Sep 29, 2011

Christianity and Social Work - Part 4

This is the fourth entry in a series of posts addressing Christianity and Social Work. The purpose of these posts is to view questions proposed from a friend a few years back when he learned that I was pursuing a degree in Social Work. You can see the entire series as it is posted by clicking here. So, here is the next entry, enjoy!

Q. How does Social Work interface with Christianity?

A. Good question! There are a plethora of views on this topic that could be better explored independently of this discussion. But, for our purpose, I would assert that Christianity is the foundation behind the 'movement' and profession we often label Social Work.

To ask where these two entities 'interface' automatically assumes that they are in a dichotomous relationship. While the contemporaneous demonstration of social work and its academic institution across the land have set the modern precedent of what 'social work' is and how it is carried out, it really has its root in the outpouring of a Christian value and core faith tenet, loving one as he loves himself.

In closing, I will post a few links at the bottom of this entry, and include a quote from Alan Keith-Lucas' book "So You Want to be a Social Worker: A Primer for the Christian Student." I believe the author sums up the dilemma posed in this question rather well. It really does get to the bottom of our thinking when we as "Christians" begin to look at social work as a profession appointed to those who have been professionally trained, and not the tenet or vocation itself being born out of one's values and intrinsic convictions of faith.

"The real difference between Christians when it comes to theology does not lie in their secondary or tertiary beliefs. It lies in their whole attitude toward the Good News. Is is essentially a matter of emphasis. There are Christians, for example, whose interest in their religion is directed towards their own relationship with the Almighty. They are concerned chiefly with their own salvation. Theirs might be called a vertical religion. All communication is upwards and downwards, between themselves and God. Their relationships with people are not seen as part of their religion, except, perhaps, as they try to obey the commands that God has given them about justice and mercy and "loving one's neighbor as oneself", which they conscientiously try to do, but without any real concern for what their neighbor is thinking or feeling. The result, in too many cases, is a concern only for the spiritual state of their neighbors, a narrow form of evangelism and a lack of concern for such things as tolerable living conditions for others. They sometimes express their views by speaking of the "spirituality" of the church. The church, in their view, should be concerned only with the saving of souls, and need not trouble itself with the plight of the hungry, the oppressed or the troubled. It should also steer clear of any temptation to become involved in questions of social justice."

Therein lies the disconnect. There has to be an "interface." For most of us, that is acceptable to create those borders and lines that distinguish areas of our lives of when we are one thing and other times another. But for me, my life in social work is because I am Christian. Therefore, they interface at the cross of Jesus Christ.

Charles Loring Brace and the Orphan Trains
Jane Addams and the Settlement House Movement

Sep 28, 2011

Vantage Point: Sermons and Peter the Pulpit Preacher - Part 1

The sermon is under attack. Its accusers claim that it is ineffective or out of date. In contrast to such criticism, the sermon is heavily emphasized and utilized in many Christian meetings to communicate biblical data to the masses, and as a brother from our assembly points out,
"The Sermon is so central to many groups that its delivery is one of the main duties of a professionally trained and salaried individual, the pastor."
The same brother, in his post, "In Defense of the Sermon" highlights not the problems with sermons, but the specific problems affecting today's sermons in our modern context. The post will in turn draw your attention to biblical anecdotes, the effectiveness of a good sermon, and even how to benefit as a listener.

The post offers a highly insightful and well reasoned presentation in defense of the sermon. It may even surprise you that this brother's idea of a sermon allows for questioning and verbal interaction. In the end, the post itself rests upon the premise that sermons are biblical, and have precedent through scriptural reference. I will not argue against the points made in the above post but will instead direct us to consider the nature of Peter's message in Acts 2:14-36. Was it extemporaneous, or was it carefully planned as the author states in the following?
To be clear: what I mean by “sermon” is an extended lecture on a biblical text or theme, prepared in advance by one individual who delivers it orally to a group of people. Unlike a discussion, the presentation is asymmetric (primarily from the teacher to the congregation, though it may be interrupted by questions). Unlike a meditation, it develops its content with an argument that usually takes some time to present. Unlike an extemporaneous address, the teacher devotes effort to preparing it in advance.
Before reading on, please be sure to have read the original article. When you finish that, read a follow up to one reader's comment "Peter's Planned Presentation."

My observations of the oratory given by Peter lead to another conclusion. Peter's 'sermon' was not a sermon at all. It should be noted that the schema in which we process the idea of a 'sermon' must be addressed. A sermon from the perspective of modern day pulpit preaching comes to mind, and the presentation places the deliverer in front of his audience. This same schema connotes planned preparation and crafted rhetoric. Reading such contemporary perceptions back into the texts of scripture can easily lead us astray.

