Theology for the Long Haul

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Luther Rehabilitated?

I thought this was an interesting read. Apparently Pope Benedict has an appreciation for Luther's faith and work.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One of the most powerful posts I've read in a while

A friend from my Sunday school class sent me the link to this post this morning. Not only was a severely disappointed by Pat Robertson's lack of Biblical wisdom, but I was impressed with Russel Moore's handling of the subject. everyone needs to read this post, especially if you are married.

"This week on his television show Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife with Alzheimer’s disease in order to marry another woman. The dementia-riddled wife is, Robertson said, “not there” anymore. This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Few Christians take Robertson all that seriously anymore. Most roll their eyes, and shake their heads when he makes another outlandish comment (for instance, defending China’s brutal one-child abortion policy to identifying God’s judgment on specific actions in the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, or the Haiti earthquake). This is serious, though, because it points to an issue that is much bigger than Robertson."

Here is the link to the rest...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesdays: When What We Say is a Little Bit Gray: Part 1

In my high school year book I was voted most opinionated. It was a polite way to say I busted everyone’s chops and would most likely end up forty-five, some kind of activist, and single (boy, I showed them). I don’t like being such a dogmatic person. I work hard to shake it off.

You probably know what’s coming.

I’m about to get opinionated about something. The reason I hesitate is opinions are often rooted in being against something—and that usually ends in some sort of criticism. And while overpriced grocery stores and other common targets of my criticisms can afford to take a hit now and then, the church has been criticized within an inch of her life over the last few years. And quite frankly, we should look for ways to give her some credits instead of the continual withdrawals. So I want to be careful when I say…

There is a song played on Christian radio that bugs the heck out of me. I recognize the musical lead-in and switch the station before I have to hear a word of the lyrics, which start like this:

Give me rules, I will break them
Show me lines, I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet, it’s gotta be

Having no idea who wrote the song, I googled part of the chorus. In my googling, I discovered a wonderful website The Rabbit Room. On it are some blog posts written by Jason Gray explaining the criticisms he received for his song, “More Like Falling in Love”. Despite my extreme dislike for the song, I immediately had an affinity for Gray. Similar to me, he has a love of words, ie. he likes to use a lot of them. His blog posts are incredibly long, rivaled only by the length of his comment responses.

Proven by the 160-some comments on his post, Gray has gotten a lot of push back on the song. (It should be said that a huge chunk the comments were from ultra-Calvinists who were—well, doing what ultra-Calvinists do best and I won’t even bother going into it). As I hit the scroll button again and again (and again) to read what Gray had to say about the lyrics, I realized he’d fallen into a familiar pit: when you’ve said or done something people have a problem with, and now you begin to attempt to explain yourself in a hundred different ways. You mount a defense, using analogies, metaphors, and every bit of literary arsenal to explain how you were really trying to say this, not that, and so on and so forth. Been there Mister Gray. About fifty-million times. And now experience has taught me that if I say something and a large amount of people draw the same conclusion about what was said, I can’t continue to argue they heard me wrong. In humility I have to admit that I did a shoddy job of communicating and retract whatever I said. I think Gray would be wise to do this. However, I understand it is hard to renege on a song currently on the top 20 Christian music charts.

Tomorrow I’m going to write about the song “More Like Falling in Love” and the problems I have with the message it conveys, even if unintended.
It’s rooted in opinions, those pesky things that plague me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Couple Reviews from my Summer Reading

The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener

While this volume is over 800 pages from cover to cover, half of it is notes and works cited. Like Keener's other works (I’ve also read his commentary on Matthew) this volume on the “Historical Jesus” is filled with extra-biblical citations and observations. Keener’s expertise in socio-contextual study makes him a force to be reckoned with (even if this is his first work devoted to the topic). What I appreciate most is Keener’s firm grasp on “Historical Jesus” methods and paradigms, and his ability to use them responsibly (Keener's book could be used as a guide in my opinion). Keener levels serious critiques of some of scholarships earlier works (Crossan, Mack, the Jesus Seminar, etc.), while building upon the works of some influential scholars (Sanders, Davies, Hurtado, etc.). All-in-all I think Keener’s volume is indispensable, especially when read alongside other works on the same topic.

