Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Author: Gary Ridley Page 1 of 17

Union with Christ
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Follow-up: Union with Christ

The book of Ephesians is different than the other letters we have looked at in this series on Paul’s follow-up with the churches he planted. For instance, there are no problems that he is trying to correct nor questions that he is answering. Also, it is less personal than his other letters.

Ephesians: A Summary of the Gospel

F.F. Bruce writes:

It [Ephesians] sums up in large measure the leading themes of the Pauline writings, together with the central motif of Paul’s ministry as apostle to the Gentiles. But it does more than that: it carries the thought of earlier letters to a new stage.1F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, NICNT, Eerdmans, 1984, 229.

Clinton E. Arnold offers a statement of purpose for the letter:

Paul wrote this letter to a large network of local churches in Ephesus and the surrounding cities to affirm them in their new identity in Christ as a means of strengthening them in their ongoing struggle with the powers of darkness, to promote greater unity between Jews and Gentiles within and among the churches of the area, and to stimulate an ever-increasing transformation of their lifestyles into greater conformity to the purity and holiness that God has called them to display.2Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians, Zondervan, 2010, 45.italics original

Wellness after 40
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A book about planning to live well after 40

Wellness for the Glory of God: Living Well after 40 with Joy and Contentment in All of Life by [MD Dunlop, John]

What does wellness look like after 40? Why should we care? We find helpful and practical answers in Wellness for the Glory of God: Living Well After 40 with Joy and Contentment in All of Life by John Dunlop, MD. The author focuses on wellness in the second half of life.

In the introduction, he explains what the book is about:

What strategies can we who are getting older adopt that will maximize our chances to endure the challenges of our later days and continue to be well? The essence of this book is expressed in the title. Wellness depends on living with a purpose that goes beyond the here and now. Over and over I have seen that one way in which Christians can stay well in their twilight years is to keep their focus on God, his greatness, and his glory.1John Dunlop, Wellness for the Glory of God, Crossway, 2014, p 12.

The suggested strategies call for changes that can make a difference as we age. Consequently, starting at age 40 is not too early.

Defining Wellness

Dr. Dunlop takes a wholistic approach to wellness. He writes:

. . . wellness is much more than physical health and freedom from distressing symptoms. Wellness involves the whole of our being, which includes six distinct areas: physical, mental, social, financial, spiritual, and emotional. These areas of wellness are not independent but are all interrelated. Each area contributes to the wellbeing of each of the others. At the same time, struggles in one area may distract from wellness in each of the others.2Dunlop, p 21.

As the deer pants for streams of water
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Hope from a Distance: Psalm 42 and 43

The pandemic of 2020 has brought about some new terminology such as “social distancing”, “shelter-in-place”, and “hunker down.” Additionally, travel restrictions have prevented international travel, causing missionary families to miss graduations, weddings, and funerals. Also, many churches have not been able to meet face to face due to local restrictions on size of gatherings. COVID-19 has brought a lot of turmoil into our lives. Where can we find hope from a distance?

Psalm 42 and 43

Over the past several months my thoughts have often returned to Psalm 42 and 43. The writer of these two psalms (probably composed as one) was experiencing separation from public worship for reasons we do not know. The two psalms are characterized by numerous questions and a refrain repeated in Psalm 42:5, 11 and Psalm 43:5. The two stanzas of Psalm 42 are laments and Psalm 43 turns the lament into prayer. Consequently, these two psalms provide us an example of how to move from despair to hope in God even when our questions remain unanswered. We learn to hope from a distance when God’s deliverance is not yet clearly in view.

Partnership in the Gospel
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Follow-Up: Partnership in the Gospel

How does Paul follow-up with the church at Philippi? We have been asking this question in previous posts about Galatia, Thessalonica, and Corinth. Our source of information has been Paul’s letters to these churches. Today we will look at his letter to Philippi.

Philippians, a Friendship Letter

Many commentators have noted that Philippians has features common to friendship letters in the Greco-Roman world.1G. Walter Hansen, The Letter to the Philippians, Eerdmans: 2009, p6f. and Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT, 1995, p 2f. For instance, expressions of affection and terminology like “yoke-fellow” (Phil. 4:3) were common in letters between friends at that time. Yet the letter is more than just communication between friends. Gordon Fee writes:

But “hortatory letter of friendship” is only part of the story, and in many ways the least significant part of that. For in Paul’s hands everything turns into gospel, including both formal and material aspects of such a letter. Most significantly, friendship in particular is radically transformed from a two-way to a three-way bond – between him, the Philippians, and Christ. And obviously it is Christ who is the center and focus of everything. Paul’s and their friendship is predicated on their mutual “participation/partnership” in the gospel.2Gordon D. Fee, p 13.

