Wise words from Phillips Brooks:

"I suppose that all preachers pass through some period when a strange text fascinates them; when they like to find what can be said for an hour on some little topic on which most men could only talk for two minutes; when they are eager for subtlety more than force, and for originality more than truth. But as a preacher grows more full of the conception of the sermon as a message, he gets clear of those brambles. He comes out onto open ground. His work grows freer, and bolder, and broader. He loves the simplest texts, and the great truths that run like rivers through all of life. God's sovereignty, Christ's redemption, man's hope in the Spirit, the priviledge of duty, the love of man in the Savior make the strong music which his soul tries to catch." (The Joy of Preaching, p. 33)

 

A God-centered and spiritually helpful response by John Piper at the Desiring God conference I attended this weekend.

"The question can sound as if we are asking for tips...but the real issue is, "Has a person developed... a worldview with wrath, holiness, judgment, atonement, propitiation, forgiveness, justification? It's a massive place to be where the identification of a good thing in you has meaning other than the building up your ego. A tip won't work there, only a worldview will. A worldview that says I'm damned, I'm on my way to hell, I'm invariably proud, I'm saved by grace. It is not three tips, but a massive worldview by which something can come to me [as an encouragement]."

The blush of the proud and the blush of the humble could not be further apart.

 

I cannot begin to describe what a wonderful privilege it is for me to have a wife who loves God passionately, gives of herself faithfully, and values theological education wholeheartedly. It is primarily because of her willingness to support us, that I am able to spend these years primarily focusing on furthering my training for God's work. Without Juli, I would not have a friend who pushes me toward Christ daily, a companion who counsels me biblically, and a partner who serves beside me faithfully.
Throughout these upcoming years of intensive study, I am most indebted to her. She gives sacrificially, spends frugally, encourages daily, and listens attentively. While listening to my thoughts, she always has an ear willing to change herself, yet willing to challenge me. For her, I am most grateful and will forever be indebted. I love you.

 

'Church'

By Scott A. Fulks

Consider the way in which we use the word 'church'. If one were to catalogue its uses in contemporary American Christianity, more than likely the most frequent meaning used would be a building ("I was at church'); secondly, by a service event ("I went to church"); thirdly, a group of believers ("I joined the church'); and fourthly, by all those who are Christ's ("I am in the church").

Yet, when we read the New Testament the pecking order appears almost entirely reversed. If the term 'church' were an empty glass, the New Testament would fill it with meaning in an almost entirely different way. The definition 'the people of God' would substantially fill this glass. The water level would then be raised even further by the idea of 'a local congregation'. Our second-most frequent use of 'church', carefully-outlined and patently-planned services, might add a drop or two. The idea of a building falls outside of the glass.

Should we conform our vocabulary to its original source, or should we continue to read the New Testament term by our own definition? It is not simply a matter of semantics. The answer predetermines much of our theology of the church.

 

Before and After

By Scott A. Fulks












God was so gracious to give me the time, the ability and the resources to accomplish this.

 

Dr. Frame on Seminary

By Scott A. Fulks

With Seminary beginning just around the corner, it is altogether easy for me to think of my 'academic' career as separate from my roll in my own local church, First Baptist Church of Elyria, OH. This is largely due to our current models of seminary, our individualistic views of desiring to enter the ministry, and the lack of churches fulfilling their roles as the ones who call their own into the ministry. It is not my desire to critique our present situation, rather to correct my present motivations.

Thanks to having read John Frame's Proposal for a New Seminary a few years ago, my views of seminary increasingly changed. I must not view it as the degree that guarantees your entrance into the ministry, nor must I view ministry simply as academic procedures.

After these 3 or more years of completing a M. Div. or further, I recognize that I am always at the disposal of my local church. Their authority over me controls my future ministry.

The following is an excellent video interview of Dr. Frame concerning his previous paper and his view of a biblical seminary.


video

 

Bruce Ashford gives some wise counsel in his A Theologically-Driven Missiology (Salvation) concerning our view of evangelizing:

We must work hard to form evangelism and discipleship practices that recognize all of the salvific process. We cannot ignore any one part (e.g. calling, belief, repentance, etc.) One of the most oft-ignored aspects of salvation is repentance. Therefore, we seek to form testimonies, and gospel presentations, and Bible-study sets that call men to repentance rather than merely to mental assent. This means that men must turn their backs on false saviors; they must repudiate tribal gods and witch doctors; they must reject their belief that the Qur’an is God’s revelation and that Muhammad is His prophet; they must cease to worship in spirit temples and ancestral shrines; and they must turn their back on the worship of sex, money, and power.

We must correct the tendency to view salvation as mere mental assent, mere verbal profession of faith, or mere repetition of a prayer of salvation. If a person holds to such a reductionist view of salvation, he will have a wrong goal: the maximum number of people who have prayed a prayer or made a verbal profession. Further, he will have given false assurance of salvation to men who are not saved, and a false testimony to the church and the broader community. Finally, he will likely create methods of evangelism that are reductionist to the extreme and harmful to the progress of the gospel and the planting of healthy churches.

One who holds to a mechanical or magical understanding of salvation will likely create methods of evangelism, discipleship, leadership training, and theological education that are reductionist to the extreme, that misunderstand what we are saved from and what we are saved for.

