For the last few weeks, we have been talking about how the average follower of Jesus can prepare for the important moments in her or his life of devotion. We first talked about how to prepare for worship, emphasizing the importance of daily spiritual discipline, self-awareness, and proper focus. Next, we talked about preparing for […]
Last week, we discussed how we can prepare for worship. We said that the effective worshiper will engage in the daily tasks of cultivating self-awareness and of focusing on God, and we said that the effective worshiper will offer her or his worship as part of a life of spiritual discipline. This week, we will […]
Series Introduction When I write for the Carroll blog, I am usually writing for Christian leaders. I am usually trying to help pastors, church staff members, educated lay leaders, denominational officials, and others who hold positions of responsibility to think through difficult questions in light of a biblical worldview. For the next few weeks, however, […]
But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires [that which is] contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit [that which is] contrary to the flesh, for they are in conflict with one another, in order that you may not do what […]
And I will build my life upon your love it is a firm foundation. And I will put my trust in you alone and I will not be shaken. These lines from Pat Barrett’s new song “Build My Life” have been something of an anthem for me lately. Part of the reason is that Barrett […]
The first time that I heard Matthew West’s song “Unplanned,” it tore my heart in two. Part of me wanted to leap for joy. Finally, someone in contemporary Christian music had spoken eloquently and powerfully in favor of unpopular truth. Someone had the clarity of mind to know what is right and the courage of […]
I will take a heart whose nature is to beat for me alone And fill it up with you—make all your joy and pain my own No matter how deep a valley you go through I will go there with you And I will give myself to love the way Love gave itself for me […]
Perhaps God is powerless to help us overcome our sin, or perhaps God simply doesn’t care about us enough to help us. Or perhaps God simply doesn’t exist.Faced with such unsavory choices, it is not surprising that many of us give up. In the darkness of our fears and our doubts, we just cannot go on living the way that we have been living. The pain is just too great. We want to be loved for who we are, not for who we are supposed to be.
These are hard words to hear for those of us who feel like our lives are hurtling towards frustration and futility. The last thing that we want to do is trust God, especially if there is no indication how—or even if—He will redeem our pain and allow us to reclaim the agency that is so essential for human flourishing. And yet, we Christians of all people ought to know that faith is the only way out of the darkness.
we are going to turn our attention to how the writer of our text presents “salvation” (2:5-18) More specifically, We need to ask (because the argument of the letter prompts us to ask), “What does salvation accomplish for those who receive it?” A careful examination of vv. 5-18 reveals at least four benefits that come from salvation.
We need to be reminded of all those times when Jesus has taken up our cause and acted upon our lives. We need to be reminded that we stand in a long line of people who have similar experiences. We need to be reminded that such experiences are not a figment of our imagination; they are the natural outworking of all that Jesus is and all that he did.
Last week, we began our Lenten reflections with an honest appraisal of the state of mind that we often bring to this important season. We noted that the book of Hebrews calls us to turn our attention towards Jesus precisely in the context of the fear and frustration that grips our lives. We sought to […]
Our challenges may feel like they are the most real thing to us. Indeed, we can be crushed by their immediacy and their urgency. But they are not, in fact, the most real things in our lives. Jesus is the most real thing that there is, and it is he to whom we must turn our eyes, in good times and in bad.
Acts tells us that Stephen was a man of keen intellect, forceful personality, and devoted service. These traits, especially the first two, got him into trouble. No one cared that he was part of the team that ministered to Hellenistic Jewish widows, but they cared quite a bit when he started winning arguments in synagogues and on street corners.
So, what can we learn from how Jesus himself prayed? It would be nice if the writers of the four gospels had spent more time on the topic. For the most part, we just catch glimpses here and there of what surely was a much deeper and richer reality.
The whole sad affair is fascinating. It calls into question some of our most treasured assumptions about who God is and how God acts. It stands in stark contrast to so much of the preaching that we hear today, obsessed as it is with stroking our self-esteem and telling us that God is on our side.
Jabez should not be our only, or even our primary, example of how to pray. There are others who are better examples (as we will see in a few weeks) because they reflect the character of God in their prayers. Moreover, I think that we err greatly when we look for patterns or mantras that we can recite in order to achieve the results we desire.
David does not rail against God for not hearing his prayer. He does not withdraw from God in fear and anger. He continues to lean into his relationship with God.
What do you do when people turn against you? What do you do when circumstances do not go your way? What do you do when you get frustrated about the tasks that you have been assigned or the people who have been entrusted to your care?
I am not suggesting that we can or even should pray in an utterly altruistic manner. Remember, Hannah poured out her heart to God, and if we are to do the same, some of our own desires and motivations will inevitably come spilling out. What I am suggesting is that we pray in such a way that something greater than ourselves is always in view.
