Encouragement for Leaders in Kids Ministry


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Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “If you want big-souled, large-hearted men or women, look for them among those who are much engaged among the young, bearing with their follies, and sympathizing with their weaknesses for Jesus’ sake.”

Kids ministry is a unique thing in the life of the church. It is simultaneously one of the most challenging and one of the most rewarding ministries. Nothing will leave you dead tired and rejuvenated quite like working with kids in the church. Running, crawling, jumping, shouting, whispering, laughing, crying, smiling, and frowning are all probable things you will see a kids ministry leader doing on a weekly basis. Leaders in kids ministry are caretakers, teachers, playmates, mediators, parent-figures, and role models. These roles, when fulfilled, produce tired bodies and full souls. There is nothing so tiring as ministering to kids. Yet, there is nothing so satisfying as seeing kids trust Christ or grow in deeper intimacy with Christ.

Nevertheless, the labors of kids ministry often go unnoticed and servants can feel unappreciated. It is tempting to feel like serving in kids ministry is nothing more than a glorified babysitting service while the rest of the adults go about real ministry. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Kids ministry is foundational in the spiritual and theological formation of a person. Paul encouraged Timothy,

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:14-15).

John Calvin believed the teaching of children was fundamental to the future of the church. He once said, “Believe me, the Church of God will never be preserved without catechesis.” Likewise, Puritan Thomas Watson once said, “To preach and not to catechize [teach] is to build without foundation.”

If you serve in kids ministry, know that your work is most valuable not only for the spiritual formation of the kids you teach, but also for the future of the church. You are not just a babysitter. You may just be the only source of love, grace, and truth some of these kids ever see. Though the labors are hard and the praise small, may your efforts in this work not be for personal accolade, but instead for the praise of the glory of the grace of God. Find satisfaction in presenting the gospel to kids. Find satisfaction in teaching small kids big truths to blow their minds and ground their feet. In a culture that is constantly shifting and in a world that is characterized by pluralism, teaching children the immovable truth of the gospel is a crucial work.

Continue serving the kids in your ministry every week to the glory of God and you will find that you will grow in faith, love, grace, and truth. Find motivation to faithfully continue in the work of kids ministry in the words of prominent Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon:

Teach the little ones the whole truth and nothing but the truth; for instruction is the great want of the child’s nature. A child has not only to live as you and I have, but also to grow; hence he has double need of food. When fathers say of their boys, ‘What appetites they have!’ they should remember that we also would have great appetites if we had not only to keep the machinery going, but to enlarge it at the same time. Children in grace have to grow, rising to greater capacity in knowing, being, doing, and feeling, and to greater power from God; therefore above all things they must be fed. They must be well fed or instructed, because they are in danger of having their cravings perversely satisfied with error. Youth is susceptible to evil doctrine. Whether we teach young Christians truth or not, the devil will be sure to teach them error. They will hear of it somehow, even if they are watched by the most careful guardians. The only way to keep chaff out of the child’s little measure is to fill it brimful with good wheat. Oh, that the Spirit of God may help us to do this! The more the young are taught the better; it will keep them from being misled (Come Ye Children: Practical Help Telling Children About Jesus, pp. 10-11).


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

 

Five New Books to Release in August


I am always on the lookout for new books that can help educate, edifying, encourage, and/or entertain me. Here is a short list of a five books–compiled by Evan and myself–to be released in August that would greatly benefit your soul.

1. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth (Mike Cosper)

81N56ssxNBLAbout the Book: “This entertaining book connects the dots between the stories we tell and the one, great Story—helping us better understand the longings of the human heart and thoughtfully engage with the movies and TV shows that capture our imaginations.”

“Mike helps us make sense of what is true and good in the stories our culture consumes, and he does it without leading us toward syncretism. With the amount of TV and movies our culture devours, this book is a must read.”
Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas, Texas; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network

“Evangelicals are notorious for consuming mass quantities of pop culture behind closed doors and sanctimoniously railing against the culture in public. It’s time to stop the hypocrisy and get serious about thinking theologically about the TV shows and films that stir our imaginations. In The Stories We Tell, Mike Cosper plays the role of the Interpreter in The Pilgrim’s Progress by clarifying our favorite episodes and movies in light of both law and gospel, and urges us, ‘Stay until I have showed thee a little more!’”
Gregory Alan Thornbury, President, The King’s College; author, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism

2. God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey (Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger)

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About the Book
: “This thorough study of the Bible’s teaching on men and women aims to help a new generation of Christians live for Christ in today’s world. Moving beyond other treatments that primarily focus on select passages, this winsome volume traces Scripture’s overarching pattern related to male-female relationships in both the Old and New Testaments.”

