Pre-Thoughts for Reading through the Bible in 2015

“ ’The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.’ ” (Amos 8:11-12)

“It is easy to see how this judgment works out in history. For complex historical reasons, France turned on the Huguenots and persecuted them almost out of existence, so the Bible and the Reformation never took hold in France as it did in England. Sometimes the antipathy toward the Bible has arisen from drift, rather than from persecution. In many Western countries, the public sense of morality was until a few decades ago largely tied to the Ten Commandments. Nowadays very few even know what the Ten Commandments are. The result is not freedom and integrity, but a lilting scorn that flaunts its superiority over something no longer even understood, much less respected—and what shall the end of these things be? So many Bibles, so many Bibles—and so little thoughtful reading of them. The next stage is the Bible as source of prooftexts; the stage after that is the Bible as quaint relic; the next, the Bible as antiquarian magic; the next, implacable ignorance—and all the while, a growing hunger for something wise, something stable, something intelligent, something prophetic, something true. And the hunger is not satisfied.

The only answer is the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:17.”

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, vol 2. Online.

Also see Justin Taylor, “How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014.”

 

Montgomery County Board of Education B-Ballin With Holy Days

images

 

 

 

 

Christmas and Easter have been stricken from next year’s school calendar in Montgomery County. So have Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

Montgomery’s Board of Education voted 7 to 1 Tuesday to eliminate references to all religious holidays on the published calendar for 2015-2016, a decision that followed a request from Muslim community leaders to give equal billing to the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.

In practical terms, Montgomery schools will still be closed for the Christian and Jewish holidays, as in previous years, and students will still get the same days off, as planned.

Board members said Tuesday that the new calendar will reflect days the state requires the system to be closed and that it will close on other days that have shown a high level of student and staff absenteeism. Though those days happen to coincide with major Christian and Jewish holidays, board members made clear that the days off are not meant to observe those religious holidays, which they say is not legally permitted. (Donna St. George, “Holidays’ Names Stricken from Next Year’s Montgomery Schools Calendar,” The Washington Post, November 11.)

The move by the Montgomery County (MD) Board of Education to cease recognizing religious holidays seems to concern budgets. The school system retains traditional Jewish and Christian religious holidays on their academic calendar due to the scores of children who will miss school by choice on these days. They do not recognize the days because they are religious days. Instead, they recognize them because opening schools on these days would not be the best use of resources. Seemingly, therefore, the issue for the board is economics, not religion. So the request for recognition of a Muslim holy day is rebuffed; it is not (yet) economically necessary.

I would love to explore the religious beliefs of the members of the Montgomery County Board of Education. I am wondering if this was a vote by a body predominantly non-religious in individual practice, or a group of whom several would hold to a false fact/value dichotomy with respect to religious ideas. But board members don’t post their religious beliefs with their biographies. Certainly that portion of their personal lives now will be kept from public consumption.

What then is the message we should take from a State action such as this? Here are some options:

  1. If you can gather a significantly sizable student pool, you can create your own holiday on whatever academic calendar day you wish. You simply need enough members of your group to be absent the same day or days every year in order to force the hands of the Board of Education.
  2. Christians and Jews would be wise to stand up in the Public Square for the religious concerns of Muslims. The issues of not adding and not recognizing religious holidays are not issues of Religious Freedom. Muslim families can practice their beliefs associated with their holidays, including pulling their children from school on such days if desired or needful. Then they can write notes to the schools to cover the absences of their children. An issue of the wisdom of the State toward religious groups will remain. Thus, no major religious group should sit on the sidelines and watch another get pummeled. With kindness, it would be wise to clear the bench on such issues, or soon there will not be a need for this bench within your school system.
  3. Churches in our community should begin to think seriously about speaking with local politicians about the value our religious holidays hold. Remember too, however, that days off are not necessary for us to maintain the faith and practice of the holidays. The death of Christ for sin, his resurrection from the dead, and his offer of eternal life to all who believe on him are things Christians can celebrate privately, daily, publicly, and corporately at least once a week, uniquely on Christmas and Easter, and on all of the other special days we have created in our churches. These celebrations do not require days off, except for a day to maintain the New Testament appropriation of the Sabbath regulations.

Either way, based on the Montgomery County Board of Education’s deliberations and decisions, I want to see if I can get another day off school for my children in our county. I would need it to be a non-religious holiday that will create a large enough absentee base to force a school board to see that it would be wise to codify a full day off. Also, I do not want to risk another crashing of our pluralistic car into the Wall of Separation. So I need all of the NBA fans near me to boycott school the day of the third game of the NBA finals each year so we can force the creation of B-Ballinday. It will be a few years before the WNBA and MLS fan bases will be devout enough to give the school board members any further concerns.

