Posts Tagged ‘People You Should Get to Know’

A friend of mine forwarded me this very cool profile of a scientist, Imre Miklós Szilágyi, in the Science Careers section of Science’s website.  Here’s an excerpt:

Szilágyi sees his religious faith and his research efforts as two complementary aspects of his life. Within the scientific environment, “I have some options where I can express my faith,” Szilágyi says. He directly referred to God both in the acknowledgements of his master’s and doctoral dissertations and while receiving his awards. He runs a Bible-study group for young adults, and together with a friend he founded a Christian scientific group.

But although Szilágyi’s views often lie far outside the scientific mainstream, he expresses those views only off-campus and in his personal time. For him, “the debate over evolution, design, creation, supernatural intelligence, etc., is not a scientific question in the first place but the collision of worldviews, the confrontation of materialism and idealism,” he says. He takes the Bible literally, but when he lectures on the subject–outside of work–he presents what he calls “the options” and indicates which one “to me … seems to be more probable.” But he insists that it is up to “everybody to make his or her own decision.”

“As a Christian who works in the field of science, I find it quite important to deal with the relation of Christianity and science,” Szilágyi says. But “I know that it is a minefield in today’s scientific life and can be quite dangerous for one’s scientific career. … Therefore, I do these activities absolutely separately from my university work. … I am very cautious and careful that whenever I am talking [about these issues] I do not represent my university.

“My belief is very important for my career because this is the first thing that gives me my motivations so that I could work hard and I could achieve the best I can,” Szilágyi says.

Anyway, the article is very nonspecific about this person’s beliefs, but it is very encouraging that Science would publish something like this.  I’m starting to sense a sea change.  There are simply too many people who see the obviousness of God’s design in nature for the scientific establishment to be in such denial.  I imagine that students are starting to see this, and what is a professor to do?  Fail his whole class?  There is definitely a sea change forming, though it may take a generation for it to fully take hold.

For those of us who are Creationists, this also means that the evolutionists’ rhetoric will now help us.  Since the evolutionary biology community has spent the last 15 years chanting “ID is Creationism”, as ID starts to take hold, this will actually be implicit support for us, too.  If ID is Creationism, then support for ID and tolerance for ID will hopefully lead to tolerance for Creationism as well.

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An Interview with Dr. Sadiri Joy Tira


Dr. Sadiri Joy Tira, Filipino-Canadian missiologist and Lausanne Movement Senior Associate for Diasporas, talks about “people on the move” and how Lausanne’s Diasporas Leadership Team is working toward Lausanne’s mission of “the whole Church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world.”



Q: What is your role as Lausannes Senior Associate for Diasporas?

A: Part of my responsibility is, using the Lausanne platform, to initiate and motivate diaspora Christians to actively participate in world evangelization. Another responsibility is to communicate and represent Lausanne’s work whenever and wherever I am given a chance. I do have a team of associates called the “Lausanne Diasporas Leadership Team” who work with me toward Lausanne’s mandate and goal.


Q: Briefly discuss the global diasporas as you see them with the eyes of missions.

A: To begin, I need to define our use of the term “diaspora.” Then, I will give you a brief overview of the global diaspora situation and how it is relevant to missions.


We use the term diaspora to refer to the phenomenon of dispersion or movement of any ethnic group. For our discussion, I will also use the terms “migration” and “people on the move” to refer to this people movement.


In 2005, the International Organization for Migration estimated that the number of international migrants had reached 192 million. This means that approximately one of every thirty-four persons in the world is a migrant. This figure, extrapolated by experts, is expected to reach 200 million by the year 2010. This is a lot of people—five times more than the entire population of Canada. This is not to mention the Internally Displaced People within their region or country. This includes refugees, migrant workers, trafficked people, international students, government and armed forces personnel, people involved in family reunification plans, permanent immigrants to accepting countries, etc.


Factors leading to diaspora can be of a voluntary or involuntary nature, such as urbanization, rapid globalization in the labour industry, geopolitical shifts, catastrophic natural disasters (e.g., hurricane, flood, earthquake, tsunami), national and ethnic conflicts, socio-economic advancement, cultural exchanges, and pandemics resulting in a crippling of the workforce (e.g., HIV/AIDS). The “push” factors contributing to mass migration are as myriad as are the “pull” factors drawing the migrants to host countries.