I do not wish to offer a refutation of the above articles or point out invalidity of any of this brother's statements. What I would like to offer for you is a series of posts that will highlight some points from the book of Acts that provide evidence of genuine apostolic doctrine in action. While this brother's conclusions result in a case for careful preparation prior to confronting the masses with rhetorical structuring and systematic exposition, what I have found is that Peter was more of an opportunist and evangelist than a trained exegete or sophist.

What do you think? Do you think that Peter's sermon in Acts 2:14-36 was a prepared sermon? What indicators in the text lead you to this conclusion or disagreement? I hope to offer more in the next post in this series, Vantage Point: Sermons and Peter the Pulpit Preacher - Part 2.

*Arthur Sido asks a similar question at his blog - "A different perspective on sermons."

Sep 27, 2011

Faith that's quotable: Leonard Ravenhill

This is a really difficult one to pass up, and no this series would not be well served without including brother Leonard Ravenhill.

I remember the first time I heard this man speak. It was via an audio compilation called "The Revival Hymn." His words cut to the heart and spurred motivation in the deepest recesses of my spirit that I never knew existed.

Ravenhill has written a great deal and is looked upon with admiration by many. But one thing Mr. Ravenhill would most likely detest is admiration of him to the neglect of the words he spoke.

Leonard Ravenhill was a powerful bible teacher and prophetic messenger in our time, certainly he possessed a faith that's quotable,

"One said, "If I lead somebody to Christ on the street, which church should I send him to?" (Sending someone to church today is) like taking a newborn baby and putting it in a refrigerator. I want a place that vibrates with God, vibrates with eternity."

Sep 26, 2011

"180" Movie - Debut

The new documentary-styled film produced by Living Waters officially releases for free viewing today. I would strongly encourage you to view this film. A brief warning, there is content that you may wish to review prior to allowing children to see it (pictures and video of the holocaust and references to killing).

The film does contain a message that encourages individuals to consider their practices of electing officials who endorse abortion. I believe this is an issue that everyone needs to decide for himself, and involving oneself in the matters of the state are an issue you must address with your conscience.

And now the film,

For those reading via reader, you may click here to view the video.

Sep 25, 2011

Good Ministry, Bad Ministry, You Decide...

Good Ministry: Seeking the power of the Lord and having faith in His glory to work miracles. (Mat 8:8)

Bad Ministry: Seeking to glorify the Lord but only having faith in your abilities.

Sep 24, 2011

Free Book: Isaiah 53 Explained

I haven't read it yet, but this text intrigues me. The passage of Isaiah 53, a favorite proof-text for Jesus' messianic status. Also a favorite text to use by Jewish adherents in refuting Christians about Jesus.

You can find the book here.

Here is a description from the website,

Do you have questions about the meaning of life and spirituality? Maybe it is time to go right to the source and rethink your relationship with the Creator. Isaiah 53 Explained will help kick start your personal pilgrimage and introduce you to a chapter in the Scriptures that has the potential to revolutionize your life!
Isaiah 53 Explained makes the story of the Bible understandable, practically and simply explaining how you can have a soul-satisfying relationship with God and revealing the surprising key that makes this relationship possible.

I have not read this book yet, but my copy is on it's way.

Sep 23, 2011

Oh well Rob Bell…

Lights! Camera! Action!

The blogosphere is going to be buzzing loudly for the next whoever knows how long. Rob Bell, author of the controversial 'Love Wins' has resigned from his position as 'Pastor' at Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, MI.

Accuse me of cynicism, but for me it is really not farewell. I say Oh well Rob Bell.

Still not really sure one can technically 'resign' as a Pastor. If indeed a Pastor is one who has been given to the Church by God (see Ephesians 4:11-16), then it does not appear logical that one cycles in and out of that position. So, what is really happening is Mr. Bell is leaving Mars Hill and pursuing other interests. If he was given as a Pastor at some point, then he remains a Pastor, that is his function as a gift to the Church.

Granted the impact Rob has had on many a ‘evangelicemergents’ here is a tribute to one of his more infamous videos. A parody of sorts. The original ‘Bull Horn Guy’ lampoons the fundamentalist street preacher who goes out to warn people of their imminent punishment in hell if they do not ‘repent’ and ‘believe.’ The satirist aptly demonstrates the fallacious nature of Bell’s original arguments. The original Bullhorn Guy Video can be watched online here.


