Bible, Theology

A Missing Emphasis in the Doctrine of Election

June 29, 2019

There are few topics quite like the doctrine of election that will split Christians into differing tribes. Introduce the topics of predestination, foreknowledge, and election on social media and the comment section will be populated even before you hit refresh. Sadly, this doctrine has often been the great dividing marker between the two proposed camps—Calvinism and Arminianism. While the doctrine of election has caused division of the years, both historically in the church and personally in my life, I believe that there is a missing emphasis in both camps. Regardless of where you land on this topic, I believe we can both learn a great deal from one of the greatest, albeit, unknown to many Christians, 20th century theologians and missiologists of our day—Lesslie Newbigin.

Before we get to Newbigin, I want to touch briefly on the nature of doctrine and the disparity on how things are systematized and communicated outside of the Bible. My exposure to the doctrine of election was through R.C. Sproul, who I owe a great deal of my early theological acumen to. Sproul lead me to the many of the great works I have come to cherish over the years: the Westminster Confession, Reformed Dogmatics by Bavinck, various Systematic Theologies, and a handful of others. Reflecting back upon my introduction to this doctrine (and in my camp, the Reformed faith), I have now come to realize the way in which this doctrine (and many others) was presented to me was not incorrect doctrinally, but rather incorrect in mode. In other words, the way in which the doctrine was described was foreign from the way the Bible actually dealt with the doctrine.

The Communication Problem of Theology

Theology is often painted as being cold, heady, and merely intellectual; and if we were to crack open Hodge’s Systematic Theology, sadly, you may find the accusations warranted. This is not to say that there is not much to cherish there, it is simply to say that theology often done in a systematic way does not engage the doctrines as the Bible often does—through story, drama, and historical narrative. In this case, election was always presented to be in this cold manner: God chooses some and doesn’t choose others, based upon his sheer foreknowledge, grace, and sovereignty. As soon as one states their position, debates roar, heels get dug in, and rarely, if ever, does fruitful conversation follow. How can we avoid the traps of describing a doctrine, that is so beautiful, without getting into endless debates that seem to harden rather than soften positions?

Cue Lesslie Newbigin, who will have no problem demonstrating that the way Westerners often discuss the doctrine of election is through individualism and pragmatism, rather than through the biblical storyline. If you were to ask an aspiring theologian (someone like myself in college, who had merely read the popular level writings of Sproul and Packer) where they turn to defend their doctrine of election, many would either go to Romans 9 or Ephesians 1. Do these passages speak to election? Absolutely. But if we jump straight there, we miss one of the most crucial texts for understanding election and its purpose in the world: Genesis 12.

Genesis 12: A Missional Doctrine of Election

In this passage, God calls a man named Abram to flee his country to the land that the Lord will show him. This is the beginning of the election or the calling of a people, namely, the nation of Israel. God has selected one man and one family from all the face of the earth as his chosen vessel. Now, the way in which we discuss election, the conversation may lead to various rabbit trails. Why did he choose Abram and not another family in the Ancient Near East? Should they have not have the choice to respond? Is it fair?

While the questions are perhaps warranted, the biblical storyline is not interested in answering the questions. Rather, Genesis 12 is going to answer the question we aren’t asking: What is God’s purpose in electing Abram? The answer comes in verse 2—Abram was chosen not so the blessing of election may terminate on his family, but may extend to the whole world. In other words, to use the biblical langue, he was blessed in order to be a blessing. Election (and salvation for that matter) is often extracted from the purpose and the biblical storyline and is reduced to merely discussions about who God chooses and who he doesn’t. Here is where Newbigin is so helpful:

“Too often election is understood strictly in terms of its benefits and the blessings of God’s salvation. Election, in this misunderstanding, is only for privilege and not for responsibility; election is so that the people of God might enjoy salvation, not be a means of salvation for the world.” –

Newbigin, Household of God, 111, emphasis mine.

You see, for Newbigin, election is not merely for the individual/family, it is also for the purpose of bringing the blessing of God to the rest of the world. Election then is directly tied to mission. And what is this mission? Newbigin would describe the mission of God nothing less than the cosmic renewal of all creation (for Newbigin, renewal could also be interchanged with salvation):

“The only way of proceeding in reveling and accomplishing the cosmic and corporate salvation of the end is by choosing a community to be the nucleus of his renewing work. God begins with some community, knits them back together, and restores the creational relationships fractured in the fall. He begins with a reconciled community and then incorporates others from outside into this community. In short, God’s people have been chosen to be reconciled to God, to each other, and to the nonhuman creation and to draw others into that reconciliation.”