The top ten receiving countries are the United States, the Russian Federation, Germany, Ukraine, France, India, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Pakistan.


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Meet Jerry Bridges.

Jerry Bridges is 79 years old and has served faithfully on staff at The Navigators for over 50 years. And he continues to serve there within the Collegiate Mission where he is involved primarily in staff development, and speaks at various student events. Mr. Bridges also teaches on the gospel around the country.
Mr. Bridges is the author of numerous excellent cross-centered books like:

  • The Discipline of Grace
  • The Gospel for Real Life
  • The Pursuit of Holiness
  • Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
  • The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness
  • The Bookends of the Christian Life (March 2009)

But you probably know all this already.
So who is Jerry Bridges? What is he presently reading? How does he structure his devotional time? What is his favorite book on the gospel? Let’s find out.
Thanks for your time, Mr. Bridges! Please describe your morning devotions. What time do you wake up in the morning? How much time do you spend reading, meditating, praying, etc.? What are you presently reading?
On a normal day, I get up at 5:00 a.m.
I spend from 5:30 – 7:00 a.m. reading and meditating on Scripture and spending time in prayer. I begin with what I have tried to teach others to do, which is to preach the Gospel to myself. My usual practice is to read through the Bible simply starting with Genesis and going through Revelation.
I am currently in the book of Numbers. For my prayer time, I start with thanksgiving and move to petition. I always start with the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name.” Over a six-day period (Monday-Saturday), I pray for the progress of the Gospel around the world. I pray for my family, my organization and their leaders, and my own personal growth. I have about eight ongoing special prayer requests for friends who have acute needs.
What book(s) are you currently reading in these three categories: (a) for your soul, (b) for pastoral ministry, or (c) for personal enjoyment?
(a) The Existence and Attributes of God by the Puritan, Stephen Charnock. I’m actually not reading the entire two-volume set but am focusing on two chapters, “The Holiness of God” and “The Goodness of God.”
(b) For my ministry (not pastoral but The Navigators) I have just finished reading Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck because I need to keep up with all the “bad stuff” that students are apt to read.
(c) For personal enjoyment, I have been reading John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology. I have to confess when I’m really mentally tired I read a murder mystery by Agatha Christie.
Apart from Scripture, what book do you most frequently re-read and why?
The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton because it is the best book on the Gospel that I have ever read.
When you finish a book, what system have you developed in order to remember and reference that book in the future?
I don’t have a very good system but I note page numbers on the inside cover of the book with the key thought I want to go back to.
If you could study under any theologian in church history (excluding those men in Scripture), who would it be and why?
John Calvin, hands down, because he not only was a brilliant theologian but had a heart of devotion for God.
What single piece of counsel (or constructive criticism) has most improved your preaching?

Years ago I took the Dale Carnegie public speaking course. In it I learned three things that I try to practice: 1) Know your subject thoroughly. 2) Be convinced your audience needs to hear your message. 3) Have a strong passion to deliver the message. Though these principles were applied in the context of secular speeches, I found them very helpful for my message preparation and delivery.
What books on preaching, or examples of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell, particularly chapters 10 and 11, and John Stott’s Between Two Worlds.
What single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your effective use of time?
Arrange your “do list” in order of priority and work progressively through, starting with number one. You can’t get them all done but this way you get the most important things done. I have modified this advice by realizing that the morning hours from breakfast to noon are my most effective, creative hours, and as much as possible I dedicate those hours to study, writing and message preparation.
Related: Last November, C.J. interviewed Mr. Bridges in the Sovereign Grace recording studio on the topic of cross-centered living (with some sports talk at the end). The interview can be found here.

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St. Patrick’s real life more fascinating than the myths
By Neil Schoenherr

St. Patrick’s Day has become an excuse for Americans of all ethnic backgrounds to break out the green and head to their local parade or pub and imbibe in Irish beer and corned beef and cabbage.

And just in time for this year’s celebration of St. Patrick’s feast day comes a book that will have many — even the true Irish — saying, "I didn’t know that" about Ireland’s beloved patron saint.

Many of the stories about St. Patrick that have been passed down for generations, including the one about him ridding Ireland of its snakes, are false, says an expert in Celtic and classical studies at Washington University in St. Louis in a book being released in early March.

