What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Today’s post is by Don Barton. Don is a Canadian ex-pat and founding member of Hills Bible Church in Mont Albert, Victoria, Australia. You can find him on the Hills Bible Church blog and follow him on Twitter (@HillsBC).

Rain 2

I was sitting in my office today next to a large window that overlooks a small garden and the gated entrance to our property. I heard the bell ring and looked out to see a very well dressed attractive woman somewhere in her mid twenties, carrying an umbrella. It was raining and it was apparent that she had been out in the rain for some time. She caught my eye and smiled.

I nodded and went to the intercom which connects to our gate. I greeted her with a cool, “Yes?”

“I’m from a local community group and I would like to invite you to an event we are planning.” she responded.

I had noticed she had some literature in a folder she was carrying. “Can you leave the information in my mailbox?” I asked.

“No worries.” And she left.

In spite of that quaint Aussie phrase, I did worry. Was I being too cold, too defensive, too suspicious? I thought to myself, there is something incongruous with a large brick and iron fence with a locked gate and the “Who is my neighbour?” question of Luke 10. So I quickly went to the mailbox to see what she left. Perhaps it would be an invitation to attend a local church – I’ve never received one before – perhaps this time.

“The local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses invites you to attend a convention…”

I suppose that I wasn’t surprised. But I was disappointed. How I had wanted her to be a Christian who was sharing the gospel, the good news about Jesus, with her neighbours. Come to think about it, that has never happened to me, either in a door knocking situation or in a one-on-one.

Why is it that we Christians, who have the greatest story ever told, are so reluctant to share it with others? Here is this zealous young woman, so sadly misled by a heresy that will keep her from knowing the Jehovah she claims to serve, braving inclement weather to share what she has with others – with neighbours – with strangers.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Originally posted at the Hills Bible Church blog.

Learning From the “Queen of the South”

Solomon meets the Queen of Sheba, on the Paradise Door of the Florence Baptistry. Photo by Richard Fabi

Today’s post is Matt Ford, pastor of Fountain of Life Fellowship, in Fountain Valley, California. Matt is a contributor to the Gospel for OC blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewbford.

Ever since Adam, the sinful life has been full of excuses (Gen. 3.12). Sadly, my own still echo with regularity. Recently I came across one sentence from Jesus that rather exploded my status quo and pushed me to more integrity in searching myself and more passion in seeking the Lord. Surprisingly, I need to learn from the “queen of the South.”

The Matthew 12 conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders is not friendly. The leaders are consistently accusing Jesus, conspiring against Jesus, condemning Jesus, and testing Jesus. They certainly do not appreciate Jesus, will not sincerely seek Jesus, and have not the slightest desire to worship Jesus. Towards the end of the back-and-forth, Jesus responds by dropping a bomb of a sentence that would’ve devastated His original hearers and will give us pause as well if we will listen.

Matthew 12.42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

To help our understanding of this sentence let’s consider it in four parts: 1) the judgment, 2) the witnesses, 3) the example, and 4) the value.

1) Jesus promises a judgment day.

Just think about it for a moment. There will be a judgment. The judgment will include a judge who will weigh our lives in His balance according to His standards. Oh, how that should effect and determine our lives now.

2) The judgment day will include witnesses.

According to Jesus, the judgment will include witnesses. And here’s something incredible – the witnesses will come from across the very ages to testify towards a just judgment. The “queen of the South” is the queen of Sheba from 1 Kings 10; she lived centuries before “this generation” with whom Jesus is dealing. And yet Jesus insists that, on that day of judgment, she will testify against them towards a just verdict. [Read more...]

10 Things I’ve Learned Between My First Book and My Fourth

Today’s post is by Daniel Darling. Dan is the Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church, the author of iFaith: Connecting to God in the 21st Century (reviewed here) and blogs at DanielDarling.com.

As I write this blog post, I’m working on my fourth book. My first book, Teen People of the Bible, was published in the Fall of 2007. Even though I was a professional writer and editor for around 6 years before it was published, I feel like my biggest leaps forward have happened since I first put letters on the page for my first book and today. Here are my ten lessons:

1. Getting a book contract is not a destination, but the beginning of a journey. We work so hard to get a publisher, an agent, a bestselling author to notice us that we forget the book contract is not the end point. It’s the launching point. After you’ve gotten signed your name on the contract and you send it back to the publisher, now the hard work begins. You actually have to craft words that inspire.

2. Editors are your best friends. When I turned in Teen People, I thought it was the greatest piece of literature since Hemingways’ For Whom the Bell Tolls. Actually it was woefully inadequate, chopping in many places and needing much editing. The publisher was so kind in gently helping me through this. I’ve since learned that having a team of people edit your work before you turn it in makes your publisher happy and gives you a reputation as a professional.