Goheen, The Church and its Vocation, 31.

Therefore, the doctrine of election is not some cold, static, and distant doctrine where God simply chooses some and leaves others. Election is about the reconciliation of a people that are now given a mission to invite and call others into that community, which has its final goal in the restoration of all things. Again, Goheen notes ,”A missionary doctrine of election understands that God’s choice of a people is not simply for the town sake but also for the sake of the world.” Therefore, to be one of the elect—to be a Christian—is to be incorporated into the mission of God and to “bear God’s reconciling purpose for his whole world.”

This is what I think Paul had in mind when he wrote, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Paul was able to endure hardships and suffering so that those outside the fold of God may be welcomed into the reconciliation offered by the death and resurrection of Jesus. For Paul, he may never have known who the elect were, but he knew that God would use his life (and the life of the church) to bring about the fulfillment of the cosmic salvation that he purposed.

Therefore, in this way, the biblical storyline informs and undergirds our doctrine of election. It is not merely about the choice of God—it is also about the purpose of God in election—bringing about the restoration, renewal, and shalom to the entire earth that the elect currently experience.

Bible, Theology

Why Sometimes a Literal Translation Is Not Sufficient

June 24, 2019

The preservation of the biblical text is a tenant of orthodox Christianity. Since the Bible was written not in English but in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, scholars have often wrestled with how to translate the biblical text in a way that is both faithful to the original while at the same time communicating relevantly to its audience. Regardless whether one is translating a biblical text or a non-biblical text, translation is an incredibly difficult task. We are all aware that certain languages have particular phrases, idioms, and word pictures that are simply hard to translate, despite the translators best attempts.

In the English language, we are privileged with several excellent translations, such as the English Standard Version (ESV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the New International Version (NIV), and several others. These translations are often considered literal translations, or, more specifically, formal-equivalence translations, by which translators attempt to translate each word in the original language to an equivalent word in the English language. A different translation method is called the dynamic-equivalence approach, which seeks to message/meaning of the original language into equivalent modern English. For conservative evangelicals, we tend to pride ourselves on choosing and reading translations that are deemed literal, implying the preservation of the very words of the original.

Yet, the reality is that while often we are forced to choose between the two translation methods—because of the complexity of translation work—both approaches are actually appropriate in certain circumstances. In other words, there are instances when a literal translation, while correct in theory, is not sufficient in actually communicating the original meaning.

Luke 22:31-32: A Case Study

An analysis of Luke 22:31-32 shows this premise in action. Consider the rendering that the King James Version (KJV) puts forth:

31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Now, look at the way the ESV translate the verse, which is the translation I often use:

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Now, a comparative reading of the two texts would seem that both are virtually identical, except for the updated language in the ESV; but there are some difficulties with the ESV’s rendering. You see, the King James was written in a time in which English speakers still used the second plural form (you) and a second singular form (thy/thine), which means that the KJV can actually translate the text in a more accurate manner. You will notice in the KJV’s translation, the you (ὑμᾶς) is plural in verse 31, whereas in verse 32, Jesus begins to address Peter specifically with thee, thy and thou (σοῦ). If you read again the ESV’s translation, you will notice that in English, both verse 31 and 32 simply read “you.” While this technically is the literal translation (since we don’t have a plural you in modern English, unless your from the South and you use “y’all”), it is not sufficient for the intended meaning of the text. In this way, the formal-equivalence method fails us.

Turning to a different translation, we notice that the NIV actually captures the original meaning of the text through the latter approach (the dynamic-equivalence method):

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

You will notice that the NIV appropriately captures the meaning of the text by translating the plural “you” in verse 31 with “all of you,” while translating the singular “you” in verse 32 with “you” and “your.” Proponents of literal translation may fault the NIV for adding words into the text since the words “all” are not in the text. Yet, the evidence suggests that the NIV is actually more faithful in rendering the intended meaning of the Greek. In this way, literal biblical translations, while helpful in many scenarios, are also unhelpful in other scenarios.

Book Review, Books

Book Review: 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy

May 18, 2019

Originally published in Presbyterion Journal, Volume XLV, Number 1.