Prayer is a vital component of every Christian’s spiritual life. It is also vital to the welfare of Christian institutions, and the B. H. Carroll Theological Institute is no exception. As many of you already know, we have sought to formalize our dependence on prayer by gathering together an army of people to pray on our behalf. If you have not already joined the Carroll Prayer Network, we invite you to participate in this noble work.
I grew up in a small, Southern Baptist church in a small town in Arkansas. I didn’t know it then, but my church was a fundamentalist church. I use a lowercase “f” because I don’t think any of us knew that we were fundamentalists. We sincerely thought that everyone who took the authority of the […]
We must account for the ways in which negative experiences impact our thinking and behavior, but we cannot use those negative experiences as an excuse for the wrong things that we have done.
I am convinced that this way of understanding sin has wide-ranging consequences for those of us who want to proclaim the message of Scripture accurately and live its message faithfully. We will tease out some of those implications next week. For now, I want us to think about what this way of understanding sin means for the gospel.
This “race” has two distinctive features. First, we do not get to design its course. That has already been done for us. We simply have to volunteer to run the race as it is. Second, it is not a sprint. It is a marathon, and this means that it will obviously require endurance.
God sent His one and only Son into a broken, reckless, and evil world to experience all that such a world can dish up, and because God graciously offers His Spirit to anyone who will place their ultimate trust, loyalty, and love in Jesus.
We take it for granted that God loves us. We take it for granted that God forgives us. We take it for granted that God wants to be with us and in us. And so, we no longer experience the joy that is so near to us and that we so desperately need.
None of this sounds like peace. None of it looks like peace. None of it feels like peace. And that is because it isn’t peace. But it is precisely in this context that Jesus promises peace to those who put their trust in him.
God sent His Son into the world to gain for us a forgiveness that we do not deserve. God sent His Son into the world to take off our slave-chains and to heal the wounds that they have caused. God sent His Son into the world to solve the problems of sin and death once and for all. And God will send His Son into the world again—this time, to bring to completion all that he began when he walked the dusty roads of Galilee, walked to his own execution, and walked out of a cold and lonely tomb.
We would also do well to observe how God responded to Israel’s problems, particularly in the prophetic tradition. Over and over again, God told Israel to put away its idols and to practice justice. We would do well to do the same.
I readily admit that I am not a political scientist or a sociologist, but I hope that my observations will help us see our situation more clearly. And if we see our situation more clearly, we will be better equipped to develop and implement solutions that will actually make a positive difference.
We no longer share a common understanding of what it means to be human, and we no longer possess a common vision for what we want to be as a nation. And the practical impact of our fractured society can be seen on a daily basis.
We have seen it played out all over the world, from the gas chambers of Nazi Germany to the killing fields of Cambodia. The former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Afghanistan should always be at the front of our political minds And yet, here we are, mired in an endless cycle of politically-motivated hatred fueled by feelings of anger and alienation.
So, what is the purpose of the last pericope in the collection (as well as Matthew’s closing remark about the reaction of his audience)? Clearly, it drives home the point that those who will really be successful are those who put Jesus’ teachings into practice.
It is not hard for us to feel the crushing weight of expectations when we read Jesus’ teachings and try to put them into practice in our lives. Throw in a good measure of pain and more than a dash of unanswered prayers, and you have a recipe for spiritual disenfranchisement.
“The kingdom of heaven” is a sphere of existence—an alternate reality that transcends the limits of space and that breaks into the flow of time. This alternate reality stands over against the reality that dominates normal human experience, for Its defining characteristic is that it is where God’s will is done.
We are not here permitted to evaluate the lives of anyone we choose. Instead, we are to focus our evaluative work on those who want to stand as God’s spokesperson and lead God’s people.
I had a good, old-fashioned fight with God about these very issues. (In case you are wondering, yes, I lost the fight—again!)