But that’s not to say that St. Patrick didn’t live an intriguing life worthy of a daylong celebration — and in Ireland, a weeklong.

In Philip M. Freeman’s "St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography," Patrick’s life is more akin to something out of a Hollywood action movie script — the reality of it is far more fascinating than the myth.

From being kidnapped by pirates from his home in Britain, to living as a slave for six years in Ireland, to escaping, but then returning to the country he was held hostage in to minister to the people there, the book tells the tale of a remarkable man.

Freeman, an assistant professor of classics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University, writes that St. Patrick was born around the year 390 to an aristocratic family. At age 15, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates from his parents’ villa in the Roman province of Britain and sold into slavery. During six years of slavery in Ireland, Patrick watched over sheep day and night.

During his years as a slave, Patrick, who was raised as a Roman citizen and a nominal Christian, destined for the privileged life of the nobility, experienced a gradual but profound religious awakening, says Freeman. He escaped from Ireland — after walking nearly 200 miles across its bogs and mountains to get to the coast — on a ship full of pagan sailors and eventually made his way back to his family in Britain.

"Almost more amazing than all of that, however, is that he returned to Ireland to spread the Christian gospel and minister to the people who once held him captive," says Freeman. And although he missed the final years of his general education while he was enslaved, Patrick was made a bishop and was able to convert many of the Irish people.

Revealing letters

In his book, Freeman closely examines two letters written by St. Patrick. The letters are the earliest surviving documents written by anyone in Ireland. The book contains Freeman’s translations of the letters from Latin.

"The letters reveal the heart and soul of a truly remarkable man," says Freeman, who is also author of "Ireland and the Classical World." "We know a lot about more famous people from Greek and Roman times, such as Caesar and Alexander The Great, but we don’t know a whole lot about how they felt. Patrick’s letters reveal that he had a lot of faith and a lot of gumption, but he had a lot of insecurities as well.

"He was terribly embarrassed that his Latin wasn’t very good," Freeman continues. "He was also given to fits of depression. The impression you get from letters is of a real person, not some plastic icon. The letters tell of hope in an uncertain time and are truly inspirational, even if you aren’t Christian. It’s really an amazing story."

St. Patrick is celebrated today as a man who helped to convert thousands of the Irish people to Christianity from paganism. "For that fact, he has a definite appeal to people of Irish decent around the world," Freeman says. "But St. Patrick’s Day has become more of a cultural than religious event, with people who are not Irish at all celebrating the day. Many of them probably don’t even know who the real St. Patrick was."

Several myths about Patrick abound and lead people to have a slightly distorted view of his accomplishments, says Freeman.

St. Patrick is remembered by many for driving the snakes out of Ireland, triumphing over Pagan Druids and their supernatural powers, and using three-leafed shamrocks as an aid to explaining the Trinity, the union of three divine persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

"These stories were all made up centuries later by well-meaning monks," Freeman says. "The fact is, there were never any snakes in Ireland. Snakes are not native to that country. And while Patrick may very well have used a clover to talk about the Trinity, we have no direct evidence for that."

As for Patrick’s contests with the Druids, Freeman adds, "Patrick’s battle stories are great reading, but they are pure fiction."

In "St. Patrick of Ireland," Freeman paints a picture of a man who survived great hardships to convert eventual followers to Christianity. The book is also the story of a world in the flux of change — the collapsing Roman Empire and a move from the Classical world to the Medieval.

The story of St. Patrick is a great window into the worlds of slavery, the lives of women and what it was like to live at a time when the Roman Empire was crumbling. "The life of a woman in ancient Ireland was difficult, especially for female slaves," Freeman said. "But Patrick taught that all people, male or female, slave or free, were equal in the eyes of God. Again and again in his letters, Patrick stresses his deep concern for the welfare of Irish women."