(If you have not yet read D. A. Carson’s, The Intolerance of Tolerance, I would suggest that you should hurry to get a copy and read it over this weekend or the coming week.) (Kindle version)

Joining Moody

moody blog post pix
It is with gratefulness to God our Savior that I am joining the Bible faculty at Moody Bible Institute! Pam and I are excited about the opportunity to move to Chicago and serve the students and extended friends of MBI. With its distance learning programs, campuses in Chicago and Spokane, WA, and a multi-campus seminary, Evangelist D. L. Moody’s school has trained many great servants Christ who both have made and are participating in incredible works around the world. Among many amazing people who have passed through MBI’s halls of learning is Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman University. Moody currently thrives under the leadership of President Paul Nyquist.

41w+kX5Dt9LWe also are looking forward to becoming part of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL. Calvary prospers under the shepherding of Todd Wilson and a cache of godly elders. Gerald Hiestand, co-director of the Center for Pastor Theologians, serves as the church’s assistant pastor. (Gerald recently co-authored, Sex, Dating, and Relationships: A Fresh Approach (Crossway), and I recommend it highly.) I will be joining the staff as Minister of Adult Ministries, and Pam will join the staff as Ministry Associate for Pastoral Ministries.

Pam and I were able to spend some time with Calvary Memorial the first weekend of November. Warmly and graciously they already have welcomed us as if we are family, and the elders have laid hands on us with prayer, in love. We are eager to grow in Christ with our new church. You can get a glimpse of Calvary’s ministries by watching the video about its basketball team ministry to local high school students.Unknown

Until we land in Chicago, we will be splitting our time between our membership at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Washington, DC, and my service as pulpit supply for Belcroft Bible Church, Bowie, MD! I am appreciative of Pastor Terry Streeter’s display of Christ in his expressed, kind desire to send us to our new ministries with the blessing of a church behind us.

We will miss all of our friends and family in the Washington, DC region. I hope the many of you will contact us when you are visiting Chicago! If you will be in the Windy City on a Sunday, please plan to worship with us at Calvary Memorial. For a great time to visit Moody, why not make plans to participate in the annual Founder’s Week, February 2-6? Or you can drop in a section of Introduction to the Bible during the Spring 2015 term beginning in January; I am preparing the notes. See you then!

Great Readings on MBI and D. L. Moody

Vincent, James. 2011. The MBI Story: The Vision and Worldwide Impact of Moody Bible Institute. Chicago: Moody. (Kindle version.)

Belmonte, Kevin. 2014. D. L. Moody – A Life: Innovator, Evangelist, World Changer. Chicago: Moody. (Kindle; or audio version.)

Bailey, Faith Coxe. 1937. D. L. Moody: The Greatest Evangelist of the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: Moody. (Kindle)

From the Pens of Pastors Todd Wilson and Gerald Hiestand

Ecclesial Theology and Academic Theology: Why We Need More of the Former.” (2009)

Mr. Milquetoast and Other Misconceptions About Humility.” (2014)

Real Christian: Bearing the Marks of Authentic Faith (Zondervan, 2014)

Other Related Resources

Evensen, Bruce J. 2003. God’s Man for the Gilded Age: D. L. Moody and the Rise of Modern Mass Evangelism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Pollock, John. 2005. D. L. Moody: Moody Without Sankey. Scotland, UK: Christian Focus.

Voddie Baucham Heading to Zambia

UnknownFrom the Grace Family Baptist Church site:

During the Semi-Annual business meeting on November 5, 2014, the GfBC Elders announced that Dr. Voddie Baucham will be moving his family to Zambia in the fall of 2015.  Dr. Baucham has been appointed as the President/Head of the Seminary at African Christiian University in Lusaka, Zambia.  Here is an abbreviated portion of the announcement that was made:

In 2007, I traveled to Zambia to preach at the Zambia Reformed Family Conference. It was my first time on the African continent, but I knew, Lord willing, it wouldn’t be my last. I knew I would return to Zambia; I just didn’t know when, how, or in what capacity. The work God was doing in Zambia was compelling, the needs there were overwhelming, and I came to see that I was suited for the work there in unique and obvious ways.

I would return to Zambia four times over the next six years. Over that time, I developed and deepened both my relationships with the Zambian Christian community, and my understanding of the work that needed to be done there. In 2012, I heard the vision for African Christian University (ACU). For the first time, my passion and desire to serve my brothers and sisters in Zambia became a tangible possibility. However, not a word was spoken by me, or by the leaders in Zambia.

This past summer, I returned to Zambia with my wife and our seven youngest children. It was then that Bridget sensed God’s call as well. Subsequently, we began to discuss the matter with my fellow elder, Stephen Bratton and two key Zambian leaders, Conrad Mbewe and Ronald Kalifungwa. There was little doubt that the timing and opportunity seemed right. We committed the matter to prayer, started having conversations with others who could offer wise, biblical counsel, and concluded that this is indeed the Lord’s providential hand at work, and we would do well to follow.

I have been offered the position of President/Head of the Seminary at ACU. The school opens next fall, and our plan is to move to Zambia at the end of next summer. There are, however, several issues that must be addressed between now and then.

