Friday, October 31, 2014

The University as a Cross-Cultural Mission

Found this on multiply, a site dedicated to discipleship.  This is for the university context but applies to the work environment also.  
Christians within secular academic institutions have always had to navigate varying degrees of hostile waters as they seek to live out an active faith. While it is certainly a fertile harvest field, the pluralistic university environment can also pose a real hindrance to open Gospel proclamation. Add to that the recent trend of creedal Christian student groups losing campus privileges under the pretext of non-discrimination policies and it’s easy to see why many followers of Christ perceive an antagonistic climate within their universities.
Having spent the better part of my adult life on university campuses as either a student or faculty member, I can attest to the intimidating nature of this environment when it comes to religious expression. The new tolerance has shown itself to be decidedly intolerant if you intend to hold your beliefs tightly. Sadly, I cannot say that I have always responded to the challenge in faithful obedience. Fearing man more than God, the outward expression of my faith has at times been remarkably silent. Under the guise of professionalism and prudence, I convinced myself that a bold witness was simply not possible in the hallways and courtyards of my university. In doing so, I built an artificial barrier between sacred and secular, compartmentalizing my faith and ministry into a realm distinct from academic life.
But God has proven Himself faithful despite my reticence. As He has patiently worked in me, there is one thing in particular He has used to catalyze my understanding of what it means to be an authentic witness in an adversarial environment: global missions. I have had the privilege of being a small part of God’s work in countries that are closed to the Gospel, teaching and evangelizing in contexts with very real restrictions and very real consequences. And yet, through dependence on His Spirit and application of some basic cross-cultural strategies, I was able to boldly proclaim Christ and fuel the long-term disciple-making efforts in these countries. But despite seeing God’s astonishing work on these trips, when I returned home to my university appointment I would slide right back into a spirit of timidity. One day, the absurdity of the situation struck me—I was willing to fly to the other side of the world to proclaim the good news in an incredibly difficult context, yet unwilling to do it on my own campus! God used this fresh (and painfully obvious) conviction to show me that it was indeed possible to live out a winsome faith in a hard place.
So, if you are a Christ follower living, studying, or working within the increasingly difficult context of secular academic institutions, I offer 5 ways of applying the cross-cultural framework of global missions in the hope that it will help you as you seek to make disciples:
  1. View your campus as a mission field to which you have been sent
Mission fields are not limited to places abroad. The simple fact is that if you do not perceive yourself to be on mission at your university, it’s unlikely that you will consistently engage in disciple-making efforts there. Take ownership of your school’s community as a people group to which you have been sent to serve. In your daily interactions with classmates and colleagues, you have the privilege of being a part of a diverse community filled with lost people in need of a great Savior.
It’s important to realize that God has placed you where you are for a reason. No matter how gifted an evangelist your pastor may be, he will not normally have access to the classrooms, laboratories, departmental offices, and hospital wards in which you spend your days. God has given you this unique sphere of influence—use it for His glory. Pray for and engage your people group.
  1. Be sensitive to where God is already at work
I once attended a faculty orientation in which an administrator made a very practical request. She said, “Walk with your eyes up.” You see, our campus is sprawling and can be a difficult place for visitors to navigate, so her simple appeal was that we not walk around campus with earbuds in and noses buried in a book, oblivious to the needs of people around us. In essence, she asked us to serve our visitors by having a heightened awareness of opportunities to help people in need. As Christians we should also be attentive to what is going on around us.
Part of being an effective cross-cultural worker is simply having the spiritual sensitivity to see what God is doing and the willingness to set your agenda aside to join in with His work. Even if your environment is openly hostile to expressions of Christian belief, trust that God is at work under the surface and be on the lookout for where that might be. Much in the same way that missionaries pioneering gospel proclamation among unreached people groups will often find evidences of God already moving within the hearts of the people, we are likely to find that He is already stirring in unexpected ways within our university communities. Be alert to opportunities in which He is calling you to be a part of His work. As you go about your campus activities, walk with your eyes up, sensitive to where those opportunities might be.
