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Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

The Old Testament is so boring and so is most of the sermons that I hear on it. “How to pray like Nehemiah” or “How to have the attitude of Joseph” or “Why not complain when you are in a desert situation” or “Why you have to get some friends out of your boat of promise” or “How adultery destroys your testimony” or “The leafs and onions of Egypt”….. I could continue but I digress.

Not to mention the yearly bible plans are cool if I could read something that I liked. Unlike Leviticus, Numbers, Chronicles, Nahum, Obadiah …….  which can become quite redundant and boring.

However, when the Old Testament is faithfully exposited through Christoloigcal lenses the Old Testament becomes just as exciting as the New Testament.  So here is yet another plug for a case for biblical theology. About a year and a half ago I was introduced to biblical theology by wrestling through New Covenant Theology and Covenantal Theology.

Men like Goldsworthy, Azurdia, Poythress, Clowney, Dale Ralph Davis and Vos not to mention sites like Beginning with Moses and Biblical Theology . If you are new there a few great introduction books and a host of articles and writings on the two links above. Listening to Azurdia and Keller is also a really good way to get acquainted to this type of biblical interpretation.

As you being your new bible reading plans keep the verse below in mind I believe it will help you gain an unquenchable passion for the Old Testament scriptures and help you understand the Theocentrcity (God Centeredness) and Christocentric (Christ Centered) nature of the Old Testament. Not to mention we find the Gospel written throughout all of the Old Testament in shadows and pictures:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

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Returning Biblical

Education to the Local

 Church

 David Alan Black  

It has always intrigued me that the early Christians made such unstoppable progress despite their lack of a professionally-trained clergy. Perhaps there are some lessons we can learn from them today.

I think, for example, of a church in Hawaii that I was a part of many years ago. It offered classes designed for “laypersons,” and many of us eagerly attended them. I can still remember my lessons as well as my teacher, a Mr. Cook. He was a mentor and a model, and not merely a lecturer. The result? An unquenchable appetite to go even deeper in my studies of the Christian life.

Often I am invited to teach in church-related Bible schools, many of them in the Two-Thirds World. And I am delighted to do so. The local church in America seems to have forgotten its responsibility to disciple its members. “After all, we have our seminaries.” That is a dangerous attitude. The seminary classroom can be a place of magnificent learning, and often is. But every care must be made to avoid a learning experience that fails to give our students an idea of what it costs to follow Jesus. We must not forget that the early church had no formal educational institutions or professionally-trained academics, and yet it turned the world upside-down in a mere 30 years.

There were many good reasons for this. Someone once said that the three greatest dangers of a seminary education are extraction, expense, and elitism. A clerical culture develops. Writes Abbé Michonneau in his book Revolution in a City Parish (pp. 131-32): 

Our seminary training … has put us in a class apart…. Usually it means that we feel compelled to surround ourselves with those who will understand our thought and our speech, and who have tastes like our own…. We are living in another world, a tidy clerical and philosophical world.

“Clergy” becomes a whole way of living, an ecclesiastical subculture. The church, however, predates the seminary and will outlast it. The book of Acts reminds us that the earliest church leaders were homegrown nobodies. They were not parachuted in from the outside with all of the proper credentials. They were already full participants in their congregations – they had homes, they had jobs, and they had solid reputations. If at all possible, I think we too would do well to train people for leadership in our local churches, equipping them for evangelism and other ministries, thus complementing the work of our seminaries and Bible colleges. The early church knew that leadership is best learned by on-the-job training, not by sending our most promising leaders off to sit behind a desk.

There is a real need today for ministry to become de-professionalized. Let us not forget the sufficiency of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to guide even the simplest believer into truth. Any church can, if it is willing, follow the pattern of the early church in this regard. It can begin by ensuring that its shepherd-teachers are steeped in the Word of God and able to teach its magnificent truths to others. Happy the church that, like the Berean congregation, can listen sensitively to the Holy Spirit as He speaks through the Scriptures! It is interesting to observe how many people have signed up for the Greek class I am offering in my local church. All are welcome, and I am expecting a broad array of students. I cannot help but think of the example set for me so many years ago by Mr. Cook. He had a true pastor’s heart, and he knew the Word. He was a mature Christian who walked daily and deeply with his Savior. And what of his students? They came from all walks of life, but each was prepared to listen and discuss and study and learn.