“The eclipse of the family in human society is one of the most disastrous developments of our age. Sadly, the eclipse of the biblical model of marriage and family has also happened within far too many evangelical churches. Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger come to the rescue with biblical and theological insight and practical wisdom.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

3. The Devotional Poetry of Donne, Herbert, and Milton (Leland Ryken)

71LKbvVB4xLAbout the Book: “We’ve all heard about the classics and assume they’re great. Some of us have even read them on our own. But for those of us who remain a bit intimidated or simply want to get more out of our reading, Crossway’s Christian Guides to the Classics are here to help. This volume leads readers through the devotional poetry of three seventeenth-century poetic geniuses: John Donne, George Herbert, and John Milton.”

“Ryken is a warm and welcoming guide to the classics of Western literature. The books in this series distill complex works into engaging and relevant commentaries, and help twenty-first-century readers understand what the classics are, how to read them, and why they continue to matter.”
Andrew Logemann, Chair, Department of English, Gordon College

4. Atonement, Law, and Justice: The Cross in Historical and Cultural Contexts (Adonis Vidu)

71nv2RrdGeLAbout the Book“Adonis Vidu tackles an issue of great current debate in evangelical circles and of perennial interest in the Christian academy. He provides a critical reading of the history of major atonement theories, offering an in-depth analysis of the legal and political contexts within which they arose. The book engages the latest work in atonement theory and serves as a helpful resource for contemporary discussions.”

“Adonis Vidu has written a learned, thoughtful, and intriguing study of the history of atonement as it relates to concepts of law and justice. Of particular interest in the current context of wider discussions of the doctrine of God is Vidu’s articulate exposition and defense of atonement in relation to divine simplicity. This is a fascinating and significant book that repays careful reading.”
Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Pennsylvania

5. For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship (Daniel Block)

91e2s8A-v7LAbout the Book: “Respected Old Testament scholar Daniel Block examines worship in the Bible, offering a comprehensive biblical foundation and illuminating Old Testament worship practices and principles.”

“This is the kind of work we have come to expect from Daniel Block. It is comprehensive in virtually every avenue: biblically, theologically, historically, and practically. Whether discussing ancient temple worship or the twenty-first-century church, Block provides insightful critique as well as sound counsel for the way forward into authentically faithful worship of the Triune God. For the Glory of God is certain to have wide use in the academy, the church, and the lives of individuals–all for the glory of God and the good of the church.”
Daniel L. Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

Morning Mashup 07/30


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A Letter to the Caliph – A graceful, strong, and moving open letter from missionary and author, Tim Keesee, to the leader of the Islamist militant group, ISIS.

Weary of Culture-Warring – Eric Teetsel: “Unapologetic Christian conviction vying in the public square does not exacerbate the gulf between Christians and others. For what fellowship can darkness hath with light? The Gospel is good. It is true. It is life-giving. Therefore even the clumsiest act of evangelism is an act of love. If competing for public policies that reflect our Gospel-centered values is an impediment we ought not cease fighting, but instead demonstrate to our fellow citizens that we are fighting for them.”

Why No One Cares About the Christians of Mosul – Tom Wilson: “The contrast between the world’s non-reaction to the decimation of Mosul’s once 60,000-strong Christian community and the hysterical hate-fueled frenzy being directed against Israel over the casualties in Gaza reminds us that in the liberal imagination, all human suffering is not considered equal.”

How to Memorize Entire Books of the Bible – If you have ever wanted to memorize extended passages of Scripture, Jemar Tisby of RAAN outlines a method that has helped him do just that. I have also found this method to be effective in memorizing lengthy passages–even entire chapters and books.

There is No Right to Same-Sex Marriage – A Virginia judge dissented the commonwealth’s 4th circuit’s decision that Virginia’s marriage amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He said, “The fundamental right to marriage does not include a right to same-sex marriage.” Check out Ryan Anderson’s further reflections.

Three Views on How Long a Sermon Should Be – Thom Rainer examines what church members and church leaders believe about the proper length of a sermon.

The Parable of the Lawn Mower – If you find agreement with the statement, “Preach the gospel, use words if necessary,” check out this parable that teaches an invaluable lesson. See how your works do indeed preach something, just not the gospel.

It is not he that reads most , but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian. –Thomas Brooks

The Living and Powerful Word of God: Meditations on James 1:21


img5I have never understood the tendency to separate the Spirit of God from the word of God. This unnecessary and unbiblical dichotomy affects preaching, Bible study, and daily Christian living. Christians rave about the power of the Spirit, but practically scoff at the power of the word. Some even prefer their pastors to not prepare sermons and fully “rely on the Spirit” in preaching. This is not only the case in charismatic circles. Even in well-meaning Baptist churches, prayer for the Spirit to move is viewed in connection to worship music or an invitation at the end of a service. There are surprisingly many Christians who believe that expository preaching and careful study of the Bible is unnecessary for the Christian life. Instead, they argue that we need to “experience” the Spirit of God and rely on the Spirit of God instead of the word of God.