  1. Live and work with excellence, as to the Lord
Even in settings where verbal proclamation of your faith is unwelcome or restricted, you are still able to express real and true things about God through the way you live.  In Titus 2:7-10, Paul says that we should “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” by the way we carry ourselves in society. He prescribes things such as good works, integrity, dignity, sound speech, submission to authority, and living with a general respect for those around us. In short, Paul is exhorting us to be good students and good employees. Strive to be excellent in everything you do because it commends the Gospel and because, ultimately, we are working as to the Lord (Colossians 3:22).
But what are we really trying to accomplish with our excellence? Are we seeking to earn the respect of others so that they’ll want to follow our God? Is this merely lifestyle evangelism? No, we strive for excellence in all of our interactions with others because it honors God and because we love people. In love, we build friendships with classmates and colleagues and it is within those relationships that we are truly able to serve them well (including the ultimate service—pointing them to Christ).
  1. Look for persons of peace
When you think about sharing your faith on campus your mind might immediately populate with the faces of antagonistic persons with whom religious talk is a non-starter. It’s that thought process that so often paralyzes our witness, and understandably so! Approaching a person like that can be quite daunting. But even in a setting where many people are known to be hostile to Christianity, not every person is equally so. There are always people who remain open to spiritual conversations, even if they are not followers of Christ. Identify those persons of peace within your campus circles and begin developing safe relationships with them.
One benefit of engaging persons of peace is that it lowers the threshold for having spiritual conversations. It’s an open door to Gospel conversations in a difficult place. Not only is it of direct benefit to the person with whom you are conversing, but it also creates a splash-over effect on those around you as they hear you openly discussing the things of God. It’s not that you are sneaking the Gospel to them, but it can lead to future conversations in which a person approaches you and says, “I heard you talking the other day and I was wondering about something you said.” In this way, people with whom I’ve had difficulty engaging in spiritual conversations have actually approached me on their own to discuss Scripture. When we cannot see a way in, sometimes God opens the door for us.
  1. Sew Gospel threads every chance you get
At some point, Gospel demonstration must lead to Gospel proclamation. Unfortunately, evangelism is often relegated to a presentation event, as if an uninterrupted 5-minute monologue is a normal thing in adult conversation. Viewing evangelism primarily in this way creates an unhelpful barrier in closed environments where proclaiming the Gospel is already difficult. But while the prospect of cornering a person to present a Gospel spiel may not seem feasible, we must also avoid choosing silence as the alternative. This is where the concept of sewing Gospel threads is particularly useful.
Rather than waiting for the perfect opportunity to uncork a presentation on someone, seek to build healthy relationships and allow the themes of the Gospel saturate your normal conversations. The basic concept of Gospel threads is that we are swimming so deeply in these glorious Biblical themes that they can’t help but overflow into our everyday language. If we are tuned in, we will see opportunities to weave Gospel threads all around us. Thinking through a classic framework such as God–Man–Christ–Response or Creation–Fall–Redemption–Consummation can also help you keep the big picture in mind (the whole tapestry, so to speak) as you underscore particular threads of the Gospel. Even in a highly secular environment, themes of creation, beauty, brokenness, yearning, salvation, and hope are pervasive. God has placed these refrains in each person’s heart. In our everyday conversations, we can resonate with these longings and, even better, we have the privilege of pointing people to their Author.
Now, in making this comparison to ministry in a closed country, I do not want to minimize in any way the persecution of our brothers and sisters living in those difficult places. My pluralistic university atmosphere is not on par with the threat of imprisonment and death that many believers face every day. My prayer, rather, is that as you seek to make disciples amid the very real obstacles in your setting it will fuel your awareness of their persecution all the more. Let the example of their sacrificial service compel you to pray for and support them, but also let it lead you to trust that God can work through the adversity you face at your university. He is faithful.