Oh well Rob Bell.

And the Erasing Hell Book Giveaway Winner Is....?

Thank you to all those who participated in the drawing to win a a free copy of Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle's book, Erasing Hell. 

The drawing is now closed, but if you entered and would still like an opportunity to have a copy of this book, I have one more copy left.

You can enter a second chance drawing to receive this book by subscribing to Deliver Detroit by clicking this link. If you use a reader, I will accept an email on good faith that you have actually subscribed. Once you have subscribed, send me a confirmation email and we will enter you in the drawing which will run until 10:00pm EST on 9/29/11. I will announce the winner of the second chance drawing 9/30/11.

Blogger's, if you have a blog or website and compose a post on your blog linking back to this post, I will enter your name once more into the drawing.

Thanks to Jack for his comment,
"What a timely and important topic! Thank you for posting it! The doctrine of hell is important to every Christian's life because we believe in the inerrancy of scripture. And because the scriptures are without error, we know that hell is a very real place that is so awful that we don't even want our enemies to experience it! It should enforce the resolve in ever believer to obey the scriptures and share the gospel with those God puts before us. Hell isn't meant to be used to scare people into accepting Jesus. We must all recognize our need for Him and realize that we need Him. But, what kind of people would we be if, knowing of this imminent danger, we don't warn people and share the gospel with them? Sharing the gospel is an act of obedience, but also of love. Hell is important in the believer's life because it bears responsibility on us to share the gospel and live obedient to the scriptures. Our words and actions can affect the eternities of those around us."

I too feel distraught knowing that those who would reject the gospel, or having never heard it, may fall into a state of judgment, and spend the rest of their eternal lives in that state, but again feel compelled to obey Christ's words to GO and make DISCIPLES in order that we may pull some from the flames licking the hem of their garments (Jude 1:23).

And finally, the winner of the drawing was Bryan Frei. Congratulations Bryan, and thanks for your comment as well.

Bryan said,

"I think knowing Hell is important because Jesus had plenty to say on the subject and if I am to call him LORD and Master, I should follow suit. Just like the fact, Jesus taught about an historical Adam and Eve, thus it does not leave these subjects optional to adhere to."

I hope that we would all see our need to comment that which our Lord commends, and abhor that which he abhors as well. We might learn a thing or two about our own personal walks when we stop to listen to what he actually said.

Sep 22, 2011

Christianity and Social Work - Part 3

This is the third entry in a series of posts addressing Christianity and Social Work. The purpose of these posts is to view questions proposed from a friend a few years back when he learned that I was pursuing a degree in Social Work. You can see the entire series as it is posted by clicking here. So, here is the next entry, enjoy!

Q. In what ways, if any, has your study of the mind shaped your faith?

A. I suppose that saying social work is a studying of the mind would be mislabeling what social work actually is. The difference between a social worker and a psychologist or psychiatrist, in short: is that the social worker seeks to empower the individual to utilize, develop, and understand the tools they possess in order to manage their lives. The field of social work is in fact so diverse that it would be difficult to limit the social worker's role to any one single spectrum. The above explanation is broad and universal in most social work roles.

I will have to admit that the beginning of my study in social work was met with great trepidation. I was fearful that I would have to embrace theories and practices that contradict my faith and beliefs. But, the biggest hindrance I experienced was that I approached all methods of therapy from a nouthetic approach. I feared that I would no longer be willing or able to help people without compromising my belief system.

So, without exhausting the details beyond necessity, I struggled very much in the beginning. Many psychological theories are in direct conflict with the teachings of scripture and pose a problem for Christians in therapy and human service fields. The premise that the problems of man are rooted in the mind is only valid if we understand that the mind is hindered by the fall of man and effected by sin.

The study of social work has shaped my faith with new perspectives. My training has shaped my faith through the broadening of my awareness. My knowledge of other approaches to helping man resolve the troubles of his human condition through his own means better equips me to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in this context.

I have come to a greater understanding of man being formed in the image of God (imago dei) and that encourages me to see the whole of humanity, its state without the truth of Christ, and the necessity of the Christian social worker to remember his first love with a sense of urgency. My study of the mind or social work in general has broadened my concern for the lost and the direct effect of sin on the lives of all earth's peoples.

In the end, the study of the mind demonstrates that there are certain organic issues that can effect the way people behave. There is also a spiritual issue that effects the way man responds to his environment. Plainly, the role of the Christian Social Worker is to obey Jesus Christ, and love his neighbor as he loves himself. A difficult task, but one that is required.

