2011 Contest

2011 Writing Contest: And the Winner Is...

The long-awaited 2011 Writing Contest restuls are in. Many thanks to all of you who contributed articles!

Per the announcement earlier this year, we narrowed the winners to four. The winners will receive $114 each ($75 plus donations to the contest fund—thank you donors!).

The winning articles

1. Suffering in Light of the Gospel by Stephanie Ludlum

2. “Net-working” in the Local Church by Joseph Leavell

3. Faith and Babies by Hannah Anderson

4. We Shall All Be Changed by Gordon Scott Jones

748 reads

Fervently Love One Another

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. (NASB, 1 Peter 1:22-23)

Please do not misunderstand my intention here. This is not meant to be an essay about warm, fuzzy love or the mushy sentiment the world advertises as true love. This is not about abandoning truth and all that is doctrinally sound. This is not going to be a post about compromising theological precision for the sake of a common unity that comes with superficial love and approval of sinful words and deeds. My intent is to turn our attention, as believers, to a broader understanding of what Peter tells suffering Christians scattered in various places.

Before I begin, my desire is to encourage believers to follow the many commands in Scripture which require us to “walk wisely” (Eph. 5:15, Matt. 10:16, Rom. 16:19). All of us should examine what we are being taught with a healthy, rigorous intellect when it comes to following the Bereans’ example (Mark 12:30, Acts 17:11). We, in the church, often become dazzled and mesmerized by ear-tickling sermons about love which has a tendency to puff us up and feed the inner nature of man, particularly if these sermons are centered on our perceived inherent worth and value apart from Jesus Christ.

6604 reads

Jonah: The Runaway Prophet

Jonah: a paradox

Jonah is “a paradox: a prophet of God, and yet a runaway from God: a man drowned, and yet alive: a preacher of repentance, yet one that repines at repentance.”1

In the early part of Joash’s reign, Jonah prophesied the restoration of Israel’s northern borders lost in wars with Syria and a time of prosperity and safety that would follow to rival the nation’s former greatness.2 However, in her prosperity, Israel became complacent and arrogant thinking that they alone were the people under the divine favor and no other nation was so esteemed (Amos 9:7) by the Living God (Amos 6:1-8).

Exasperated with Israel’s unfaithfulness, God sent prophets to declare judgment against Israel warning them that He would use the Assyrians, whose capital city was Nineveh—a feared nation known for its cold-blooded barbarity—to punish and expel Israel from the land because of her sins (Hos. 9:3, 10:6, 11:5; Joel 1:6,7; Amos 9:11). In this setting God called Jonah to preach judgment against “Nineveh the great city for their wickedness” (NASB, Jon. 1:2). However, Jonah decided to make a run for it in the direction opposite Nineveh.

Jonah: his love for God and Israel

Some commentators attribute Jonah’s action to moral faults in his character but such accusations are unwarranted and implicitly denied within the narrative.3 In addition, there is the idea Jonah ran away because he was afraid for his own safety should he confront the powerful and evil people of Nineveh.

12272 reads

An Interlude of Praise

quoteblock

Since the Psalms call us to praise our God all day, every day (e.g., Psalm 34:1, 71:14), an act of praise should hardly be an “interlude.” But the focus of this post is a departure from what normally appears in these pages. Hopefully we’ll be able to do this more often. Heart and mind are intertwined and the work of thinking can only be enhanced by the work of intentional worship. Enjoy Kim Noble’s song of thankfulness. —Ed.

A Song of Thankfulness to King Jesus Based on Philippians 4:8

Jesus Christ, to Him, be praised!

A song of thankfulness, I raise,

For in the pages of Holy script,

I find a comprehensive list,

A portrait of our mighty King,

All praise and glory do I sing.

Truth, is what I’m thankful for,

This first word shows our Savior-Lord,

Will never falter, never fail

His words and deeds are faithful still,

971 reads

"We Shall All Be Changed"

As I sat in the midst of the church council, comprised of at least a dozen gray heads, I was painfully aware that I was only 21 years old. They had asked me to consider being their pastor. That could not have been an easy decision for them, but I was going to ask them to do something much harder: change. As a fledgling separatist I could not join their church’s conference, but it would be simple enough for them to withdraw from it, right?

But they could hardly understand why I would ask such a thing. They had always been conservative and thought that holding to their solid tradition was enough, while the world changed around them.

