Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alternative Education

This post has no relation to the Bible but rather to Biblical education. I try to be on the lookout for alternative methods of teaching God's word and making it applicable. Along those lines, I also seek out alternative formal education. For instance, did you know that in Great Britain and South Africa, degrees can be earned strictly by research? Neither did I until somewhat recently. Which brings me to my point.

Are there American institutes that offer alternative forms of education? The answer is yes.

One example is Columbia Evangelical Seminary. Degrees are offered from Bachelor to Doctorate for a set tuition fee. The course mentors are highly qualified as the school requires an accredited degree to be qualified. In addition the courses are rigorous in nature and flexible depending on the interest of the student.

Another example is The North American Reformed Seminary (TNARS). This school operates at no cost. Tuition is free; and the books and lectures are found freely on the internet. The reading requirement may not be as strenuous, but the assignments have more stringent requirements than some accredited institutions.

Should someone look at these options? That depends on the desired outcome. I e-mailed one graduate of Columbia about his experiences, and he was rebuffed only once because his doctorate was not from a regionally accredited school. That was disappointing, but the overall experience was satisfying for his ministry.

Whether or not someone seeks to undertake a program along these lines, the idea that such programs are available is intriguing in itself. Consider what TNARS has assembled. There is a wealth of academic information available for anyone to use and improve there Scripture knowledge, if one takes the time to learn it.

Perhaps churches should recommend their congregants go through some of these or other materials for their teaching. It would certainly be a far-cry better than much of the pablum on television, and maybe the spiritual leadership in the local church would learn something as well.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?

There are men placed in society to watch over others. Some do it as a means to further personal power; others out of a sense of obligation; still more from love of fellow man. While the last of these is the most honorable, all three can arise from or result in self-seeking measures. The reason is that each has some aspect in what I want or feel. The best watchman is the one who is diligent because the Lord is God.

What are the duties of a watchman? Really there is only one duty--watch for anything or anyone approaching and make it known. The Lord had this requirement for the watchmen of Israel. To the prophet Ezekiel he infers that when a sword comes against the land, the expectation is that the watchman "sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people" (Ezekiel 33:3). The responsibility of the hearer is to heed and respond. If the call is not heeded, “his blood shall be upon his own head” (Ezekiel 33:4). The unheeding listener bears his own consequences for ignoring the truth of a clear and present danger.

This is essentially the duty of the elders in the local church. Paul makes this plain in Acts 20:28-31 where he warns the elders to look out for themselves, the flock, and those who might come in or arise among them destroying the Lord's work. The elders are called to act accordingly when the danger manifests itself. Later, Paul writes that the elders are to rebuke false teaching sharply “that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). This is a difficult but necessary task. Warnings must be sounded strongly with the complementary attention to build up the flock in the assurances of Christ.

What happens to the watchmen who is lax in his duties? “His blood I will require at the watchman's hand” (Ezekiel 33:6). The Lord himself rises up against the spiritual leader to deal with the problem.

For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:30-31

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Male Enhancement

Product promotion for goods or services to enhance the physical cross our paths almost hourly. The emotional or psychological less often. The spiritual almost never. It is easy to understand why the world around us works in this order. Image is everything. For the Christian this should be reversed. Men, you need the enhancement guaranteed to work.

Peter gives some groundwork for the Christian life:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
Notice how we are to be adding one thing onto another without slacking on the predecessor. Applied specifically to males, it looks something like this. First to younger men
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. (Titus 2:6)
Notice the expectations are few (really one) but focused. This is a major obstacle in the young man's life as he can easily be obsessed with the daily affairs of jobs and relationships. Passions run strong and can overflow.

Then older men are to be:
sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. (Titus 2:2)
See that self-control remains and has enhancements. This can only be brought about by the diligent work of being in the Scriptures, knowing what our Lord desires, and applying it. What does that look like?
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)
The normal Christian life takes effort. I pray men are up to the task.