Sep 21, 2011

ONE MORE DAY! REMINDER! Book Giveaway: Erasing Hell: by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle

This is a reminder, there is ONE MORE DAY to enter into this drawing! Don't forget. If you have a blog, repost this and put the word out. Let's make this giveaway interesting.

This week I would like to giveaway this new book from Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. From the book description,
How could a loving God send people to hell? Will people have a chance after they die to believe in Jesus and go to heaven?

With a humble respect for God's Word, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle address the deepest questions you have about eternal destiny. They've asked the same questions. Like you, sometimes they just don't want to believe in hell. But as they write, "We cannot afford to be wrong on this issue." This is not a book about who is saying what. It's a book about what God says. It's not a book about impersonal theological issues. It's a book about people who God loves. It's not a book about arguments, doctrine, or being right. It's a book about the character of God.

Erasing Hell will immerse you in the truth of Scripture as, together with the authors, you find not only the truth but the courage to live it out.
Just leave a comment below with why you think knowing hell is real is important to the Christian life and you will be automatically entered for the drawing. Entries will be taken until  9/22/11 and I will draw the winner on 9/23/11. If you miss the drawing, you can purchase the book here.

Why does the blog keep changing?

I have been attempting to tweak some settings here at the blog. I do this from time to time, and it can be frustrating, so please bear with me.

I am attempting to make it more readable. I am also preparing for a new site in the future which will involve an entirely new upgrade.

Thanks for reading at Deliver Detroit...ya'll come back now ya hear?

Sep 20, 2011

Faith that's quotable: George Mueller

I have always admired the work of the man known as George Mueller. Many of us in our day, look to George as a man of prayer, faith, and obedience. But he was not always a saint.

The man who would go on to impact the lives of numerous orphans, wear out the knees in his trousers praying to the Lord for support and sustenance, and leave behind a legacy we would all do well to seek for ourselves, was once a heathen.

George squandered his wealth, drank like a fish, and stole from his family. George was not an example any man would want his son or daughter to grow up to become in their adulthood. But, the Lord has redeeming grace for any a soul that would cry out to him in repentance and faith in the savior, Jesus Christ.

George was eventually able to find that grace. He also was able to show that grace to others in a most profound manner. Today, I thank God for this saint's life. This is a portrait of a man who's faith is quotable.

"A servant of God has but one Master. It ill becomes the servant to seek to be rich, and great, and honored in that world where his Lord was poor, and mean, and despised."

For those who enjoy biographies, I found this free biography of George Mueller on the web. I have not read it, so I do not give any endorsement of it or the author except to refer the link to you for your own perusal.

Sep 19, 2011

Book Giveaway: Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up, by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle

This week I would like to giveaway this new book from Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. From the book description,
How could a loving God send people to hell? Will people have a chance after they die to believe in Jesus and go to heaven?

With a humble respect for God's Word, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle address the deepest questions you have about eternal destiny. They've asked the same questions. Like you, sometimes they just don't want to believe in hell. But as they write, "We cannot afford to be wrong on this issue." This is not a book about who is saying what. It's a book about what God says. It's not a book about impersonal theological issues. It's a book about people who God loves. It's not a book about arguments, doctrine, or being right. It's a book about the character of God.

Erasing Hell will immerse you in the truth of Scripture as, together with the authors, you find not only the truth but the courage to live it out.
Just leave a comment below with why you think knowing hell is real is important to the Christian life and you will be automatically entered for the drawing. Entries will be taken until  9/22/11 and I will draw the winner on 9/23/11. If you miss the drawing, you can purchase the book here.

Sep 18, 2011

Good Ministry, Bad Ministry, You Decide...

Good Ministry: Contributing to the needs of the saints and seeking to show hospitality. (Rom 12:13)

Bad Ministry: Tithing your money to 'the church' or 'the deacons' and letting them figure out what's best for the needs of the saints.

Sep 16, 2011

Age segregation in Churches?

I received a press release yesterday from the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. I have heard of them in passing in the past. I have also heard that the likes of Paul Washer and Voddie Baucham both participate and endorse this organization.

They are also not very well liked by the larger evangelical crowd. One thing they propose is that youth groups, youth pastors, and age-segregated 'worship' are unbiblical. Well, I tend to agree, so I never saw a need to examine their materials or research them beyond that. That is all until I received the release.

Essentially, was surprised me was some of the backlash from prominent evangelical reviewers like Christianity Today,
Christianity Today ran a harsh movie review of the film on their website and likened it to "an angry letter-to-the-editor," calling it "propaganda," "categorically dangerous," and "filled with scare tactics." 
The above quotation can be found in the review.

