he gives us coal. But Easter is a different kind of celebration.

At Easter we do not celebrate ourselves, we do not celebrate our "goodness," but instead we celebrate getting what we don't deserve. It was this point that most amazed me this weekend. Easter is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the salvation that He brought for hell-destined sinners. It is the celebration of getting what we don't deserve.

Like all holidays that begin with pure motives it has been preverted and commercialized, but Christians must never fail to Remember that Easter reminds us that worthless sin-bent men and women deserved the wrath of God but get, if they repent and believe on Christ, grace. Easter is the celebration of getting what we don't deserve!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Death at the Movies, part 2

Last year I posted an article on seeing several films about death, and their various interpretations on the event. Most recently I have seen another film with another interpretation on death.

As far as films on death go Tim Burton, like many others, shoots for entertainment and not truth. Burton's most recent stop-animation film (his first being The Nightmare Before Christmas) The Corpse Bride is a fun and creative work. I loved this film. Burton has done a masterful job in creating a world that draws you in, whose colors match the storyline, and whose characters are the most captivating. Stop-animation is a dying art. With the increase in cgi animation these types of works are not finding a welcome place in the world of entertainment, but Burton excels at it.

It is not, however, the animation that is most captivating about the film, it is, rather, the bizarre and intriguing story of the Corpse Bride. Certainly no one will doubt that Burton has a very active and sometimes freaky imagination, but this story is so creative and masterfully done that audiences can't help but love it. This is where many of the fantastic new animation producing companies fall short. Disney's most recent movie The Wild is proof that what they need is not better animation, but a better story. This film is like they simply took Finding Nemo and put it in the context of a zoo, which is much like Madagascar. Burton's film is a genuinely unique story, another rare find in the world of entertainment.

As an interpretation of death I find it completely wrong, but as a fun film I find it top quality.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Reading Days or Spring Break

Students at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary have just returned from their Spring Break. The one week of no class is not, however, officially titled as "spring break," by the seminary. It is, rather, identified as "Reading Days." This label reminds me of some significant things about the wise use of ones time.

Spring Break often conjures up different conotations in our modern culture (usually referencing wild parties and half-naked women). Reading Days, however, suggests the oppurtunity afforded students to catch up on their school work, or simply relax with a good book from the hard grind of the academic load. In either case it's a much more fitting way to refer to vacation. The wise use of time is an important and Biblical mandate. We are to redeem the time, the Bible says, for the days are evil. Careless and casual activity or inactivity can lead to or simply be sinful. I was reminded of that this week, not only by the title of my seminary vacation, but in a lesson taught on Sunday night by a fellow church member. In teaching from Hosea 2:21-23 he spelled out for us the truth that God is merciful to man and that this mercy requires a response from us.

In his dealing with our response to God's mercy Dan reminded us that our response is confessional, but not merely a verbal confession. It requires action on our part. He stated that our lives should be a light to the world that causes them to glorify God. Living a godly life that compels others to glorify my Father in heaven requires the proper management of my time. Perhaps I did not do my best at that this previous week. Redeeming the time is a means of evangelism, and in that regard perhaps we all could do a better job of guarding the days and hours that we have. Perhaps "Reading Days" will help us all think more Biblically about our "Spring Breaks".

Friday, April 07, 2006

Happy Birthday!!

To my lovely wife a Birthday wish: May God bless you, and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you on your Birthday.

Krista's birthday is not officially until tomorrow but we're celebrating tonight.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Switching to Elders Takes Time and Care

Elder led Congregations is the practice taught and displayed in the Scriptures, yet throughout the history of the church that has not always been accepted. In recent years more and more people are, however, come to see this taught and many pastors are encouraging their churches to consider the switch from deacon led congregations to elder led congregations. This is a touchy subject among Southern Baptists, however, as many see it as a direct attack on Congregational polity. Such seems to be the case with Germantown Baptist Church, a historic church in Memphis, TN.