Book Review: Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture

Too often, in my opinion, books on spiritual warfare start from experience and speculation and then hunt through Scripture for proof texts.

Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach takes a different approach. It begins instead by surveying the Bible’s teaching on spiritual warfare from Genesis to Revelation and then develops practical applications. William F. Cook III and Chuck Lawless are both professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with extensive pastoral experience. Their book not only contributes to our understanding of what the Bible teaches about spiritual warfare but also provides a model for exploring any topic for those who believe the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice.

Promising Endorsements

As the reader opens the book, the endorsements and forward raise one’s expectations for what lies ahead. Clinton E. Arnold (who has written a few books on spiritual warfare) has this to say about the book:

Many Christians do not realize that the theme of spiritual warfare pervades the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Bill Cook and Chuck Lawless develop and explain this crucially important theme and draw out numerous practical applications. This well-written book will change your perspective and it will motivate you to a greater dependence upon the Lord through prayer. I only wish they had written it thirty years ago when I started my teaching career.1William F. Cook and Chuck Lawless, Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture, B&H Academic, 2019, 1.

Telling a Better Story is about listening to the stories of others and telling the Gospel story.

Telling a Better Story – a book review

What does telling stories have to do with apologetics?Telling a Better Story: How to Talk About God in a Skeptical Age by [Josh Chatraw]

My interest was sparked when I saw this new book on apologetics focusing on telling stories earlier this summer. Apologetics has traditionally been oriented to philosophy and logic. Yet most people understand life through stories they seek to practice. Expressing the reason for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15) is best communicated through stories. People relate to stories better than to formal syllogisms. Josh Chatraw’s new book, Telling a Better Story: How to Talk About God in a Skeptical Age (Zondervan, 2020) reimages apologetics for today’s context. The book is divided into three parts: Part 1 – A Better Story About Apologetics; Part 2 – Offering a Better Story; Part 3 – Objections to the Story. He writes the following about apologetics:

Once viewed as a tool to win debates, apologetics is now becoming more focused on generating productive conversations that open doors for people to consider the gospel. Rather than encouraging others to use what Charles Taylor refers to as “conversation-stoppers” (e.g. “I have a three-line argument which shows that your position is absurd or impossible or totally immoral”) or what Alan Jacobs refers to as the habit of “militarizing discussion and debate,” many apologists are emphasizing the need for Christians to become better listeners who seek to understand the person thay are speaking with before making appeals. This enables us to meet people where they are and find points to affirm before finding points to challenge.1Josh Chatraw, Telling a Better Story, Zondervan, 2020, p 19.

Listen to their stories

The author wants us to listen to their stories because they are windows for understanding. Stories, both big stories and little stories, are purveyors of culture and worldview. Stories explain life. They answer the big questions about the meaning of life and how to live well. Chatraw writes:

young pastor being ordained
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Follow-up: Understanding Authentic Christian Ministry

As we saw in an earlier post, the Corinthians needed to learn to keep culture in perspective. This was especially true in their understanding of leadership and Christian ministry. The leadership values of the culture were exploited by Paul’s opponents, causing some in Corinth to question Paul’s credentials. George Guthrie observes,

In short, in the apostle’s seeming humility (even humiliation 12:21), his taking on the role of a servant, his rejection of patronage and the concomitant rejection of financial gain, and his refusal to advance his status by use of rhetorical skills, he stood in violation of key leadership values and principles embedded in the Corinthian culture. The apostle, on the other hand, presents to the Corinthians an alternative; a theocentric and biblical vision of authentic leadership. 1George H. Guthrie, 2 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2015, p17.

While not all cultural leadership values will conflict with authentic Christian ministry, they will need to be compatible with the message of Christ crucified. We, like Paul, need to model and teach authentic Christian ministry so that the leadership of the churches we plant reflects the cross in their ministry. I observe seven key characteristics of authentic Christian ministry in 2 Corinthians.

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