Last week, we talked about Jesus’ teachings about the pillars of first-century Jewish piety in Matthew 6:1-18. There is one aspect of that teaching, however, that we did not discuss. And we need to talk about it now. Why do we need to talk about it? We need to talk about it because it is […]
Last week, we talked about the challenge of being “perfect” in our relations with those who hate us. Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:38-48 form a fitting climax to his exposition of, and expansion of, the Mosaic Law’s requirements. They challenge us to be more righteous than the religious experts of Jesus’ day, and they remind […]
I do not think that there is any portion of Scripture that gives me more intellectual and emotional difficulties than Matthew 5:38-48. There are so many ways that we could go in this discussion because there are so many difficult, and even controversial, things that Jesus says in this passage. Does he really intend for […]
In Matthew 5:31-37, Jesus shares his thoughts on what, at first glance, seems to be two different issues—divorce and the taking of oaths. But as I reflect upon these seemingly discrete pieces of Jesus tradition, I come to recognize that, at their heart, they express a common concern. Followers of Jesus ought to be people […]
“You heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman for the purpose of desiring her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your right eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away from […]
Last week, we talked about the challenging standard that Jesus sets for those who wish to follow him. They have to be more righteous than those men who were considered experts in the instructions that God gave to Moses. As we continue to work our way through this carefully crafted homily, we begin see why […]
Have you heard Ryan Stevenson’s new song, “No Matter What”? The first time I heard it, it stopped me in my tracks. I was captivated by the opening lines. A lot of us grew up believing At any moment we could lose it all And at the drop of a hat God might turn His […]
Matthew 5:13-16 is another very familiar passage from the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus issues a clarion call to his disciples. He does so by reminding them of who they are (“salt” and “light”) and by urging them to make their identity known to those around them. But how do we do what […]
Series Introduction For more than a year now, my writing for the B. H. Carroll Theological Institute has focused on the analysis of contemporary issues in the light of biblical and theological reflection. It is important to do this task; we need to ask how the Bible and Christian theology can speak to the issues […]
Reflecting on Independence Day leaves me filled with complex and conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I am inspired by the vision that motivated the founding of America. The idea that people can live free in a just society still captures the imaginations of people around the world, for it is both symptomatic of the […]
Over the past two weeks, we have been exploring the complexities of implementing an ethic of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration in an age of outrage. This week, I want to continue our conversation by exploring some practical scenarios where forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration might be called for. By selecting these specific scenarios, I am not […]
Last week, we talked about some theoretical objections and practical obstacles that we will have to overcome as we seek to bear witness to and live out the Christian message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. We noted that the Christian vision for how humans interact with one another is not unjust, but there are serious […]
Forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are things that Christians talk about all the time. These—and not the enforcement of rigorous moral codes or the punishment of evildoers–stand at the heart of the Christian message. (Moral norms and punitive justice are a part of the Christian intellectual framework, so we will need to talk more about them […]
On the Carroll blog, we have often talked about how sacrifice is an essential element of discipleship. Jesus is quite clear that we have to give up our lives if we are going to find the life that he has for us (cf. Mark 8:35 and parallels). Jesus didn’t just come up with this idea […]
In the last two blogs, I have written extensively about what we as evangelical Christians need to do to create environments for women that are safe, welcoming, and affirming. All of these efforts will be in vain, however, if we do not protect them from sexual violence and other forms of sexual abuse. The prevalence […]
Last week, I began our conversation about how to create a church culture that affirms women by talking about the role that men in general and husbands in particular must play in creating that culture. In this week’s entry, I want to turn our attention to the role that congregations and denominations play in creating […]
By now, many of you have heard about the controversy that has erupted in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) about how women have been treated by Southern Baptist leaders. It is a subject that I had no intention of addressing. I am an ordained Southern Baptist minister who has deep reservations about the denomination’s complementarian […]
Losing My Way When I was in graduate school, and for a short time thereafter, I felt kind of spiritually lost. In part, my lack of spiritual direction had to do with the fact that I was an evangelical Protestant studying at an extremely liberal divinity school. It wasn’t so much my interactions with any […]
Last week, we talked about three mental habits that can help us combat the Enemy’s strategy for keeping us enslaved to sin. I encouraged us to lean into God’s goodness, to cultivate a balanced imagination, and to be honest about our motivations. This week, I want us to tackle the issue of how spiritual disciplines […]
Last week, we laid out the Enemy’s strategy (or, at least, one of his strategies) for keeping us enslaved to sin. I argued that the Enemy begins by allowing us to imagine how a given course of action might benefit us and then convinces us that God has been holding out on us. I further […]