In the face of this errant separation of Spirit and word is the witness of Scripture.The Bible conveys a direct connection between the Spirit of God and the word of God. God desires worshipers who worship in Spirit and truth. The Bible speaks of the Spirit granting the new birth (John 3:3-8; 6:63). When the Spirit is sent, he dwells within believers. At the same time, when the word of God comes in the gospel, it is implanted in us (Jam. 1:21). This relationship between the Spirit of God and the word of God greatly aids our understanding of the role of the word of God in our lives. The word of God is not mere text or lifeless revelation. It is a living and moving, breathing and working power that is a vehicle for life and a catalyst for faith.

The Word of God Saves?

James says something that is radically contrary to modern rejection of the Bible. If you question the relevancy of the Bible, heed this word: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jam. 1:21, emphasis added). Notice in verse 21 how the implanted word of God is “able to save your souls.” How necessary then is the word of God for our lives? It is absolutely crucial. It is vital for your salvation, for your perseverance in the faith. The word of God saves us. How are we to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”? How are we to be doers of the word and not just hearers? How are we to practice true and pure religion? We must receive the implanted word of God!

Our souls depend on the implanted word and our reception of it. Rejecting the word of God is like rejecting the very oxygen you need to live and breathe. The gospel demands the life-giving external word of God. Christians suffocate when they stop receiving the word of God. A closed Bible on a shelf is like a closed mouth and nose refusing to breath. When you miss a day of receiving the word of God, you should feel short of breath.

Receive the External Word

But how do we receive the implanted word of God? The implanted word is the message of the gospel that we received at the point of believing in Jesus. God plants the gospel in our hearts in the new birth. This implanted word fuels a desire for the external word of God, which is the Scriptures (Genesis-Revelation). We receive the implanted word through our reception of the external word. The power of the implanted word (the gospel) to save us feeds on our reception of the external word. It is through this transaction that the word of God powerfully works to save our souls.

Receive With Meekness

Now that we have seen that Christians are to receive the implanted word by receiving the external word, we will look at the manner James urges us to receive the word. This is a crucial lesson in Bible study and sitting under preaching. The context of this passage is of hearing the word. James says we should hear the word of God in specific ways; ways that oppose hasty and angry speech and attitudes. We should hear and receive the word of God with meekness. This means we should approach the Bible with humility and be quick to submit to it. When we open our Bibles to receive God’s word, we must do so with a trusting heart. We must ask God to help us to understand and delight in what we read. We must ask God to grant us the grace to willingly and gladly submit to his word. When we approach the Bible in this way, we receive it with meekness.

So, instead of rejecting portions of the Bible you personally find difficult to understand or accept, humbly trust God to teach you and meekly submit to God’s goodness and glory when you fail to grasp a certain biblical text. Remember, the thriving of your life as a Christian is not dependent on your level of understanding, but on an already implanted word (the gospel) that abides in you and is working for the completion of your salvation.

Implications

There are at least four important implications to draw from this passage.

Firstly, we can rest in the power of the gospel. The gospel is not a weak and fleeting power that is here today and gone tomorrow like a visiting political power. No, the gospel is the power of God to save (Rom. 1:16). The gospel takes root in your heart and creates the new birth. Stop trying to earn your own righteousness. Stop trying to give yourself life. Instead, rest in the work of Christ who died to give you new life through the word of his gospel.

Secondly, we need the gospel every day. It is the message of the gospel that was implanted at the new birth. It is this implanted word that fuels faith. In order to sustain your faith on a daily basis as you actively “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness.” All sin-killing efforts are fueled through meek reception of the word of God.

Thirdly, we must have the gospel on our lips every day. If the gospel is the means of the new birth, then we must actively seek to evangelize our lost friends, family, and even those we do not know. All men and women are both born in sin and dead in sin. Because of this, our only hope of life with God is rebirth. Rebirth comes through the word of the gospel. So, we must go with gospel everywhere we go. In the words of Paul, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

Fourthly, we cannot afford to neglect the word of God. James says the implanted word of God is “able to save your souls” (Jam. 1:21). So, the best thing we can do for our souls is to open the word of God and feed our hungry souls the bread of life.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

“Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities” by Roger Olson–A Review


51uTdLTWvHLRoger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2006), pp. 250. $14.07.