In the meantime, I would ask that you would pray for me and my family as we consider what is by far the most challenging act of faith and obedience we have ever considered. Pray for our elders as we work to position GfBC for a healthy transition. Pray for our Zambian brothers and sisters as they trust God to do something beyond their limited resources and ability. Pray for ACU, the Seminary and the ministers who will train there, and for the impact they will have in Zambia, across Africa, and beyond.Please continue to pray for Voddie and his family as well as Grace Family Baptist Church as we begin working toward this transition.  We will continue to post information as it becomes available.

Thank you, Voddie, and the Bauchams, for your humble obedience to the Lord, your example of Christ, and your love for the lost. You are a blessing to the kingdom of Christ. May you, brother Conrad, and fellow believers in Zambia reach all of Zambia and surrounding regions with the Gospel, and may your ministry strengthen the church there, North America, and the world.

Schedule of Preaching and Teaching Through the End of 2014

imagesNovember

9th at Belcroft Bible Church, Bowie, MD, 10:30am

15th (Saturday) at Kettering Baptist Church Men’s Conference, Largo, MD, 1pm

16th at Belcroft Bible Church, 10:30am

23rd at Waldorf Vineyard Church, Waldorf, MD, 10:00am

December

2nd at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for Chapel, Wake Forest, NC, 10am

7th at Forest Park Community Church, Baltimore, MD, 11am

14th, 21st, 28th at Belcroft Bible Church, Bowie, MD, 10:30am

I am looking forward to the fellowship with each of these congregations and the campus.

Also in December, I begin teaching, “Theological Interpretation of Media,” for Capital Seminary and Graduate School. The course runs December 8, 2014 – February 1, 2015, with a break for the Christmas season.

Last Month

I am grateful to Pastor Terry D. Streeter for inviting me to provide a workshop on, “The Mechanics of Finding the Central Idea of a Passage,” to his preaching staff at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church on October 31. What an enjoyable time we had together! There was such camaraderie and a fun-loving spirit among their team. Thank you, for welcoming me with humility and joy.

I also am grateful to Pastor Jim McCaffrey of Transforming Life Church in Pasadena, MD for inviting me to preach to his congregation each of the four Sundays in October. Transforming Life Church is an assembly committed to prayer. TLC, I appreciate the kindnesses you showed to our family last month. Please save me some doughnut holes.

 

The Lord’s Grace and Mercy in Jonah’s Prayer

images

 

 

 

 

 

When my life was fainting away,

I remembered the LORD,

and my prayer came to you,

into your holy temple.

(Jonah 2:7 ESV)

The mercy and grace of God to Jonah is so breathtaking it almost makes your heart skip a beat. Jonah is going down to his death underneath the sea. He deserves to drown due to his rebellion toward the Almighty and his apathy toward the unbelief of the pagan sailors. Before his lungs burst, he is able to eek out a prayer to the Lord. He is certain that the Lord will hear him.

  • It is grace that he knows that the Almighty both can and will hear him in spite of his rebellion.
  • It is grace that there is a Temple in which the Lord, above the Ark of the Covenant, makes his presence known to his people.
  • It is grace that the Lord condescends to hear – from his Temple – Jonah’s words of repentance and contrition, as He initially promised in Deuteronomy 30, five centuries before Solomon made his Temple dedication-requests for mercy in 1 Kings 8, and more than six centuries before Jonah cries out from the depths.
  • It is grace that the Lord crushed Jonah in such a manner that He could learn that the Lord’s mercy will extend as far as the bottom of the sea. Jonah gets a hugely memorable experience of God’s eternal, covenant love.
  • It is grace that God gave Jonah the faculties to mentally calculate something like, “Lord, you are in your Temple, and you said that if someone cried out to you that you would hear. If there is any way you can rescue me – mercifully, mightily, miraculously, and majestically – please forgive my rebellion and come save me, for salvation belongs to you.”
  • It is grace that this experience reveals the holiness of God to Jonah – “your holy Temple” (Heb. היכל קדשך) – and thus Jonah’s sinfulness before this holy God.

It is grace to us that we have the story of Jonah, the sign of Jonah, and the antitype of Jonah in Christ. His mercy to us on the Cross and in vacating the grave is greater than being rescued from drowning at the bottom of the sea.

 

A resource highlighting the grace and mercy of God: Richard D. Phillips’ commentary on Jonah.

 

Teaching Theology of Media

imagesI am looking forward to teaching Theological Interpretation of Media for Capital Seminary and Graduate School in late December. For many years I have enjoyed informally applying Hirsch and Johnson’s hermeneutic(s) to TV and film in a session or two of courses on biblical interpretation. Now we will have an entire course to consider ideas in the likes of The Matrix, 24, Inception, and No Country for Old Men (and comparing the portrayal its main theme to similar portrayals in Saving Private Ryan and Meet Joe Black). The goal of the class is to develop a personal theology of media. I am thinking a list of affirmations and denials might be good. Maybe the class can develop a Chicago Statement on Biblical Analysis of Popular Media and Use of Media Technology.

When the Lights Go Down (Westbow Press, 2014), by my colleague, Mark Eckel, will be available in time for the course. Works by Phil Ryken and Paul Munson too will aid us in thinking Christianly about media.