Romans 6 describes sin as an enslaving power. It takes away our ability to choose another way of life. It works its way into every aspect of our thinking and feeling, and, in so doing, it impacts everything we do. And like the cruelest of slave-masters, it results in our destruction if left unchecked. But […]
Last week, we tried to gain a better understanding of what discipleship is by describing the kinds of obstacles that we encounter when we try to do it well. We learned that real discipleship integrates intellectual, spiritual, and emotional elements, and we discussed how failing to take an integrative approach can leave a person or […]
With the glow of Easter still hanging in the air of our homes and our churches, most of us who have placed our faith in the risen Christ want to make more disciples for him. We ourselves want to be better followers of “the Jesus way” (to borrow language used regularly in my own congregation), […]
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve. Rather, he came to serve and to give his life as a ransom payment for many.” Mark 10:45 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to come after me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and […]
Confession, whether it be the public acknowledgement of Christ’s sovereignty or the private acknowledgement of our own sinfulness, can be difficult. Acknowledging Christ’s sovereign rule strikes at the very heart of our sinful nature, which wants nothing more than to see itself upon the throne of the universe. It hurts to admit that we are […]
Last week, we talked about how Nehemiah called the people of God to depend upon and give expression to “the joy of the LORD” at a time when they may not have felt much like rejoicing. We noted that suffering, disappointment, and guilt can rob us of a connection with God that nourishes our souls […]
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (NRSV) This is an […]
This week, we are going to explore the implications of Alexander Pruss’s understanding of love for our lives as Christians. The discussion that we had last week about love as union, simplified (and probably oversimplified) though it was, can seem rather arcane. Nevertheless, I think that Pruss’s emphasis on union as an essential property of […]
Anyone who seriously seeks to follow Jesus knows that he or she is called to love. We are called to love God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-31 and parallels). We are called to love those who share our identity as followers of Christ (John 15:1-17, among many other texts). We are called to love our spouses […]
I never met Rev. Billy Graham. I never had the opportunity to observe how he lived or to ask him questions about his theology. And yet, Rev. Graham’s life has had a profound impact on me. I suspect that his death will, too. I was a young adolescent when I attended one of his crusades. […]
It is no secret that public discourse in America has become more tense and less constructive in the last few years. Despite the many voices, particularly in elite circles, calling for tolerance, Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to get along with one another. As a result, people say and do things that drive a […]
Have you ever asked yourself why people grieve so deeply when they lose a child to miscarriage or stillbirth? Have you ever wondered why evangelical Protestants are so scandalized by the practice of elective abortion? Have you ever considered what motivates some people to fly halfway around the world, fight through endless amounts of bureaucratic […]
Twila Paris is one of the people that made contemporary Christian music what it is today. Her music does not get the airplay that it once did, but we should never forget that she was writing worship music for the contemporary church (and trying to do so with theological integrity) long before it was trendy. […]
Professional development is an important but often neglected part of the church leader’s task. Seminary cannot teach us all that we need to know to be good servants and leaders of God’s people, and we need to keep our minds nimble and active as we gain age and experience. It can be difficult for pastors […]
It is not easy to be a public figure, especially one that represents Christ. Whether you are a blogger, a preacher, a professor, or something else, there are innumerable ways that you can sabotage your credibility and bring disrepute upon the God you serve. And it doesn’t matter whether your audience is made up of […]
January 16, 2017 was supposed to be a day full of joy and anticipation. It turned out to be the worst day of my life. On that day, my wife and I were going to the doctor. We were not supposed to be able to have children, and, due to our advanced age and the […]
2017 is a part of history. 2018 is now a reality. 2017 was a difficult year for the church in the United States, but rather than focusing on the past, I would like to use this space to turn our attention to the future. I love the church, and I want to see it succeed. […]
Throughout December, we have been reflecting upon the advent of Jesus. Today, we turn our attention to the Gospel of John. Like Mark’s Gospel, John does not contain a so-called “infancy narrative.” Instead, the Fourth Gospel opens with a prologue that explains who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish. John’s prologue is much […]
During the month of December, we are reflecting upon the coming of Jesus into the world. We are using the four Gospels to guide our reflections. This week, we turn our attention to the Gospel of Luke. Luke provides us with ample material for contemplation. His infancy narrative is longer than Matthew’s, and it has […]
Last week, we used the Gospel of Mark to help us reflect upon the significance of Jesus’ coming into the world. This week, we turn our attention to the Gospel of Matthew. It contains one of two so-called infancy narratives in the New Testament. Although Matthew’s telling of the birth story is shorter and less […]
We are entering the season that the church has historically called “Advent.” It is a time when Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus on earth. It is also a time when Christians reflect upon the significance of his coming for humanity. Over the next four weeks, we will take part in this time-honored activity. Each […]
