Grace For Burned Out Christians

GraceBurnedChristian2_800Last night we had a great start to our church seminar for when we face burn out or spiritual exhaustion; or get burned by a pastor, another Christian, or a church. Some of the resources we used are presented here. Here are some other Diakonos lectures from the past.

BrentHowlandOne of our main speakers, Brent Howland of International Messengers, was unable to be present last night due to his missions schedule. He will be presenting his material at a later date, Dv. We look forward to his teaching on “A Gospel Primer For Burn Out.”

Our first active session was “Withering: A Biblical Theology of Burn Out.” Exploring the word נָבֵל, navel, as well as various biblical instances of this spiritual drought, the following passages were surveyed:

Moses | Exodus 18:14 – 23

Israel | Deuteronomy 8:1 – 10

Elijah | I Kings 19:1 – 8

Solomon | Ecclesiastes 2:9 – 11

Disciples | Matthew 14:22 – 27; John 6:60 – 69

Solutions to this nabol tibol were desiring God’s Word (Ps 19:7 – 11), covenant prayer (Ps 120:1), communion with the risen Christ (Matt 11:25 – 30), evangelical obedience (Deut 8:1 – 2), and meditating on our eschatological rest (Heb 4:8 – 11).

Our second presentation was by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, professor and minister in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, via the magic of the internets. His seminal talk, “The Gospel For Those Broken By the Church,” is below. Continue reading

Spirit Is Contra Sin, Not Contra Nature

Spirit_Instagram(see all my Instagram photos)

The above quote is a beauty by Michael S. Horton on a (not so) recent episode of the White Horse Inn, entitled “Gifts of the Spirit.”

In discussions over nature and grace, this aspect of the Spirit’s working in the life of the believer is important to remember. And it isn’t just the Spirit. As Horton reminds us: “In every work of the Trinity, the Father speaks in the Son and by his Spirit, who is at work within creation to bring about the intended effect of that word… What’s true in our salvation is also true in providence… Once we recover a greater sense of God’s ordinary vocation as the site of his faithfulness, we will begin to appreciate our own calling to love and serve others in his name in everyday ways that make a real difference in people’s lives.”

The other link the WHI crew suggest is this helpful defense of cessationism by Dr. Richard B. Gaffin. I don’t agree with every premise or conclusion of the article, but for those looking for a top-tier, accessible response to the continued gifts of the Spirit will find a lot that is helpful to begin the discussion, especially the closing paragraph.

May we walk more and more in the Spirit!

Horton on the Holy Spirit at Moore Annual Lectures

horton_holyspiritMichael S. Horton, the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary CA, was the speaker for the Annual Moore College Lectures for 2014. Held August 14 – 22 in Sydney, Australia, the schedule was as follows:

Public Lecture: How the Spirit Changes Everything Public Evening lecture

Lecture 1: Lord and Giver of Life

Lecture 2: The Spirit of Christ

Lecture 3: The Spirit of Holiness

Lecture 4: The Spirit and the Bride

Lecture 5: The Age of the

The video recording of the lectures are also available here. The audio lectures can be found here, and a sample is given below.

From the brief snippets of the lectures that I’ve listened to, I have found this to be classic Horton, bringing the text of Scripture into new light. Whether it is emphasizing the legal duties of paraclete in John 14 in the covenant lawsuit, or how unbelieving Israel is identified with the world so that Christ’s disciples are excommunicated as latreia, there will be a lot to appreciate for those who enjoy vintage Reformed theology from fresh exegesis.

You can find out more about Dr. Horton’s travels and teaching in Australia here.

What Is the Definition of Missional?

jeff-vandersteltJeff Vanderstelt on the definition of “missional” (around the 1:55 mark of this video):

A man stood up at a conference and said, “Missional is the new ‘seeker’… the church finally getting its hands dirty.” Someone asked me to respond to him.

When we say missional, what we mean is:

God’s church is so saturated in the gospel and the mission of Jesus, that they see themselves as the sent ones of Jesus in all of life, to make disciples who make disciples, so that the earth is saturated with people who love Jesus and God is glorified in all things. That’s what I mean when I say missional… I want you to understand there are lots of definitions out there, but I when I say [missional] that’s what I mean.

Could you get behind that definition of “missional?” Why or why not?

Certainly, some terms need to be parsed out. As much as I appreciate Vanderstelt’s ministries, I’m not sure his definition of “God’s church” is the exact same as the Reformed confessions. Nevertheless, there is a lot of good here to chew on.

Vanderstelt also suggests that we ought not quibble over terminology: Why I’m tired of Hearing About “Missional”.

WSCal_2008MRFor more, go back to WSCal’s 2008 annual conference Missional & Reformed: Reaching the Lost & Teaching the Reached. The audio lectures up for free are:

  • Why the Mission Needs the Marks of the Church
  • The Mission and the Confession of the Church: Friend or Foes?
  • Why the Marks of the Church Need the Mission
  • Mission According to Paul
  • Mission in a Pluralistic Age
  • Mission and Missions: Evangelism in the 21st Century
  • Missional and Reformed (Q&A Session)

Michael Horton sums it up: “The mission of the Church is to evidence & execute the marks of the Church.”

