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The Obedience Imperative

God Centered Life Ministries is pleased to welcome Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA to the blog today. Of all the characteristics of a disciple, none is more basic than obedience. Jesus is emphatic on this point: “Follow me”1; “my sheep know me and listen to my voice”2; “only he who does the will of my father will enter the kingdom of heaven”3; and “when you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”4 Throughout church history, mature disciples have submitted to our Lord in humble obedience. Three Exemplars In the early 1940s, Andre Trocme served as pastor of a backwater Huguenot (Protestant) village in southern France. His life, and those of his parishioners, changed radically when the Nazi-controlled Vichy government took control. Over four long years, Trocme and 3,000 villagers risked their lives by hiding 5,000 Jews, mostly children, and leading...

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Why Studying the Bible Won’t (Necessarily) Change Your Life

God Centered Life Ministries is pleased to welcome Trevin Wax to the blog today.  “Bible study won’t change your life.” OK, I admit to indulging in a bit of overstatement to shock you into recognizing what should be obvious: just because you know the Bible doesn’t mean the Word will bear fruit in your life. It is possible to know the Scriptures, read the Scriptures, revere the Scriptures, and study the Scriptures and miss the point entirely. Take the liberal scholar who knows the Greek New Testament better than most orthodox pastors. He can quote whole sections of the Bible in its original languages. Definitions of biblical words tumble out of his mouth as he effortlessly places everything in historical context. And yet he does not believe in the Jesus he reads about in the pages of the Bible. Sure, he is endlessly fascinated by the communities that gave us such an interesting artifact of study....

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Gospel Grit

God Centered Life Ministries is pleased to welcome to the blog Harold Smith, president and CEO of Christianity Today. Read his complete bio here.  I was in Portland, Oregon recently to attend an annual leadership conference sponsored by the Murdock Charitable Trust—a very generous supporter of ministries in the Northwest. (Yes, I was one of the lone Midwesterners!) The conference title was “The Word Made Flesh,” and the 200 women and men in attendance represented Christian leaders from a number of traditions who are creatively putting their feet to the Gospel. Or as one Jesuit brother shared with me over dinner: “Servant-leaders who are making themselves available.” “Availability,” I learned during this same mealtime, is part of the Jesuit tradition, and speaks of Christ’s agents taking risks by circumventing all barriers of class, color, gender—whatever—and engaging God’s image bearers directly, whomever they may be and whatever their need, with Christ’s love, grace, and touch. It is...

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Calling Our Culture to God – Three Models

'Culture' is a word that is ironically confusing. Ironic because everyone thinks they mean the same thing by it: there is, in a sense, a whole ‘culture’ of ‘cultures.’ For the sake of this discussion, I take it that broadly speaking there are three things that most people mean by culture. Culture as ‘high culture.’ So, then, going to the theater is more ‘cultured’ than going to the movies; art galleries more cultured than comic strips; etc. Whether any of those sorts of distinctions are really objective in their value judgments is another whole discussion, and one that we need not get sidetracked into at this point. Culture as ‘our culture.’ So by the word ‘culture’ is then meant the particular set of circumstances, values, history, assumptions that go up to making the social environment in which we happen to live – locally, nationally. Sometimes there are particular subsets that are not...

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The View from the Ash Heap: Reflections from a Hospital Bedside

God Centered Life is pleased to welcome Dr. Daniel Block as a guest blogger today. Dr. Block is the Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. You can read his complete bio here.  Two months ago we were shocked by the diagnosis of our thirteen-year old grandson’s extreme headaches. Yes, we heard the dreaded “C” word; he has brain cancer. Overnight our lives were turned inside out and upside down, and the once-in-a-lifetime Christmas on the island of Maui with our children and grandchildren was out the window. By God’s grace we have enjoyed a relatively tranquil life, at least so far as health issues are concerned. No one warned us of this, and we certainly did not ask for it, but suddenly the theories we had espoused in trying to help others were put to a test at home. In these days we have been encouraged not...

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The Historical Reliability of the Bible

Much high end research has been done defending the historical reliability of the Bible (Tyndale House, Cambridge). These two papers are mere summaries of the work done by many scholars, but they may be helpful for some because a) they are brief, b) they are in simple straightforward language, c) they address a current (as well as perennial) matter of great importance: the historical reliability of the Bible. That said, though, we need assert with Spurgeon that the Bible no more needs defending than does a lion! Historical Reliability and Relevance of the Old Testament Historical Reliability of the New Testament...

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Keeping Commands

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Oliver O'Donovan, Professor Emeritus, Christian Ethics and Practical Theology at The University of Edinburgh, as a guest blogger today at God Centered Life. Dr. O'Donovan was Regius Professor of Moral & Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford from 1982 until 2006. Read Dr. O'Donovan's complete bio here. “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15). The future tense - “You will…” -  may grate on us. That kind of hypothetical prediction tends to put us on our guard against moral blackmail.  How many difficult parent-child relations, lovers’ quarrels, arguments between friends turn on the hinge between “if you love me” and “you will do what I say”! But imagine a relation in which “doing what I say” is the only natural expression of love. Think of someone whose commands are exactly what is loveable about him, whose first link with us is the guidance...

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The Glory of Christ at Christmas

Some years ago now when the “Christmas” debate first began, I preached a sermon series around the holidays called “Making the holidays holy-days.” The point I was making, which seemed intrinsically ironic to me, was that those who passionately advocated for renaming the season “holidays” were not really accomplishing what they hoped they were accomplishing. The word “holiday” has a particular historical etymology. It is rooted in the Medieval European habit of naming certain days as “high days and holy days.” They were days marked by particular saints, and on those days there were special religious ceremonies, and feasting as appropriate and particular to the occasion as it demanded. In other words, “holidays” is a distinctly Christian, religious term. When you say “happy holidays,” you are really saying “happy Christian religious season of feasting and merriment based upon these holy days that we are in right now.” I understand that when people...

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Shedding Light on Gay Marriage

The following article was written for Evangelicals Now and published in their news publication for November 2014. At time of writing the U.S. Supreme Court has just decided to not decide on gay marriage. As anticlimactic as a non-decision decision is, this was nonetheless of great significance. Effectively, the Supreme Court has legitimated the decisions of States to allow gay marriage by refusing to intervene (one way or another). Commentators have wondered whether this was motivated so as not to be tarnished with a Roe v. Wade like stigma which the Court has carried ever since its decision on abortion, at least in the eyes of the conservatives in the country. But whatever the motivations of the Court may or may not be, the result is the same. Gradual, increased, gay marriage. In this case what then should Christians do? The answer is far from obvious. On the one hand, some urge belligerent...

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Holy Internet Debate

The following article was written for Evangelicals Now and published in their news publication for July 2014. The text, ‘be holy as I am holy’, is perhaps one of the most old-fashioned sounding in the Bible. But it is newly alive with interpretative complexities. How are we to be holy? Can Christians be called to be holy? What is the most effective means by which Christians are urged towards holiness? Is it legalism to urge the use of the law in Christian discipleship? Are Christians supposed to put effort into their holiness? Particularly amusing has been a minor debate taking place in the nether world of the internet as to whether Christians are actually sinners. Given that most would recognise that Christians are also regenerate and justified, it seems unlikely that any can deny seriously that Christians are nonetheless still liable to sin. If any do doubt it, they only need to observe the manner of...

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