The Indispensable Role of Discipleship Two objections could be offered to the ideas that we discussed last week. First, it could be objected that the criteria that I proposed are irrevocably Christian in their character and therefore are of no use for the pluralistic society in which we live. To the first part of this […]
Establishing a Christian Legal Framework for Sexual Behavior As Christians, we have a unique contribution that we can make to conversations about sexual ethics. As we reflect upon our sacred texts, we recognize that we do not depend upon a single criterion to shape our behavior and evaluate the conduct of others. Rather, Scripture has […]
Setting Out Our Task: A Foundational Question Last week, I argued that recommitting ourselves to a genuinely Christian sexual ethic is one way that we can bless those who have been impacted by sexual assault and sexual harassment. Constructing a comprehensive accounting of that ethic is a bigger task than what we can do on […]
Last month, a movement emerged on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Women (and men) who have been the victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment posted “me too” in their various feeds. The post was a way to draw attention to the large number of people who have been victimized in this way, […]
Five hundred years ago today, Martin Luther set in motion a series of events that would eventually be known as the Protestant Reformation. It is a momentous event in the history of Christianity, and its implications extend far beyond the narrow confines of ecclesiastical affairs. Reflecting Upon the Reformation Martin Luther was not a perfect […]
Sometimes, I just don’t understand American Catholics. It is clear that many of them care deeply about their church, but it is also clear that many of them are determined to shape it to suit their own tastes. They demonstrate this desire by consistently disregarding the Church’s teachings on controversial topics, but sometimes they also […]
I am a member of Generation X. People do not talk about us very much anymore. After all, the Millennials are much more numerous, and the Digitals (many people call them Generation Z or the iGeneration) are the newest, hottest thing. But twenty years ago, all the buzz was about us. Many of us grew […]
Last week, I shared with you some practices that I have found to be helpful as I work to combat the sin in my life. Today, I would like to continue that conversation. There are some other things that I have learned about the war against sin, and I would like to share them with […]
Did you know that biblical scholars sin? Holiness is not automatic for anyone. We have to learn how to not sin—just like anyone else who wants to be a follower of Jesus. And sometimes the task is much more difficult than we would like to admit. In today’s post, I want to share with you […]
It has been longer than I care to admit since I was an adolescent. But I still remember that the kids in my youth group were consumed with a single question. “How physical can I get with my boyfriend/girlfirend?” The workers in my church had explained that premarital sexual intercourse is not permitted for those […]
Last week, I argued that theological education is both a biblical and a practical endeavor. This week, I would like to enumerate some of the benefits of theological education. As usual, you are welcome to add your own ideas in the “Comments” section below. Benefits for Members of the Clergy Theological education is required by […]
North Texas Giving Day is fast approaching, and there are more needs this year than ever before. So why should you give your hard-earned dollars to an institution of theological education like B. H. Carroll? Does theological education matter? If you are looking for suspense or surprises, this probably isn’t the blog for you. I […]
Last week, we talked about the fact that churches (especially white, conservative churches) need to address the rising tide of white nationalism. As we continue to reflect upon the violence that occurred in Charlottesville last month, our primary focus should remain on the difficult issues related to race and American life. Nevertheless, I think that […]
The events that rocked Charlottesville, Virginia this month, and the deep and abiding tensions that they exposed, have dominated the national consciousness in recent weeks. After everything that our country has been through in the last two or three years, the last thing we needed was an outpouring of race-based hatred in a public venue […]
Last week, we talked about three misconceptions that people often have about God. We said that seeing God as a cosmic watchmaker, a doting parent, or a cosmic avenger can do significant spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and moral harm to people. That is because how we view God inevitably affects how we view ourselves and how […]
What do we believe about God? It is a question that defines who we are as Christians. It establishes the boundary markers between us and the adherents of other religions and philosophies. It provides a touchstone for our thinking about a wide range of other issues. Our understanding of God, however, does more than clarify […]
As theologians and pastors, we have a responsibility to care about the content of songs that our churches use in worship. According to psychologist Jim Wilder, music has the power to impact parts of our brain that are usually non-verbal. Those parts control our emotions and give us the ability to express ourselves artistically, but […]
All my life, I have heard people say that you will never regret doing the right thing. But is that really true? Does everyone look back on the good decisions that they have made with unmingled satisfaction? Or do we sometimes wish that things could have been different? I know how I would have to […]
Reading the Bible through the Lens of Desire In the next couple of weeks, we will return to the series “Theology in a New Key.” Today, I want to ask you a question. Have you ever wanted something so badly that you began to see it everywhere you looked? Your desire for a specific thing, […]
Self-esteem is one of the most powerful “felt needs” in contemporary North American culture. Young women, in particular, feel enormous pressure to both stand out and fit in, and the pressure to conform to such contradictory expectations can be debilitating. It is no wonder that many young women (and, for that matter, young men) just […]
