Theology for the Long Haul

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why Youth Stay in Church When They Grow Up

Found this informative post from John Neilson... a must read for youth workers and parents of teenagers.

“What do we do about our kids?” The group of parents sat together in my office, wiping their eyes. I’m a high school pastor, but for once, they weren’t talking about 16-year-olds drinking and partying. Each had a story to tell about a “good Christian” child, raised in their home and in our church, who had walked away from the faith during the college years. These children had come through our church’s youth program, gone on short-term mission trips, and served in several different ministries during their teenage years. Now they didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. And, somehow, these mothers’ ideas for our church to send college students “care packages” during their freshman year to help them feel connected to the church didn’t strike me as a solution with quite enough depth.

The daunting statistics about chucchgoing youth keep rolling in. Panic ensues. What are we doing wrong in our churches? In our youth ministries?"

Read the rest here...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Not Even A Yod!

There is much discussion in recent decades concerning the singularity (or plurality) of thought among 1st century Jews. Some have gathered from the Qumran manuscripts and Josephus that there was an overwhelming amount of diversity. I, for one, think this is impossible to know for sure, but I am cautious to attribute too much normalcy to the beliefs of the Qumran sect, who was just that... an apocalyptic sect. Josephus was also not without his bias. I believe the more accurate rendering of Jewish theology of Scripture is found in the Bible and in sources like those quoted below.

That said, I read an interesting account in The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener (this one's taking me a little while) concerning the 1st century Jewish viewpoint on Scripture:

Jesus underlines the permanence of Scripture's authority in a graphic hyperbolic manner, declaring that not even the smallest letter would pass away (Matt. 5:18// Luke 16:17). His recorded language apparently alludes to a more widely known story, probably known to Jesus' original hearers, but perhaps not to most of Matthew's and surely not most of Luke's audiences. Jesus' "letter" (NRSV), "smallest letter" (NIV), "jot" (KJV) or (literally) iota (the smallest Greek letter) undoubtedly refers to the Hebrew letter yod, which Jewish Teachers said would not pass from the law. Some said that when Sarai's name was changed to Sarah, the yod removed from her name cried out from one generation to another, protesting its removal from Scripture, untill finally, when Moses changed Oshea's name to Joshua, the yod was returned to Scripture. "So you see" the teachers would say "not even the smallest letter can pass from the Bible." Likewise, sages declared that when Solomon threatened to uproot a yod from the law, God responded that he would uproot a thousand Solomon's rather than a word from his law.

Wow, many "so called" evangelicals would consider this language to be fanatical. I don't. As Christians we know that our faith is the fulfillment and consummation of the Jewish faith, and the Old and New Testaments were written by the same God and carry the same authority.

Is your Bible missing some things? What parts do you skip over? What parts do you remove? Who is God in your life? Who has the authority? Is it the Bible? Or you? If it's you, you should be scared.

But don't take my word for it. I think God would uproot a thousand Phil Vander Ploegs before He would uproot one yod from His word.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Really Cool: Now you can read the Isaiah Scroll online

All Bible Geeks know that the best preserved and complete ancient copy of Isaiah was found with the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Since it was discovered it has found its home in a nuclear attack proof shrine at the Israel Museum. While one used to have to travel to Israel to see this amazing artifact, now you can see and read it online (if you know Hebrew). It's really cool. Thanks to Dr. John Byron at for bringing this to my attention. Check it out!

Here is the link...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Darrel Bock defends the 2011 NIV

I have a lot of respect for both Darrel Bock (Dallas) and Doug Moo (Wheaton). Below is Bock's thoughts on the new NIV.
"I regard the recent response to the NIV 2011 by some as unfortunate. The SBC resolution came from the floor and not from the committee that studied the question. I suspect the CBMW has invested too much in the gender issue to look at these texts in a balanced manner. Their theory of translation was questioned in the original dispute by many top evangelical scholars and the credentials of those working on the NIV are impeccable."

Read the rest here...

Mass Murderer in Norway a Fundamentalist Christian?

I am always disappointed when media takes the opportunity to misrepresent the Christian faith with bad assesments and information. Since when did choosing "Christian" from the list of religious preferences in facebook make someone a Christian? Why identify a person who could in no way be a Christian, as one for public consumption? The Bible is clear. We do not judge a Christian by their facebook profile, but the "fruit" they bear in life (Matt. 16-20). Murder is a sin, murdering 85 youth is demonic. As little faith as I put in humanity's ability to do the right thing, I cannot attribute this behavior to the human spirit. I for one, will denounce this man's connection to the faith of Christ, and will pray for the salvation of his soul. Though one cannot hope to be a Christian while exhibiting such murderous hatred (I John 2:3-5; 9-11), anyone can be saved if they repent.