Let there be no pay for teacher and no fee for student! Equally, let us use ordinary language in our teaching and avoid the jargon of the academy. You have to get the right instructor, of course, otherwise the enterprise will be counter-productive. But I am not talking about someone with a doctorate in theology. And there is no need to professionalize or formalize the instruction either. I think it is fair to say that the tendency of American churches is to pay inordinate attention to matters of incorporating, financing, and staffing their new “Bible Institutes.” I am suggesting that it would be a waste of time and resources to hire a registrar, faculty, and administration. Let us look to those in our congregations who will volunteer their time and talents for the work. What a rare and attractive thing it would be to offer solid biblical instruction without the paraphernalia so often deemed indispensable by professional educators.

I would like to make it clear once more that I am not saying we should not have seminaries or Bible schools. What troubles me is that we so often equate a formal biblical education with true biblical understanding. It seems to me that it is time to say “Enough!” to the fallacious notion that a degree in theology makes one qualified for leadership in the church. Throughout the Scriptures the summons is given to forsake conformity to the world’s wisdom and to pursue the wisdom that is from above. Paul reminds us that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and that we “are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). Call this the “sufficiency of Christ,” if you will, but it is insufficiently acknowledged. A major exception was the sixteenth-century Anabaptists in Europe. It was their devotion to the Scriptures that set the Anabaptists apart from their Reformation counterparts. They listened to the Word of God with humble reverence. They were anxious to obey it too, whatever the cost to them personally. Elsewhere I have noted that they believed in “the Bible as a book of the church instead of as a book for scholars,” and in “a hermeneutic of obedience instead of a hermeneutic of knowledge.” The Anabaptists well understood that we learn to apply the Word not in the abstract milieu of the classroom but in the world. And when we truly understand the truth of God’s Word, it shapes our entire life and worldview.

I believe one of the greatest needs of the contemporary church is conscientious obedience to the words and teachings of Jesus. Mature Christian discipleship is possible only where there is submission to the full biblical witness to Christ. And there is nothing in a formal education that guarantees such obedience. Indeed, there is much, I think, that impedes it. As an example, take a course in Acts I once taught at a Bible college in a developing country. The students were much more inclined to bring their notebooks to class than their Bibles. Their studies clearly were geared more toward a grade than toward life. When final exam time came, things took an interesting twist. In part one of the exam I intended the students to write out from memory certain verses with their Bibles closed, while in part two they were to answer questions with their Bibles open. The students strenuously objected to this policy, pleading with me not to expose them to the temptation of cheating on part one. My answer was gentle but unyielding: “If I cannot trust you not to cheat on this exam, you do not belong in this Bible school and certainly not in any form of Christian ministry.” In a similar incident that occurred while I was teaching Greek in another institution (again in the Two-Thirds World), my request to allow my students to write a take-home exam was met with the dean’s demurral: “Impossible. They can’t be trusted.” And this in the largest theological college in that country! In saying this, I have not forgotten the human tendency to cheat on exams. Yet these were Christian adults, not children. It is plain that if we cannot trust our brightest theological students to exercise self-control and honesty in exam-taking, we certainly cannot entrust them with pastoral oversight.

We in the church of Jesus Christ are always in danger of magnifying titles and degrees and forgetting that a formal theological education guarantees neither sound doctrine nor mature character. The essential mark of Christian leadership is love not ability, humility not arrogance, wisdom not knowledge. We must cease viewing knowledge as an end in itself, but must pursue the mind of Christ, remembering that “truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21). I wonder if anything is more urgent today, for the building up of the Body of Christ, than that its leaders should be, and should be seen to be, men who have “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The crucial thing is that local churches take discipleship seriously. And it is neither biblical nor helpful to abdicate this responsibility to institutions of higher education, as valuable as they are. The seminary exists to serve the local church, not vice versa. So when opportunity occurs to return biblical education to your local church, I say grasp it with both of your hands!

January 8, 2009

David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.

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I think this is the toughest blogpost I have ever read! There are times I wish I didn’t check certain websites. Men like Alan Knox and Dave Black, women who blog about doing it makes me question am I doing enough! I know, I know, the Gospel is about believing a bunch of abstract facts that really have no real bearing on our lives, other than accumulating good Podcasts, reading great books. Living the Gospel is an oxymoron right? Well tell Dave Black that who writes this wonderful post:

 

How Are Your Verbs?