In sum, the doctrine of salvation is a most precious doctrine, displaying for us the salvation that we have found in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God the Father. It is our responsibility and high privilege to proclaim that gospel in a manner worthy of our Lord. Whatever we model, for the new believers we disciple and for the churches we plant, will likely be copied for generations to come. Nothing less than the purity of the gospel and the health of the church is at stake.

 

What do these three figures have in common? One, they attract large droves of people. Two, I saw each of them this past weekend. I find it very interesting to watch people watch important people. People often stare at those whom we deem 'super-human' and gaze intently for a spark of extra-humanness. But as I looked at two of these men who I have admired for many years, I recognized more than ever that these men were simply just that: men. Men with frailties, errors, and failures.

Yet, there was an altogether different person whom I was able to see this past weekend. In my mind's eye, I saw Jesus Christ exalted to a place far above great heroes and admirable men. Through the dramatization of baptism, I saw his great work on my behalf. Through the practice of communion, I remembered the weighty wrath he carried for me. Through the joint worship, I reveled in his love towards me. As we gaze, we do not nor will we ever see a mere man. We see the ascended Christ, the savior of the world. Yes, he too attracted crowds while on earth, but his following will last an eternity. We are not struck with his manishness but with his supremacy, his majesty, and his uniqueness.

 

An interviewer of J.I. Packer noted the following from sociologist Christian Smith concerning the youth in evangelicalism today:

[Throughout] a five-year study of religious teens throughout America and some in Canada...he found they all have the same religious outlook on life: God wants me to be good; he wants us to be happy; he's there when we need him. But when you ask them who Jesus is, they can't say. They can't tell you the significance of the cross nor anything about the Trinity. He called it "moralistic, therapeutic deism."

 

Truly a great article from Ray Ortland, no matter what stripe, brand, or genre of Christianity you adhere to:

"I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian – or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism."

"Whatever divides us emotionally from other Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Christians is a “plus” we’re adding to the gospel. It is the Galatian impulse of self-exaltation. It can even become a club with which we bash other Christians, at least in our thoughts, to punish, to exclude and to force into line with us."

"My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people.
People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone."

Read the rest of the article here.

 

Our New Apartment

By Scott A. Fulks

 

Moving Day(s)!

By Scott A. Fulks

From West Chester, OH to Plymouth, MN.















....

 

What's the Bible all about?

By Scott A. Fulks

Currently, I am reading Thomas Schreiner's New Testament Theology, an newly-released and highly-acclaimed biblical theology on the New Testament. In describing the Centrality of God in the New Testament, he makes a remarkable point:

"We tend to look past what constantly stands in front of us. If we see them every day, we often take for granted verdant trees, stunning sunsets, and powerful waves thundering on the beach. Similarly, in reading the NT we are prone to screen out what the NT says about God himself. God is, so to speak, shoved to the side, and we investigate other themes, such as justification, reconciliation, redemptive history, and new creation." (119)

To beautifully illustrate how often were forget that the dominant subject of Scripture is God Himself, notice these collages of various NT books created by Wordle, a program that generates “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

I Thessalonians














Romans















I Corinthians













What's the Bible all about? I think it's pretty clear: GOD

 

In an American Christianity, where church models are a dime a dozen, Mark Dever's What Is a Healthy Church? is breath of fresh air. As opposed to the church-marketing schemes of the past decades or the man-centered philosophies that permeate our churches, this book is deliberately Scripture-driven and God-focused. Some may object that others attempt to do the same, yet it is evident throughout the entire book that the church should aspire to be and only to be what is delineated within the bounds of God's Word. The church is not an organization driven by the newest schemes nor is it simply a community without divinely inscripturated authority. It is a body of redeemed people who deliberately act as they are called to be.

Before displaying each of the points that have made his 9marks ministry so well-known, Dever seeks to persuade the reader that what our experiences have been within the church are not to be considered the bastion of truth regarding the church. Our experiences cannot override what the Word of God entails a community of believers to look like. We often accept or reject a church by our own list of standards rather than by the standards written in the Bible. As a whole, Dever desires the church to be the center that displays God's character amidst the world and among each of the members.

Within the nine marks, he considers three of them essential: expositional preaching, biblical theology, and a biblical understanding of the gospel. The following six are considered important marks: a biblical understanding of conversion, evangelism, membership, biblical church discipline, biblical discipleship and growth, and biblical church leadership. These are clearly defined and encouraged in Scripture.

Mark Dever would agree. These nine are neither exhaustive, nor divinely authoritative. Yet, they remain great starting blocks for the philosophy of any church. When the foundation remains firm, the structure will follow its prescribed course.

 

The foggy road of trusting God

By Scott A. Fulks

Within two weeks, Juli and I will be wrapping up our time in Cincinnati. The future is planned, yet it remains a bit hazy in regard to details. We have found housing in Minneapolis, but we have yet to secure jobs, a church, or any friends. Surely, the friends will come, and a church will be found. The jobs, well, they are another matter. In fact, the leadership role in our house of two that God has given me has taken on a new meaning as I contemplate the responsibility of providing an income. Thankfully, the Lord has supplied for us here in ways that we can hardly entertain a complaining thought. Why should we think any different of the future? Somehow, He finds way to make us trust him, even now. Every future second lies in the breadth of his hand.