Scott James is as an Elder at The Church at Brook Hills, a Research Fellow with the ERLC Research Institute, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Preparing for Sunday Worship

I am doing a series on Revelation four and five, specifically now on worship.  I found this by chance (or providence) today, a guest post on Kevin Deyoung's blog.  What a concept, preparing for corporate worship!
The Christian life is lived from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. Corporate worship is the high point of our week and the constant rhythm of our lives. We dare not “neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some” (Heb. 10:25), because there is nothing as meaningful, rich, and glorious on earth as the church gathering together with its Lord and Savior in worship. Most Christians believe this, but does it translate to our practice? Or is the moment we are sitting in the pew or the auditorium chair the first time we think about corporate worship in our week?
I would suggest that if corporate worship is as significant as the Scriptures portray it to be (Ex. 19Acts 2:421 Cor. 11:17-341 Cor. 14:26-39Heb. 10:25) then we should prepare for it. We count preaching as significant, so we expect our pastor will prepare his sermon before he enters the pulpit. We consider worship songs important, so we expect our music teams, pianists, and organists will appropriately prepare before sitting down at their instruments. We believe our engagement in corporate worship is essential, so we should also expect to prepare even as we expect the pastor and musicians to prepare for their participation in the Sunday morning service. How can you prepare for worship? Here are a few ideas:
  • Seize the Rest of the Week: Practice family worship and secret worship throughout the week knowing that this will inform and encourage your experience in corporate worship.
  • Be Boring: Go to bed early on Saturday night. Friday nights can be filled with late-night activity, but Saturday nights should routinely be safeguarded. Sleepy heads make for drowsy worshippers.
  • Right Attitude: Cultivate a spirit of joy on Sunday mornings in your home. If this is the highlight of our week, then let’s act like it. Talk about how wonderful the day is going to be, wake the kids up with excitement, turn on good Christian music for the whole family to listen to, and put a smile on your face.
  • Media Blackout: Refrain from turning on the television, watching Netflix, or catching up on Facebook Sunday mornings. Our minds are so easily distracted. Safeguard your mental space.
  • Plan Ahead: Lay out your Sunday morning clothes on Saturday night, so you don’t have to change ten times on Sunday morning before finding an outfit that fits well, looks right, or is ironed (of course, this point was not intentionally directed to any particular sex!).
  • Don’t Be Surprised: Read and think through the Sunday morning text earlier in the week. We should seldom be surprised at the passage we hear preached. Working our way through a passage throughout the week provides more fertile soil on Sunday morning.
  • Early Bird: Rise early on Sunday morning and spend time reading the Word, praying, and meditating to prepare your heart for worship.
  • Talk & Drive: On the car-ride to church talk about the passage that will be preached, sing a hymn together, and converse about the things of God.
  • Timing it Right: Give yourself enough time on Sunday mornings. Rise early enough that the morning isn’t rushed. Leave home with plenty of time to spare. Try not to arrive at church late or even a few minutes before the service. Rushing out the door at home and rushing in the door at church has stymied many worshippers.
  • Collect Your Thoughts: Sit-down, read through the bulletin (if you have one), think through the songs, meditate on the Scripture readings, and pray before the service begins.

For the Christian, there is no sweeter moment in the week than Sunday morning. How good it is to meet with God and His people! Because it is part of our weekly activity, there is a temptation to treat it as common and routine. May it never be! One of the ways to ensure that this is not the case with us is to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for corporate worship each week. Take the time and effort, your soul will be the beneficiary.
- See more at:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Definition of Worship

The definition comes from the famed archbishop William Temple: “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose—all this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Stop Worrying About the Back Door

A mega church pastor makes some good points . . .