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Samuel Rutherford for the 21st Century (III)

Guy M. Richard

Rutherford’s Ministry in Anwoth
Sometime in mid-1627, Rutherford was called to the small, rural parish of Anwoth in Galloway, in the southwest of Scotland. The church building–the stone ruins of which still stand–is reported to measure 18′ wide by 60′ long. And, as those who have seen it will testify, it seems much smaller than that in actual fact. (Many churches today have Sunday School rooms that are bigger!) But as insignificant as Anwoth was in terms of its population, it had a geographical and a political importance that far outpaced its size: it was located on the highway between England and Ireland; and it was the parish of the Viscount Kenmure, whose wife Jane Campbell–one of Rutherford’s closest friends and correspondents–was the sister of Lord Lorne (Archibald Campbell), who was later to become the Marquis of Argyle and the most powerful nobleman in all Scotland. When Rutherford accepted the call to come to Anwoth in 1627, however, these political factors had not yet materialized and were, thus, quite unknown to him at the time.
A Ministry of Humility
We see something of Rutherford’s humility and his lack of earthly ambition in the fact that he accepted the call to the small, rural parish of Anwoth in the first place and, in the second place, that he did so at a stipend that was significantly less than the average for his day (n.b., Rutherford’s stipend was approximately 40% of the going rate for the day!). Perhaps because of his public scandal with his eventual wife, Rutherford felt unworthy of a larger parish with a larger stipend. But whatever the case may be, he still exhibits a selflessness and humility that is rarely seen today in the church. If the examples of prominent ministers today are any indication of the prevailing spirit, we can say without question that, in our day, ministers tend to look for the most significant calls they can with the largest salary packages they can get. Rutherford’s humble and unassuming approach was an altogether different thing.
More interestingly, Rutherford not only chose to accept the call to the small, rural parish of Anwoth for an extremely low stipend, but he also chose not to leave once he got there. The General Assembly actually had to force him to leave in 1639, in order that the church might make better use of his talents and gifts as a professor of divinity at St. Andrews University. This is quite a contrast to the success-oriented, get-ahead-at-all-costs attitude that permeates Western society and is even present within the church as well. Rutherford did not play on his newly acquired political connections in Anwoth to seek wider fields of influence for himself or to magnify his own name. Nor did he seek to move on to greener pastures. He preferred to stay where God had placed him. Of course, one possible explanation for Rutherford’s not wanting to leave Anwoth is that he did not want to be taken away from the political connections that he had so recently established there and that he wanted to capitalize on them for the propagation of the cause of Christ in Scotland. But, even if that is true, it does not change the fact that Rutherford’s overriding motivations were not selfish but wholly selfless. In a way that is contrary to much contemporary thought, Rutherford placed a far lower value on himself and his own ministry than did the church at large.

 Guy M. Richard is Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church in Gulfport, MS.

This article was published in Reformation 21, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.  The Alliance calls the twenty-first century church to a modern reformation by broadcasting, events, and publishing.  This article and additional biblical resources can be found at AllianceNet.org

© Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Inc, 1716 Spruce St. Philadelphia, PA 19103


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Samuel Rutherford for the 21st Century (II)

Guy M. Richard


Rutherford’s Early Life and Education
Samuel Rutherford was born in 1600–the same year as King Charles I and Edmund Calamy, both of whom would later become outspoken critics of Rutherford’s jus divinum (i.e., divine right) brand of Presbyterianism. He was born in the town of Nisbet in the parish of Crailing, approximately four miles from Jedburgh, in what is called the Borders region of Scotland. Not much is known about his early life or education. Robert MacWard, who is probably Rutherford’s closest disciple and is the author of the first biographical account of his life, states that he was “a Gentleman by extraction.” Others, however, in the 20th century, claim that his father was a farmer or a miller. Prima facie, one would think that MacWard’s account would be the closest to the truth, seeing as how he had the benefit of knowing Rutherford personally and, therefore, should have known the story of his early life more accurately than would be possible for later researchers to discern. But, whatever the case may be in regard to Rutherford’s family, it is apparent that they at least were of sufficient means to allow Rutherford and his brother to receive the best education possible at the time.
Rutherford’s early education was most likely at the grammar school in the Jedburgh abbey, where the curriculum would certainly have been based upon the medieval trivium–i.e., grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. Whatever else he gained from his time in Jedburgh, Rutherford clearly gained a thorough grounding in Latin. This was vital in the seventeenth century, because university lectures at that time were given entirely in Latin (still the lingua franca of the day). Not only did students have to pass a rigorous Latin entrance examination just to get in to university, but they also were required to speak only Latin among themselves the entire time they were there. After passing his Latin entrance exam, Rutherford began his course of study at the University of Edinburgh in November 1617.