And directly quoted from the press release,
Another critic of Divided, sounding much like Christianity Today, is a popular, neo-reformed blogger Tim Challies, who recently dismissed the film in an unfavorable review, counseling his readers to stay away from it. "It's a destructive message wrapped in a poorly-made documentary. The church would do well to ignore it," Challies wrote. He lobbed several grenades against the documentary, saying it was "not at all fair," builds a "case on a cliché," and is "not only uncharitable but also utterly ridiculous . . . complete and utter nonsense." 
Tim Challies' review can be found here.

This organization apparently has its home in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I wonder if my friend Alan Knox is acquainted with them?

After reading the negative responses to the movie I decided I would contact the NCFIC and request a copy of the movie. Hopefully it will be here shortly, and I can offer some more thoughts then. I will however, have to strive ardently to discount my personal bias, as our our assembly currently holds meetings with all the children present, something I am finding is cause for alarm by most of the detractors. One of those behind the group, Scott T. Brown, is also the author of the recently released book, "A Weed in The Church." Hopefully, I will be able to review that soon as well.

What do you think of age segregation in your meeting?

Sep 15, 2011

Christianity and Social Work - Part 2

Last week I posted the first post in a series on Christianity and Social Work - Part 1. I am continuing the discussion of this topic with the first question. Some questions may overlap each other in content, but for sake of clarity, I will allow each question to be answered and posted individually. If you have any questions or insights you would like to offer on particular questions please feel free to leave a comment, I would love to cover this subject as thoroughly as possible.

It is important to note that to differentiate social work and psychology is an important task, and must be done in order to know just what it is that separates the two. The initial line of questioning involved understanding Psychology as a whole and the questioner did not know there was much difference between the two fields, and not many do. The differences will hopefully be illustrated by answering question four. But for now, lets get to the first one shall we?

Q. What motivated you to choose a major in social work?

A. I was motivated to choose a major in this field by a number of factors. Most notably, my exposure to the field at an early age. Not necessarily as a proponent or pupil, but as a subject. I was privy to the insight of many well-educated social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, guidance counselors, and other “social service” workers and agencies. What I experienced personally and observationally showed me later in my life that there are many things that seemed broken in the way individuals are assisted through these avenues. I felt that I could make a difference. Although not to influence change on the social services and professions themselves, but to learn the methods and means to become accredited and serve in a capacity that would allow me to help individuals one person at a time. I honestly feel that treating everything BUT the sin nature of the individual is inherently evil in and of itself and merely reinforcing the problem that originally created the need for man's inability to be “good”. That problem I would identify from my own world-view is sin. My motivation is to reintroduce in the practices I employ as a professional the very things I’ve seen disregarded or ignored in my personal experience. In my opinion, this lack is conclusively identified as the absence of the Biblical Gospel and proclamation of restoration through salvation in Christ.

More to come…

Sep 14, 2011

Preaching Christ while working for the Government

I work in Community Mental Health. Technically, I am not an employee of the government. But, by proxy, I am employed by a contractor whose major funding source resides at the County level. That County source gets its funding from the State, and the State receives most of its money for this funding from the Federal Government. So you see, essentially, if we want to keep our funding, we submit ourselves to the County's protocol and policies regarding the manner in which we provide services.

While working for my employer, I am defaulted into a position of being subject to the rule and regulation of Government Policy. This is not all bad. But in many ways, this poses significant obstacles to remaining obedient to the rule which matters most in my life, the rule of Christ.

Fundamentally, as a Social Worker, and an employee, I am hired to provide services to a multitude of individuals with various impediments, illnesses, world-views, and religious affinities. This set of characteristics is also synonymous with my co-workers and peers in the workplace. It is therefore not the environment, the funding source, or the people I serve and work with that raise a concern regarding my faithfulness to Christ and his rule, it is the test to remain obedient to Christ when others would rather you not be.

Principally, my profession requires you to be objective and constructive while employing your skills to assist, educate, and support our clientele and each other. The preferred tool of choice is an education that consists of knowledge from textbooks, clinical experience, world philosophy, and a hodge-podge of psychological/sociological theory.

While I would not throw the baby out with the bath water, as in some nouthetic approaches that staunchly promote the use of "The Bible Only" in counseling, I would err cautiously on the side of using tact. So without staking an empirical claim in either camp, what is then left?