“Everybody is leaving someday!” When my pastor and friend of almost forty years made that declaration, I was a bit shocked. He could see the look on my face, so he clarified, “We shouldn’t get too bent out of shape when people leave our church because everybody will end up eventually leaving or dying.” If that didn’t come from a guy who pastors a very large congregation, I might have suspected he was just bitter about a struggling church.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that blunt statement then, but I know how I feel about it now. He’s spot on; no one (except my wife) is with me until the end.
For years, I’ve read articles and books and listened to brilliant mega-church pastors tell me, “You must close the back door to grow your church! It doesn’t matter how big your front door is if you’re hemorrhaging folks out the back.” In other words, if you don’t have a dynamic small group ministry, an effective way to plug people into service, and a strong discipleship program, people won’t stay long.
For years I believed them, but not so much anymore. (Hang in there and let me explain.)
Of course, I value connecting people to others in the church and helping them find their ministry niche. Without question, I value discipleship and spiritual growth. For a very long time, I’ve had a pastor of discipleship on my staff, and he’s great at what he does. But over the past twelve years of ministry as the founding pastor of a fairly large church, I’ve discovered a few things:
  • Sometimes the most invested people in your church have the most unrealistic Their attitude is, “You owe me because of all that I have done for you.” They look at church like I look at paying insurance. My premiums are paid. My deductible is met. So I have a right to file a big claim when I need something. And if the company (church) doesn’t pay up, then I’m taking my business elsewhere. Problem: Self-centered expectations replace selfless service and create an unhealthy and ungodly “What’s in it for me?” attitude.
  • Sometimes the people who are the most connected demand a position of authority even if they don’t have the character or skills to handle it. Unfortunately, they think their longevity (or the size of their tithe check) gives them the right to lead. If the pastor doesn’t see it that way, parishioners seethe and eventually bolt. Problem: It’s not wise to promote the proud no matter how long they’ve been around or how much they’ve given.
  • Sometimes the people who are the most regular attendees gripe the most. Perhaps you’ve heard these statements from members: “How many times do I have to hear that vision message again?” “I’m tired of the same old money talk!” “Seems like you’re recycling messages, and I’m no longer getting fed anymore.” Sadly, they’ve lost their awareness and compassion for the harvest, so they move on to the latest hot church or newest pastor in town. Problem: They suffer from the curse of knowledge, meaning they have forgotten what it’s like to be new and to not know everything. Tragically, they’ve also lost their heart for the lost.
Two things are consistently taught in the New Testament:
  1. Otherliness. In the kingdom of God, it’s not about me. In fact, the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the one. (Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3)
  1. Outreach. The primary purpose of the Church is to reach out to those not yet in it. (Luke 19:10; 1 Corinthians 9:22)
Let me repeat, I value discipleship and caring for the sheep. But I wonder if we sometimes worry too much about the back door when we live in communities filled with people on their way to hell who have yet to enter the front door. The harvest is still ripe. Where I live, nearly 80% of the people don’t attend church anywhere. In fact, Washington is one of the most unchurched states in the Union. How can I not focus on the lost?
I will go after wandering sheep that have lost their way, but I’m no longer going to worry about wandering worshippers who move from church to church. In fact, I’m going to do everything I can to have the biggest front door possible. I’m going to challenge the already convinced to actively and regularly engage in the lives of those without a relationship with God. I’m going to design our Sunday morning services for people who are not there yet.
That may mean some “church people” get frustrated. It might mean my once greatest fans turn into my greatest critics. I will still love them, and I understand, but I must “become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
Frankly, it’s all about a lost world God loved so much that He gave up everything to reach them.Everything. Perhaps, it’s time to stop worrying about the back door and make the front door as big and inviting as possible.
Editor’s Note: Kurt just released his newest book, Mr. and Mrs.: How to Thrive In An Imperfect Marriageand you’ve gotta check it out!

Kurt Bubna


Kurt W. Bubna published his first book, Epic Grace ~ Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot, with Tyndale Momentum in 2013. Since then, Bubna has published three other books, including: Mr. & Mrs.: How to Thrive in a Perfectly Imperfect Marriage. He is an active blogger, itinerant speaker, regular radio and television personality, and the Sr. Pastor of a large and community-focused church in Spokane Valley, Washington. He and his wife, Laura, have been married for nearly forty years and have four grown children and five grandchildren. For more information, please visit

Monday, October 20, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

There is Nothing Sexy About the Call to Eldership.

Stumbled upon this the other day on the Bethlehem College and Seminary website.  Our elders have been dealing with a painful and difficult issue within our body that is not going well.  As I saw the title, I was reminded of the difficulties eldership faces when they set their minds and heart to the task of eldering.  David