Graham Kendrick’s “Knowing You, Jesus” is one of the most theologically sound worship songs to come out in the last twenty-five years. It may be one of the most theologically sound worship songs ever written. The first verse constitutes an expression of comprehensive repentance, and the rest of the song explains why such a complete […]
Pain That Lasts Chronic emotional distress is different than anything else we face as humans. Whether it is caused by the loss of a job, the breakup of a marriage, the onset of a disease, or the death of a dream, it presents unique emotional and spiritual challenges to the follower of Jesus. A lot […]
Natalie Grant’s song “Held” (written by Christa Nicole Wells) has always held a special place in my heart. In this haunting ballad, Grant takes her listeners inside the agonizing emotional and spiritual struggles that accompany loss. It opens with the following punch to our collective solar plexus. Two months is too little They let him […]
“Through the eyes of men it seems there’s so much we have lost As we look down the road where all the prodigals have walked One by one the Enemy has whispered lies And led them off as slaves” It is so hard to be committed to the gospel sometimes. Every day, we watch relatives, […]
Series Introduction What do you think of when you think of contemporary religious music? Perhaps you think of elaborate concerts staged in large arenas. Perhaps you think of worship songs that are sung by churches around the world. Perhaps you think of the money that artists raise for charities like Compassion International or World Vision. […]
I have wanted to write a blog post about singleness in the Christian life for a long time. I believe in marriage; indeed, I think that the church overemphasized celibacy in its early and medieval periods. Nevertheless, I have a special place in my heart for single people—and especially for single ministers. I was one […]
The Bible and the Extended Family Over the last few weeks, we have been talking about trends in American family life. Most of what we talked about focused on the nuclear family, but it got me thinking about extended families—and, more specifically, about their role in the Bible. In the United States, our households tend […]
Last week, we talked about cohabitation, and, in particular, we talked about it in the context of its effects on children. We need to be clear that the Bible is not a book about raising children. Even the most famous verse about the subject (Proverbs 22:6) is likely mistranslated. Other famous texts (cf. Exodus 20:12 […]
A few weeks ago, Christianity Today publicized recent research on the effects of cohabitation on children. The research, conducted by scholars at major secular universities in the United States, argued that as cohabitation rates rise, the lives of children became more unstable. And this is true, according to the researchers, regardless of whether cohabitation is […]
Today’s blog is the first installment in a series on issues related to the family. Over the next few weeks, we are going to talk about divorce, cohabitation, children, extended families, and singleness. The posts will by no means be exhaustive. Rather, they are intended to spark reflection and conversation among members of the Carroll […]
Battered and Bruised I am a grizzled veteran of “the culture wars.” In the old days, it was (supposedly) easy to tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Participants in the political process could be plotted along a simple spectrum, with conservatives and liberals at opposite ends and moderates in […]
The women went out and fled from the tomb, for they were trembling and confused. They did not say anything to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:8 Triumphant Epic or Human Tragedy? From our perspective, the resurrection can feel like one of those grand epics presented in cinematic form. The first inkling that all […]
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, so that he might deliver us from this present, evil age according to the will of our God and Father, to him be glory forever and ever, Amen. Galatians 1:3-5 Doom and Gloom Many moons […]
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9 What kind of person are you? Are you someone who fosters healthy relationships, or does conflict seem to follow you wherever you go? Do people feel better about themselves and their circles of relationships for having known you, or do they […]
Worship in Action Many years ago, a group of us from the seminary I attended went to a huge, outdoor Christian concert. We got there early, so we had a great view of the stage. We were excited. It was going to be a fantastic day. The only fly in the ointment was the teenagers […]
When most people think of Lent, they probably think of its role in helping people confess and renounce sin. The self-denial that is inherent in how many Christian groups practice this part of the liturgical calendar is a perfect mechanism for helping people come to terms with their sinfulness. I am convinced, however, that if […]
Lent has begun, and we here at the B. H. Carroll Theological Institute are commemorating the occasion both in our private devotion to Jesus and in our life together as an academic community. But why? After all, Lent is nowhere prescribed for us in Scripture; in fact, Paul warns us about observing “days, months, seasons, […]
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Genesis 2:23 NRSV When you see your spouse—or any member of the opposite sex, for that matter—what do you see? The answer may not […]
Several weeks ago, a pastor here in the Fort Worth area was relieved of his duties because he had viewed “inappropriate images” on his office computer. This kind of thing happens a lot. Those of us who have been around church-work for a while remember high-profile cases like Jimmy Swaggart, but for every one that […]
Marriage should be seen as precious by everyone, and the marriage bed should be kept pure. For God will judge adulterers and fornicators. Hebrews 13:4 The writer of Hebrews has given us an important command. And, yet, it is one that is often difficult to put into practice. Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but it is—even […]
For more than two months, we have been wrestling with the question, “What must I do to be saved?” We have looked at texts that are sometimes ignored when people think about soteriology, and we have tried to understand how these texts might enrich our understanding of the salvation process. There is certainly more work […]