The Historical Jesus: 5 Views (Price, Crossan, Johnson, Dunn, and Bock) edited by Paul Rhodes Eddy

I can’t recommend this book highly enough as a foundational primer for contemporary Jesus studies. In one volume the reader gets 5 views, each with 4 critiques (from the other authors). By the time the reader finishes the book, he or she will have a basic grasp of the discussion and its primary points of argument. What is likely the most helpful contribution of a book of this nature is that each opinion is balanced by its critiques. While not perfectly, it forces the representative scholars to wear a rhetorical seat belt. If you want to know what people are saying about the Historical Jesus, than this is the place to start.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shocking News from Jerusalem: The Bible has Changed!

The following post by Dan Wallace was written in response to an Associated Press article...

"What shouldn’t surprise us in all this is that here is yet another piece by a respected journalist, writing for a highly regarded news agency, in which he turns a straightforward story about serious biblical scholarship into a sensationalist piece that borders on yellow journalism. When will journalists learn that the story as is is interesting and significant in its own right? Historically, journalists simply can’t relay the narrative of discovery or research of biblical manuscripts without midrashing the story and taking cheap shots at believers. This may reveal something of the shallow soil of their own theological convictions in which a robust orthodoxy never had a chance to take root."

Read the rest here...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What to do with Creeds and Councils?

I found this post by John Starke on The Gospel Coalition website and thought it was helpful. Here is a piece. You can click the link below to read the rest.

"The church—be it Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant—has long debated the role of creeds and councils without reaching full consensus. Evangelicals care about sound doctrine, and we would be wrong to think it didn’t exist until the Reformation. So what’s an appropriate emphasis on creeds and councils for evangelicals in particular? What authority should they have in our life and doctrine?

Follow Me as I Follow Christ

In his first letter to the Corinthians, after exhorting them to do all things for the glory of God (10:23-33), Paul sets himself apart as an example when he says, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Notice, though, he doesn’t set himself apart as a perfect guide. He has a very important qualification: “as I follow Christ.” In other words, Paul wants his readers to recognize where Paul’s life is that of Christ’s (I would say, where it is biblical) and therefore follow him in that way. This is an easy paradigm to remember how Protestants have thought about creeds and councils: follow the creeds and councils as they follow the Bible.

Bruce Demarest, in an older Themelios article, “The Contemporary Relevance of Christendom’s Creeds” (by the way, you can look through our entire archives of Themelios, all the way back to 1975) makes the same point rather well:
[T]he creed is not only a rule; it is also a rule that is ruled. As human formulations the creeds are subordinate to Scripture, the supreme rule of faith and practice. However majestic its language, however moving its assertions, however closely it purports to approximate apostolic doctrine, the creed is a human and therefore potentially fallible document. Ultimately the creeds must be checked and ruled by the Word of God. Christendom’s creeds are worthy of honour to the degree that they accord with the teaching of the Word of God.
What Kind of Authority

Since we’ve concluded that the creeds and councils don’t have ultimate authority, which is ascribed only to Scripture, do they have any authority at all? There’s a cavalier spirit in evangelicals that is quick to say, No! But that’s a tough line to plow since our evangelical understanding of the gospel is built upon the orthodox formulations of the creeds and councils. Even the most rogue, “no-creed-but-the-Bible” evangelical still uses words like orthodox and heresy. These aren’t biblical words, so to speak, but Christian words that depend upon some sort of agreement as to what our spiritual ancestors have claimed to be good and right beliefs and what is damnable, according to the Bible.
So for Protestants, creeds and councils are viewed as norma normata, which is a fancy Latin phrase for “a rule that is ruled.” Creeds and councils are rules ruled by Scripture. But note, that it is still a rule... "

Click here to read the rest...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesdays: Kindles, Pickles, and Other Little Things

Do you know the best thing about turning thirty-one? You spent so much emotion on the trauma of turning thirty, you just don’t have the energy to feel bad about age again. Thirty-one is quiet and uneventful, like an afternoon rain that comes and goes before it’s noticed.

Like a little daisy sprouting up after that rain, Phil bought me a Kindle for my thirty-first birthday. It was unexpected—we aren’t big gift givers. At first I was hesitant. I suspected he purchased it for financial advantages: the Kindle downloads could prove less expensive then the library fines I tend to rack up (when we moved from Indiana two years ago, Phil pointed to the town’s under-construction-library and remarked the project would probably come to a standstill since the funding was being pulled). I was also skeptical about reading from an electronic screen. There would be no paper and ink smell, no chocolaty fingerprints from the last reader, no sound of the page as it turns. What a surprise! I love that little device with its slender, gray cover. It is by far the one of the best gifts I have been given.

