Thursday, October 30, 2008

How, then, Should We Preach to the (Postmodern) World?

Today we had the benefit of hearing a lecture from Dr. David Wells, Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a prolific writer, whose works in the last 15 years have focused greatly on the cultural shift from modernity to post-modernity. I personally was exposed to his body of work while in Italy as I read the first of five books on this subject entitled No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, which I found extremely intriguing for two reasons: 1) I had just begun to be exposed to the term “postmodern” and how the culture that flowed from the thought affected the thinking of our generation and 2) I was in Italy where postmodern thought had swept through a generation before and still had a grip on the students with whom we ministered.

The topic today--How, then, Should We Preach to the (Postmodern) World?--would have been highly pertinent then and it still remains so now. Put on by the Carl F.H. Henry Center, Dr. Wells lectured for a little over an hour, opening with the gripping line, “This is very complex and perplexing subject that we have before us,” expounding on this by the sober reality that pastors and future pastors are on the front lines facing one of the greatest challenges of our times, “having to pick up the pieces and address the heartaches.”

He went on to share why it is important to think about the subject of postmodernity itself. The first is that there is a clear shift, even though many scholars are unsure as to what the shift exactly is. He did however explain how it is as momentous as the shift from the Middle Ages to modernity through what we know as the Enlightenment, so to put our times in that frame of reference allows us to see that when the foundations settle finally we will live in a vastly different era yet to be named (that is left for those generations after us). America today, he mentioned, is marked by three distinct characteristics: We do not believe in the modern idea of human progress, we do not believe in the false truth of pure, objective reason, and there is a great lack of community, thus there is a great yearning for it.

The second reason why it is important to think of postmodernity is because, in his words, “the Evangelical church right now is in turmoil as to how to address this.” In almost every instance churches are seeing a decline, programs are no longer working, and most are disillusioned with the idea of church altogether.

So we are left with two questions: How should we be thinking about this postmodern context? And how more particularly should we be thinking about it as preachers?
The first of these questions received the most attention and rightly so. If we know how to think about the postmodern context, rightly flowing from that with a good biblical foundation and proper exegesis we should discern how to preach in this context.

Dr. Wells spoke about how the postmoderns are getting it right, namely that they are right to be skeptical of the modern view of human progress and objective reason. However, although they are right to be skeptical, postmoderns enter into the same world as moderns when looking at consumption, but instead of consuming material goods and wealth, postmoderns are consuming experiences and relationships, or at least a sense of both. This is why we see Oprah and The View as popular shows, or pornography to be a successful and growing industry—because of the illusion of relationships. The most important thread that binds the Enlightenment all the way to our culture today is this very fact: The view of the self.

Without delving too much into his argument, the flow begins with Kant, who saw the Enlightenment as giving humans the freedom from the chains of the church to live as we ought. Growing out of this view is a strong narcissistic worldview and from this develops three human traits, which can be traced back into the early 20th century (he mentioned P.T. Forsythe’s 1909 text Preaching and the Modern Mind as being the “prophetic voice”), which pervade our culture today—triviality, uncertainty, and complacency. Triviality because we live in a culture that belongs to everybody and because of this it belongs to nobody; uncertainity because in triviality God becomes weightless and with a weightless God there is no sense of right and no conviction; complacency in the sense of “apathyism,” an indifference to the things that are ultimate, otherwise known as sloth.

To the second question, if the analysis is right, then in our culture today, with most of the preachers we have, postmoderns will just have their ideas reinforced. The problem today is that people want to reduce their knowledge of God only to what is therapeutic and sadly that is what much of our preaching is today. In short, we are failing. To counter this, we who love Jesus and want to see the gospel go forth with great power by His Spirit, must preach about the Triune God with all biblical categories given to us in Scripture and help people frame their problems in light of eternity. The churches that are truly thriving, not merely in numbers but in substance, are those who do this and do it faithfully because, as Dr. Wells so aptly put it, “It’s not about understanding God from the ground level, but understanding Him as He has revealed Himself to us.

I will end this post with the quote Dr. Wells closed with as I hope pastors and future pastors (including myself) take the words above and those that follow to heart, bearing the responsibility we have to be devoted, unwavering, gospel preachers:
If preachers have brought preaching down, it is preachers who must save it. The church will be what its ministers make it.”

By His Grace.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Are We Asking All The Questions?