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities is a book which examines a few of the main tenets of Arminian Theology in a fresh way. While most systematic theologies have sufficed to discuss and explain Arminianism in full detail, author Roger Olson has attempted in this work to defend Arminianism from incorrect caricatures from those who do not hold the position. As one who is an unapologetic Arminian, Olson attempts to eliminate ten of the common “myths” that he believes others have created about Arminianism. Olson creatively defends Arminianism in this work as he seeks to protect this theological system from the attacks of some who claim it to be incorrect at least and a heresy at worst.

Roger Olson is more than qualified to defend Arminianism in this work. Despite the fact that he is prone to bias in defending the theological system he holds, it is proper to observe a defense from one who holds the position. Olson holds a Ph.D. from Rice University and is a professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He has written numerous other theological works, more recently and similar to this work is his work Against Calvinism (Zondervan).

Summary

As I briefly mentioned in the above introduction, Olson attempts to defend the theological system of Arminianism in this work. Rather than presenting the tenets of Arminianism in a traditional way, as most systematic theologies do, Olson describes Arminianism by defending it from certain myths. As the title suggests, Olson attempts to separate the myths from the realities of Arminianism in order to shed some truthful light on the theological debate, particularly as it pertains to soteriology. In the preface, Olson gives some personal experiences which have led him to see the need to formally combat these myths. One of these experiences will be worth quoting to demonstrate his motivation in writing this book and will highlight his main thesis and purpose in this work.

Around the time that Olson began to notice more Reformed theologians and authors “attack Arminian theology very caustically, and with misinformation and misrepresentation” (Loc. 48), one of his students made an appointment to talk with him. The student “announced most sincerely, ‘Professor Olson, I’m sorry to say this, but you’re not a Christian.’” After asking the student why he felt that he wasn’t a Christian, the student responded, “’Because my pastor says Arminians aren’t Christians.’” Although the pastor of this student “distanced himself from that statement,” Olson feared that this negative, to say the least, attitude toward Arminianism was growing. Olson’s greatest fear was that Arminianism was being represented and taught by most in the Reformed circle as “at best sub-evangelical and at worst outright heresy” (Loc. 58). His fear that the very theological system by which he holds was being misrepresented to the point that some considered it to be a heresy led him to eliminate the myths that contribute to this misunderstanding.

Olson outlines ten major myths and defends classical Arminianism against these myths. By dispelling the myth, Olson attempts to describe the reality vis-à-vis the myth. To put it simply and in the words of the author, his purpose in writing this book was “to explain classical Arminian theology as it really is” (Loc. 77). There are other systematic theologies and works which explain the tenets of Arminianism, but none of those works defend against myths of Arminianism. In order to accomplish this feat, Olson divides each of the ten myths he wishes to dispel into chapters. These myths include two chapters comparing and contrasting Calvinism and Arminianism (Myths 1 and 2), as well as the defense that Arminianism is an evangelical option (Myth 3). Myths four through ten concern the issues of free will, divine sovereignty, human depravity, grace, predestination, justification, and atonement (Loc. 9-21). Ultimately, the purpose of Olson in this book is to eliminate any conversation or insinuation that Arminianism is “at least sub-evangelical and at worst a heresy.”

Strengths

The first thing that needs to be said about this work is that the author has supported his arguments and claims substantially with prominent Arminian theologians throughout history. It was refreshing to see quotes from Arminius himself concerning some major issues. Even though I disagree with his conclusions, the presentation by Olson is accurate to what classical Arminiansim teaches. Olson feeds off of Arminius himself as well as John Wesley and others. It would be foolish for any logical thinker to attribute to a system what its founder and early followers did not and do not hold or believe. Therefore, Olson’s use of Arminius and Arminian theologians of the past 400 years to substantiate his claim was wise and well-done.

One example is found in his chapter defending Arminianism against the myth that Arminian theology denies justification by grace alone through faith alone. Obviously this is an important doctrine within soteriology to affirm and Olson presents Arminius as one who in fact held this teaching. In response to an accusation of heresy regarding justification, Arminius said, “’I am not conscious to myself, of having taught or entertained any other sentiments concerning the justification of man before God, than those which are held unanimously by the Reformed and Protestant Churches, and which are in complete agreement with their expressed opinions’” (Loc. 2400).

