A Call to Travel Sufficiently Far from Home

Reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections.

Have you come to prize the importance of journeying sufficiently far from home? To illustrate negatively, do you not bristle at the thought of a privileged young woman, growing up in a mansion, residing in an exclusive suburban neighborhood, attending posh private schools, who never leaves her comfortable surroundings? Would not this woman be aided by the experience of volunteering to scoop soup at a rescue mission, or by distributing medical supplies to refugees in a war torn country overseas, or something? If this member of the privileged class never leaves her comfort zone—never witnesses poverty and suffering firsthand—will she not nurse in her mind a distorted view of the world?

Conversely, consider a poverty stricken inner-city youth whose neighborhood is crawling with vice and whose chances of ever leaving his environment are bleak. Do we not readily commend the opportunity for such a youth to visit a rural farm or to attend a youth retreat in the Rockies, or something of the sort? Read more about A Call to Travel Sufficiently Far from Home

Understanding the New Calvinism: Identifying Marks

In the first three posts on the subject of New Calvinism we explored some definitions and examined the essential ingredient of the movement which is the co-mingling of Calvinistic theology with at least openness to charismatic practices. I believe this to be the unique and defining characteristic of New Calvinism. It is the one feature that all involved have in common. However, there are other traits that are shared by many of those immersed in the system. To these we will now turn.

It should be remembered that those promoting neo-Calvinism are not monolithic in every aspect, and some of the features mentioned below would be true of any number of evangelicals who are neither Calvinistic nor charismatic. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to find these identifying marks embraced by adherents of the movement.

Serious about theology and Christian living

This is the most commendable aspect of the majority of the “young, restless, and Reformed” crowd. All of the leadership, and most of the enthusiasts, are serious students of Scripture and substantial theological works that are concerned with truth. They seek preachers and teachers that deliver solid and thoughtful exegesis. They have little tolerance for sloppy thinking, weak answers and careless preaching. They want to be challenged and they want to be part of the debate, not merely passive consumers. Read more about Understanding the New Calvinism: Identifying Marks

Understanding the New Calvinism: Charismatic Gifts

Read the series so far.

If there is one distinguishing mark that separates the New Calvinist from traditional Calvinists it would be the openness of the newer variety toward the charismatic gifts. While many, if not most, would not see themselves as charismatics in the conventional sense, they believe that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are operational today, including the sign gifts such as miracles, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healings, and prophecy.

While most draw the line at apostleship, seeing it as an office reserved for a handful of appointed New Testament leaders who founded the church (Eph 2:20), strangely they see the gift of prophecy as still viable. Following the leadership of Wayne Grudem, in his landmark book, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament Today, as well as his Systematic Theology, many have been convinced that New Testament era prophecy is not held to the same standards as Old Testament prophecies and prophets. Whereas Old Testament prophecy was to be without error, with the consequence of the execution of the prophet if one prophesied falsely (Deut 18:20-22), church age prophecies can often be a mixture of truth and error. Read more about Understanding the New Calvinism: Charismatic Gifts

Acceptable Worship - 1 Peter 2:4-10

This outline continues a series preached in 2002. For my own edification (and hopefully yours), I’ve restudied the passage and made some improvements to the outline.

Introduction

Worship has  been a controversial topic in recent years. In some ways, the degree of controversy is a good thing: much of it arises from people genuinely striving to do what they believe to be God’s desire—that is, to properly honor God’s name and, at the same time, properly involve and engage God’s people in that activity.

Clearly, much of the controversy has also arisen from philosophies of ministry or outreach that, among other errors, improperly relate the interests and desires of the lost or immature to the worship life of the local church.

Peter’s teaching in this portion of 1 Peter is an excellent corrective. It helps us frame the question of acceptable worship correctly, understand the bigger picture, and ask the right questions to evaluate our present-day options. Read more about Acceptable Worship - 1 Peter 2:4-10

Encouraging & Equipping Our Young People (Part 2)

From VOICE, May/Jun 2015. Used with permission. Read Part 1.

Foundation For Youth Ministry

There is a great need for a Bible-based ministry directed at young people yet there are certain convictions that cannot be compromised in biblical youth ministry. The following ten con­victions lay a firm foundation for local church youth ministry.

1. The absolute authority of Scripture

The Bible is the Word of God and is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16, ­17) and is infallible, without error and sufficient in every way for every spiri­tual need for the believer no matter his age. The Bible is the final authority in everything and has everything we need pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). In our secularized culture, the counsel that students receive is often not biblical. It is important that the local church youth ministry give truly biblical counsel to students who are seeking help with their problems. Read more about Encouraging & Equipping Our Young People (Part 2)

Encouraging & Equipping Our Young People (Part 1)

From VOICE, May/Jun 2015. Used with permission.

Raising teens to become faithful Christian adults has never been easy. Like all of us, our children enter this world as sinners with hearts that must be transformed by the Holy Spirit. This is biblical truth: there is no perfect family or perfect parent or perfect church; all of us are sinners and are imperfect people in desperate need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. yet…as imperfect parents, imperfect pastors, imperfect teachers and imperfect mentors we are commanded to be God’s instruments in the process of delivering the Gospel to our young people and instructing them in the way of righteousness.

But this is a bad combination: imperfect children, raised by imperfect parents, in imperfect churches, surrounded by a world filled with evil influences. Our teens are bombarded by an ungodly culture that is increasingly narcissistic, pornographic and captivated by superficial interests and instant gratification. Today, many young adults prefer to linger on the couch in their parent’s basement playing video games or fantasizing about other people’s lives through Facebook rather than completing the journey to adulthood. They’re less resilient in the face of difficulty, more dependent on their parents, and more distracted by digital and visual media than former generations.1 Read more about Encouraging & Equipping Our Young People (Part 1)

Trying to Get the Rapture Right (Part 10)

This installment may be thought of as a digression, but I think it belongs to the overall argument.

Imagine a world where the removal of the saints from planet Earth happened but no one had the foggiest idea of when that might be. If the NT alluded to such a thing there would still be some hope that we just may be the ones to get called up. The doctrine of the rapture would still be a “sure thing”, it just wouldn’t be very concrete in our minds. Well, as a matter of fact, as a starting place for considering the rapture this isn’t that bad; there are far worse ones. A “worse” one would be the dogmatic insistence that the catching away of the Church as pretribulational is a dead-certainty. Another would be the blithe notion that the rapture occurs when Jesus returns to earth and any theories to the contrary are speculative fancies. Read more about Trying to Get the Rapture Right (Part 10)

A Forty-year Providence

When I first saw it, it was all jumbled up with grocery ads and direct mail fliers that urged me to consider the metaphysical significance of my current gutter system. But this piece of mail, this greeting-sized envelope postmarked from Long Island, NY, was less noisy, unassuming somehow. I recognized the handwriting as belonging to my husband’s grandmother—a carefully-formed script that she’d learned through hours of instruction in elementary school, back before the ubiquitous keyboards and touch screens that now dominate our lives.

The card, I assumed, would be a late birthday card with the requisite birthday check. I’d heard from my mother-in-law how sorry her own mother was about the delay and how they had had so many things happening and to look for it soon. But when I opened it, it wasn’t what I expected. The envelope did include a check, but instead of a birthday card, it was a “Get Well Soon” card. Inside the same script had written:

Hope this card is inappropriate and that your recovery is complete!! Oh, and by the way—Happy Birthday!!

Still, it was fitting. I had been sick a couple weeks earlier and so perhaps a belated “Get Well Soon” was as relevant as a belated “Happy Birthday.” Read more about A Forty-year Providence