 David Alan Black  

verbs

My sabbatical officially ends today. On Monday I’ll resume my teaching duties at the seminary with my J-term Greek class.

I can honestly say that 2008 was a tremendous year in every way. I have learned more about language than ever before – the language of love in particular. I have seen how the intellect is so easily enslaved by bizarre abstractions. Education has become a Utopia for Americans, and becoming a “Christian intellectual” a god.

What is the use? Knowledge is an impotent end incapable of creating the means. Why, then, do we so easily “Christianize” it? I refuse to believe in the power of education. For truth we need a source outside ourselves – a far greater Light than our puny human candles can provide. I want to proclaim only the Word of God this year – not by words alone but by sharing in Jesus’ sufferings. I no longer want to camouflage my bondage by calling it “scholarship.” Jesus alone is Truth. He Himself says so. It is Him I want to know. No more disguises! No more pedantic, puerile obfuscations! What good is life without Truth?

In Ethiopia I taught the book of Acts for a week. Here’s my rendering of a key verse (2:42): “They spent their time learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, eating meals together, and praying for each other.” Note the second element if you will: “taking part in the fellowship.” That’s how the early believers spent a good deal of their time, says Luke. They emphasized Body Life and genuine relationships. Each one of them had a gift, a talent to share with others. The same is true today. Each one of us has a contribution to make to the health of the Body. Why is that so hard to see? It is a false humility that says, “I have nothing to contribute.” Your ability may be small or large, but your gifts are vitally important to the fellowship. No talent or ability is of our own making. Peter puts it like this: “As each of us has received a gift, we are to use it for the good of one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10). The Bible says plainly that I have a gift, and I am being just plain lazy if I do not exercise it!

The essence of stewardship is responsibility. I have a divinely-ordained responsibility to live a life of blessing to others. How, then, can I be so responsible with my finances but not with my gifts and talents? No gift is small in the eyes of God. Every gift is a token of His grace in our lives. And the early Christians realized this. They did not shake off or shirk their responsibility to serve others. They did not reason, “I have nothing to give.” They did not bury their talents in the ground. They did not write books about the New Testament but not practice its simple teachings.

This is the question I am asking myself this year: Am I giving to the Lord what is His? Is He first in the stewardship of my time, my friendships, my possessions, my resources, my strength, my abilities? I often think, How much more I could do for my Lord is I wasn’t so lazy and self-centered! It’s as if Jesus is telling me, “Don’t neglect the gift you have!” (1 Tim. 4:14). I returned from Ethiopia with a new realization that God will reward me in heaven according to my stewardship, not my knowledge. I must seek to be a wise and trustworthy steward of all He has given me. Only by a diligent application of the truth can I prove that I am a trainee of Jesus. My faith must be proved by my actions. Otherwise I will be like that student who once told me, “My Greek is excellent, except for the verbs.” My profession to be a Jesus-follower is worthless unless it has verbs to back it up!

I can say this: I am ready this year to lay down my life for Jesus if necessary. But even more, I am ready to forfeit things so that others might find the Way of Jesus more easily. I will not evade the burden. I will not say but not do. I will not pray for prisoners – I will visit them. I will not debate the morality of capitalism – I will feed the poor. I will not discuss the Gospel – I will share it with one and all. I am done with debates about this or that. How dare I claim to know truth and display the approachability of a porcupine!

So back to school I go – after a glorious rest and a wonderful romp in Africa. On Monday I will teach my students something about the Greek language. But I don’t want to stop there. I also want to teach them, by actions and not merely by words, that nothing remains more important yet more demanding than that we reflect in our lives the unfailing, scandalous love of Jesus.

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There used to be something I believed quite strongly in. That is if you just learned enough bible, you know enough verses things would get better. And the reason people couldn’t stay strong is because they didn’t have enough bible in them. So if someone had a problem hook them up to the bible IV, sooner or later they would get better, or there was something wrong with them. Why? Because the bible is the answer to all of our questions and life difficulties right?

Just apply the specific proof text to your problems three times a day and call me in the morning. Got marriage problems? Read the bible! Children experimenting with drugs (first the church may be so judgmental that you won’t have to worry about them talking to you) apply the bible. Anxiety due to the economy and you don’t have enough money saved to weather the storm? Read the bible! Molested as a child? Read the Bible! Lost your spouse and children in a wreck? Come on! Read your bible! Want to know the answers to everything in the world? Read your bible!