I frequently find myself in the position of asserting the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. More often than not, the prevalence of Christian ideals and philosophy are more pervasive in human services and mental health treatment than one would assume. Even with a professional aversion to religion, specifically Christian religion, it is much easier to talk about the simplicity of what was taught by Jesus Christ.

At the end of the day, the most effective tools one can utilize in helping people who seek assistance from my agency, and by proxy me, is to preach Christ. Even with the adversarial nature of those who would oppose any form of proselytizing in the workplace, I always find myself coming back to the inner struggle with what I was taught professionally versus that which I have been taught by the words of the Lord.

So the safest philosophy to employ whilst preaching Christ and working for the Government is simple. Those who would normally stand against you are often those who scoff and blaspheme the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. At this point, their behavior becomes a qualifier and segue to open, candid, and purposeful discussion about what Jesus actually taught.

My clients, they generally are open and interested in knowing how to become freed from their afflictions, and often initiate discussions of Christ, the Bible, and living as a real disciple.

This leaves one last question to ask then. How closely does the life of the disciple match up with the words of his mouth? Which is more effective in a workplace where you are bound by government policies and hostilities toward your faith? Is it solely your words or is your deeds? Or is it better to ask is my life and doctrine compatible with each other to the extent that it is obvious to all those around me, client and co-worker alike? And ultimately, preaching Christ worth losing my job?
Act 4:19-20  But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,  (20)  for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."
What do you think?

Sep 13, 2011

Book Review: Except for Fornication: The Teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage by Van Parunak

Approximately two years ago, a brother and I were discussing the topic of marriage and divorce over lunch. During our discussion, this brother shared with me that one of our own brethren had completed a work on the very subject we were elaborating upon.

At that time, there was a PDF known amongst our brethren in the assembly as the "divorce book" and was appropriately entitled "Let Not Man Put Asunder: A Biblical Study of Divorce." By H. Van Dyke Parunak. (This version is freely available at the above link to those interested in reviewing the version that surveys the entire bible on this issue). The brother in whom I was in discussion with, charged me with the exhortation to read this brother's treatment of the topic.

With a conclusion that divorce was at times permissible amongst believers under exceptional circumstances, I could not reason with a free conscience that it was acceptable for divorced persons to 'remarry.'

Yes, that puts quite a number of folks into a tight position does it not? It is a personal issue for many people, and a difficult and trying topic to wrestle with effectively. In the end, it creates a dilemma for those who would provide counsel or advise individuals facing marriage, divorce, or remarriage. It effects us at home and abroad. Mothers, Fathers, Step-Family, Cousins, Uncles, and Aunts.

Taking the advice of that brother who suggested I read the longer, more in-depth study of brother Parunak's book, I read it from cover to cover. I was so intrigued by the careful attention to detail and the purposeful and structured approach this brother had taken with the texts concerning marriage and divorce in the Old and New Testaments.

H. Van Dyke Parunak, or as many of us in the assembly call him, Van, has taken his larger study and condensed it for the latest entry in the Energion Areopagus series "Except for Fornication: The Teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage." From the preface of the new book:
"This volume focuses on our Lord's teaching about divorce and remarriage in the gospels. It is drawn from a much longer study that covers the entire Bible. In this volume, I will sometimes refer to that study as "the longer book." That work also offers more technical detail on the passages considered in this volume. It is available as a free e-book at"
Without missing a beat, Van brings his teaching into the spotlight of Jesus' statements in the Gospels concerning the 'fornication' clause. He also makes a case for the truth and understanding Jesus would have had and taught by examining the evidence from Old Testament scriptures. What proves most helpful is that Van does not leave us alone with Paul's comments on the topic, he examines them in light of what our Lord taught as well. Convincingly, Van demonstrates their agreement, and that Paul does not make exceptions to the rule. A position that I found hard to reconcile until reading Van's work.

Van goes on to make the statement,
"The Lord Jesus uttered only eleven verses on the subject of divorce and remarriage, mostly restating the same two principles: divorce is wrong, and remarriage after divorce is adultery."
With this in mind, Van establishes his determination in seeking the truth of what the scripture itself says regarding this matter. With so much at stake concerning the impact that divorce and remarriage can have on families, it is essential to be diligent in understanding what the rest of the scriptures teach on this topic.

Dave Black, Professor at Southeastern Theological Seminary, Missionary, and Blogger, who is one of the editors of the Areopagus project, has stated on his blog at The Jesus Paradigm, that he feels this book to be one of the most important and helpful books written on the difficult subject of Christian marriage and divorce. He goes on to note,
"This book strikes me as a model of exegesis and interpretation. Not all will agree with its conclusions, but few I believe, will be able to ignore its biblical arguments."
I agree with brother Dave Black, and hope you will soon find out for yourself that you do also. The careful exegesis and attention to the original languages are helpful. This entry in the Areopagus series also proves helpful and lends itself to the accessibility of those who have little or no training in biblical languages or classical seminary training.