At first glance of the title you might think I am writing about the upcoming elections. Well, actually I am not so you can breathe a sigh of relief. Instead I intend to share some insight I gleaned from a thick volume I am reading for my biblical theology class aptly titled New Dicitionary of Biblical Theology. This is one of those behemoth texts that have two columns per page, meaning it takes about 20 minutes to experience the ecstasy of turning the page. I joyfully get to read at least 300 of them.

I am honestly not complaining, particularly because there is so much good stuff I am learning for the first time. This past weekend I read a section called “Preaching and Biblical Theology,” which is the most practical section in the first part of the book. As I read I noticed how the advice given not only applies to preaching, but to devotional life and teaching in general.

Before delving into that it would be best to define biblical theology. The book states that, ”Biblical theology is principally concerned with the overall theological message of the whole bible. It seeks to understand the parts in relation to the whole and, to achieve this, it must work with the mutual interaction of the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of the various corpora, and with the inter-relationships of these within the whole canon of Scripture. Only in this way do we take proper account of the fact that God has spoken to us in Scripture.”

With that I mind I now share with you some very keen insight by Dr. P. J. H. Adam as to how biblical theology can affect not only our preaching, but our devotional life and teaching (discipleship, small groups, evangelism, apologetics, etc.):
Most preachers have been trained to read a text in its literary context, a verse in the context of a paragraph, a paragraph in the context of a chapter, a chapter in the context of a book, a book in the context of the thought of the author [all of which are good]. However not every preacher has been trained to read a text in the context of theology, much less biblical theology. To do so is to ask the following questions: How does this text fit into the progressive revelation that God gives in the bible? Is it related to any major biblical themes? Is its theme one in which there is significant development between the OT and NT? What relationship does it have to the gospel? How does the gospel form a context for it? How does it relate to the revelation of Jesus Christ, to the promise or the fufilment? Is it used or interpreted elsewhere in the Bible? In which major theological category does it occur, e.g. promise, law, prophecy, wisdom, instruction, blessing, curse, people of God, gospel?

This is a more difficult exercise than studying the literary genre and context. But to attempt it will make it less likely that a stirring call to build the temple will be applied to the church building programme, that a call to discipleship will become a proclamation of justification by works, or that adulterers will be stoned. Only biblical theology can save us from misusing the Bible, as we read each text in the context of the progressive revelation of God’s saving work in Christ.

These words are powerful reminders that we as a Christian people—regardless of vocation—need to know God’s Word and one of the great key’s to that is asking the right questions. I hope this helps you in your walk as much as I trust it will help me.

By His Grace.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lesson From A Crying Child

I made a little girl cry yesterday. To be honest I'm not quite sure what I did. She was sitting in a friend's lap; she was staring at me. I thought she wanted to play a game. I hid behind the water cooler, trying the classic "Hide 'N Seek" knowing it's a surefire winner. The cute little blonde girl turned her face away so I thought I was somewhat successful. I didn't know that she would then turn her face back toward me as tears began to well up in her eyes. In an instant her cuteness turned to horror as she began to belt out loud wails like a coyote howling at the moon.

However, the dagger that was in my heart was twisted and shoved deeper by her mother when she said, "She's never done anything like this before."

I got back to the office (I work in Admissions) and shared the story with co-workers. One of them was surprised, sharing in my shock, because she was under the assumption that I am pretty good with kids. I would like to think that is true about me, but then again, with children, I never know. I said, "Well I'm a pretty polarizing person. You either really like me, or you really hate me." Another co-worker chimed in with a question: "Are you like that with adults too?"

Here's where the lesson comes in. My answer was, "I don't know." The reason is found in the beautiful innocence of the child who is probably still screaming as I type this. In that moment I knew exactly where I stood with that little girl. I was trying to play an innocent game and though she was afraid of me, she was not scared to let me know how she really felt. Children are good with this in other areas as well. They don't gossip. Little three year-old Billy doesn't talk to his buddies in pre-school about Bobby's bad breath; Billy just blurts out, "Bobby! Yowr bref stinks!"

I said that I don't know where I stand with adults because most of the time adults lack the child-like innocence of forthright speech (or action in the case of the bawling baby). We have the inglorious tendency to laugh with those we laugh at later on that day with friends. Grown up Billy won't tell co-worker Bobby his breath stinks, but he will tell Mike and Tom and Jenny and Tammy. They will all agree with him and start making jokes, all the while Billy thinks he's cool with them all. An older little blond girl isn't going to cry when she sees me (at least I hope not), but she will tell her mom and friends how scary I am with my hairy face (it's Octobeard so the facial hair is a little thick these days).