But what happens Community of Grace when it doesn’t work? When my husband or wife is having an affair? When my boss mistreats me and the anxiety wakes me up at 3:00 Sunday morning. When my kid overdoses? When my spouse commits suicide and we don’t have life insurance? When the chemo and the operation didn’t heal the cancer of my 3 year old? When I am told by the doctor that he can’t find whats wrong and my health insurance runs out. When my wife can’t get pregnant, or she loses 3 kids and now she has depression and don’t want to see me, touch me or even hear my voice? What happens when I don’t want to read the bible, my prayers are as heavy as armored truck, when the ceiling is closing in the walls are getting getting closer, the end seems to be as far away as the sun? When Jesus feels like an abstract thought, sort of like the Tooth Fairy or Frost the Snowman?

For the most part I don’t think we know what to do. We have become so accustomed to prescribing the bible that we don’t know how to allow people to be messed up. We got to fix it. We have to give them an answer. Forget weeping when they weep, or rejoicing when they rejoice. Forget bearing one anothers burdens. Why because that takes relationship, time,  grace. We have to allow people to question God in a way that shakes our faith at its core, and for most of us that is to scary. That is too risky. We have to allow people to cry on us until we are soaked in their tears, that our hearts ache, until we are torn as they our torn.

Sometimes we just need to shut up and listen. Sometimes we need to put the kids to bed, turn on the coffee pot (or open a couple of beers, or like me a little “wine for my stomach”) and prepare for a long night. But we don’t have time, nor the patience,  nor the endurance to bear others burdens. I also don’t think we have the compassion nor the mercy. It is much easier to fix it, give them a bible verse and it all just goes away, depression and emotional illness, and homosexual struggles, and infidelity and lose of young loved ones are not easy fixes and I know many people today who say “the church left me hanging in my time of need” and they want nothing to do with it/us.

Here is my appeal Christian, and to all of the people that I gave some neat verse in your time of need I am soooo sorry, be a shoulder, or an ear, open your home and get the tissues ready. Tell the spouse you are going to be up late at Denny’s, tell the boss you will be in a little late. In other words stop trying to do the easy fix method, the patch work of quoting verses. Listen, have compassion, lay down your life, I know you have to go to work and the kids have you up late, and the game is coming on, but I remember Paul saying “don’t look out for your own interests only”. Lets start being a community of grace and that just doesn’t mean forgiveness but also extended one’s life for the benefit of others.

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This is not an attempt to demean or nullify or to downplay the evangelistic methods of others. I do; however, want to communicate what I think “evangelistic methods” convey to others.

Most of us Christians live in the Christian Bubble.  We have no real intimate relationships with non-believers. A great deal of us wear our morality on our sleeves and expect many if not all of those in our path to conform to our morality and thus leading people further away from us.

Because we have no relationships with people the need for Drive-by Evangelism has been substituted for the need to win people over with the love of Jesus. As a matter of fact one is now the other. We are told today (I have read this just recently) that the reason we don’t evangelize the way Ray Comfort and others do is because we have no concern for the souls of man. In other words you don’t really love people if you aren’t out there trying to share the Gospel with as many people as possible.

Let first say to those who don’t evangelize is such a way, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that you don’t. It is ploy, a tick, a manipulative tool to get you to do something you are not comfortable doing and may shouldn’t be doing anyway. I will say this quite candidly; attempting to get people to do things your way by manipulating them and especially calling their love for humanity and God into question is of Satan. Okay I am off that soapbox.

Back to where I was going. Because we believe that Evangelical Morality is God’s utmost concern we live very isolated lives. We don’t want our children interacting with the kids across the street, 99.99% of our friends are Christians or at least morally astute, and our idea of Christian Service is greeting or parking lot ministry. Then Comfort and Cameron comes along and gives you “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” or some other guilt trip that make you feel dirty because you aren’t evangelizing enough and you build up enough courage to order some tracts to leave on your company’s lunch table, or hand out with sweaty palms at the mall, or you join the churches evangelism team and go out in numbers to save the world from Hell.

Others build there entire ministry on what we call “street preaching” on college campuses or downtown in major cities and they feel they have reached martyrdom if someone curses them out. They feel they have suffered for the Lord Jesus because someone yells at them or throws a tomato at them. I will tell you this quite honestly friend. It is much easier to stand on a box, hand out tracts, corner people who are guilty and get them to say a prayer, or any other evangelistic method. It is much more difficult and life altering to sit in the house with vilest of humans, have them over for dinner, invite your nosey neighbor into your life, hang out with someone who’s vocabulary is more in line with a Bar around at 1:30 A.M. It is much more difficult to get to know your neighbors, to have them over for movie nights or game nights, to help that prostitute off the street, become a father figure to that troubled kid in the community.