When we moved to South Carolina, I was determined to have a new couch. Our old “corduroy gold boat” was left in our rental in Indiana, so we were couchless. However, after a little shopping and the shock of the huge retail price tags, I baulked and ended up buying a used microfiber off craigslist. It was nice, but wasn’t really what I wanted. A few days after the purchase, my boys ran into the kitchen to tell me a water bottle spilled on the couch.

“Okay,” I sighed, “It’s just water. I’ll soak it up.”

“Actually,” said my four-year-old matter-of-factly, “It’s pickle juice.”

Later that evening, we snuggled up on the (slightly dill smelling) couch to watch the movie The Prince of Egypt. We ate popcorn, and I suddenly felt grateful for our second hand couch. If it was new, I would be way too uptight to let the kids eat on it. The pickle-juice-fiasco would have put me over the edge. With a used couch, I just half-laughed and cleaned it up.

Kindles and pickles. They got me to think about how things that are unexpected or don’t happen quite as planned often end up being the sweetest things in life. So often what I think I want is near-sighted. But I have a God who sees the big picture. Often if I rest in Him and His sovereignty, He shows me a glimpse of what I couldn’t see close up. In big and little things.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mixin' it up for the Glory of God!

What do The Case Against the Case for Christ by Robert Price and Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murray have in common?

Nothing, and maybe that's the point.

A few days ago I started plowing through The Case Against the Case for Christ in preparation for my classes beginning next week (we are spending a couple days on Bart Ehrman and a couple on Robert Price as preparation for college). It has been laborious let me tell you.

In TCATCFC, Price sets out to discredit Lee Stroble and the host of scholars and teachers he references and interviews in his A Case for.... series. Price spends as much time "bleeding his heart" and venting his bitterness as addressing real issues. His argument is full of opinion and scathing criticism, but not clearly conveyed. Thankfully, I don't think he has written successfully to students or scholars. He is far too technical for undergraduate students or a popular audience and his bias lacks the professionalism needed to make sense to Academics. It is difficult to take seriously someone who, without fail, accepts the most critical opinion on all matters all of the time (whether it is the most logical or not). It's a heart problem, in my opinion.

On the other side of spectrum, I have been reading Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murry. Many of you have probably read this book (if you haven't, you must), and have found it to be as enriching and encouraging as I have. In the book, Murray encourages the believer to not only hear God's loving and generous call to salvation, but also His call to abide. I am in constant need of this reminder. Like you, I have found that a busy life is not conducive to intimacy with God. I make myself too busy to abide, and so I fail to live in all of the blessing Christ's work affords me.

So why am I reading these two books at the same time?

Because God has called me to read and understand people like Robert Price, and He has called me to care for my soul. There are many scholars and students who have sacrificed their spiritual life for the self-made glory of academia. The academic world thrives on human pride and teacher worship. The cost of seeking to glorify God in this profession (I prefer to think of it as a ministry) can be high if you don't purposefully determine to abide.

At the end of the day, there is no life other than what is found in Christ, and there is not glory that lasts--save that given by Christ at the end of one's life.

Fulfill your calling, but also abide. You cannot accomplish the former without prioritizing the latter.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesdays: It's a Scary, Scary World, but Take Heart

As July melts into August, our little family settles into life in the South. While the majority of southerners hibernate in air conditioned living rooms, I prefer to take in the heat, as if still defrosting from thirty-one years of below freezing winters. Bike rides in the front yard, homemade lemonade in the afternoons, and long hours at the neighborhood splash pad. I love the fact that clothes put on the line at one o’clock in the afternoon are dry by one-thirty. For a girl who said she would never go south, I’ve gone south, if you know what I mean.

There’s a stereotype about the south that people are friendly. It’s so true. We know our neighbors fairly well already and I always get chatted up at BI-LO. Two Sundays ago when we arrived home from church, we even had a visitor. It was a four-foot brown snake curled up in the shade of our porch.

I am not even kidding.

It was almost enough to make me price moving trucks back to Ohio. Instead, in a panicked state, I texted my sisters. My younger sister’s response: You’re kidding me. Oh, I wish.

“Is it poisonous?” my older sister texted back.

Of course I had already checked online. There are no poisonous brown snakes in upstate South Carolina.

“So what’s the problem?” she asked.