Weaknesses

I do however find a few issues with his argumentation in this work. As in another of Olson’s works which I have read, his tone at times seems to be contentious and overly defensive. At the same time, Olson criticizes Reformed authors, pastors, and theologians of doing this very thing in their criticism of Arminianism. Too often in this book I find Olson trying to have his cake and eat it too. I believe Olson accurately defends Arminianism from false attacks, however, I feel that he does so deceptively and by doing so, he points out many inconsistencies within Arminianism. For example, in an attempt to dispel the myth that Arminian theology denies God’s sovereignty, Olson states that “Arminians are eager to affirm God’s control only if it means that God permits, cooperates with and brings good out of human freedom for his own ultimate plans and purposes” (Loc. 1581-1585).

In attempting to preserve God’s sovereignty, Olson has placed a limit on his sovereignty, namely the divine preservation of human freedom. After giving evidence that Arminius and his early followers affirmed God’s sovereignty, this only shows inconsistencies or misunderstandings of divine sovereignty as it is taught and displayed in Scripture. Olson would need to add a similar condition to God’s sovereignty in Psalm 115:3 which reads, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” So, while he does give an accurate defense of what Arminianism is, he does not accomplish his goal of persuading readers that Arminianism is a viable option due to his revealed inconsistencies.

Another problem I have in his argumentation is his own misrepresentations of Calvinism in defending misrepresentations of Arminianism. His argumentation is unfair at least and hostile at worst. Olson closes his chapter concerning divine sovereignty as follows:

“The inner logic of Calvinism—exhaustive divine determinism—drives toward saying that because nothing happens that God has not foreordained and rendered certain, God is the ultimate cause of every wicked thought and desire because he seeks glory for himself even through damning the wicked. To Arminians this must be the case even though Calvinists do not admit it. This is the main reason Arminians are Arminians rather than Calvinists—to preserve the goodness of God’s character and human sole responsibility for sin and evil” (Loc. 1585).

It is safe to say that most Calvinists would consider this a misrepresentation. And since “Calvinists do not admit [this],” then why does Olson feel the need to state it? I find this type of argumentation to be ineffective. The manner in which Olson dispels “myths” by exposing inconsistencies within Arminianism is a major weakness in his attempt to promote this theological system.

Perspective and Bias

It is also worth noting that the author does bring to this work a heavy bias toward Arminianism. While at times this does lead to misrepresentations of Calvinism, overall it is a benefit to the work as a whole. Since this work was written from an Arminian perspective, readers can be certain that the tenets of Arminianism that are presented are correct. The reliability of this work is not in question as a result of his bias, but rather the work is benefited by his loyalty to this theological system. Olson’s own upbringing in a Pentecostal home, his personal experiences, and theological convictions all attribute to his passion for defending Arminianism (Loc. 30 ff.). All readers from all theological backgrounds can grow from his passionate defense of Arminianism vis-à-vis misrepresentations of it by others.

A Unique Work

Roger Olson has presented a unique work in that it describes the main tenets of Arminianism sufficiently, yet succinctly all the while dispelling common misrepresentations of the Arminian tradition. There are few if any other works like it in this regard. If one was looking for a work that defines Arminian theology, this work does that and goes even further in the discussion and argument against certain myths.

Conclusion

In closing, Roger Olson has presented a work that is sufficient in defining Arminianism and describing its basic tenets while defending it against attacks of misrepresentation and slander. Truly one cannot leave this book thinking that Arminianism is a heresy. Despite the illumination of many inconsistencies within Arminianism, Olson successfully achieves his goal of “explaining Arminianism as it really is.” While the nature of his arguments are ineffective as they misrepresent Calvinism and expose many inconsistencies within classical Arminianism, the book is very beneficial in giving insight into the history and reality of classical Arminianism over and against the ten myths that were challenged.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

Morning Mashup 07/28


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Israel, Gaza, Divine Right, and John Piper – Matt Smethurst of The Gospel Coalition writes a compelling and important article for Christians thinking through the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Does Israel have a divine right to the land that is being contested? Check out this article for a sobering and biblically sound answer.

What is a Disciple? – Jonathan Parnell: “To be a disciple of Jesus means to point people to him. It means to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love so that others would know him and worship him. It means, in other words, that we gladly seek more worshipers-servants-missionaries. Which is to say, a disciple of Jesus makes disciples of Jesus, as Jesus tells us to.”

Anxiety and Depression, My Strange Friends – Scott Sauls: “Anxiety and depression have been God’s way of reminding me that I don’t have to be awesome. He has not called me to be awesome, or impressive, or a celebrity pastor, or anything of the sort. He has first and foremost called me to be loved, and to receive that love. He has called me to remember that because of Jesus, I already have a name, and I will be remembered even after I am long gone, because he is my God and I am his. He is my Father and I am his son.”

Why Tony Dungy Isn’t a Bigot – Barnabas Piper: “To make a decision from conviction, because one believes it is moral or for the best, is not bigotry. Bigotry is when one makes a decision in order to exclude or harm another. When we arrive at such a misunderstanding of “bigot,” all ability to reason, to share beliefs, and to discourse are gone.”