Rutherford’s Conversion
Rutherford received the M.A. degree in 1621 from Edinburgh and, two years later, was appointed Regent of Humanity for the university. He was chosen for this position over three other candidates, who far exceeded him in years, because of his “eminent abilities of mind, and vertuous [sic] disposition.” Shortly after being named Regent in 1623, however, Rutherford was embroiled in two controversies that called this virtuous disposition into question and resulted in his being removed from the university. The more serious of the two controversies is recorded in the city records of Edinburgh for February 3, 1626. There we are told by the Principal of the university John Adamson that Rutherford had committed a great scandal by falling in fornication with his eventual wife Eupham Hamilton. Unfortunately, this account does not completely square with the university’s record, which states that Rutherford resigned on account of an “irregular marriage.”
Because the details lying behind this charge are nowhere given, a great debate has ensued over the years as to what exactly happened. Those who dismiss Adamson’s charge against Rutherford do so largely on the basis of the difficulty they have in believing that Rutherford could commit fornication one year and then be appointed minister in Anwoth the next. While this is a legitimate point that ought not to be treated cavalierly, it, nevertheless, seems best to conclude that Adamson’s charge was in fact correct. For one thing, the committee that was formed to investigate the charge against Rutherford and to appoint a replacement for him in the event that the charge was substantiated, did in fact appoint a replacement, which suggests that they did in fact find that the charge was substantiated.
Before moving on, it may be helpful to pause for a moment and to consider what lessons there might be for us to learn from Rutherford’s sin of fornication. There is, in the first place, a stark warning here to those who are ministers of the gospel or who are candidates for the ministry. The allurement of sexual immorality has ensnared far too many men and done untold harm (from a human perspective) to the cause of Christ. We need to be on guard against this in our own lives. In the second place, there is a warning here to those who might think they are above this sin and that something like this could never happen to them. Although it is true that Rutherford was probably not converted at the time he fell–as we will soon see–he was, nevertheless, described as being of a “vertuous disposition.” The example of Rutherford and many other at least outwardly godly men should be enough to alarm us and to teach us that none of us, no matter how virtuous, are above the reaches of this (or any other) sin.

As a result of what was clearly a profoundly difficult time in Rutherford’s life, one in which he was confronted like never before with the corruption of his own heart, Rutherford appears to have experienced Christian conversion. On this there is little disagreement among his biographers. Even some of those who deny the charges of fornication still trace his conversion to this point in time. If they are right that this event did precipitate Rutherford’s conversion, then it would help to explain why he might have been shown leniency and been appointed as minister in Anwoth only a little over a year after committing what certainly would have been a serious sin in the eyes of the church.
One of the most convincing reasons for tracing Rutherford’s conversion to the time of the fornication scandal is that this event sets the paradigm for the remainder of Rutherford’s Christian life. From this point on, Rutherford’s Christianity becomes deeply experiential, which one would expect to find following conversion, especially a conversion brought on by a public humiliation of the order that Rutherford endured. Beginning at this decisive moment and continuing throughout the remainder of his days, Rutherford’s life becomes marked by a profound sensitivity to the sinfulness of his own sin. And this, in turn, ensured that his life would also be marked by a profound gratitude and an overwhelming appreciation for what Christ accomplished on the cross on his behalf. These two aspects of Rutherford’s life–a profound awareness of his sin and a profound gratitude for Christ’s finished work on the cross–will uniquely qualify and equip him to speak so powerfully to the souls of others.

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Samuel Rutherford for the 21st Century

Guy M. Richard

If you have heard the name of Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) at all, you have probably heard it in connection with the Westminster Assembly or one of his two best known works, the Letters of Samuel Rutherford or Lex, Rex. You may know that Rutherford is arguably the most important of the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly, that he stayed in London longer than any of his Scots brethren (from November 20, 1643, to November 9, 1647), that he was the only commissioner specifically commended by the Assembly for his faithful attendance and assistance in its debates, and that very few of the delegates or commissioners spoke on the floor of the Assembly as frequently or as forcefully as Rutherford did.

You may know that the Letters of Samuel Rutherford has been in print ever since its original publication in 1664, that it has passed through something like 100 editions and been translated into at least four languages, that it has been treasured by Christians the world over for the manifest fragrance of heaven that lingers on its pages, and that men the caliber of Charles Spurgeon and Richard Baxter once said of the Letters: “When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men;” and “Hold off the Bible, such a book the world never saw.”