3. Writing is part inspiration, part perspiration. Those of us who write write because we enjoy it, because we can’t do much else. We write because God has given us something to put on paper to inspire others. But let’s not sugar-coat this. Writing is, as my old boss used to say, “stinkin hard work.” You don’t always feel like writing. You feel like checking Twitter, eating a Cinnamon, or calling your long-lost friend from New Jersey. You must discipline yourself to write (something I’m still struggling with).

4. You don’t know what you’re book is about until you’re finished. This sounds weird, but its true. I had a vision, an outline of my chapters, but it wasn’t until I began actually thinking and processing the book’s ideas that I got the concept for Teen People of the Bible. And it wasn’t until I “put my pen down” that I actually knew what God wanted me to write in that book.

5. You first preach to yourself. If no one ever read anything I wrote (a distinct possibility in those early days), I would still have been a richer person for having gone through the pain of writing a book. I learned so much about the Scriptures, about God, about myself. I feel writing has made me a better person. [Read more...]

Tipping Sacred Cows

Today’s post is by Amber Van Schooneveld. Amber is the author of Hope Lives: A Journey of Restoration (Group, 2008) and blogs regularly at Clever Phrase Here. She also has bad luck when travelling to Canada.

Recently, my husband and I said words that got people hopping at our small group. We were feeling ornery. I’ve never written about the topic because I don’t want to be stoned for tipping over a sacred cow. But in the interest of open and honest discussion, I’d like to broach the topic with you:

A close, personal relationship with God (or Jesus)

This phrasing is so very prevalent in much of contemporary Christianity. You can hardly go to a church, retreat or Christian bookstore without hearing about this close, personal relationship that we are told is the heart of Christianity.

Here is my bias so you can understand why such phrasing concerns me: I am a copy editor at heart. I highly value accuracy. Second, I’m a strong proponent for sola Scriptura. It’s the primary guide we have in a world of fallible humans and changing culture. So if it isn’t explicitly in the Scripture, I’m wary of it.

In the second half of the 20th century (as far as I can tell), we developed the vernacular around this concept that we can have a close relationship with Jesus or God. (I think it might date back to this video. :) ) This idea was extrapolated from many verses such as John 15:15, Philippians 3:8, Psalm 59:16-17, and many others. We didn’t really have one succinct way to express these concepts, so we developed a vernacular around it that, while not necessarily being incorrect is also not found in the Bible. (There is no verse in the Bible that talks about having a close, personal relationship with Christ or God the Father in so many words.)

I see this shift in our focus as a positive balance away from a focus merely on outward piety to a focus on genuine belief.

But here is the crux of the matter: Now, several decades later, this vernacular has stuck more than the original Bible verses it was derived from. This is always troubling for this reason: Rather than beginning with Scripture and deriving our meaning from it, we begin with the concept, a close, personal relationship with Christ, and then approach the Scriptures to derive meaning out of them that fits within our pre-constructed framework. We are not coming to the Scriptures empty-handed to see what they might teach us; we are coming to the Scriptures pre-loaded with our thesis and looking for verses to support it.

Any scholar could tell you that this is bad scholarship. And it leaves us so very open to read the Scriptures based on our own current culture and worldview. [Read more...]

Problems with Premillenialism by Matthew Svoboda

I used to go back and forth between Amillennialism and Historic Premillennialism… Now, because of many of the reasons below I am seeing any form of Premillennialism as less and less of a viable option. I know that highly offends some people, but let’s be graceful and deal with the points I raise below.

1. Premillennials insist on a “literal interpretation” of Eschatological/apocalyptic literature. It is my belief that not only is this wrong, but they cannot even hold true to their own convictions. Premillennials want to take some of Revelation (chapter 20 for instance) literally, while they easily allow for other parts of Revelation to be interpreted symbolically. Revelation should have a balance of literal and symbolic- but it seems silly to me to be someone who always harps and insists on “literal” when, at times, you don’t think twice about interpreting symbolically. How about some consistency? According to biblical and non-biblical apocalyptic literature the genre demands symbolism. Most Premillennials simply do not do justice to Revelation when they insist on all of the literalism (especially since they don’t necessarily follow through on their own claims). To be fair- this isn’t every Premillennial. If someone is absolutely convinced that Revelation 20 occurs after Christ’s return I suggest Dr. Grant Osbornes commentary- he at least does justice to the symbolic nature of the book of Revelation.

As I will demonstrate in a few points below- when I deal with certain texts- that Premillennials want the “plain, straightforward, literal interpretation of Revelation 20,” yet, they reject a plain, straightforward, literal interpretation of many other New Testament texts that deal with Eschatology. So, Premills insist on a literal interpretation on apocalyptic literature, which is meant to be symbolic, and yet reject a straightforward reading of texts that are not apocalyptic. Obviously, no Premill will say that is what they do, but as I will demonstrate it seems to me that is exactly what they do. [Read more...]