Van has chosen this undertaking for his own personal benefit and knowledge of the problem as God sees it, and the end result is the benefit of any reader who chooses to pick up this incredible work and read it. It had a profound impact on how I viewed the dilemma of divorce and remarriage, as well as how I viewed my own approach to the woman I was preparing to marry.

(This book is not yet released. Amazon has it listed for pre-orders, and the projected release date is 9/19/2011)

Sep 12, 2011

Featured Sermon Audio: "God's People Are Not Prepared" by Mark S. Case

During my long commutes to work and back, I sometimes listen to messages from the Classics Podcast. I do not always know the speakers I am listening to, nor do I tend to agree with everything they say. But, I do attempt to listen to the message and discern what truth I may. I then pray that the Holy Spirit gives me direction to be motivated and apply what I hear.

This weeks entry, is from Mark S. Case. The message is entitled "God's People Are Not Prepared". This message is mostly topical and contains a reasonable plea to consider our usage of the phrase "Lord come quickly" and "hurry up Lord" while comparing our current state as believers and whether or not we really mean what we say.

The description reads: According to the scriptures, we should have on "the whole armor of God" in order to be able to "stand in the evil day." That day is now, and it is no secret that God's people are not dressed in His whole armor. Also, the scriptures show time and again, that as believers we shall give account of our lives to God. Today, there is no teaching of responsibility with accountability for the believer. God's people are not prepared to stand in the evil day, or to meet God to give an account of responsibility.

You can stream the message or right-click and "save link as" here.
You go directly to the message home page and read comments or play the message from here.

Enjoy, and if you listen to the message, what were your thoughts regarding the speakers perspectives?

Sep 11, 2011

Where were you on September 11th?

Many will be remembering their whereabouts this day, holding steadfastly to memories of what they were doing and how they were feeling the day the buildings at the World Trade Center came tumbling down. You could liken this remembrance to similar phenomena created by the assassinations of men like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., or John Lennon.

Undoubtedly, someone will ask you where were you on September 11th, 2001? I do remember where I was that day, what I was doing, and the shock and disbelief that encompassed me shortly after I laid eyes on the news broadcast showing the tragedy unfolding live and televised.

I was 22 years old, working in construction, and sitting on morning break when the radio informed us that a plane hit the first tower. I actually though little of it. I had never seen the World Trade Towers, and I never fathomed that what hit them was an actual passenger jet. Ignorantly, I pictured a bi-plane, or a small private jet. Then the news broadcast reported the impact of a second jet into the second tower. Someone finally explained to me the reality of what was happening.

After returning to work and carrying on in complete quietness, they sent everyone home at the report of the explosion at the Pentagon.

When I heard the estimate of deaths caused by the event I was devastated. A few days later, then President Bush called for a day of remembrance and prayer  I left the job site and traveled to the nearest steeple-house I could find. I walked in, found the sanctuary, and took a seat in a pew, and meditated on my own mortality as I considered all those people meeting God under such horrible circumstances.

Physically, I was in Michigan, working, and attending to the daily grind on that infamous day in September. Spiritually, I was completely lost. I knew no Jesus, I had no answer for the deaths of all those people, and I had nothing that represented any absolute measure of true goodness to contrast the tragedy pausing our entire nation.

It would be five more years before Jesus Christ redeemed me and awakened my soul to the sound of his voice. But that day, hindsight being 20/20, nothing made sense.

All the world is still seeking answers to the dilemma of that day, finding answers in the scapegoating of Radical Islam, government conspiracies, and political finger pointing, and the result of that these past ten years have taught me absolutely nothing.

What has taught me something are the words of Jesus, which have etched a reality into my mind that will forever impact how I view tragedies like this,
Luke 13:4-5  "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?  (5)  "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
The days of all men are numbered. The manner in which we live may never have any impact on the manner in which we perish. Unless we live for Christ, and submit ourselves to his commands, we shall not inherit eternal life.

On September 11th, 2011 I was lost. But with Christ, I have been found.

Sep 10, 2011

Andrey the orphan has a home!

For those who have been following the progress of Andrey, an orphan from the Ukraine, you might be delighted to know he has been adopted! In the original post, asking for assistance financial and prayer support was requested.

