Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Yesterday's "Morning Edition" program on NPR featured a report on the "Quiver Full" movement among some conservative Christians (you can listen and read it here). It is certainly interesting to pick up on the wonder in the reporter's voice at folk who see large families on small salaries not as a burden but a blessing. You can also hear the alarm in this segment:
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Harper One in October released the Green Bible, looking at the Bible through the lens of the environment. In an effort to keep it true to its eco-conscious motif, it was printed in the United States on recycled paper with soy ink, and has a sustainable linen cover. "It is still printed on paper though," conceded publisher Mark Tauber, who said a digital format would be greenest.
I also noted that the problem with those who push for so many modern Bible translations is that they think the reason people do not read and cherish the Bible is simply because it is not packaged in a format that they can understand. No, the problem is much deeper than that. As Paul said, the problem is that our sinful tendency is to suppress the truth of God. You don’t have to urge a converted man to read and cherish God’s Word. You also don’t have to convince him that its doctrines are worth believing and its ethics are worth practicing.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The article set off an appropriate flurry of protest in the posted comments (worth reading). De La Torre responded with a follow up last Wednesday (March 18, 2009) with another article titled "Why I am a Heretic?" in which he defends himself as heroic heretic fighting the status quo and pushing the boundaries of interpretation. He even makes Jesus out to be a heretic: "Although I am no Christ, I follow in his footsteps with all my heart and mind, using his own form of heresy as my model."
I was also struck by this statement in the article: "We Christian heretics believe the Word of God is inerrant." That comment shows just how emptied of meaning the whole concept of "inerrancy" has become among self-professing evangelicals. Even social gospel liberals who have abandoned orthodox conceptions of Christology are inerrantists!
Maybe some in moderate Baptist churches will read these articles and the comments posted on them and wake up to what is really being promoted in moderate Baptist theological circles.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Behind the number is both good and bad news. While it shows the U.S. population is more than replacing itself, a healthy trend, the teen birth rate was up for a second year in a row.
The birth rate rose slightly for women of all ages, and births to unwed mothers reached an all-time high of about 40 percent, continuing a trend that started years ago. More than three-quarters of these women were 20 or older.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
1. The focus on the gospel. The first words of the book are, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (1:1). Among the final words are the Great Commission: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (16:15). In between these two book-ends is the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord.
2. The centrality of the cross. I remarked several times in the study that Mark has been called "a passion narrative with an extended introduction." This Gospel reminds us of the centrality of the cross work of Christ in our faith. Maybe the key verse of the Gospel is found in Mark 10:45: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
3. Jesus is our great prophet, priest, and king. I was struck by how Jesus is presented as a prophet who predicts things that will happen from where his disciples will celebrate the Passover (14:13-16) to his second coming at the end of the ages (13:26-27). He is a perfect priest who is also the perfect sacrifice offered to God. He is the king whose coronation is in humiliation. As Peter confessed, "You are the Christ" (8:29).
4. The continuity and harmony of the four canonical Gospels. In reading Mark, I was often comparing Matthew, Luke, and John. I was reminded of God’s wisdom in these four distinct witnesses, all of which aim to bring the hearers to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that believing we might have life in his name (John 20:31-32).
5. The reliability of the traditional text of Mark including the ending of the Gospel. This study of Mark gave me opportunity to think again about issues related to the text of Scripture and to reaffirm that the ending of this Gospel is Markan, inspired, and canonical.
Mark has been a faithful companion and teacher over the past year or so. I know I am the better for this study, and I pray it has been a blessing to our body.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.
This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.
Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Calvinism, cousin to the Reformation's other pillar, Lutheranism, is a bit less dour than its critics claim: it offers a rock-steady deity who orchestrates absolutely everything, including illness (or home foreclosure!), by a logic we may not understand but don't have to second-guess. Our satisfaction — and our purpose — is fulfilled simply by "glorifying" him. In the 1700s, Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards invested Calvinism with a rapturous near mysticism. Yet it was soon overtaken in the U.S. by movements like Methodism that were more impressed with human will. Calvinist-descended liberal bodies like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) discovered other emphases, while Evangelicalism's loss of appetite for rigid doctrine — and the triumph of that friendly, fuzzy Jesus — seemed to relegate hard-core Reformed preaching (Reformed operates as a loose synonym for Calvinist) to a few crotchety Southern churches.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
All the Gospels agree that among the last things that the risen Jesus did on earth was commission or send out his disciples. There is a centrifugal quality to the Christian life, an outward focus. Jesus did not tell his disciples:
"Go into a monastery and pray."
Or, "Go withdraw from the world and look deep within yourselves."
Or, "Go build a wall around yourselves and have nothing to do with anyone who does not believe in me."
No, he says, "Go into all the world…." This is even more amazing when you consider that Jesus was saying this to a group of Jewish men who at this point considered it taboo even to have table fellowship with Gentiles.
Notice three important things about this commission:
First, the Biblical method is preaching. What is preaching? Preaching is a man in Christ standing to speak from the Word of God about the things of God in order to draw together and edify the people of God.
Preaching is the preferred method of Biblical ministry.
Second, the Biblical message is the gospel. The word "gospel" means "good news." It refers to the "good news" about what God has been pleased to do in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Third, the Biblical mandate is universal. They are to go and preach the gospel "to every creature." The gospel is to be preached without discrimination to every single human being as God’s unique image bearers within the creation.
The apostles were not only to go to their fellow Jews, but to all nations.
They were not only to go to men, but also to women.
They were not only to go to the adults, but also to the children.
They were not to go to the elite, but also to the lowly.
They were not only to go to the wealthy, but also to the poor.
They were not only to go to the educated, but also to the illiterate.
They were not only to go to those whom they deemed most likely to respond, but also to those they deemed least likely to respond.
There is a universal mandate for this gospel preaching ministry.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Monday, March 09, 2009
[Moreover]…up to the hundredth year of his life he continued in [spiritual] darkness and in ignorance. His mind was in the weakness of a second childhood. He attended church as many people did in those days, but it seemed that every Sabbath Day the Word of God made no impact on him. What could you expect from such a man as this, an aged man, a man now coming into the experience of the second childhood?
Thursday, March 05, 2009
- How does the knowledge that one day Christ will return as judge affect the way you live your life now?
- Why would God allow quotations from uninspired writings to be included in the inspired Scriptures?
- What does this verse tell us about the future destiny of those who die in Christ?
- What kind of encouragement does this verse provide for teachers of the truth?
In this book Whitney examines what we might call the "corporate" spiritual disciplines. These are the things we do together with the church that help us grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whitney also has a valuable book on developing personal or individual spiritual disciplines (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life [NavPress, 1991]; in fact in the month of March 2009 you can download an abridged audio of this book for free here).
Some of the questions Whitney’s book and Steve’s class are asking (and answering) include the following:
Why go to church?
Why seek baptism in the church?
Why join a church?
Why listen to preaching in the church?
Why worship in the church?
Why witness in the church?
Why serve in the church?
Why fellowship with the church?
In the chapter on "Why Join a Church?" Whitney provides the following Biblical reasons why a Christian should join a church:
- You prove that you are not ashamed to identify with Christ or his people.
- You stop being an independent Christian.
- You participate in a stronger, more unified effort of God’s people.
- You have a greater opportunity to use your spiritual gifts.
- You openly demonstrate the reality of the Body of Christ.
- You participate in a more balanced ministry.
- You demonstrate your commitment to "the proper working of each individual part."
- You encourage new believers to commitment to the local body of Christ.
- You encourage a ministry when you consider it faithful and join it.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Monday, March 02, 2009