Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stephen Witmer: Fellow Mainer, recently appointed Gordon-Conwell Professor of NT

Stephen Witmer, a friend of mine from back in seminary (and a fellow Mainer I must add) was just recently appointed as a professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I cannot speak highly enough of my dear brother. I cannot speak highly enough of this God-centered, Christ-exalting, biblical-theology teaching, brother. So I'll let some others....

I overheard this from my buddy Jonathan, who is a very close friend to Stephen, over at Creation Project:
A great friend and outstanding scholar, Stephen Witmer has been appointed to teach New Testament at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary under a one year contract, with long-term possiblities. Stephen’s keen intellect and sincere heart will be a great addition to the faculty at GCTS. Stephen did his B.A. in Philosophy and History, with a minor in Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, M.Div and Th.M at GCTS, and has just completed his Ph.D in New Testament at Cambridge University, where he recently taught 1Corinthians, the Gospel of John, Acts, and provided oversight to undergraduate students.

A recent GCTS email give him these props:
After graduation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (MDiv/ThM 2003), Prof. Stephen Witmer began PhD studies at the University of Cambridge, and will complete his program in New Testament studies in the spring of 2007. During the academic year 2006-2007, he served as a Teaching Associate at the Faculty of Divinity of the University of Cambridge, supervising students and lecturing in New Testament. He will serve a one-year appointment as Visiting Instructor and Adjunct Professor at Gordon-Conwell during the 2007-2008 year. Together with his experience in teaching, Prof. Witmer brings years of ministry experience. A licensed minister with the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, he has led college and young adult ministries and has preached all over New England. His numerous publications include articles in Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary (Zondervan) and in the academic journals Novum Testamentum, Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, and New Testament Studies.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Zechariah is a wee little man, and wee little man is he!

New Post Series: Him We Proclaim

Over this summer, a few guys from my church (Windham Baptist Church) will be reading through Dennis Johnson's new book Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures. And you are cordially invited to follow along with us and join the discussion.

I'm seriously pumped about this book because it's all about equipping Jesus followers to preach, teach, and understand the entire Bible with Jesus as the Hero of every page. He argues that one of the biggest problems in interpreting and proclaiming the message of God's Word stems from a warped perspective of how the Old Testament and the New Testament work together. His goal is to persuade us that there is a Christ-focused marriage between Old Testament promise and New Testament fulfillment. So basically Him We Proclaim will show us how to preach God-centered, Christ-exalting, gospel-driven, biblical-theological sermons.

One of the most significant things about this book that I've noticed so far is that Johnson shows why biblical theology is important, and when understood correctly, will drive us to Jesus. So naturally, he's going to lean on all of my heroes (and then some!), like Geerhadus Vos, Meredith Kline, Vern Poythress, G.K. Beale, Graeme Goldsworthy, and Tim Keller.

In chapter two, after summarizing and critiquing the most popular approaches to preaching (preaching to convert, preaching to edify, preaching to instruct), Johnson teases us by introducing the method that he will argue for throughout the rest of the book. He calls it "Evangelistic, Edificatory Redemptive-Historical Preaching." Despite the horrible title, it resembles Tim Keller's preaching a lot. And those of you who've been influenced by Tim Keller and especially his Spiritually invigorating emphasis on the Centrality of the Gospel are gonna love this!

Keller says "The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity.... The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel."

And since the only way for us to understand the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel is to see and savor Jesus Christ on every page of Scripture and in every act of the drama of redemption Johnson's Him We Proclaim promises to be a valuable read. I hope you join us.

Sample of Him We Proclaim
9 Marks Review: Him We Proclaim
9 Marks May/June Newsletter "How to Preach"
Monergism Blurb and Buy Him We Proclaim
Tim Keller Resources

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Miniature Earth...what if there were only 100 of us?!

Our perspective always determines how we think, feel, and act. This short video should make your heart grow more tender, your mind think more purposefully, and your hands act more swiftly. You can watch the video, Miniature-Earth, online or download it to your computer.

The strength of this video is bringing mind-numbing, global statistics down to a workable, impactful number: 100. As I watched, I felt more a part of the global community, that there might be something I could do to make a difference, that I've been blessed to be a blessing to others. Watch it and let me know how it impacts you and how it might impact others through you.

Link: Miniature-Earth

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Reading the Bible Aloud in Gathered Worship 2.0

"Reading the Bible aloud is always central to Christian worship. Cutting back on this for whatever reason--trimming readings so that the service doesn't go on too long, changing scripture passages so that they become merely part of a musical performance, or reading only the few verses the preacher intends to preach about--misses the point. The reason we read scripture in worship isn't primarily to inform or remind the congregation about some biblical passage or theme they have forgotten. Likewise, its much more than a peg to hang a sermon on, though preaching from one or more of the readings is often a wise plan. Reading scripture in worship is, first and foremost, the central way of celebrating who God is and what he's done.

....Just as you're insulting a good wine if you drink it from a plastic cup instead of a glass which shows off its color, bouquet, and full flavor, so you're insulting the Bible if, given the opportunity, you don't create a context in which it can be heard and celebrated as what it really is: the rehearsal of the powerful deeds of God the creator and rescuer."

N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 150, 151.

Reading the Bible Aloud in Gathered Worship

There is so much information coming at us these days. We're not just wired for sound anymore, we're wired(-less) for info, for data, for SPAM, for "late-breaking news about Anna Nicole", for...what?! So it's no wonder that many churches have opted for a "less filling, tastes great" approach to the public reading of Scripture. But in an effort to improve communication and the understanding of that communication, we've unwittingly removed the very Word that needs to be spoken, heard, explained, pondered. By thinking and modeling that "less of the Bible, is actually more" we also run the risk of distorting what the Bible actually is, "the rehearsal of the powerful deeds of God the creator and rescuer." What we're left with is merely another self-help message, another advertisement, another miracle pill...just another voice calling for our attention in the cacophony of life.

So it falls to me every week to help our congregation see that the Bible is not just another voice, but it is THE Voice, the voice of the Living God. In fact, one of our Key Values of Gathered Worship is that our meetings should be "Bible-Saturated." I haven't figured this out all that much yet, but I do know giving a time and place for a larger portion of Scripture to be read is essential.

Periodically, I take about 2-3 minutes to explain different parts of our gatherings: singing, prayer, Scripture readings, affirmation of the gospel, Lord's Supper, etc. This has been very effective. When it comes to our public reading of Scripture, I often will highlight the nature of Scripture, not just the content of the passage.

For example, this past week I read 1 Cor. 10:1-13 and said something along the lines of "Every day you and I are bombarded with messages and information that we find annoying at best and offensive at worst. At least half our snail mail we immediately recycle, and let's not even talk about email SPAM!! But what we're about to read together is entirely different from any other message you'll ever read or come across. These words, penned by the apostle Paul, are not merely his words to his friends in the city of Corinth. They are God's Words. So listen now, let us listen together, to our loving Creator and Redeemer."

No doubt, it could be said better, but I've found it better to actually get on with it than to wait for the perfect way to say something. The point is not that the introduction of the Scripture reading change people, but that it breaks down barriers and heightens anticipation for the very Living Word that can and will change men, women, and children's hearts!