Moving In and Moving On – Scott Stanley: “If you want to marry, be careful about cohabitation. Sure, more and more people are cohabiting, but it’s also less likely than ever to lead to marriage.”

Really? You’re Going to Die on That Hill? – Thabiti Anyabwile: “In a time when many evangelicals feel as if the sky is falling and the culture is lost, it might be good for us all to step back, swear off controversy for a while, and determine what really matters most. I can see now that a lot of what I thought was dire was really the angst of someone else who loved controversy and felt like they were on ‘the losing side.'”

N is for Nazareth – The reason many Christians, myself included, have changed their Twitter avatars to the Arabic “n.” Russell Moore writes, “The Islamic militants mean it for evil when they mark homes with ‘N’ for ‘Nazarene.’ They assume it’s an insult, an emblem of shame. Others once thought that of the cross. But in that intended slight, we are reminded of who we are, and why we belong to one another, across the barriers of space and time and language and nationality. We are Christians. We are citizens of the New Jerusalem. We are Nazarenes all.”

Lay siege to your sins, and starve them out by keeping away the food and fuel which is their maintenance and life. –Richard Baxter

5 Arguments for the Existence of God


doesgodexist1

With Christians gathering to worship the Triune God of the Bible, countless others scoff at such behavior. The difference lies most basically in either a recognition and submission to God’s existence or a rejection and denial of his existence. Although I know it is impossible to persuade someone away from something they are utterly convinced of, I hope here to at least provide a very basic survey of the various historical arguments for the existence of God. Christians may find this totally unnecessary because they desire God and willingly submit to his authoritative rule over all things. However, these arguments have helped convinced many Christians of God’s existence and, therefore, helped give meaning to trusting Christ. If a person cannot be convinced of God’s existence, he or she would be silly to believe in Jesus, a savior, sin, future judgment, eternal life, etc. For some, lasting joy begins with recognition of the God who is there.

Throughout history there have been many attempts made at proving the existence of God. There are different ways in which individuals have argued for God’s existence, five of which concern us at present. While Christians will not have to turn very far in the Word of God to see God’s existence, (Gen. 1:1) others have given ontological, cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments for God’s existence.

The Ontological Argument

An ontological argument for God’s existence is deduced from an a priori concept of God. This argument stems from the thought that since thinking about God is the greatest thought we can have, then he must exist. God’s existence is therefore a necessity since there can be no higher conception by humans than that of an ultimate being. Because our minds can conceive God, he must exist. This argument is based on the assumption that existence is greater than non-existence. If God is thus the greatest being which can be conceived, then he must exist. Anselm, the most famous proponent of this argument, said,

And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For suppose it exists in the understanding alone; then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater.

Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence there is no doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.

Anselm was the most famous proponent of this argument, but Alvin Plantinga gives great insight to this issue as well. The simplest form of this argument can be listed in three parts: (1) God is perfect, (2) Perfection implies existence therefore (3) God exists. Plantinga himself admits that this argument, in his opinion, has brought few to belief in God.

The Cosmological Argument

A cosmological argument has also been given to prove God’s existence. This is another deduction approach to argue for the existence of God—a posteriori. Basically, this is a cause and effect argument or a hierarchical argument. Humans observe causal relations in the world. Each of these are dependent on a prior cause. Since there cannot be an infinite number of relations that are dependent on prior causes, there must be an ultimate cause of all relations in the universe. The existence of the universe and the way in which it functions is evidence of a first cause of all relations in the universe. Therefore, God can be described as being this first cause. One prominent figure in philosophy and theology who argued from a cosmological standpoint was Thomas Aquinas. According to Aquinas, contingent beings exist as a result of a set that contains at least one non-contingent being. This one necessary, non-contingent being is God.

The Teleological Argument

Another argument that has been given for the existence of God is the teleological argument. From this argument, the existence of God is induced from the reality of design. Our universe is extraordinarily ordered. Order directly implies a designer. For example, the intricacies of a watch directly imply that there is a watch-maker. God’s existence is highly probable from this order-designer induction alone. The order and intricacy of the universe speak to the creative abilities and activity of God. Likewise, such order and intricacy provides a major problem for anyone who would argue for the existence of the universe form pure chance. Order and intricacy all but eliminates the notion that the universe exists by chance. This argument also gives some purpose to the universe as induced from the reality of the order of the universe around us.