Somewhere along the way we lose the innocent forthrightness of being a child. We call it being polite. Instead we gossip or play down situations to be less of something than they really are. Rarely these days do people share how they truly feel about one another for the sake of each other. It can be something as small as hygiene. More importantly it can be about reconciliation and sanctification.

Maybe we don't have to shriek like that little girl, but I think we should all take a lesson from her and countless children who let us know how they feel about us nearly every moment we are around them. Then we might see what being adults actually means.

By His Grace.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chicago Is The "Muder Capital" Of America

This is just one of many indicators that this city needs Jesus.

By His Grace.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oddities Of Seminary

I have heard stories of seminary from many a gent who have made it out safely over the years. Everything always seems a bit hyperbolic, mostly regarding the library--like people locking themselves up in cubicles, students creating their own home at desks in the library, books that literally crumble in your hands when you pick them up from being centuries old, people using the library as a workout facility to get more "mind energy."

Slowly I am discovering these are all true. Here are two examples:

1. There is a "homedesk" just a few work areas away from me. I know this because books are stacked high on the floor; some are nearing the ceiling. This individual--whom I have yet to actually see sitting at the desk--has a makeshift wall built with the solid materials of cardboard and duct tape. Apparently the entire downstairs of the library is filled with these "homedesks," but I have yet to venture down there for fear that I won't come out until I am 45.

2. While studying from my History of Christianity mid-term (which is going to be killer so please pray for me) I saw rapid movement out of the corner of my eye. I glanced over quickly, thinking I myself was hallucinating from my studies. Thankfully I was not, but sadly I was witnessing a lad doing mad crazy push-ups at a pace that makes me think he was doing the "girl style" with his knees on the ground because I think he did about 36 in 15 seconds. He may have even had a white wristband on as well, so I am not sure if he found the actual gym inadequate or if he literally lives here and can't imagine going to the gym when there's a perfect carpeted floor to sweat on in the library!

I am thinking I might start keeping track of all the other oddities I find throughout my time here. The list could be something by the time I am finished. Unless, that is, I actually become one of these people myself!

Please...please...keep me in your prayers!!!

By His Grace.

Choppin' Broccoli

This is just some good ole nostalgia:

By His Grace.

The Collapse Of The Consumer

So hot off the presses is this startling article of truth revealing that the U.S. is facing its worst recession in 26 years. For some reason this line jumped out at me:
The focus of concern is shifting from the markets – although these remain dangerously stressed – to the wider economy, where the consumer finally appears to be cracking.

This is a great cause of concern for this nation because the economy heavily depends on consumer confidence. The article continues, stating:
Consumers, who account for 72 per cent of the US economy, are pulling back amid a brutal tightening of credit conditions on everything from car loans to credit cards and home equity lines.

I can understand how this would cause great fear, but I started to think about my own situation. I am personally not facing the penny pinch, mainly because I am single and live on a shoe-string budget. I'd like to think I am somewhat responsible with my finances as I seek to be a good steward of what God has given me, but there is always my thoughts began to wander further and I came to this question--

Does it concern anyone at all that we as Americans are mostly defined by the term "consumer" to begin with?

I know consumer is an economic term applied to a capitalist market. It just so happens also to manage in the dumbing down of persons to predictable, persuadable rats in the grand lab of advertising and marketing, much like the numbers assigned to prisoners or students at institutions of "higher education."

I do not think it helps at all that we are repeatedly told that the heart of the so-called American Dream lies in our ability to consume and consume and consume as if this is somehow what is meant by "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." Is it really true that the free market depends on our slavery to consumption?

Does the word "consumer" really reflect the values of today's American society? My fear is that the answer to this question is yes, which is why we are in this predicament. But I want to be proven wrong. Please prove me wrong. Is there a better word we can use to describe us as Americans?

By His Grace.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Follow Up From Obama's Words On Abortion During The Final Debate

Another article has been written by Dr. George, along with Yuval Levin, responding to Obama's words on abortion during the final debate. Here is their conclusion:
Some of Senator Obama's supporters are now making one last, rather desperate-sounding attempt to defend his votes against protecting infants born alive after unsuccessful abortions. Their argument goes this way: Permitting children who survive attempted abortions to be abandoned is so heinous, so barbaric, that for someone to accuse Senator Obama, a decent man who is himself the father of two daughters, of supporting what amounts to legalized infanticide is too outrageous to merit an answer. There is a problem, though. In light of the documentary evidence that is now before the public, it is clear that the accusation against Senator Obama, however shocking, has the very considerable merit of being true.