I remember hiking the mountains of Northwestern Wyoming and sitting awestruck at the vistas of God’s creation—mountains, lakes, trees, wildlife, and fresh, crisp, mountain air. Few places can arouse such feelings of awe and transcendence in my body than trapped deep in the forests west of the Mississippi river. I remember at one point, resting at a lake, with dozens of mountains shooting up like pipes of an organ, and simply thinking, “How could anyone ever capture the beauty and complexity of a view like this?” The shades of purple, brown, green, and white on the mountains, the ripples in the water, the craggy peeks, and the sense of isolation and trepidation that is formed only when staring at something so unique that appears to belong only in fiction novels. A similar feeling rushed over me when I picked up John Piper’s latest book, 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy: Faithful, Flawed, and Fruitful. How can one book contain the depth, complexity, and assiduity of these mountain of men? How can one book contain the lives and stories of people like Owen, Spurgeon, Augustine, Calvin, and Tyndale, and not trickle off into thousands of pages? While the book will not give you a comprehensive picture of each person, Piper has presented some of the most key historical figures in Christian history in suitable space, drawing out the unique contributions and themes present within each person’s life.

 A theme that unites the entire book surrounds a story concerning Augustine and his passing of the baton to Eraclius, his assistant in the ministry. When Eraclius stood to preach at the transference ceremony, he felt a sense of inadequacy and proclaimed, “The cricket chirps, the swan is silent”,[1]with Augustine as the swan. As Piper points out, “[f]or 1600 years, Augustine has not been silent,” deeming him the great theologian who “shaped the history of the Christian church.”[2]Therefore, as Augustine has influenced many of the Christian leaders, it is fitting that Piper would begin his work with the swan himself.

Structurally, Piper’s book is divided into seven sections surrounding a particular theme.  These sections include three historical figures in each division. Each section has its own introduction and conclusion which provides an overview of the theme that Piper will draw out from the historical figures. For example, section four is devoted to Athanasius, Owen, and Machen, which are all read through the lens of orthodoxy amidst controversy. In this way, Piper can deal with the characters not in full but with a particular emphasis in mind. Lastly, Piper does an excellent job of blending in quotes (sometimes, quite lengthy) from the authors while at the same time adding commentary of his own. You really get the sense that you are reading both Piper and the character he is describing.

Those familiar with Piper’s writing will find that this work is similar in language to his others—saturated with language surrounding God’s glory, our joy, and the doctrines of grace present within the Scriptures. While you will certainly be learning about some of the main influences in Christian history, you will also be drawn to worship the God that these figures worshipped. The book does not simply recount facts—rather, it shows, with rich theology, the God in whom some of these men found worth dying for. You will read of men whose works will fill the best libraries, whose tales will inspire the next missionaries, whose humility will soften the proudest heart—and they will do so all surrounding one subject: the glorious Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

When discussing history, it is all too easy to worship our heroes’ strengths and to minimize their failures, perhaps even rarely discussing them. Piper does not fall prey into this temptation. Again and again, the figures are exposed for what they are: humans that are desperate sinners in need of grace, who at times make terrible mistakes. When reading the accounts of these men, although their influence seems so unattainable for more us, you are actually drawn more into the humanity of these men. From Calvin’s scandal with Michael Servetus to Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic comments, Piper presents the men in their true colors, faithful and flawed. Furthermore, you are also given glimpses of the humanity of these mountain of men—John Owen who suffered the loss of eleven children and his wife, David Brainard’s physical afflictions, William Cowper’s depression, and William Tyndale’s immense persecution. The men that we study are not so distant that they cannot relate, for they all have the blood of Adam running in their veins like us. 

While some may be intimidated by the size of this book, I found myself captivated by the stories of these men who have walked before us. I remember planning one night to devote thirty minutes to this book and wound up reading two hours on accident; I simply could not put the book down. I was drawn into the lives of these men who knew God in a way that almost seems foreign to modern day evangelicalism. With every story, I was a fly on the wall in the execution of Tyndale, the preaching of Whitfield, and the pipe smoking of Lewis. Those who are fearful to pick up this book due to the size will be pleasantly surprised that not only is it incredibly readable, it is highly engaging. 

For those looking for an introduction book surrounding some of the key figures of Christian history, I would heartedly recommend John Piper’s new book, 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy. Again, the book will not give you mastery of each person, but it will give you a comprehensive picture of their lives. Perhaps one of the best things you could do this year is read about the way God has been faithful in preserving the writings and stories of men like these. You may find that as you discover more about our Christian heritage, you will be amazed at how merciful and gracious, transcendence and sovereign, beautiful and stunning that our God truly is. 