Today, half a lifetime later, I am a gray head and I am struggling with the concept of change. Is it too late in the course of church history to propose another doctrine? Not so that I can teach it, but so that I can study it, a thorough “Changeology” needs to be developed. I must not be the only one who is longing to know when it is right and best to cut loose of old moorings, and when it is both courageous and wise to hold to the time-tested. Choose your hot-button issue: Bible translations, music, worship formats, personal separation standards, and probably any other you can imagine, the issue is: “to change or not to change?”

In my opinion Leith Anderson makes some good observations but comes to the wrong conclusions in his book Dying for Change, which is perhaps the volume most to the point. He says, “Two theological truths explain God’s relationship to change: immutability and sovereignty.” (11) He rightly notes that change is most often chaotic for man but never is for God. I disagree with some of his suggestions for modernizing the church, because we have different “non-negotiables,” but I appreciate his consistency.

1799 reads

Suffering - in Light of the Gospel

Two years after my whitewater rafting accident, my physical therapist dropped a bombshell in the form of a simple question: “Stephanie, have your doctors ever talked to you about MS?”

Little did he or I realize that less than a year later, my supposedly accident-related symptoms would take a dive, and suddenly all my doctors would be talking to me about multiple sclerosis.

Today, nearly nine years after my accident, I’m drafting this post in a Starbucks far from home. This morning I met with a neuromuscular specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. Again, MS was discussed—but only in passing. It’s been ruled out too many times to be a serious possibility anymore. The doctor and I talked about the pain, weakness, numbness, and other symptoms that have plagued me the last several years. Despite tests and treatments at some of the best facilities in the country, to date there’s been no firm diagnosis.

The doctor and I discussed my physical quality of life—how it has waxed and waned over the years, and how I try to live as normal a life as possible. But a subject we didn’t broach is something actually much more pertinent to how I keep going day by day: my inner, spiritual quality of life. It, too, has changed a lot since my accident: a waxing and waning faith, a growing and healing that no physician could ever attempt, a deeper experience of the person and character of God—all rooted in a deeper understanding of the gospel.

2281 reads

"Net-working" the Local Church

A look at the need

Several years ago, I remember a couple in the church we had attended that shocked the congregation by getting a divorce. They had been married almost twenty years, had five children, were active in attending all the church’s services on Sunday, going to Wednesday night Bible study, active in ministries, etc. By all accounts, everyone at church thought they were doing fine. Then out of nowhere, they got a nasty divorce where the wife took off and left the family and now has very little involvement even in the lives of her children. Needless to say, no one in that family is a part of that church any longer.

This is only one of multiple stories I could share of people who looked healthy externally when they showed up for church but eventually left their churches. They were besieged with various major spiritual problems that no one else in the church had a clue about. These issues have varied widely to areas such as adultery, children announcing to their family that they are gay, children running away from home, struggles with bitterness and anger, addictions such as alcohol and pornography, etc. Not limiting it to spiritual problems alone, I have also witnessed families struggling with layoffs, relocation, major health issues, vehicle issues, etc. These types of problems have caused enormous stress on families which result in spiritual strain. Many of these families were left to face these crises alone while the church found out too late about their burdens that needed bearing.

To be fair, I have seen individual members and whole congregations do an admirable job at stepping up to the plate to help those who are struggling either spiritually or physically and meeting these challenges as they come. Yet in each of these scenarios, instead of preventive discipleship, I have observed local churches take a reactionary approach to dealing with problems and issues that plague their congregations, acting only after a major calamity or church upheaval. For an example, why is it that churches that are having trouble meeting budget seem to be keenly interested in outreach and in the principle of financial stewardship? The reality of ministry is that the pastoral staff often has too little time to prevent, or shepherd through, every difficulty each person in their congregation faces. Often, pastors see the overwhelming burdens of their people (and I used to be one who thought this way) and think that the missing ingredient to these ministry challenges is the implementation of a new program or ministry to meet that need. I would argue that this proposed resolution is not adequate to meeting the problem.

1343 reads

2011 Writing Contest Update

The 2011 Writing Contest ended 7/29. A few more contest submissions will be appearing this coming week and the next. We hope to announce winners by the end of August.
If you’d like to informally vote for your favorite article, hit the Like link at the bottom of the article and/or post a comment expressing your appreciation.
Contest submissions published so far

460 reads

Pages