We all recognize the elders as the men who sit in those painstakingly long meetings making the hard decisions for the church. 
But as I returned with five classmates from 40 hours of driving a 15-passenger van to Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s “Weekender” in Washington D.C., I was reminded afresh that elders are the men who share in the eternally significant privilege of shepherding the souls of a local congregation. This appropriately difficult work of eldering serves the correspondingly weighty responsibility of shepherding souls. 
I first attended Capitol Hill Baptist Church as a college intern in the D.C. metro area in Summer 2008. Although I was only there for a short season, I felt known and loved by elders and members of this local body. Now as a seminary student at Bethlehem College & Seminary who is training to be an elder myself, I was able to step behind the scenes at Capitol Hill Baptist Church this past week to attend an intense, movie trailer-like conference of what eldership looks like. While observing elder meetings, membership classes, Sunday services, a congregational meeting, and a staff service review, I watched firsthand how church eldership demands incredible patience and humble service, making me all the more grateful for Bethlehem Baptist Church’s faithful elders. 
As I aspire to eldership, here are three lessons I want to remember and apply: 
  1. Lay Elders Are Crucial
    Lay elders are not the B-team benchwarmers but rather the gifted amateurs who contribute to the success of the team. I use “amateur” in the classical sense (from the Latin amator or “lover”), as in those who play a sport (or serve a church) purely out of love rather than for pay. Lay elders invest countless hours in the lives of individual members, in prayer, in thinking through the relationship between doctrinal issues and the practical questions of ministry all out of love for their local church. Qualified lay elders are crucial team members.
  2. Seek the Wandering and Wounded Sheep
    Shepherding takes patience, empathy, and a pursuing love on the part of the elders. Eldering means pursuing members who are experiencing acute suffering or who are floundering in sin and who therefore need love, counsel, and possibly church discipline. Elders are the first in the congregation to press into the pain and brokenness of the flock, allowing their own hearts to break for them. Elders pursue the lost and wounded sheep not only to show the hurting members such love, but also so that the rest of the flock might follow their example to love others in the congregation in the same way.  
  3. Measure Your Eldering by the Last Day
    Eldership is an eternally weighty responsibility because of the account taken on the Last Day. Hebrews warns elders that they will “give an account” for those in their flock (Heb 13:17). Therefore, elders should measure everything they do against the eternally significant judgment that will happen when Christ returns. 
The call to eldership, though full of hard work and eternal weight, offers the joy of seeing God’s grace at work in the life of the Church. And it is a call I am eager to grow into as I finish my studies at Bethlehem College & Seminary.
The “Weekender” was a fresh reminder to me to pray with thanksgiving to the Lord for the elders here at Bethlehem, who watch over our souls with patience and discernment and most of all an eternal perspective. 
Zach Howard
Bethlehem Seminary Student

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Look at the Book

I do not think I have ever been disappointed with anything from John Piper.  I think this new ministry of teaching people to read and study their bibles is going to be a great asset to Christians of all walks of life!  The format will be short ten minute videos helping people see the treasure of the truth for yourself.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Best Things About the Boring Parts of the Bible

by Nancy Guthrie on the Desiring God website.
Let’s admit it, there are certain parts of the Bible we skim because . . . well . . . because we think they’re boring. They’re repetitive, overly detailed, full of names and places we can’t pronounce. So why bother with them? There are many reasons — not the least of which is that even the parts of the Bible we deem to be boring are significant because they are God’s word to us. Here’s my top ten list of the best things about the boring parts of the Bible.


After a poetic Creation and a cosmic disaster, the story of the Bible slows down in Genesis by tracing the sons of Adam and Eve’s son, Seth, through numerous generations. Why do we need to know this? Because God made a promise recorded in Genesis 3 about a particular descendant of Eve. The whole of the Bible is most significantly about this descendant. So, the tenth best thing about the boring parts of the Bible is:
Tracing the line of descendants from Adam and Eve forward keeps us tuned in to what is most important in the Bible’s story, or really who is most important — the promised offspring who will one day be born and will do battle with the offspring of the ancient serpent and win.


In Genesis 6–9 we witness the population of the world narrowed down to just Noah and his 3 sons and their families. The begats of the Bible pick up again in Genesis 10 focusing in on the descendants of just one of Noah’s sons — Shem — and finally on one descendant of Shem — Abraham — to whom God makes incredible promises. Further lists help us to trace the coming of the promised descendant through Isaac and Jacob and Judah and David until we read inGalatians 4:4, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman.” Keeping our focus on this promised One helps to keep us from making the Bible all about us instead of all about him.
The book of Exodus begins with the vivid story of a baby in a basket on the Nile River who becomes the deliverer of God’s people from their slavery in Egypt. On their way to the Promised Land, God gives Moses detailed instructions for the design of the tent they are to construct in which God will come down to dwell among them. In the detail of the design we see gourds and open flowers woven into the fabrics, a basin made to look like a lily, lampstands made to look like trees with branches. The writer of Hebrews says the tabernacle and later the temple were, “copies of true things,” and “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 8:5). So for #9:
The detail of the tabernacle and temple design reminds us of Eden and fills us with anticipation for the beauty and perfection of the new heavens and new earth.


As we continue in Exodus we read exacting detail about the clothing that was to be made for the high priest who would serve in the tabernacle. It was to be holy, glorious, and beautiful like God himself, which is appropriate since the priest represented God to the people. The priest also represented the people to God. He wore an ephod and a breastplate that had stones with the names of the twelve tribes on them. So when the high priest entered the Holy Place, it was as if he took the people and their concerns into the presence of God with him.
The detail of the high priest’s clothing assures us that our Great High Priest, Jesus, carries our burdens on his shoulders and our concerns on his heart as he intercedes for us in the presence of God.