[1]John Piper, 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy: Faithful, Flawed, and Fruitful (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2018), 17.

[2]Ibid., 17-18.

Theology

The Incommunicable Attributes

December 31, 2018

To utter the word theology will arouse various feelings, thoughts, and reactions from different people; some will absolutely love the study of theology, others will cringe at the thought of theology. At times, students of the Bible can elevate theology and in the end loose doxology (worship); at other times, students of the Bible can elevate doxology and loose theology (drifting into idolatry). In the end, theology is incredibly important for our worship in order that we may praise God correctly and appropriately.

For some time now, I have noticed that the average church-goer does not seem to have an interest in theology. It is seen to be an area of study for pastors, missionaries, seminary students, or perhaps even “serious Christians.” In reality, all Christians, regardless of vocation or maturity, would benefit from the study of theology, since within the subject itself elevates our view of God. Perhaps the problem is more with the term than the subject. Regardless of the issue, my hope is to expose Christians to more fundamental theological concepts in short articles. The following is my attempt to present salient theological topics in a digestible yet satisfactory manner.

THE INCOMMUNICABLE ATTRIBUTES

In theology proper (the doctrine of God, i.e. the study of God himself and his works), scholars spend significant space on the attributes of God, which are various properties in which God simply is. In other words, God does not have love, he is love. Within the attributes of God, theologians distinguish between the incommunicable and the communicable attributes; the former referring to the properties that belong to God alone (omniscience, transcendence, etc)—the latter referring to the properties that we possess, at least to some degree, vis-à-vis as a creature of God made in his image.1 For this article, we will discover what the incommunicable attributes are and how theologians categorize them.

When considering who God is, we have to recognize that we are completely unlike God. God is the first cause of all things, wholly self-sufficient in himself, is existent within himself, and is entirely unable to change or be changed. Herman Bavinck, writing in Reformed Dogmatics, notes, “God has a free, independent existence and life of his own that is distinct from all creatures.” 2

God alone bears his own names in which he shares with no one—YHWH being the supreme in this example.3. YHWH is the one who was, who is, and who will always be. In other words, God has no variation or change even in the slightest degree—he is wholly independent within himself. Again, Bavinck summarizes it well, “Thus, being all-sufficient in himself and not receiving anything from outside of himself, he is, by contrast, the only source of all existence and life, of all light and love, the overflowing fountain of all good.”4 After being redeemed out of Egypt, Moses sings, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?” The answer: no one!

If you were to open a systematic theology book, you will discover that scholars tend to present the incommunicable attributes under distinct headings:

The Self-Existence of God

God is self-existence in the sense that his existence is not tied to anyone or anything but rather in himself. Therefore, there has never been a time in which God has not been—he always was, is, and will be. “God is self-existent, that is, He has the ground of His existence in Himself.”5 God is the uncaused being—one who exists wholly by himself by no causation. “All that God is, he is of himself.”6

The Immutability of God

God is entirely consistent in his character, ways, actions, and purposes: “it is that perfection of God by which He is devoid of all change, not only in His being, but also in his perfections, and in his purposes and promises.” 7 According to Bavinck, God can not and will not change: “If God were not immutable, he would not be God.” 8

The Infinity of God

The infinity of God is the perfection in which he is completely free from all limitations or hindrances. To say that God is infinite is another way of saying that God is eternal.9 God is also not confined to space, meaning that God is everywhere—no one can hide from him. The Lord alone is the creator, the possessor of heaven and earth, the Lord of all creation, in whom we all live and move and have our being, 10 as the Psalmist proclaims:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

– Psalm 139:7-9


The Unity of God

The last incommunicable attribute theologians describe is the unity of God, which is often differentiated in the unity of singularity and the unity of simplicity. 11 When I say that God has unity (or oneness) in singularity, I mean that there is only one divine being, and having the virtue of divine nature, there cannot be more than one God. Therefore, every other being derives its existence from him, through him, and to him. In other words, God alone is unique and shares his divinity with no one.