In a previous blog, I mentioned that American Christians in the twentieth century expended a lot of time and effort to mass-market the gospel. They sought to boil the message of the New Testament down to its essence so that it could be more easily digested by people who had little or no acquaintance with […]
For the last three weeks, we have been using the Greatest Commandment as a jumping-off point for our discussions of salvation in the New Testament. Now we need to turn our attention to other voices from the soteriological margins. Today, we will be considering the relationship between certain concrete actions which believers are commanded to […]
For the last couple of weeks, we have been talking about the fact that love for God and love for neighbor are somehow related to the acquisition of salvation. This week, we need to talk a little more explicitly about the nature of this relationship. We will begin by reminding ourselves of the other elements […]
Now one of the experts in the Torah came up and heard them arguing. Seeing that Jesus had answered them well, he asked, “Which commandment is the most important of them all?” Jesus replied, “The most important is, ‘Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God […]
Sermon Surprise I’ll never forget it. It was a Sunday morning during the autumn of 2014. My wife and I were worshipping with a church associated with the Acts 29 Network. As an aside in his sermon, the pastor noted that he does not understand evangelicals in the southern United States. So many of them, […]
But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV) 16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, […]
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the […]
Why the Old Testament? So where should we begin our discussion of biblical soteriology? It isn’t a trivial question, for if there is one good thing that postmodernity has taught us, it is that where we begin will have a disproportionate influence on where we end up. I would like to make two proposals on […]
Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation. It has arguably been the dominant doctrinal concern for Protestant Christians over the past 500 years. One side of the soteriological equation deals with how God made it possible for people to be saved. It asks questions like “Why do humans need to be saved in […]
Have you ever tried to imagine what it will be like when Christ returns and all things are made new? The Bible talks a lot about the fact that Christ will return and that all things will be made new, but it does not tell us a lot about how these things will take place. […]
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4 (NIV 1984) Last week, we said that we can and should rejoice because of what Jesus has done for us, and we also learned that this rejoicing can take place even […]
“Always rejoice in the Lord; I will say it again–Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 We are often told as Christians that we are supposed to have joy. But what does that mean? How can we be joyful when there is so much suffering in the world (to say nothing of the pain in our own hearts)? It […]
Recently, David French published an essay in National Review Online about the recent politicization of sports. He argues that sports is the only “neutral” ground where Americans of all political points of view can come together, set aside their disagreements and bond with one another. Recent protests and boycotts, however, have undermined the effectiveness of […]
Creating a just society is always a challenge. It seems to be even more so in the present political and social climate. Animosity between ethnic minorities and law enforcement has long been a fact of life in America’s urban centers, but that animosity has recently flowered into open conflict. So what can the church do […]
I’m so confused I know I heard you loud and clear So, I followed through Somehow I ended up here I don’t wanna think I may never understand That my broken heart is a part of your plan When I try to pray All I’ve got is hurt and these four words “Thy will be […]
Last week, we discussed the contributions that Christian eschatology can make to pastoral care. This week, I would like to offer a couple of cautions for those who would like to use Christian eschatology as a tool in their pastoral ministry. As we noted last week, comments are welcome, especially from mental health professionals and experienced providers […]
Last week, we discussed the implications of Christian eschatology for discipleship. For the next couple of weeks, I would like for us to discuss the ways in which Christian eschatology can be useful for pastoral care. In today’s post, I describe four contributions that Christian eschatology can make to pastoral care. Next week, I will […]
Theological education is really important. It prepares ministers, missionaries, counselors, and other Christian workers for a life of service to Christ and his church. And, when it is done right, it can be an intellectually and emotionally fulfilling experience. So, how do you get the most out of your theological education? The obvious answer is to choose the […]
Last week, we talked about Bible study resources that everyone can use. This week, I want to talk about resources that ministry professionals might find especially useful. Please add your comments to the conversation if you have found specific resources to be especially helpful. Bible Software Computer software can be a powerful tool for the […]
Effective Bible study is essential for good discipleship. It teaches us what we should believe and who we should become. It provides the raw material that the Holy Spirit uses to build our understanding of mission and vision. And it is something that everyone can do. In order to study the Bible well, we need to use the […]
Scripture and Experience Last week, we talked about how we view God’s goals in interacting with humanity. I argued that the gospel is not about offering us a more successful version of the life we already have. It is (among other things) about offering us a new life. There is another side of this matter to consider, […]