In Leviticus 1–7 we find detailed instructions for offering sacrifices which were like flashing neon signs saying: “sin brings death . . . sin brings death.” But the sacrifices also revealed that God accepts the blood of an innocent substitute to pay for sin.
The requirements of Old Testament sacrifices help us to see what sin costs as well as the fullness of our forgiveness made possible through the once-for-all perfect sacrifice of Christ.


Let’s face it — the laws about what make a person ceremonial clean or unclean found in Leviticus 11–15 are strange. Yet when we study them, we see that everything that makes a person unclean is something that reflects the effects of the curse of sin on this world. Animals fed on other animals only after the curse. Bodies bled and developed disease only after the curse. Mold and mildew, the visible evidence of decay, came into being only after the curse. Everything designated unclean in Leviticus demonstrated that things are not the way they once were in the Garden—the way God originally intended them to be.
The laws regarding clean and unclean in Leviticus give us hope that we who are unclean can be made clean through an acceptable sacrifice, and will one day be made holy to enter into the presence of God.


Jesus, who was perfectly clean, took our uncleanness upon himself so that we might be made clean and he is at work even now, by his Spirit, making us holy. God will not abandon our world to its uncleanness forever! He will make it clean.
The book of Numbers begins and ends with a census. In Numbers 1 we find the record of the generation who rebelled and refused to believe that God was giving them the land of Canaan and therefore died in the desert. In Numbers 26 we read the census record of the second generation as they prepared to enter into their inheritance and abundant life of the Promised Land. Why do we need this information?
The census records of Numbers encourage us to examine whether our names are to be counted among those who refuse to believe and will die in the wilderness of this world, or if we are counted among those who believe God’s promise of an inheritance and have life in the abundance of the Promised Land to look forward to.


In Joshua 13–21 we read the geographic details of the land in Canaan given to each tribe. Because we are unfamiliar with the ancient geography, it can be a boring list to us. But if we were familiar with these places and with these people, we could better imagine the sense of wonder among God’s people as each tribe was given a huge amount of territory in the Promised Land. Likely the people of each tribe would have looked at each other and said, “All of this for us?”
The allotment of territories to tribes in the land of Canaan gives us a preview of what it will be like when our greater Joshua, Jesus, leads us into the eternal Promised Land where we will inherit all that God has promised.


One day our Greater Joshua will read out the inheritance that will be ours in the new heaven and the new earth, and we won’t be bored! Surely we will breathlessly say, “All of this for us?”
First Chronicles includes chapter after chapter of genealogies that begin with Adam and stretch to the descendants of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi — the kingly and priestly tribes — who made up most of those who returned to the land after exile.
The genealogies in 1 Chronicles help us focus on where history is headed — the son of David, seated on the throne of the universe.


This list should reorient our hearts toward the coming of our great king when we will hear a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3).
When Nehemiah was trying to figure out who among the returned exiles should take up residence behind the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem, he pulled out the book in which the names of those who returned to Judah when the opportunity was first given by Cyrus’s decree to come home were listed.
The list of names in the book Nehemiah read that included all those whose hearts God stirred up to leave Babylon for Jerusalem should make our hearts glad to know that God likes to keep lists of those whose hearts he has stirred up with a longing for his city, those who will inhabit the New Jerusalem.


In Revelation 21:27 John tells us, “Only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will populate the New Jerusalem. We will not be bored when that list of names is read! We’ll be on pins and needles listening for our names.
The New Testament begins with a genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. And oh the grace we find in this boring part of the Bible!There in the lineage of Jesus is Abraham who pretended his wife was his sister and gave her to a godless king; Judah who fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, his daughter-in-law; Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute who put everything at risk to get in on the promises of God; Ruth, a Moabite who left everything behind to make Israel’s God her God; David who took another man’s wife and then had her husband killed; Solomon who allowed many foreign women to turn his heart away from loving the Lord. So the #1 best thing about the boring parts of the Bible is:
The genealogy of Jesus shows us that Jesus welcomes flagrant but forgiven sinners into his family.
This gives outsiders and outlaws like you and me hope. He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why We Neglect Our Bibles

From John Piper - . . .