This argument is very convincing and it presents several problems to atheists. One problem is the alternative problem. If an atheist continues to deny the existence of God, then they have only one alternative to choose to explain the order of the universe. They would have to claim that the universe is so orderly simply by naturalistic processes, entirely apart from an intelligent designer, and solely by scientifically desirable forces. By blind chance, the world has turned out the way that it is. This is simply not a very intelligent or plausible claim. It is much more probable that a designer, namely God, created the universe. This is the best explanation for the intricacy of the universe. All scientific and biological problems are solved with the teleological argument as they provide evidence for it.

The Moral Argument

A final argument given for God’s existence is what is known as the moral argument. This argument is based on ethics and universal morals that are found in each individual and evidenced in the governing of nations. This argument induces from the moral code that is objective and universal that there must be a moral code writer. It seems that this argument could easily be refuted by a denial of objective moral truth. However, it would actually be difficult to refute it. A denial of objective moral truth is a denial of ethical values. Relative views of moral truth would eliminate the need for laws or regulations. The alternative to objective moral truth is irrationality and chaos. Therefore, the presence and reality of objective moral truth necessitates an author of this moral truth.

Closing Remarks

You may or may not be in the least convinced of God’s existence through these arguments. Nevertheless, I hope that you have at least seen the viability, reasonableness, and probability of God’s existence. There are many refutations to these arguments that have not been discussed. However, I did not come across any compelling enough to include in a post of this size. Today is Sunday. Christians gather to worship across the world. If a God of such moral perfection and sheer grandeur exists, worship is the only appropriate, logical, and reasonable response.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

10 Cross-Centered Commandments for Social Media


 

SocialMediaIconcollageIn the movie The Social Network, which follows the creation and development of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) proposes to his friend and cofounder Eduardo Saverin, “Why don’t we take the social experience of college and put it on the internet?” That is essentially what all social media sites do. They take the social experience of life and put it on the internet. Social media sites digitalize life.

Since the phenomena of Facebook and Twitter, the world has dramatically changed both for better and worse. This is especially seen in the life of a Christian. Social media sites can both serve and harm a Christian’s walk with Christ. But really, all social media has done is given us a dual social experience. Just as Christians can build one another up and tear one another down in social settings like small groups and church events, they can encourage and degrade one another online. The problem is that while we acknowledge our need to steer clear of temptation in physical social settings, we feel more safe to sin online. While we may do damage to our own hearts in public settings through our words and actions, we are much more likely to do damage to our own hearts in private settings through a public domain.

How do we do damage to our hearts online? We fill them with sinful images, conversations, trends, and fads. Social media sites allows us to quickly have social experiences, both good and bad. To say the least, social media has changed the world, but the only way for it to not change Christians is for Christians to wisely use social media to their benefit, not their detriment.

At the last Secret Church, pastor David Platt focused on “The Cross and the Christian Life.” During the six hours of teaching, he taught a humorous, yet compelling section titled “The Cross and Listening, Watching, Reading, Texting, Sending, Receiving, Posting, Tweeting, Instagramming, Blogging, Messaging, Tumbling, Liking, Poking, Following, Unfollowing, Emailing, Snapping, Chatting, Vining, Networking, and all sorts of othering.” In this section, Platt offers “10 Cross-Centered Commandments for Entertainment and Social Media.” Within these ten commandments are various sub points that are immensely insightful and convicting. As a blogger and a frequent user of both Facebook and Twitter, these social media guidelines have helped me make the most of my life online while guarding my heart from sin.

I hope you consider each of these guidelines and that they may serve you in your use of social media.

10 Cross-Centered Commandments for Entertainment and Social Media

  1. Fear God
  2. Flee sexual immorality
    • Flee sexual lust
    • Flee sexual immodesty
    • Flee sexual allurement
    • Flee sexual looking outside of marriage
    • Flee entertainment that exalts, glamorizes, jokes around about, and/or makes light of sex outside of marriage
  3. Speak wisely
    • Think before you speak
    • Will what I say adorn the gospel?
    • Will what I say glorify God?
    • Avoid evil and angry speech
    • Avoid retaliatory and inflammatory speech
    • Avoid gossip and slander
    • Avoid grumbling and complaining
    • Avoid saying on a screen what you wouldn’t say in person
  4. Communicate honestly
  5. Cultivate humility
    • Avoid the “humble brag”
  6. Have accountability
  7. Maintain mastery
    • Does social media control you?
  8. Guard your heart
    • From envy and jealousy
    • From pride and ambition
    • From unhealthy friendships and unhelpful associations
  9. Renew your mind
    • Beware falsehood
    • Beware filth
    • Beware frivolity
  10. Redeem your time
    • Make the most of every opportunity
    • Don’t neglect other priorities
      • Your time at work
      • Your time to rest
      • Your time with people
      • Your time with God

–David Platt, The Cross and Everyday Life, Secret Church 2014, pp. 150-165


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

Morning Mashup 07/25


coffee-newspaper

7 Signs We May Be Worshipping Our Family – Leading a family as parents in the way of the Lord is both one of the most thrilling things and frightening things in the world. While parents are called to love their family, it is easy to fall into family worship, as in worship of the family. Jason Helopoulos offers seven signs that may indicate heading into worship of the family.