In a proposal brought before this church Senior Pastor Sam Shaw and 19 other members are recommending the switch, 1, 200 members are opposing it. The opposition has even led some members to start a web forum for discussion of the issues at stake. It seems from their comments that many are concerned that a change in governance would dissolve all congregational say in the rule of the church, but such does not have to be the case. A pluarality of elders is perfectly compatible, as one sees in the New Testament, with congregational rule. This is simply a case of misinformation, and what appears high emotions.

I do not wish to claim that I know what is going on at GBC, I do not. And to comment on it is risky. I pray for my brothers and sisters at this church, that the Lord will give them discernment and kindness to work through the texts of Scripture and come together on approving the Biblical model of church government.

There is another concern, however, in this matter. Pastor Shaw's comments on the matter have struck me as equally uninformed. I hope such is not the case, but it appears that his conclusions about what elder led means seem to be more of a replacement board instead of a spiritual leadership team. To replace a deacon board with an elder board that does the same thing would be to miss the entire purpose of the switch. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, however.

Changes within churches are often hard, especially on those who have been long time members of that church. What's worse is when changes are attempted without anyone ever teaching on why these changes are Biblical and necessary, I hope such has not been the case at GBC. A word to pastors, teach it before you do it!

To our family at GBC we pray with you that God's will be done, and that in the midst of high emotions there is no sin.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My Trinity

"Today most Western Christians are practical modalists," so says Robert Letham in his book The Holy Trinity. A modalist is someone who sees the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not as three persons of the one Godhead but different roles that the one God plays. So at sometimes God is the Father, when He came in the flesh He was the Son, and after the Son's resurrection He now plays the role of the Holy Spirit. What Letham is suggesting is that today many Protestants do not have a functioning view of the doctrine of the trinity. And sadly most do not realize it.

The doctrine of the trinity is, to be sure, an intellectually hard doctrine. But most have neglected it, not because it is hard to understand but because it is hard to see its relevance. "Why does this doctrine matter?" Most are willing to accept it, believe it, affirm it, and even occassionally speak of it, but few see any importance in it. The truth, however, is that if we do not have a functioning view of the doctrine of the triune God then we do not have a view of the Biblical God.

It is not enough simply to worship the one, true, and living God, we must do so with an understanding that He is three persons. So Letham writes, "Prominent aspects of the church’s doctrine of the trinity have often been derided or neglected as unbiblical speculation…It is worth contrasting this with Gregory Nazianzen, the great Cappadocian of the fourth century, who spoke of ‘my trinity,’ saying, ‘When I say “God,” I mean Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." The worship of the true, and living, and only God must be recognize the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is one of the major shortcomings of much of modern Western worship. Flip through your hymnal or song book and you'll find that a majority of our worship songs could be sung by a deist, Jew, or even Muslim. Why? Because they simply refer to God as "Lord," rarely ever identifying Him as the triune God of the Bible. This is not distinctly Christian worship.

There is much more that can be said on this subject, but I will leave it for another day. Simply to conclude I will say that the more I am studying the doctrine of the trinity the more I am realizing how central it is to Christian monotheism and how neglected it is to Christian modern worship and pietistic life. I call... for Reformation!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Reading Church History

Last week I finished reading volume one of Justo L. Gonzalez's famous work on the history of Christianity. Gonzalez has written one of the most well crafted pieces of historical surveys I have ever read. Covering the expanse of early Christianity, the theological debates, and even the lesser known developments of Christianity in the East and Spain. This is a book that is both easy to read and yet refrains from being shallow or merely entertaining. Though Gonzalez is not an evangelical his book is written with such historical accuracy that it rare that one finds major disagreement with the author. On his writings about the canon and the role of preaching in the early church I think he is wrong, but other than these I can think of only a few other issues that he is incorrect on. For those interested in reading about the development of the early church and the historical roots of our faith I recommend this two volume set to you, it will be hard to find a better work.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Famous Friends

Okay she's not really famous, but I did see her picture and read the story about her in last week's issue of World Magazine, a weekly national news publication from a Christian perspective. Shannon Bremer and I were in 5th grade together and before that both of us performed in a community production of the Wizard of Oz. In that production Bremer was the Wicked Witch, but reading this story about her in World indicates she did not grow up to become such. It's always fun to see where the Lord has taken people from your past and placed them in the present.