You may know that Rutherford’s Lex, Rex (originally published in 1644) not only fueled the Covenanters’ armed resistance to King Charles I, but was also influential in justifying the French and American revolutions that would follow in the next century; you may know that many historians regard it as one of the most important contributions to political science in any age, that no less than 9 histories of early modern political thought examine it and its implications, and that it is still read and discussed in university level political science courses to this day.
But what you may not know is that Samuel Rutherford is a towering figure in Scottish theology, that he stands head and shoulders above others of his contemporaries as a theologian, a preacher, and a pastor, and that the magnitude of his literary achievements alone puts him in a category by himself. You may not know that Rutherford published 13 major theological treatises in his lifetime, amounting to just over 7,000 pages of text, not to mention other works, including sermons, letters, an in-depth catechism (totaling 562 questions and answers–over five times the number in the Westminster Shorter Catechism), and a variety of political writings, all of which add nearly 3,000 pages to the total. (Just to give you a frame of reference, John Owen’s sixteen volumes, including the prefaces to the treatises, total only 9,200 pages!) You may not know that when we add to the Rutherford corpus a commentary on Isaiah, which has tragically been lost, and several unpublished manuscripts and sermons, we have a literary output that clearly rivals that of John Owen. And yet Rutherford has received and continues to receive very little attention, especially when compared to other English Puritans like Owen.
In this article I would like to help initiate a reversal of this trend by introducing you to Samuel Rutherford and by pointing you to several practical lessons that we in the 21st century might be able to learn from him. My hope is not only to inform you about this towering figure in post-Reformation history but also to motivate you to take up and read him for yourself (tolle lege!). Much more could be said in this article, to be sure. But I trust that what I have selected will help shed some light on a handful of issues that we are facing today.


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Probably my favorite living Christian writer!!!


Interview with Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

M. Jay Bennett

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson was interviewed recently at the Ligonier blog regarding his new book In Christ Alone and the condition of Protestant Christianity today. Here’s an excerpt:


What are some of your concerns related to the health of Protestant Christianity we see here in present-day America and in your beloved Scotland?


I try not to focus my gaze too much or too long on the discouraging things I see simply because I think I need to be careful not to become jaundiced, and cynical. As a Scottish person I already have enough native tendency to be melancholic! Yet it is true that there are many things to cause concern.


The passage which was expounded at my ordination to the gospel ministry was 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, and it has served as a kind of guiding light to me ever since. Paul says there that he has put aside not only disgraceful, underhanded ways, but that he does not “do” things just because “they work.” Instead he expounds the truth and does so in such a way that both the truth of the gospel and his own integrity are clear. By contrast we have become a very pragmatic church; we have a thirst for size (bigger is seen as better).


We have also spawned a cult of the personality and the guru. I have seen pulpit search committee material stating in black and white that they need an “outstanding communicator” to be their minister. Much of our thinking has actually become very worldly.


One indication of this recently is in the ease with which Christians now speak about “the quality of our worship” but unlike their forefathers do it only once on Sunday (and many ministers know that an evening service would not be well attended …. for all kinds of reasons that I suspect will not hold up before the God of the universe who is worthy to be worshiped and adore world without end! I wonder what he thinks of the quality of our worship!). It is also a concern to me that we are living in the age of the worship leader and the counselor rather than the preacher (what we do and what we talk about–sadly usually ourselves–takes precedence over God talking to us.


Again there is the lack of prayer, and of the church praying. This is to me the most alarming, for this reason: we have built apparently strong, large, successful, active churches. But many of our churches never meet as a congregation for prayer. I mean never! What does that indicate we are saying about the life of the church as a fellowship? By contrast the mark of a truly apostolic spirit in the church is that that we give ourselves to prayer and the word together (Acts 6:4; no wonder “the word of God continued to increase and the number of the disciples multiplied” Acts 6:7!). If this is so, it should not surprise us that while many churches see growth it is often simply reconfiguration of numbers, not of conversion. I greatly wish that our churches would learn to keep the main things central, that we would learn to be true churches, vibrant fellowships of prayer, gospel ministry and teaching, genuine mutual love. At the end of the day such a church simply needs to “be” for visitors who come to sense that this is a new order of reality altogether, and be drawn to Christ.