Read the rest of the article here:
Response to Obama

By His Grace.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Day In The Life Of A Trinity Grad Student

Hey yo!
Some peeps from Trinity just filmed a "Day In The Life Of" video, so now if you take about ten minutes you can see a little of my campus and what my life is like.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Quote From "The Office"

I was just now able to watch the latest episode of The Office and I must say it was one of the funnier episodes in quite some time, namely because Michael was classic in just about every scene.

Here is a line from Michael after the office finds out that Meredith has been exchanging sex for discounts on supplies and Outback gift certificates:
This, I think was a great ethics seminary. She [Holly] has given us a lot of wonderful things to think about. Right...what is wrong...who's to say really in the end? I mean because it is...unknowable. But let's give her a round of applause.

Oh how I have heard such beautiful post-modern speak spewed forth from the mouths of such brilliant collegiate minds. Classic, Michael. Classic.

By His Grace.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Very Challenging Article on Obama's Pro-Abortion Stance

I just finished reading this article by Dr. Robert P. George, who according to one individual, "chooses his words very carefully." Dr. George is "McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and previously served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He sits on the editorial board of Public Discourse."

I am compelled to share this with anyone who is interested in this crucial voting issue so I do ask that you take the time to read this article.

Obama's Abortion Extremism

By His Grace.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gospel Numbness

On Tuesday last week, with the combination of preaching and class, I think I heard the word "gospel" well over 100 times. Everybody who has been down my path says one of the difficulties with seminary is the numbness to all things spiritual; tonight in fact one of my friends talked about his "spiritual insensitivity." In the short period of time I've spent in seminary, days like last Tuesday where words that carry eternal weight are tossed around like a football on gameday have been frequent and promise to be so over the course of the next three or four years.

Does this mean I will inevitably become numb to the gospel myself? Will the word and others like it turn into any other word like "and" or "the"--so common and seemingly insignificant?

Not necessarily. Not if I recognize that numbness occurs solely because of sin--that I could be indifferent in hearing the word once or a thousand times, that my eyes can glaze over Scripture, reading paragraphs in a daze only to turn the page never knowing what I just read, that my ears could be deaf to the sound of salvific words being spoken through a beautifully Spirit-filled preacher, that I could sing of Christ's love as unworshipfully as singing Coldplay's latest hit.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.

A lethargy exists within my flesh that does not delight in words, thoughts, prayers, or meditations on the being of God. Sadly, Christianity can easily become a culture, whether in church or the classroom, that actually feeds this lethargy instead of destroying it.

Yet in the recognition of this lethargy and numbness is the light of God's Spirit that leads to repentance. It is here that the sound of gospel words cause my heart to palpitate, that thoughts of Christ's love bring a bright smile to my face, that prayers are lifted up in great trust of the God who can fulfill them, that meditations on His being cause immense joy.

It is here, regardless of however many times I may hear the word, "gospel" that it never loses its purpose or its power.

Here's my heart Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.

By His Grace.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Debate on Trinity at Trinity

Last night I attended one of many unique events I hope to experience at Trinity. A debate on the question, "Do relations of authority and submission exist eternally among the Persons of the Godhead?" was put on by the Carl F.H. Henry Center This may seem like a pointless question to many, but it has some interesting implications that came out during the debate in Trinity's ATO Chapel filled with about 400 people.

On the side of "Yes" were former Trinity professors Drs. Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware. On the side of "No" were current Trinity professor Thomas McCall and University of Wisconsin-Madison philosophy professor, Dr. Keith Yandell.

Instead of throwing my own thoughts out there, which are childish seeing as how I have very little theological training and no philosophical training, I am going to default to some individuals who have responded to the debate in a pretty thorough manner. Here are the links:

Andy Naselli's live-blog
Collin Hansen's CT article online

And if you are further interested, here is a post from an individual who is writing his dissertation on this very topic:

Phil Gons' refutation of one of the arguments against Drs. Grudem and Ware

By His Grace.