Why I Believe Amillennialism by Matthew Svoboda

This is a blog people. This will not be an exhaustive argument for Amillennialism. This post will merely be a small argument as to why I believe that Scriptures teach an Amillennial understanding of the Lord’s Return. Maybe I should do a post about what I actually believe because many Amillennials disagree on a number of different things… But, I’m not going to, if you want me to clarify something just ask me in the comment thread.

I am going to write a post after this one titled, “Problems with Premillennialism.” In that post I will deal with more passages and by default will be a further continuation of why I am Amillennial. This post will not deal with a lot of different texts, but rather principles that lead me to Amillennialism. The next post will deal more deeply with specific passages.

Also, some of my arguments are not completely restricted to Amillennials. In fact, some of them I learned from Grant Osborne who is a Historic Premillennialist. It is when I put all of these things together that force me to hold to an Amillennial position. Like Graeme Goldsworthy, I am not a big fan of the term “Amillennial,” but it is just easier to use it than to fight the system.

1. Hermeneutics

There is a simple hermeneutical principle that I have accepted to be true, mainly because it only makes logical sense and because it is what I see the Apostles doing. Here is the principle: Interpret the lesser revelation by the fuller revelation. What this means is that we should interpret the Old Testament according to what we see in the New Testament. Does it make more sense to describe a room when it is only dimly lit or when it is fully revealed (fully lit up!)? It makes more sense to interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament because many times the New Testament interprets the Old Testament for us. When it does this it also gives us an interpretive grid that we can and should use.
[Read more...]

The Call by Gabe Posey

Photo by Matthias Wuertemberger

First a word of thanks to Aaron Armstrong for the opportunity to write a guest post here for him. 

And now on to the subject at hand. 

Being called is an interesting concept when it comes to the current church. Having recently spent a considerable amount of time in a fairly traditional Presbyterian church, I’ve found that they have a nearly formal way for determining calling. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a process of their tradition, but it is definitely more exacting than the tradition I was raised in. And I can say I prefer it better. 

Since coming into reform theology (not even knowing that’s what it was until it was far too late), I came to understand that one of the most critical factors is one of proof. Not necessarily dismissing or destroying or denying the power of personal experience, the reformers seek to look harshly at what is within the Bible and decide based upon what information is at hand what is truly there and not add to it based upon such experience for fear of exalting tradition above the scripture and end up in sola ecclesia. 

As I was raised, the primary qualifier for a person going into the ministry was an ability to passionately communicate and enough wit about them to play the political church game so as not to get eviscerated by people more cunning than they. [Read more...]

Eschatology: My Perspective by Matthew Svoboda

Amillenials aren't fans of charts

This should be a pretty fun and interesting series. I’ve studied Eschatology quote extensively over the last few years. I have read 3 full commentaries on the book of Revelation from 3 different perspectives, I have read countless books and articles, and I have listened to over 30 hours of lectures. On top of that I did an 8 week series for my small group in which I merely did an exegesis of what I feel are 8 of the more important passages on this issue. I say all of that to tell you, I am no expert. I have studied hard, given myself a ton of headaches, and have gained a lot of joy out of my time of studying Eschatology.

While some of you loonies think Eschatology is in the holy triumphant of doctrines along with the Trinity and Justification by Faith Alone, most of us realize this is an issue that we can disagree and still have the deepest forms of Christian intimacy with one another. Therefore, I am happy to interact with all of you on this post, but as soon as you start acting like a 15 year old brat I will simply ignore you, whether or not you are making good points. I am thankful to Aaron for asking me to write a post for his blog… He is a friend of mine so let’s make this as edifying and enjoyable for all of us as possible!

This is a topic that some spend way too much time on and in which others don’t devote enough time thinking, “we’ll never figure it out until Jesus comes back anyway.” You “Panmillennials” need to man up and engage Scripture on this issue! God had it written in his word for a reason. Study it until you become convinced in your own mind what it teaches.

I grew up Dispensational… Not by conviction, but by default. I thought every Christian believed what the great Tim LaHaye taught us. He was a legend in my Southern Baptist Church. Heck, he is a legend in 90% of the United States. When I moved to the Midwest I was hoping he wasn’t as popular he as he is in the South, well, he is. When I went to Bible College (Boyce), I was sitting in Theology III and we arrived at Eschatology. I had never studied it much, but I did know what Scripture taught in regards to the “key events” of the End Times. My professor started to summarize the major views- he then said a word that forever changed my life (yes, I’m being a little dramatic, but it did change how I view the Scriptures and relate to the world around me)—Amillennialism. When he described it with a preface of “not many people believe this anymore” I was a little taken back, but I soon realize he merely meant not many Baptists believe this anymore. [Read more...]