A friend of mine once described herself as “an Old Testament Christian.” What she meant was immediately obvious; the mechanisms and results of devotion to God in the Old Testament were much more attractive to her than those in the New Testament. Only later did I realize that she was not alone. Reading the Christian Story from […]
On June 12, 2016, a man walked into a nightclub in Orlando, Florida known for its LGBTQ clientele. Over the next three hours, he perpetrated the largest mass killing in modern American history. Preliminary reports indicated that he committed this atrocity because he was offended by public displays of gay affection—acts that he undoubtedly believed were an […]
Last week, we discussed the need to focus our lives on building God’s kingdom and pursuing God’s righteousness. We noted that both abundance and need can distract us from this focus, and I shared some of my own struggles to maintain focus in the midst of the exigencies of life. This week, I would like […]
But seek God’s Kingdom first, along with His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you. Matthew 6:33, my translation Those of us who grew up in the church have heard this snippet of Jesus’ preaching all of our lives. We memorized it when we were children. We sang it when we were adolescents. Some of […]
I heard Nicole Nordeman’s beautiful ballad “I Am” the other day. It wasn’t the first time I had heard it; her tender reflections upon the many and varied phases of life have always struck a chord deep in my soul. But this time was different. Her dulcet tones were like angel’s wings, bearing a message straight from the […]
Two weeks ago, we used Psalm 137 to talk about those times when we desperately need God’s help and yet no help seems to come. Last week, we used Exodus 33-34 to talk about those times when we doubt God’s care for us. These can be very different experiences, but what they have in common […]
A Season of Doubt Brennan Manning once said that Christ will ask us only one question when he comes to judge the living and the dead. “Did you believe that I loved you?” I am not sure that I agree with his eschatology. Nevertheless, the question haunts me. Like everyone else, I sometimes wonder if I ever make God happy. Some days, […]
Discontinuity between Worship and Experience Every Sunday, in churches around the world, Christians sing words like these: My foes are many, they rise against me But I will hold my ground I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm My help is on the way, my help is on the […]
Reflections on the Fall of Tullian Tchividjian Have you been following the saga of Tullian Tchividjian? He is a grandson of Rev. Billy Graham and a Presbyterian minister. He lost a prominent pastorate in Florida after admitting to having an affair, and he lost another ministry position after admitting a previous affair. (Click here for the latest on this story […]
Lighting a Flame The first serious Christian book I ever read was John Stott’s The Contemporary Christian. In it, Stott argued that Christians had a responsibility to bridge the gap between the Word of God and the contemporary world. It probably sounds basic to you, but for a teenage boy in rural Arkansas who had never heard […]
Last week, we discovered that anyone who wants to take the Bible seriously must confront a number of important questions. We learned that there is a great deal of cultural distance between us and the text, and we learned that the Bible does not address (at least explicitly) some of the most important issues of our […]
Several weeks ago, Rodney Reeves—dean of Southwest Baptist University’s Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry and author of the forthcoming Story of God Bible Commentary on Matthew—published a blog in which he lamented the status afforded to Christian Scripture by the contemporary church. It is no wonder that this master of pulpit and lectern has become so discouraged. Everything in the body […]
Christian Eschatology and Discipleship From Theological Reflection to Practical Life Over the last couple of weeks, I have described the Christian vision of things to come in terms of the healing that it will bring to people and to their relationships. My aim has been to imbue our understanding of what God will accomplish […]
Christian Eschatology and Relational Healing Is Heaven a Barbecue Joint? A few weeks ago, I was watching an old episode of the Travel Channel series Food Paradise. A robust man from the southern United States was sitting at a table eating ribs. He described the restaurant where he was eating as “heaven” because of the quantity […]
My Obsession with The Lord of the Rings I almost never watch a movie more than once. I know; that makes me a weirdo, but I don’t care. Whenever I watch a movie (which happens more and more infrequently as I get older), I cannot help but live the story that is being told. […]
Integrating the Various Strands of a Comprehensive Bible Reading Strategy Series Conclusion Thank you for joining us here on the Carroll Blog over the past few weeks as we have discussed different ways to read the Bible. This week, I want us to talk briefly about how the three reading strategies that I have laid […]
Reading the Bible for Insight, Encouragement, and/or Guidance (Devotional Reading) For the past few weeks, we here at the Carroll Blog have been discussing different ways to read the Bible. Last week, we talked about reading the Bible for doctrinal understanding. This week, we are talking about reading the Bible for insight, encouragement, and guidance. […]
Reading the Bible to Discern Its Meaning (Bible Study) On the Carroll Blog, we are currently in the middle of a five-week conversation about reading the Bible. Last week, we talked about reading the Bible for content acquisition. This week, we are focusing our attention on dedicated study of the Bible. Purpose Sometimes, we read […]
Reading the Bible for Content Acquisition Here on the Carroll Blog, we are discussing ways to implement a comprehensive Bible reading program. As I noted on last week’s blog, there are different ways to read the Bible. We need to implement each of these reading strategies if we are going to get everything out of […]
A Comprehensive Approach to Reading the Bible Series Introduction Most of us who have embarked on the journey that is Christian discipleship have—at one time or another—been told that we need to read the Bible regularly. Older and wiser disciples have urged us to immerse ourselves in the grand story of God’s redemptive activity, arguing […]