What are the biblical remedies to recover a vibrant faith?


Well, that is an enormous question, isn’t it? But in many ways it is answered by Jesus himself in Revelation 2-3. Like the Church in Ephesus (that had Paul, Timothy, and apparently also John as ministers and yet still was in spiritual danger!) we need to remember what we were, repent, and return to the main things. Indeed it is interesting to see how regularly that note of repentance is struck (2:16, 2:22; 3:3). Perhaps that is the greatest need; it is certainly our first need: repentance in the light of God’s grace to us in Christ, with the holiness of life that springs from it, the humility that is always its fruit, the desire for God’s word and prayer is always creates, and the impact it makes on our witness.

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Joni Eareckson Tada (born October 15, 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland) is an American Christian author, artist, and disability advocate. A 1967 diving accident left her a quadriplegic, and although she had been a talented artist before her accident, she learned to paint by holding a paintbrush between her teeth. Joni is now married to Ken Tada and is founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, an “organization accelerating Christian ministry in the disability community”. She is the author of numerous Christian books, including Gold Medallion Book Award winner Pearls of Great Price[1], bestsellers The God I Love[2] and You’ve Got a Friend,[3] and an autobiography entitled Joni, which was later made into a film (1980) in which she played herself. Around this time, Joni also recorded two acclaimed LP albums; ‘Joni’s Song’ (1981) and ‘Spirit Wings’ (1982), the first of several musical projects. Tada has a daily radio program. (From Wikipedia)

For a much larger biography CLICK HERE (PDF)

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Those who maintain ‘There was a time when the Son was not’ rob God of his Word, like plunderers.”

“Black Dwarf” was the tag his enemies gave him. And the short, dark-skinned Egyptian bishop had plenty of enemies. He was exiled five times by four Roman emperors, spending 17 of the 45 years he served as bishop of Alexandria in exile. Yet in the end, his theological enemies were “exiled” from the church’s teaching, and it is Athanasius’s writings that shaped the future of the church.

Challenging “orthodoxy”

Most often the problem was his stubborn insistence that Arianism, the reigning “orthodoxy” of the day, was in fact a heresy.

The dispute began when Athanasius was the chief deacon assistant to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. While Alexander preached “with perhaps too philosophical minuteness” on the Trinity, Arius, a presbyter (priest) from Libya announced, “If the Father begat the Son, then he who was begotten had a beginning in existence, and from this it follows there was a time when the Son was not.” The argument caught on, but Alexander and Athanasius fought against Arius, arguing that it denied the Trinity. Christ is not of a like substance to God, they argued, but the same substance.




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To Athanasius this was no splitting of theological hairs. Salvation was at issue: only one who was fully human could atone for human sin; only one who was fully divine could have the power to save us. To Athanasius, the logic of New Testament doctrine of salvation assumed the dual nature of Christ. “Those who maintain ‘There was a time when the Son was not’ rob God of his Word, like plunderers.”

Alexander’s encyclical letter, signed by Athanasius (and possibly written by him), attacked the consequences of the Arians’ heresy: “The Son [then,] is a creature and a work; neither is he like in essence to the Father; neither is he the true and natural Word of the Father; neither is he his true wisdom; but he is one of the things made and created and is called the Word and Wisdom by an abuse of terms… Wherefore he is by nature subject to change and variation, as are all rational creatures.”

The controversy spread, and all over the empire, Christians could be heard singing a catchy tune that championed the Arian view: “There was a time when the Son was not.” In every city, wrote a historian, “bishop was contending against bishop, and the people were contending against one another, like swarms of gnats fighting in the air.”

Word of the dispute made it to the newly converted Emperor Constantine the Great, who was more concerned with seeing church unity than theological truth. “Division in the church,” he told the bishops, “is worse than war.” To settle the matter, he called a council of bishops.

Of the 1,800 bishops invited to Nicea, about 300 came—and argued, fought, and eventually fleshed out an early version of the Nicene Creed. The council, led by Alexander, condemned Arius as a heretic, exiled him, and made it a capital offense to possess his writings. Constantine was pleased that peace had been restored to the church. Athanasius, whose treatise

On the Incarnation

laid the foundation for the orthodox party at Nicea, was hailed as “the noble champion of Christ.” The diminutive bishop was simply pleased that Arianism had been defeated.

But it hadn’t.


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