In cooperation with the organization Reece's Rainbow, a grant fund was started and the drive for money to be contributed to Andrey's need was initiated. In a few short weeks after the campaign began, Andrey's fund grew significantly from $1,700.00 or so, upward toward $4,000.00 and on.

Through the use of social media, Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, and word of mouth, many people began putting the word out about Andrey, and that he was imminently facing transfer to a horrible institution in which he'd surely languish and regress.

Thanks be to God that Andrey was adopted! If you have interest in helping out another orphan through the Reece's Rainbow granting fund, please visit their website. Also, it is the time of year for Buddy Walks. Walks are taking place in local communities all over the country and raising money for children with Down Syndrome. Walks affiliated with Reece's Rainbow can be found here.

I will be posting more information soon about another child to advocate for. Hopefully, another grant fund can be completed and another one of these children can be blessed with a family of their own!

Sep 9, 2011

Book Review: What's With Paul And Women? by Jon Zens

Have you ever truly experienced a faithful assembly, committed to biblical literalism and committed to obedience to what the scriptures say? Have you ever longed to be a member of one of those types of meetings where people are consistent in their application of the doctrines of the Apostles?

What's With Paul and Women?I hope your answer is yes. But I also wonder if you really know what the end result of that could be in some cases. This book authored by Jon Zens presents the perspective of women's silence and subjection inside the meeting of the church. What's with Paul and Women?: Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 is an intriguing look at the fallacies the author believes put restrictions on women in ministry.

Since personally embarking on my own journey to discover the teachings of the scripture regarding the roles of women in the church, specifically their speaking roles, this book has become useful in examining the cultural context of 1 Timothy 2.

Jon Zens posits,
"Neither the Gospel narratives nor the recorded words of Jesus ever put restrictions on the ministry of women."
 With 144 easy to read pages, Jon asserts freeing the sisters from the yoke of patriarchal bondage and suppression by educating his readers about the Artemis cult in Ephesian culture, a review of John Piper's "What's the Difference article defining Manhood and Womanhood, and well argued positions from scriptural evidence.

In my personal observation of literature concerning the Male and Female gender role debate, I am finding far more material that entrenches itself deep in its own camp. Whether it is the complementarians or egalitarians, there appears to be little out there towing the line down the middle of the debate and weighing uncertain information carefully before asserting a stance. This entry does just that in the egalitarian camp and goes on to assert the freedom of a woman to assume leadership positions in the church as well.

A good summation of the credibility Zens couches his argument in could be found in this quote,
"Paul entrusted his letter to the Romans to Phoebe who delivered it for him. She was a deacon in the assembly at Cenchrea and Paul held her in the highest regard (cf. Rom 16:1-2). Paul recognized her as a prostatis, a Greek word which carries with it the idea of leadership (cf. 1 Thes 5:12)."
A very good, informative, and enlightening read. I would recommend this book to anyone seeking answers concerning the gender role debate. This books examination of the cultural implications serve it well and make up for the portions that would be better promoted through more exegesis of the proof texts.

Sep 8, 2011

Good Ministry, Bad Ministry, You Decide...

Good Ministry: Being ready to follow the Lord wherever he may go, both into prison and to death. (Luke 22:33)

Bad Ministry: Not being honest with Jesus Christ about how serious you really are about serving him in that endeavor. (Luke 22:34)

Sep 7, 2011

Christianity and Social Work - Part 1

A friend has asked me if he could pick my brain regarding my choice of major (Social Work) and how it correlates to my Christian Faith. We started this conversation back in 2009, and having worked in the field for a couple years, some of my responses have changed. The question is one I still keep asking myself and the answer, I believe will be changed several times more. But, the question itself has remained the same. Why did I become social worker? How does my faith and my vocational choice interact with each other? Why in the world would I embrace certain aspects of secular theory regarding human behavior? Is it all just as simple as relating it to sin and calling it a night? These questions all have validity in their inquiry, but does my answer to them hold a candle to biblical truth?

I hope to answer my friends questions as succinctly as possible, and I will be sharing them here. As he is not the first to ask me these, he is the first to take time to put down his questions in written form and allow me to tackle them one at a time. I hope this discussion proves fruitful for him, me, and all others who chose to read this. I hope it piques your curiosity as well, as it is question many of us have in a world where self-help has run amuck, the pharmaceutical companies get filthy rich while they create “cures” for mental health issues, and individuals are consistently convinced that they will “always” have a problem with their…problems…

May Christ be glorified in all this, and I am excited about these questions. I hope you will join me for discussion on these topics. And as usual, there is more to come!