The unity of simplicity argues that God is not collection of composite parts but is simple (or one). The simplicity of God “contends that the first cause of all being [God alone] must be simple for the straightforward reason that complex or compound things depend upon parts that are more fundamental in being than themselves. And nothing is more primary in being than God.”12 In other words, a Boeing 747 is a complex design, made up millions of composite parts that function together to create a powerful airplane. God is simple in the sense that he is not dependent on any other composite parts to function or to be—he simply is within himself. To conclude, Steven Charnock summarizes it well:

God is the most simple being; for that which is first in nature, having nothing beyond it, cannot by any means be thought to be compounded; for whatsoever is so, depends upon the parts whereof it is compounded, and so is not the first being: now God being infinitely simple, hath nothing in himself which is not himself, and therefore cannot will any change in himself, he being his own essence and existence. – Steven Charnock


Bible

Put Down Your Phone

December 21, 2018

This past week I published a post about how smart phones are creating isolation amidst our generation. Over the last week, I have intentionally begun to disengage from my phone. Whether that has been through leaving in my bedroom on my day off or turning it off for the night, the process of disengaging from digital distractions has been immensely helpful. I’d love to share with you some things that God has taught me in the short season of intentionally leaving my phone at home.

MY TIME IN THE WORD WAS SWEETER

There were no Facebook updates, tweets to look at it, e-mails to respond to, text messages to answer – there was the simple Word, waiting to be cherished and delighted in. To be honest, it felt weird in the beginning. There was a spell of anxiousness in my heart as I began to study God’s Word. What if I’m missing something? What if someone is trying to reach me? There I sat, wrestling with doubts of missed conversations on my phone, when I’m missing the ultimate conversation with God through His Word. Silly me.

In another real sense though, I felt free.As I began to read and journal through Colossians chapter 1, I found myself getting lost in the text. I found myself intermingling vocal prayer with vocal scripture reading. I began to feel free from the burden of constant-communication that is 99% of useless and began to feel connected to the King’s voice. I wasn’t bogged down by constant reminders to check the latest message or update, instead, I was pressed in by the Holy Spirit to continue to dive headlong into the mystery of Christ found in Colossians chapter 1.

I WAS MORE ATTENTIVE TO THE BEAUTY OF CREATION

One of the things I missed about living in the Southwest was the beauty of sunsets. Each night, I walk onto my front porch to gaze at God’s handiwork: a mosaic of hues spanning yellow, orange, purple, and blue. As I walked, I worshiped the Lord for the beauty of the sunsets. I marveled at the colors and shades that were to my right. I gazed at the clouds and the sun as it was setting. I looked to my left and I saw the beautiful Organ mountains with clouds rolling over them. My heart was full of adoration of a God who would design such an amazing evening.

I spent a bulk of my time praying and thanking God simply for who He is. There were no requests, there were no demands — just worship, praise and delighting in God. I spent the rest of my time telling my son about the beauty of Jesus and the Gospel. It was a sweet time to rejoice in who God is and His creation.

I SAVORED THE TIME WITH MY FAMILY

It was a wonderful evening to sit down at the dinner table with my wife and just to talk. We talked about what the Lord has been doing in our lives. We talked about the struggles of being parents and we leaned upon God in prayer for strength. We laughed, joked and enjoyed one another. It was simple and wonderful. Afterwards, we read The Jesus Storybook Bible to our sons and prayed for them. Honestly, there was nothing special about the evening — it was a simple evening filled with simple activities but was honestly one of the best nights I’ve had in awhile.

CONCLUSION

I’m going to challenge you to intentionally leave your phone at home the next time you go to dinner with your family or enjoy coffee with a friend. I’m going to challenge you to take a Sabbath rest from technology for the entire day so you can enjoy the beauty of creation and all of the gifts that God has given you. Let us not be bogged down by status updates, new e-mails and constant notifications — let us be a people who knows how to rest well, especially from technology. Let’s leave your phone at home this week.

“Now set your mind and heartto seek the Lord your God.” (1 Chronicles 22:19)

Bible

Isolation

December 18, 2018

AN ISOLATED GENERATION

Have you ever gone out to dinner and seen a whole table of individuals eating but not talking? They aren’t talking because they have nothing to talk about, but because they are all attached to their phones. Have you ever accidentally ran into someone while walking, not because they couldn’t see, but because their device was capturing their attention? This is become the norm in our culture. Everywhere I go, everyone is on their phones doing something. I’m not knocking phones or even technology— I have an iPhone and I love it.