My prayer for this confused man is that he would find the true Lord and turn to Him. The beauty of the cross is that even Anders Behring Breivik can be forgiven.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Short and Sweet, Sweet and Sour: A Reacquaintance with Abandon

I don't think I realized while I was in seminary how unaccustomed to simple faith I had become. No doubt, I would have thought (and expressed to you had you asked me) that my faith was growing. As a student I have been trained to examine the Bible, religious practice, and my spiritual experiences with a  critical eye. Now preparing to teach for an organization that is dependant on the financial support of others, I am faced with a daily need for simple and unyielding faith. While I can (and do) pray, I am solely dependant on God's provision for myself, my family, and my coworkers. While it may be tempting to ask God for, or to seek a way out of such a challenge, I'm asking God to grow me through it... I think it's good for me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesdays: Saving the Kids

Sometimes the Lord gives us practical object lessons to show an element of truth. This past Sunday the youth pastor at the church we attend, Seth Buckley, shared one such story. I’d like to pass it on to you.

On a family walk in some deep woods near their home in South Carolina, Seth’s two sons asked to take a different trail. Because the two trails ran alongside one another, eventually merging, he agreed and the family split into two groups. Seth and his wife walked on for some time, enjoying the time alone together and the beauty around them. But suddenly, Seth heard a scream. It wasn’t the scream of the boys playing or even someone possibly hurt. It was a scream of pure terror. The barks of wild dogs accompanied it.

Seth took off sprinting through the woods.
The distance between the two trails was not great, but the brush was thick. He tried desperately to push branches out of the way as he ran, but he found himself wildly careening into brambles, limbs, and stumps as he ran madly towards the screams of his sons. When he got to the clearing, he saw both of his boys lying in the dirt. The older son had pulled himself on top of the younger. A few wild dogs advanced toward the pair. Seth burst out from the woods like a man possessed. He hurled himself in the direction of the dogs, and screamed like a wild man.

Amazingly, the dogs retreated and ran back into the woods.
He helped the boys up and they ran the rest of the trail. It was only when they were clearly out of danger it became apparent that Seth was hurt. He had a couple of deep gashes that were bleeding and the rest of his arms, chest, and legs were scraped and stuck with burs. As his wife attempted to temporarily stop the bleeding, Seth’s younger son asked him, “Does it hurt real bad?”

As Seth tried to explain that the pain didn’t really matter when he compared it to having his boys safe, he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit come on him. He realized what a clear illustration the Father had just given of His own love.
He began to tell his sons that when he heard them scream, he didn’t stop to think about anything. He didn’t consider retracing the trail, which would have been safer and without obstacles. He just ran to save his boys. In the same way, Christ didn’t consider Himself when He came for us, when He died on the cross for us. We were the helpless boys, lying face down in the dirt, desperately in need of a Savior. And Christ—because of His deep, unyielding, unmovable love towards us—was the Father, running at full speed, the only thing on His mind,

“I’ve got to save My kids.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trevin Wax: The Missional Youth Group

I found the following post from Trevin Wax profound. If you work with your church youth group or serve youth in some capacity, you should read this.

"The best way to ground young people in the Word and to empower them for future ministry is to involve them in a mission-based youth group. By mission-based, I am not implying that the teenagers would be going on monthly mission trips or doing weekly door-to-door evangelism. I use the term “mission-based” to describe a missional attitude among the teenagers and their leaders.

The Attraction-based Model

Many youth groups today are “attraction-based.” The youth minister focuses on organizing events in order to attract the youth to the services. The goal of this model is noble. Big events and fun activities can serve as a successful evangelistic tool and can greatly help young people get involved in church. The Bible allows for diversity in how we strategize in getting the gospel to people.
The problem that some attraction-based models face is that too often the events themselves become the ends and not the means. Success is defined by the size of the crowd, not by the fruit seen in the lives of those in attendance. Furthermore, when the attraction becomes the end goal and not the means to an end, those who attend are usually left with just a “spoonful of sugar” and no medicine at all. The sweetness may attract a crowd, but the youth group is no longer offering anything of substantial spiritual value."

Read the rest here...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesday: Grace Requires Obedience, Obedience Gives Grace

by guest blogger Stacy Guevera

I don’t know why I get so surprised in my walk with King Jesus when I find He wants me to do something and it’s truly the most uncomfortable thing I can think of.


Just thinking of that word I want to hyperventilate (where’s the brown bag?).

A situation arose recently with another family-member-in-the-Lord who I know only to a small degree, and what transpired in this situation in front of some who DON’T follow Christ, truly broke my heart into a million pieces. I just knew, almost from the get-go, the Lord would ask ME to confront them and share (in love and a gentle spirit mind you - Gal 6:1) how the Lord was not pleased, nor glorified. The Lord gave me verse after verse I was to share with this person. But my heart beat fast at just the thought of this. I need You to help me do this, I was already praying to God.