Final Words on Jonathan Edwards

Last night, I finally finishing reading George Marsden's definitive biography on Jonathan Edwards entitled, Jonathan Edwards: A Life and I must say there is a mixture of both joy and sadness: joy because I have finally finished this 500 page behemoth of a text, but sadness because of the odd connection I felt with the times and the person of Edwards. I do hope the latter may continue to remain through reading his own works and other perspectives of his life. But here I desire to share the concluding words of Marsden's text, which I believe finish the work out strongly and encapsulate much of Edwards' thinking, thus also revealing his motivation and action:
The universe of Newton was one of constant action and changing relationships, and Edwards' conception of God was matched to that dynamic universe. Lockean [John Locke] and early modern idealist philosophies, as Edwards appropriated them, added the notion that created reality was not independent of the minds that engage it. That reinforced the point that the universe most essentially consisted of personal relationships. All of creation was a system of powers to communicate. Creation was most essentially a means by which the creator-sustainer communicated his holiness, beauty, and redemptive love to other persons.

Edwards thus addressed one of the greatest mysteries facing traditional theism in the post-Newtonian universe: how can the creator of such an unimaginably vast universe be in intimate communication with creatures so infinitely inferior to himself? How can it be that God hears their prayers and responds by caring not only about their eternal souls but even about the details of their temporal lives? To answer such questions one would have to face more starkly than is usually done the immensity of the distance between God and humans and between God's ways and our understandings. At the same time, Edwards insisted, if God is meaningfully related to us, God must be intimately involved with the governance of all the universe in its detail. Further, God must be governing it in some way that also grants the maximum possible autonomy to created beings. Whether Edwards, or anyone else, adequately explains how this mystery may be resolved is a matter of some debate.
If you have made it this far, you will now be able to take away this beautiful nugget that is the root of Edwards' practical outworkings:
Yet Edwards' solution--a post-Newtonian statement of classic Augustinian themes--can be breathtaking. God's trinitarian essence is love. God's purpose in creating a universe in which sin is permitted must be to communicate that love to creatures. The highest or most beautiful love is sacrificial love for the undeserving. Those--ultimately the vast majority of humans--who are given eyes to see that ineffable beauty will be enthralled by it. They will see the beauty of a universe in which unsentimental love triumphs over real evil. They will not be able to view Christ's love dispassionately but rather will respond to it with their deepest affections. Truly seeing such good, they will have no choice but to love it. Glimpsing such love, they will be drawn away from their preoccupations with the gratifications of their most immediate sensations. They will be drawn from their self-centered universes. Seeing the beauty of the redemptive love of Christ as the true center of reality, they will love God and all that he has created.

By His Grace.

Monday, October 06, 2008

This "Day" in Chicago History: October 1, 1919

In light of the baseball playoffs, though sadly ending very prematurely for the Cubbies, I figured I would throw an article relating to baseball history here in the Chicago area. It is of course one of the most infamous stories in all of sports history:

The Black Sox
A fixed World Series casts a shadow over the national game.

The 1919 White Sox--the White Sox of Eddie Collins, Eddie Cicotte, Dickie Kerr, Ray Schalk, Buck Weaver and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson--are considered by baseball historians to be one of the greatest teams ever to take the field. But there were rumors about these Sox even before Cicotte's second pitch hit Morrie Rath, who was the leadoff batter for the underdog Cincinnati Reds in the first game of the World Series, played on this date. "I don't know yet what was the matter," Sox manager Kid Gleason told the Tribune's James Crusinberry the day the Reds won the Series. "Something was wrong. I didn't like the betting odds."

Those betting odds, in fact, had been a story even before the Series started. Bookies had made the Sox 7-5 favorites to win it all, and there was speculation those odds could go as high as 2-1 by game time. But in New York, a sudden and unusually large amount of cash was bet on the underdog Reds, sending odds there crashing toward even-money. After the Game 1 loss, White Sox owner Charles A. Comiskey told intimates he suspected a fix. The intimates suspected sour grapes, but the Reds would win the best-of-nine Series in eight games. Gleason was right: Something was wrong.On Sept. 28, 1920, the indictments came from a Cook County grand jury. Eight ballplayers were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud: Cicotte, Weaver, Jackson, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Chick Gandil, Happy Felsch and Lefty Williams. Cicotte, whose plunking of Rath signaled that the fix was in, said he got $10,000 from gamblers. Jackson, who was promised $20,000, got only $5,000. When he complained, he said, Risberg threatened to kill him if he went public. So Jackson kept his mouth shut--and hit .375 in the Series. Defense lawyers argued that although the players admitted taking money to throw games, they had not intended to defraud the public.