The ironic fact about smart phones and social media is that they were created to increase communication. You now have the ability to connect with people on Facebook you may never have. You can call, text, e-mail or Skype anyone you want to in the entire world. The world of social media wants to connect us through never-ending pictures on Instagram, short-witty tweets on Twitter and the normal-day-life updates of Facebook. Despite the fact that we have so many outlets to connect and reach out to others, most of us are isolated. 

Why? The life of smart phones and social media are consuming us. Instead of looking at that status update for the third time, why don’t you pick your face from the glowing screen and engage with your wife? Instead of browsing the Pinterest board where you are getting home decor ideas that you’ll never actually do, look up from your screen and engage with the world around you. The world of social media screams “Be Connected!”, yet more often than not, it brings more isolation and loneliness when we submit to its call.

A DISTRACTED GENERATION

As believers, I truly believe that social media and smart phones can become a distraction from our walk with Christ. I think the art of waiting for God has become lost on our generation. The mantra of our culture is “Quicker, Faster and Easier!” The mantra of the Bible though is, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Are you being distracted from Christ by the never-ending notifications that call out for your affections? You are not alone in this struggle.

So many times I have caught myself checking the same social media stream for the second and third time to only realize, “Instead of enjoying my life right now, in this moment, I am wasting it by viewing other peoples life.” I’m not surprised though. It’s always easier to check Facebook than engage deeply with my wife because my flesh wants to take the easy way out. My flesh wants to distract me with a thousand little things that don’t really matter so that I may not focus on what truly matters.

THE SOLUTION

Colossians 3:5 states, “Put to deaththerefore what is earthly in you.” If social media and your phone are becoming a distraction from the glory of Christ — put that to death then, brother. Consider turning off your phone on your next Sabbath day. Intentionally leave your phone at home the next time you go to coffee with your husband. Instead of reading Facebook and Instagram when you wake up, read a Psalm and meditate on the glory of God. Do the hard work of conversing with your wife, loving your family and encouraging your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Smart phones and social media are not inherently evil but they can often be distractions away from Christ. Therefore, check your life and see if it is becoming an idol in your heart. My encouragement is to ditch the phone every once in awhile, be freed from the stream of information, plug deeply into community and relish in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just remember, the Psalmist declared, “In your presence is the fullness of joy and at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” It is only for your good that you pursue Christ. For in Christ, there is the fullness of joy — your iPhone can never promise that.

In my next post, I detail the blessings I received from putting down my phone on a consistent basis.

Ministry

Hunt Family Update – Church Planting

September 12, 2018

As many of you know, my family and I moved home to Las Cruces after completing my Masters of Divinity from Covenant Seminary. For the last year, we have been pursuing full-time vocational ministry opportunities around the country. Through much prayer and seeking wisdom from trusted mentors and friends, our family has decided to put down roots in Las Cruces by re-planting Desert Rivers Community Church. Our family is beyond excited to minister again in our hometown with the hope that is only found in the Gospel. Though the road ahead is full of uncertainty and fear, amidst the chaos there is excitement, joy, and dependence upon our God to do great things in our city. Thank you for your prayers, messages, and encouragement along the journey.

A NEW SEASON

For the past three months, the leadership of Desert Rivers has been meeting to discuss some potential changes to the church. After many meetings (many, many meetings!), the leadership of Desert Rivers has decided to transition the Saturday gathering into a launch team model with the explicit purpose of re-planting on a Sunday morning with a new name, mission, and values. Starting the first week of October, Desert Rivers will transition from gathering on Saturdays as an official church to meeting on Sundays as a launch team. This launch team will seek to soak itself in the new name, mission, and values of the church, while also seeking to live missionally, engaging the city with the Gospel. We will continue to gather as a launch team until we have gained enough critical mass to officially  launch publicly on a Sunday morning. Right now, our tentative launch date is September 2019.

Since we will be transition the congregation into a new plant, we have decided to re-write the name, mission, and values of the new church to begin a new season of ministry in Las Cruces. This is not to say that anything was wrong or ineffective with the previous information. It is rather that beginning of a new season calls for fresh vision. Our hope is that the same spirit and culture that was alive in Desert Rivers can be carried into the new church plant.

NAME & MISSION

Name: The name of the new church plant is Coram Deo. Coram Deo is a latin phrase which means “before the face of God.” Our vision behind the name is that we would be people that live our entire lives before the face of God in such a way that the Gospel informs and shapes us spiritually, emotionally, physically, culturally, and socially.

Mission: The mission of the church is the intended goal or purpose of the church. Our mission is: We are a group of transformed disciples who live before the face of God for the glory of Christ and the good of the city.