We assume every Christian has a Bible that looks like this one — worn down, marked up, and paired with a journal stuffed with multicolored spiritual reflections.

But that’s often not true. Many Christians find it difficult to get into a daily habit of Bible reading. So this week John Piper addressed four common causes of Bible neglect in the Christian life, like: “I don’t read my Bible because . . .

. . . it seems so irrelevant to my life.”
. . . I don’t have time.”
. . . I go to church every Sunday.”
. . . I find it confusing.”
What follows is a slightly edited (and abridged) transcript of his answers.

Reason 1: “I don’t read my Bible because it seems irrelevant to my life.”

This is a very common hang-up. Many Christians neglect the Bible because it doesn’t seem relevant in an average day of life and work. So why do I need to read my Bible every day? Pastor John’s response.

One thing I know in response to this question, another thing I don’t know. What I know is that the Bible is relevant to this person’s average day where he lives and works. What I don’t know is what are his personal goals in life and work. And the reason that matters is that you can have goals at work or in life which will put you so out of sync with the Bible that you find the Bible to be annoying or condemning or boring, because its teaching runs in a different direction from the direction you are going.

I know the Bible is relevant to this person’s daily life. He says he doesn’t feel like it is. I know it is. The Bible says, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Bible says: “render service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7–8).

So here are ten questions to ask about work.

Question 1: Are you ever tempted to grumble or complain at work? Philippians 2:15–16 is relevant, and shows a glorious way to live without grumbling.

Question 2: Are you ever tempted to be greedy at work and take something that is not yours? The Bible has lots to say about covetousness and greed and stealing and how to be so content in Christ that you are free at work to be generous.

Question 3: Are you ever tempted to be worried or anxious at work? Everyone is. And the Bible talks about this fear almost as much as it does anything. The most common command in the Bible is “fear not.” For anybody who has any fears at work, the Bible is relevant.

Question 4: Are you ever tempted to brag or boast or draw attention to yourself and to your superiority in some area? The Bible is full of wisdom about pride and humility and the effect it has on relationships.

Question 5: Are you ever tempted at work to be angry with anybody? Do you deal with temper issues? Are there strained relationships because you are frustrated with other people? The Bible deals over and over again with the issue of anger and goes a lot deeper in that issue than any psychology can today.

Question 6: Are you ever tempted to cut corners at work, to punch out early, to come in late, to work half-heartedly? The Bible is also relevant to the quality of our work.

Question 7: Are you ever tempted sexually at work by lust? The Bible is full of relevant material on a robust view of sexuality that puts it all in a good perspective and a proper place.

Question 8: Are you ever tempted to feel sorry for yourself at work, to lick your own wounds because someone spoke evil of you, or because you got passed over for a promotion? The Bible is shot through with dynamics of life that help us deal with self-pity.

Question 9: Do you ever struggle with guilt at work, feelings that just come over you that are a vague sense that you are not as good as you should be, or maybe you really failed at something you should have succeeded at by your own standards? Accept the ultimate remedy given in the Bible for guilt.

Question 10: Are there lost people at work that you care about, that you don’t want to go to hell? Where are you going to get help for dealing with them in the hope of giving them life except in the Bible? And where are you going to get strength and courage and boldness and wisdom for how to do it?

The Bible is relevant for the life and work of any man. But really it comes down to this. Does he want to see the greatest treasure in the universe? Does he desire to know Jesus and enjoy Jesus more than anything? Does he love people so much that he grieves over the fact that they don’t know Jesus and will be lost forever without him? That is the question. If Jesus is supreme in this person’s life, if the passion is to know him above all, if the passion is to desire him and enjoy him and treasure him more than anything, if the passion is to bring as many people with you as you can into that experience, then you can’t live without the Bible. It is the most relevant book in the world.

Piper: “You can have goals in life so out of sync with the Bible that you find the Bible boring.” Tweet

Reason 2: “I don’t read my Bible because I don’t have time.”

This is another very common struggle Bible readers face, and this question came from a mom with young kids who feels like there’s no time in the day for clear-headed, uninterrupted time in Scripture. In response, Pastor John turned the tables to address the husband’s role in serving his wife, and offered these six bits of counsel.

One, set a tone of discipline and order in the home so that children are not running wild, but are submissive and obedient and self controlled. Partner with her in getting these kids under control with naps and bedtimes and meal times that are ordered times around which days can be built. My impression is that way too many parents today think their children should be allowed to control the atmosphere of the house. That is a big mistake at lots of levels, I think. So, Dad, step up, partner with your wife in establishing routines and expect obedience to her and to your authority.