"I guess I'm through with baseball," said Shoeless Joe. They all were. The jury acquitted them, but new baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned the eight "Black Sox" from the game forever. The suspected fixers got off clean. The man thought to be the power behind the fix, New York gambler Arnold Rothstein, never went to trial.

The White Sox, who won 96 games in 1920 to finish in second place, were a shambles. The next year, they wound up seventh.

It would be 1959--40 years after baseball's biggest scandal had destroyed a marvelous team and shaken the national game--before they would win another pennant.

By Alan Solomon | Tribune staff reporter

Friday, October 03, 2008

Common Absurdity

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God...we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.
-Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth

Paul wrote this 2000 years ago, yet the message remains the same today in contemporary America. We preach Christ crucified. We preach that God Himself became flesh and lived 33 years among all that Hecreated. We preach that He willingly went to His death on that cross. And we preach that Christ crucified is also Christ risen, that three days after His death on the cross, Jesus actually rose from the dead and is still alive today, reigning in heaven.

How absurd, right?

Just as the word of the cross was folly in Paul's day, those who cry "folly" and "absurdity" remain today. Just as our message hasn't changed in 2000 years, the response hasn't either.

The indictment is first on the person who actually believes that telling me, "what you believe about Jesus is absurd and foolish," is some kind of new truth, as if this hasn't been a part of what means to be a Christian for the last two millenia. Bill Maher's new documentary isn't bringing to light anything revelatory. Mature Christians know how the story sounds, but we also hold that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:25).

But the indictment also falls on the unthinking, unmeditative Christian, which unfortunately is a large sum of our population. Do you ever stop to think about what the Christian story entails? Do you ever stop to think that you believe God actually became a man and lived on earth? Do you ever stop to meditate on the implications of Jesus dying on the cross? Do you ever dwell on the fact that if you say you are a Christian you say that a man who died rose from the dead three days later?

What has happened with Christianity in America is what I call "common absurdity," this phenomena where so many people claim Christianity that because it is so widely accepted and ingrained in culture the commonness of the absurdity actually makes it blindly accepted by most without giving second thought. Thus we can live in a so-called "Christian culture" with no Christ, because just as the absurdity becomes commonplace, so does the claim that Jesus was crucified, was buried, rose from the dead, and reigns on high forever and ever. It's like saying, "Yeah, Jesus rose from the can you please pass the salt?" The gospel is no longer the power of God.

This "common absurdity" is a big issue that I think directly effects our courage to share the truly powerful gospel boldly and courageously.

I just ask for those see our message as folly to come up with something better than that; it's an old tactic that when pressed only caused the Spirit to grow the church more. And for those who claim to revel in the foolishness of God--this includes me--I ask that we take the time each day to think and meditate on God's foolishness--and rejoice in gladness at the risen, exalted Jesus Christ who has rescued us from sin, Satan, death, and hell, boldly proclaiming this message of rescue, redemption, and resurrection to the world!

By His Grace.

Gospel in the Newspaper

I recently finished the book Finding Common Ground by Tim Downs. Here is a quote from that book I found extremely convicting and challenging:
John Wesley once commented that a mature Christian should be able to put his finger down anywhere in the Bible and work from that point to the gospel. That's an admirable goal, but I would like to suggest another skill that's needed just as much...a mature Christian should be able to put his finger down anywhere in today's newspaper and work from that point to the gospel.

How do I find this convicting and challenging:

  1. It still requires us to know our Bibles and the great gospel of Jesus Christ. This will never change.

  2. It challenges me to be up to date with what is going on in the culture. This may be the culture-at-large, i.e. America, or it may be where I am located, either the university newspaper or the city's newspaper. It could even become more focused into a particular field of interest.

  3. It is not enough to simply be informed, but to be thoughtful about culture. We must look at what we read, watch and listen to with a critical eye and ear to see what is truly being communicated.

  4. We must recognize that the gospel is needed in all areas of culture and that as Christ redeems individuals he redeems the culture through those individuals.

  5. We must learn to find what can link an article, a song, a show, a movie, a book, etc. to the gospel.

This is convicting because I know I do not do this too well and challenging because I know it can be done--through work, through prayer, and knowing that God truly does want people to be redeemed through the blood of Christ, not wishing anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). We must engage our culture, especially in this day when we are taken less and less seriously. I pray to expose the need of every created human heart that cries to be reconciled to its Creator. Augustine said it well when he wrote, "O Lord, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee."

By His Grace.