Being Single to Give God Glory – Owen Strachan: “We don’t live a single life as a man or woman to gratify our deepest urges or shirk responsibility. Whether single or married, we embrace the life God gives us in order to live it for his glory.”

Iraqi Christians Appeal to World for Help – My heart breaks for Christians in Mosul and I boldly stand with these suffering brothers and sisters even as they fill up the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24).

Two Ways to Reduce Student Loan Debt – Rick Segal of Bethlehem College and Seminary says their are two ways to reduce student loan debt: “their way and our way.” I love what Segal proposes and I tip my hat to this kind of vision for higher education. As a student accruing loan debt by the semester, I pray that such a vision would become a reality in many institutions.

The Hero Story – Jim Hamilton: “When we consider the Messiah in the Old Testament, our minds are confronted with the answer to the world’s questions, the fulfillment of all yearnings, the satisfaction of the universal desire for beauty and joy and peace and, and well, everything. You could say it’s Hitchcock’s McGuffin – something everyone wants, needs and looks for at all costs – but the McGuffin may not be profound enough to capture the weight of this, the real thing. Jesu joy of man’s desiring. Indeed. Jesus is the ultimate object of C. S. Lewis’ Sehnsucht – he is the one who fulfills the inconsolable longing for we know not what.”

Please Don’t Say These Six Things at My Funeral – While I hope my funeral is a long way off, I echo the sentiments in this post. I pray to one day minister to people who want God glorified a their funeral, rather than them.

“If our hearts and our minds pant like a hart after the water-brook of God’s deep mind, it may not be pride, it may be worship.” -John Piper

Throwback Thursday: John Bunyan on Prayer


bunyan_j_2John Bunyan, a Baptist Minister, was born in 1628 and died in 1688. Since he was a Baptist in that day and not a licensed minister, it was illegal for John Bunyan to preach. Bunyan was thrown in prison for 12 years. It was during that imprisonment that he wrote his most famous work The Pilgrim’s Progress (it has been regarded as one of the most significant works in English literature, having been translated into more than 200 languages and has never been out of print since 1678!).

Since Bunyan spent 12 years in prison, there is much to learn from the way he prayed and how he prayed. Bunyan prayed both in public and in private. Since prayer is communication with God, it is a way for believers to grow in their relationship with God. Bunyan says in prayer you grow in familiarity with God. For instance, the more I am in communication with my wife, the more I enjoy talking to my wife, and the more I want to talk to my wife. So in prayer, believers grow in communication with the one they love. Communication presses for more communication.

Because he was not licensed by the church of England, Bunyan was imprisoned, however, he could have been released from prison if he would have quit preaching the gospel. This should say something to Christians in our day and days to come that whatever happens we should never abandon the gospel by which we have been saved. Also, I do not think John Bunyan, when he was in prison, prayed for more comfort in his cell. I believe by what he has written that he prayed for his life to be made much of for the sake of the gospel. Christians should not be praying for more comforts at home. For example, I should not pray, “God, please give me a 72 inch flat screen tv so that I may sit on the couch and watch Netflix all day”. That is a comfort. That is not something that is necessary for life.

More often than not in our “Americanized Christianity”, we are not satisfied with the grace that God shows to us in giving us food, water, breath, etc. I am right there too. It is by the grace of God that I have food on the table to eat. For Evan Knies to pray for more comforts in the den is just silly. Evan Knies needs to pray, “Jesus, Thank You, for putting breath into my lungs, may I honor you with my life today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the time that I am on this Earth because only what is done for you will last!”. It is impossible for me to say that I am gospel centered and yet not pray. In prayer, Evan Knies is humbled, because he knows he can not make it on his own and he is pleading to God to show mercy.

Bunyan said this on prayer,

“Prayer is sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God”.

I am thankful to God for John Bunyan. He was a man who did not abandon the truth in the Word of God nor did he make prayer a separate entity in his life. Prayer is an attribute of a Christian (Matt. 6, Acts 1:14, Rom. 12:12, Col. 4:2). John Bunyan was a man centered on the gospel of God, so he was also a man of prayer.

Lord may I make much of Christ through this decaying body because only what is done for Jesus Christ will last!


1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.