Two, Dad, establish playtime with the kids every day. It will obviously change with the ages and so on, but give your whole attention to these kids every day at some point during which time your wife is free. For us, for many years, that was right after supper for about an hour.

Three, build retreats into her life so she gets a half-day or a full day every now and then. You figure out how often you can arrange for the children. You take them on Saturday morning all morning. Get periodic extended retreat times alone where she (and then you) can deal with the living God.

Four, lead your wife in the word so that her desire never wavers because of your example of pursuing treasure and sweetness in the word with her.

Five, give her adult conversation about important things including things from Scripture, so that she doesn’t lose perspective what all this time with the kids is for.

Six, pray for her. Husband, pray that your wife will find the motivation and discipline to enjoy God’s word.

Piper: “Husband, pray that your wife will find the motivation and discipline to enjoy God’s word.” Tweet

Reason 3: “I don’t read my Bible because I go to church every Sunday.”

A third reason some Christians neglect their Bible is by thinking listening to weekly sermons is sufficient. Isn’t this what pastors get paid to do — to understand the Bible and explain it to me once a week? Here was Pastor John’s response.

I was a pastor and I loved it when people listened to my sermons. But something is wrong here. This is serious. If the word of God is coming with power each week, it doesn’t just satisfy hunger, it also creates hunger. I would have felt like a total failure if my people said, “Because of your preaching, we don’t read our Bibles.”

To someone who says the sermon is all I need, my question back would be this: Is it all you want? Why isn’t the meal on Sunday whetting your taste for more on Monday? Why not? It seems to me like we have two issues here. (1) How much of the Bible do we need? (2) How much of the Bible do we want?

Let’s take the second question. Why would you only want one passage a week from the Bible, from someone else? To me that’s like saying: I am in love, my sweetheart writes me every day, and I would like to just read her letters once a week, and I think I would like somebody else to read them for me and give me a digest of what she said. Are you kidding me? To only want to read one love letter a week when she is writing them every day is a sign that something is wrong.

The Bible is an unparalleled love letter to the people of God. The Psalmist says: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). It just wouldn’t make any sense for the psalmist to say: “I get a spoonful of honey on Sunday and that is plenty. I don’t want any on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday.” Instead he said: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold” (Psalm 19:10). “If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:4–5).

So why would you want only one glimpse a week of this beauty? Only one taste a week of this honey? Only one deposit a week of this silver in your bank? Only one letter from your lover?

I think I can say from experience, from history, and from the Bible: Every Christian needs more spiritual food than one meal a week. That doesn’t work physically; it doesn’t work spiritually. Temptations are too relentless. Doubt is too frequent. Satan is too active. Tribulations are too heavy. Conflicts are too many. Emotions are too volatile. Perplexities are too difficult. Faith, hope, and love are too threatened, to think I can deal with these all week long simply from one word I got on Sunday. I can’t do it. And I don’t think anybody can.

Piper: “The Bible is an unparalleled love letter to the people of God.” Tweet

Reason 4: “I don’t read my Bible because I find it confusing.”

Finally, what about readers who simply find the Bible dreadfully hard to understand, not at the fault of the Bible, but because they find every book hard to understand? To this discouraged Bible reader, Pastor John offered some very practical advice.

One, make sure you have a modern translation that is readable, like the ESV or the NIV.

Two, make sure you’re in a church where the pastor explains passages from the Bible every Sunday.

Three, get a good study Bible like the ESV Study Bible. In a good study Bible there are notes at the bottom of the page to help answer a lot of the puzzling questions you will ask.

Four, read carefully and slowly and try writing a passage out. And I don’t mean write out the long stories in the Old Testament. I mean if you are stumbling over a verse or a paragraph in the letters or in the gospels, try writing it out by hand.

Five, join us online for Look at the Book episodes which are going public at the National Conference. In those videos, I will help guide you through texts. My hope is that these videos will instill habits of reading in you to make the Bible more understandable.

Six, pray. Pray for God to give you light. God loves to make his Son known. He sent him into the world at the cost of his life so that he could be known and loved. He is not interested in holding back from you the light that he gave with his Son and gave with his word.

Piper: “You can’t live without the Bible. It is the most relevant book in the world.”>