You see doing life on life evangelism takes, time, energy, and maybe even money. A CD with a gospel message, or some tracts only take a little money and just like many evangelicals in America we love to throw money at problems instead of getting in the trenches with the wounded.

Let me end with this. I am not discouraging you from doing any of the above “methods”. But I implore and challenge you that the person who does give you that 3 minutes to do the “good person” would be more than an evangelistic conquest and they become a real human being. That since they gave you 3 minutes that you would take them to lunch or have them over for dinner (that is if you ain’t evangelizing 45 minutes from where you really live). I challenge you to first start in Jerusalem (your home community) then go to the outer most parts. I ask that you wouldn’t just tell the convert to wrestle with these issues, but that you will wrestle with them even if takes 5 years. That you will not just hand them a tract but give them your number even if they never accept Jesus Christ that you will befriend them as fellow human being. I challenge you to take the same evangelism team from your church to the same community that you were trying to convert and serve them with reckless abandon. My challenge is that you evangelize like Jesus. Who not only shared the Good News but served humanity by giving His life. The key to evangelism isn’t convicting people of sin, or getting people to pray a prayer, or getting people to say yes they will receive Jesus and not even getting them into church. It is reconciling people to God and becoming Christ to them. When we begin to quote quantity of converts instead of quality of disciples we have missed it. Not only that, if you will only relate to them based off of a decision for Christ then I don’t know if you are evangelistic as God is. It took Jesus years to win most of us over, God invested His only Son, how much are you willing to invest?

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I now have to recant on my post and say to everyone I was wrong on my position but I think I my intentions were correct. My Post on Purate to Steaks has been demolished, disposed, crushed, dissolved and mutilated by this post! Below is a powerful excerpt from it!

It is vitally important that we understand the genetic reality of spiritual life, the organic nature of spiritual growth, and the inherent reproductivity of the life of Christ, beginning with the reality that we are born of the Spirit and that all growth and reproduction is a function of the Spirit.

then…

Then in a rush to transform our new converts into shiny, happy christians we train them into every aspect of cultural christianity rather than trusting the process of transformation by the Spirit that begins within before it becomes evident to others. The goal is to get them looking and acting like good christians as soon as possible.

So we feed them high-octane food in order to grow quickly.

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Monergism is offering a 15 sermon MP3 CD on the Doctrines of Grace. From Dr. Arturo G. Azurdia III who happens to be my favorite preacher. Here are the sermons:

The Doctrines of Grace
Christians often speak about being saved by grace.  But what does this mean?  Does God save us apart from our willing cooperation?  Does God’s grace invalidate the demand for our obedience?  Why do some people embrace the Gospel while others adamantly refuse it?  Is our experience of salvation, from God’s perspective, a predetermined purpose or heartfelt hope?

Track List
1) Total Depravity        
2) Unconditional Election        
3) Limited Atonement        
4) Irresistible Grace        
5) Perseverance of the Saints        
6) Q&A on the Doctrines of Grace Part 1    
7) Q&A on the Doctrines of Grace Part 2    
8) Q&A on the Doctrines of Grace Part 3    
Plus:
9) The Discriminating Love of Jesus Christ – John 13:1
10) Did Jesus Pray for You? – John 17:20
11) Monergistic Regeneration Part 1
12) Monergistic Regeneration Part 2
13) The Ultimate Hermeneutic Part 1
14) The Ultimate Hermeneutic Part 2
15) Solus Christus – Isaiah 55:1-12

About the Speaker
Arturo (Art) Azurdia III joined the faculty of Western Seminary Portland, OR, in January 2006. He directs the pastoral mentoring program and teaches selected preaching courses for both masters and doctoral students. Education: BA-California State University (’81), MA-Simpson College (’83), MDiv-American Baptist Seminary of the West (’88), DMin-Westminster Theological Seminary (’98). Pastoral Experience: 1981-1986: College and Career Pastor at Neighborhood Church; 1987-2005: Founder and Pastor of Christ Community Church. Written Works: Spirit Empowered Preaching and Partners in Preaching

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