Amen.

Ten Propositions from Christ the Lord

After the Lordship-Salvation controversy between John MacArthur and Zane Hodges in the 1980’s, the White Horse Inn crew released Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation (Baker, 1992). At the end of their collection of essays, ten propositions are put forward. Here they are for you to chew on. Thoughts?

  1. It is impossible that saving faith can exist without a new nature and thereby new affections (love, a desire for holiness, and so on).
  2. Saving faith is nevertheless not the same thing as such affections or desires and does not include in its definition the effects of which the new birth is the cause.
  3. It is not enough to say that we are justified and accepted by grace alone, for even Rome has agreed that is is only by God’s grace that we can become transformed in holiness. We must add that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone, and it is a great error to change the meaning of faith to include acts of obedience and repentance in an effort to make a disposition other than knowledge, assent, and trust a condition of justification.
  4. The definition of saving faith is: Knowledge, which we take to mean the intellectual grasp of the relevant historical and doctrinal facts concerning Christ’s person and work and our misery; Assent, or the volitional agreement of our hearts and minds that these facts are true; and Trust, which is the assurance that these facts that are true are not only true generally, but true in my own case. In this way I abandon all hope for acceptance with God besides the holiness and righteousness of Christ.
  5. Continue reading

John Calvin’s Birthday

July 10 is the 503rd anniversary of John Calvin’s (1509 – 64) birthday. Many blame Calvin for coming up with a novel and unbiblical theology that centered on predestination. I think that, not only was Calvin’s theology eminently biblical, but it wasn’t novel either. I’ve looked before at similarities between Calvin and Thomas Aquinas. On this his birthday, consider a few quotes comparing Calvin’s so-called “5 Points” with select quotes from the early Church Fathers.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY
Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): “Mankind by Adam fell under death, and the deception of the serpent; we are born sinners…No good thing dwells in us…For neither by nature, nor by human understanding is it possible for me to acquire the knowledge of things so great and so divine, but by the energy of the Divine Spirit…Of ourselves it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God…He has convicted us of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life…Free will has destroyed us; we who were free are become slaves and for our sin are sold…Being pressed down by our sins, we cannot move upward toward God; we are like birds who have wings, but are unable to fly.”

Origen (A.D. 185): “Our free will…or human nature is not sufficient to seek God in any manner.”

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
Irenaeus (A.D. 198): “God hath completed the number which He before determined with Himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto eternal life…Being predestined indeed according to the love of the Father that we would belong to Him forever.” Continue reading

Reforming lectio divina

Spirituality is still a huge topic with evangelical Christians, and increasingly practices such as lectio divina are encouraged even for Reformed Christians. But is this practice helpful? And how can it be used by Christians in the Reformed tradition?

Lectio divina (or, divine reading) as described by Kenneth Boa in his book Conformed to His Image, (Zondervan, 2001), 96-97.

The ancient art of lectio divina, or sacred reading, was introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century.

It consists of four elements.

  1. Lectio (reading). Select a very short text and ingest it by reading it several times. Normally, one chooses a verse or a brief passage from the chapters read from the Old and New Testaments in morning Bible reading.
  2. Meditatio (meditation). Take a few minutes to reflect on the words and phrases in the text you have read. Ponder the passage by asking questions and using your imagination.
  3. Oratio (prayer). Having internalized the passage, offer it back to God in the form of personalized prayer.
  4. Contemplatio (contemplation). For the most of us, this will be the most difficult part, since it consists of silence and yieldedness in the presence of God. Contemplation is the fruit of the dialogue of the first three elements; it is the communion that is born out of our reception of divine truth in our hearts.

I think there is much to appreciate about lectio divina, especially its Agassiz-like focus on a text. Further, that Scripture ought to bid us pray and that our prayers ought to be filled with Scripture is an axiom of this discipline, so to the extent that the lectio divina encourages this is a boon. I would even go so far as to say – due to the importance of prayer in the Christian life – that anything that encourages prayer in the life of believers is a good thing. But having said all of this, let me turn to a few concerns. Continue reading

The Problem with Most Bible Studies

You know that feeling you get when someone perfectly describes something you have witnessed or seen dozens of times, but never been able to articulate yourself? I had that feeling as I listened to Christian Smith describe the average, American Evangelical Bible study. The following quote is taken from an interview at The White Horse Inn:

Basically, what gets reported [by anthropologists studying evangelical Bible studies], and what I think I agree with, is:
The text is read, umm… what the text actually says is not all that much paid attention to. People, rather, sort of search around in their heads and their memories and their feelings for something that seems to connect to the text. And then, they conclude, “Oh yeah, well that makes me feel like this…” or, “What I think is that…” or, “In my opinion what it means is this…” And usually, the text is serving as a pretext to affirm something they already believe, rather than as an authoritative text to challenge what they already believe.

Nailed it.