Um, it’s a snake? Maybe that didn’t register from her townhouse in downtown Columbus’ Victorian Village where the nearest snake is fifteen miles north and in a zoo. Or maybe she just simply forgot snakes are inherently evil.

But I had not forgotten. That is why I did not go outside for the rest of the day, even after the snake had moved on. This was a normal reaction to an encounter with a snake longer than my first-born child. However, some other reactions were a little less rational. As Phil reentered the house from a brave, brave venture out, I screamed,

“Shut the door, shut the door!”

The door was hastily shut.

“Lock it! Lock it!”

This time there was only a look.

I got the same look later in the day as I folded laundry in our bedroom. I couldn’t shake the image of a snake slithering around and in a fit of mania, grabbed my unprotected ankles and leapt onto the bed.
Just a long, long stare.

What? You never get the heebie-jeebies?”

I’ve heard it said many times that fear is not a rational emotion. I beg to differ. When you take into account the things that can and DO happen in life, you begin to realize how legitimate fear is. People get cancer, die in car accidents, miscarry babies, lose jobs, produce prodigals, and a myriad of other unhappys. The chance that you or I will experience one, two, or possibly even three of these pains is almost certain. That’s some seriously scary stuff.

Jesus’ talked a lot about fear. Often He acknowledged the reality of something to be feared, but offered a word of instruction or comfort. An example of this is John 16, when He plainly told His disciples they would have tribulations, but told them to “take heart—I have overcome the world.”

To put it in my modern-day parallel: Yes, you will encounter evil-eyed serpents, but take heart (and stop wearing those ridiculous rubber boots in the yard)—I am the one who crushed the snakes head.”

It comforts me to know that Jesus never said, “Oh don’t worry about such and such, it’s no big deal and probably won’t even happen.”

No, Jesus laid the snakes of life out on the table...

It’s going to be scary.

But I am in control. I will be with you.


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Historical Jesus and Therapy for Bible Scholars

Many of you know I am currently working on my master's thesis. The topic is The Scandal of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. My goal is to find out how Jesus' teaching and ministry was an offense to some in his culture and context. I see this as useful information given the nature of Jesus words in Matthew 10:

"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. "It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! "Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. "(vv. 24-27 NASB)

That said, investigating "Historical Jesus" studies is a part of my research, and to that end I have been reading three books:

1. The Historical Jesus: 5 Views edited by Paul Eddy and including essays by Robert M. Price, John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, James D.G. Dunn, and Darrell Bock.
2. The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener
3. The Sage from Galilee by David Flusser (a Jewish Rabbi)

While I have gained a greater understanding of how scholars from diverse backgrounds and with varying theological commitments interpret Jesus, I have also been frustrated and disappointed. I expected to be greatly challenged by the writings of Price and Crossan especially, only to be blown away by how much one can assert from very little evidence. Price it seems, would have me believe that the ancient narrative of Attis, (whose hair grew and pinkie finger moved after death) was a source for Jesus' resurrection story....really? Crossan would have me doubt the Biblical account and trade it for a re-creation of his own, which looks more like Crossan than any Messiah of a 1st century Jew. Johnson's post-modern approach is appealing at times, Dunn makes me laugh (in a good way), Bock is predictable (not necessarily a bad thing), Flusser is informative, and Keener is awesome (though at times giving too much credence on too little evidence in my opinion). Like I said, I'm learning a lot.

Two of the most valuable things I am learning are: 1) Scholars don't know all they say they know; and, 2) All people (including those who claim to be objective) create a Jesus that reflects their theological commitments and personal concerns. The more I read from scholars like Robert Price, Bart Ehrman, Crossan and others I find their struggle with Jesus is spiritual and not intellectual. If you listen to Price speak, he can't seem to help mocking people who believe there could be divine accountability. He's afraid of hell, and so he mocks it. Ehrman also wears his heart on his sleeve. His desire to be more intelligent than his professors at Moody and Wheaton fuels his animosity towards evangelical Christians. The further I get into Biblical Studies the more I realize that the profession has as much to do with personal therapy as it does scholarship.

I am unsure at this point where all this will take me. I want to make a difference with my studies, but I am seeing that what people really need (Bible scholars included) is an encounter with the living Christ. I'm sure the answer includes both a move of the Holy Spirit, and my (and others') obedience to thier calling. My prayer is that good scholarship will open a door for unbelieving academics to encounter Christ on a spiritual and experiential level.

What are your thoughts

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”.