CONNECT WITH US

If you are interested in learning more about the name, mission, and values of Coram Deo, or would like more information about the church plant, please visit Coram Deo’s website (more updates coming soon). Also, if you would like to receive a newsletter that gives updates, prayer requests, and further information about our gatherings, please fill out the form below.

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Ministry, Seminary

Hunt Family Update – Graduation and Next Steps

May 16, 2018

As many of you know, three years ago my family and I moved to St. Louis to pursue a Masters of Divinity at Covenant Seminary. The last three years have been some of the most fruitful and challenging years. The Lord has been so kind to grow our family in all respects—emotionally, spiritually and physically (with the birth of Owen in October 2016). Throughout our time at Covenant, I have worked on staff as a Church Planting Resident at The Summit, an Acts29 church in O’Fallon, Missouri. Again, the Lord was so kind to provide us such an incredible church to worship and grow in. The staff at The Summit have been an amazing blessing to our family and we are eternally grateful to God what he has done through that place.

Now that I am nearing graduation (two days, to be exact!), many of you have asked what is next for our family. I wanted to write a short blog giving you an update on our family in regards to future ministerial opportunities.

A NEW CHAPTER

For the past eight months, I have been actively pursuing jobs within a ten-hour bubble from home. These positions ranged from Executive Pastor, Associate Pastor, Solo Pastor, Discipleship Pastor, and Lead Pastor. After eight months of diligent search, we are still in the process of interviewing with potential churches throughout the Southwest and West. Since none of these churches are in the final stages, we have decided to return home to Las Cruces to continue the job search while also spending some much needed time resting from full-time school. We plan to move next week and will be in town by the end of May.

After my family moved to St. Louis, I was meditating upon Jesus’ words in Mark 10, where Jesus proclaims that it is a blessing to leave the comfortable in order to follow God’s call on your life. In this season of uncertainty, I am praying that God would grant us the same faith as we walk into a season of instability and unknown. Our hope and security will not found in a stable job or in verifiable next steps, but in the faithfulness and providence of our God, who always cares for his children.

We invite you to pray with us in this season of instability, that God would grant us faith to trust in him, while also for potential ministry jobs in the future. After three years, we are excited to eat green chile, watch a sunset, and connect with old friends and family. See you soon, Las Cruces!

Book Review, Books, Ministry

Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple

May 29, 2017

My bookshelf continues to get larger with books published by Jared C. Wilson simply because his writing is saturated in the finished work of Jesus, grounded biblically in the Scriptures, and in tune with the needs of evangelicalism in North America. Time and time again, Wilson brings you back to the cross of Calvary, inviting you as a fellow brother to bow beneath King Jesus in awe and reverence. This remains true in his new work The Imperfect Disciple as he avoids simple truisms and platitudes, but rather expounds the messy, joyful, frustrating, hopeful journey of following Christ as his disciple. For those struggle with books on discipleship that simply give recipes, tips and helps, I highly recommend you bask in the wisdom of Jared Wilson, being drawn in by his love of Jesus and for the church.

One of my favorite aspects of Wilson’s writing is his ability to engage in real-life scenarios. As a former small-town Pastor, Wilson brings experiences that are common to all of us. Whether that is feeling awkward about giving a friend a tract about the Gospel or sitting by a friend who has cancer, Wilson doesn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty, real-life events that we face all the time. In this respect, Wilson doesn’t narrow discipleship to a program or church-event—it is the life-long call of every Christian to follow Jesus, both with its disappointments and victories.

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Book Review, Books, Ministry

Book Review: God the Son Incarnate

May 27, 2017

Stephen Wellum’s God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ is one of the newest editions to the Foundations of Evangelical Theology set. This lengthy work focuses on Christology specifically, seeking to answer the fundamental yet critical question: who is Jesus Christ? For those new to study of Christology, this book will give you insight into the progression of Christology development; for those who are well versed in the field, Wellum’s work will be a welcomed perspective in evangelical scholarship. As others have noted, Wellum’s strengths are lucid thoughts and coherent arguments which help him fully develop his Christological positions. As a way of summarizing, Wellum provides his own thesis:

“Ultimately, the thesis of this entire work is one theological conclusion with many parts. Based on the warrant and critique of the previous chapters, we must confess that the identity of the Jesus of the Bible is that he is God the Son incarnate.”

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