So, I took a couple days and prayed and sought the Lord as I knew the time was getting closer for me to confront. My heart was beating faster and faster and the “collar on my shirt” was getting awfully tight around my neck with the anxiety that swelled up in me. But I knew it had to be done. If I’m going to be a follower of King Jesus myself, I need to know, accept and obey that the “uncomfortable-ness” of these kinds of things that will, do, and are happening, every single day – and yes, even in the Body of Christ. We are commanded to confront our brothers and sisters (James 5) and bring them back to the Truth.

After some serious prayer and even seeking counsel from an elder - I obeyed. I have not heard back from the person I confronted, and yes, my anxiety is still there. All kinds of thoughts race through my head. But I have been reminding myself that it’s not about me in this situation if this person is going to be mad or offended or fill in the blank, but it’s about our Lord, His kindness and Kingdom. I myself have been on the receiving end of confrontation too many times to count and so I have been praying for this person to receive it with God’s grace.

Underneath all this uncomfortable-ness though, the Lord has filled my spirit with His peace that surpasses all understanding (and boy does it really surpass understanding!), and I find myself with a heart of thankfulness. I’m thankful that He chose me to speak for Him and that He also trusted me to follow through with it. Confronting was a true test of faith and obedience. Though it's not even really about me.
The saying is true: “The Lords Will, will never take you to a place His grace won’t follow”.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Did the Apostle Peter have a Bad Hermeneutic?

This essay written by D.A. Carson is both interesting and helpful. Though the title may seems heady, I think this post is helpful for anyone to read. Carson takes on a topic oft discussed in colleges and seminaries, and offers a thorough and satisfying reply. I for one, am far more intellectually satisfied by Carson's explanation than with the alternative (which I have heard far more often).Here is the question Carson addresses:

"I’m reading through Acts this month. In Acts 1:20, Peter’s talking about Judas and quotes Psalm 69, 'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it.' But Psalm 69 doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Judas. In fact, that psalm seems somewhat anti-gospel. It’s all about David wanting God to smite his enemies, but Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” Did Peter have a bad hermeneutic? If someone tried to quote a psalm like this without apostolic authority, would you call them crazy?"

Read the post here...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Six Steps to being an Ecclesial Theologian

This is an interesting read for theologians in pastoral ministry, or pastors who want to become more theologically astute.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How to disagree about Bible translations

I thought that this brief post was interesting. In it Andy Naselli lays out the location of various translations in the spectrum of literality, and then gives some thoughts on the SBC's recent decision about the 2011 NIV. It's a quick read...check it out.

Note: The chart above was lifted from Andy Naselli's blog and was originally published in
"How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth,",by Fee and Strauss p. 28

Read it here...

Buy the book here (I just purchased the kindle edition $9.99) ...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesday: The Father's Good Gifts

In a late night phone conversation, a friend and I discussed the trials and struggles we had collectively experienced over the last few years. She recounted a night in the midst of her family's financial crisis where they hit a low point.

"We were in the deepest pit. We were so depressed. Finally, we opened up the Bible and preached ourselves happy again!" she laughed.

As the time neared eleven o'clock, we had concluded that while neither of us enjoy pain or sorrow, there was a resounding gratitude towards the Lord for the refining work He does through it. We meditated on how we could see each situation as a display of God's love and mercy towards us--and we could only thank Him for it!

"But be careful," my friend warned, "Sometimes we get so used to the Lord teaching us through hardships, that it becomes easy to overlook His love shown through blessings."

She was right. It is my tendency to see God's sovereign hand leading me through the valleys, only to overlook it when I am in the meadowland. Almost like a kid who feels his dad's love when he takes the car keys away, but never acknowledges the fatherly love shown when his dad bought him the car.

The day after our late night conversation, I was given an object lesson in this truth.

I took my boys to Hatcher Garden's--a ten mile nature preserve nestled into a commercial area of the city where we live. Almost immediately we fell in love with this beautiful place. As far as nature walks go, Hatcher Gardens is decidedly orderly, but instead of feeling sterile, it feels as if you have been included in the preservation project. Such care is shown in the way each flower, bush, and tree is tended.

Right in the middle of the garden is a tiny waterfall, lit up by sun that streams through the trees overhead. As the boys climbed the steps built alongside the waterfall, I headed for the bridge that straddled it. It was then I looked up and noticed the inscription on the header.

The bridge overlooked the waterfall for years before we moved to South Carolina. It was not built for me. But I did feel the love of the Father that day as I stood on the bridge that bears my name. I know that He led me to it. I could feel Him rejoicing when I found this special place and how much He delighted in showing it to me.

I am so grateful for "the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God" (I John 3:1 partial). No matter what package they come in--sorrows or blessings--our Father gives the best gifts.

Francis Chan on his new book Erasing Hell

Despite the fact that Francis Chan looks like he's wearing scrubs and is in an institution (a new way to look at Crazy Love), I thought this video made some great points. I am looking forward to reading the book.

Watch here...