The American Church Has Some Reckoning To Do (A Response to Charlottesville and More)

By Timothy Gombis on August 21, 2017

On Saturday, August 12, various groups marched in Charlottesville, Va., in support of white supremacy, to express their desire to establish a white nation and to intimidate and denounce Jewish and black people. It is important to recognize these ideas and behaviors as evil and to denounce them as an offense to God, who created every person in his image (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9) and who does not show…

How Traveling the Land Has Brought Me to Worship

By Jennifer Greer on May 3, 2017

Years ago, I took my first trip to Israel. We visited many of the biblical sites, but the tour also included traditional sites and tourist attractions and shops. Then, during my seminary student days, I traveled with a professor on a very different trip, studying the history, geography and archaeology of the land. I didn't realize until that trip how much I had missed the first time.

A Detailed Account of the Israel Study Tour

By Jennifer Greer on May 1, 2017

A Fitbit or iWatch registers 5,000-7,000 steps a day walking the land of the Bible on our annual Israel Study Tour. For eight days, we literally step into the world of the Bible and immerse ourselves in the geography, history, culture and archaeology of the Old and New Testaments, as well as the "Intertestamental" period. We then step back into our modern-day context, bridging this ancient biblical…

Why is the Resurrection So Important?

By David Turner on April 19, 2017

The resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian message. How unfortunate that church services may stress the empty tomb only on Easter Sunday, or even just through the Eastertide season. Another concern is the common way Christians summarize the gospel by mentioning only Jesus' death. Without the resurrection, Jesus' ministry ends in defeat and disillusionment (Luke 24:21). But everything…

Waiting with Faith

By Brittany Stichter on April 14, 2017

This week in chapel, Dr. Don Denyes spoke a message called "Waiting with Faith" which was based on John 2:19. Like the disciples in this passage, "we are slow to believe everything the Scripture says. We have Kingdom in our theology, and glory, but we don't have suffering and cross." Jesus patiently explained the promises of the Scriptures to His disciples until they finally got it. In the same way…

Knowing God is Something You Grow Into, Pt. 4/4

By Darrell Yoder on March 27, 2017

Encounter. Obedience. Intimacy. All three of these themes can easily lead us to wonder, "How much is needed in order to know God?" They seem like really tall orders. What if I don't sense God's presence? What if I've been disobedient? What if God feels distant, rather than intimate? Do I not know God then? I'm hoping this final theme will help relieve this tension.

Knowing God is About Intimacy—Not Acquaintance, Pt. 3/4

By Darrell Yoder on March 8, 2017

To really know God is to experience deep intimacy with Him through His Spirit—the same Spirit who came into your heart when you believed in Christ and the same Spirit who knows your deepest longings and prays for you when you can’t pray for yourself. This biblical vision of walking with God is not that He is a divine acquaintance but an Intimate Lover.  Knowing God is about union, security, and transparency…

You Cannot Know God Without Obeying Him, Pt. 2/4

By Darrell Yoder on March 6, 2017

Last week's theme "encounter" reminds us that the Christian faith is not merely an intellectual journey nor an emotional or spiritual high. It's the day-in, day-out experience of God meeting us where we are and making Himself known to us in both mundane and miraculous ways. The Christian faith is about experiencing God's love and presence not as an abstract idea but in real life. How do we relate to…

Waiting with Promise

By Brittany Stichter on March 3, 2017

This week's chapel speaker was our own Dr. Jonathan Greer. He explored "waiting with promise" through the lens of the Old Testament.

As he led our students through an experience of the story of Moses and the people of Israel during the time of the Exodus, we were able to understand afresh that they all waited under the promise God had given to them. They waited for the promises to be fulfilled, but…

Lent as Training in Christian Longing

By Timothy Gombis on March 1, 2017

The Season of Lent begins today. Here's a brief explanation of how this season shapes Christian identity.

The Christian calendar helps to train us in being fully and truly Christian. Many of us are used to having our brains trained to be Christian brains. We just haven't given much thought to our bodies and our loves and our longings. Most of us were raised to think Christian thoughts—that's the sum…

Don't Lose the Wonder of Knowing God, pt. 1/4

By Darrell Yoder on February 27, 2017

If you ran the Fifth Third Riverbank Run in 2009 in Grand Rapids, MI, you received a t-shirt with a simple logo on the front: a name tag with the phrase "I Run For...." In the blank space, some people wrote the names of loved ones; others listed things like health, youth, love, etc. Each person had a different purpose that kept them going when training was hard. This question—what are you running for?…

Rediscovering the Distance Between Us: Preaching the New Testament

By Kris Rolls on February 22, 2017

What types of biblical literature are easiest for you to preach? What portions of Scripture do you feel most at "home" in while preaching or reading? If you're a Protestant evangelical, chances are you are most at "home" in the New Testament, and even more comfortable in Paul's letters. When compared with Law Code portions of Leviticus, prophetic visions in the Minor Prophets, narrative complexities…

Theology of Waiting

By Brittany Stichter on February 17, 2017

This week in chapel, Dr. Mike Wittmer spoke from Hebrews 9:28 about a theology of waiting. He began by sharing that though waiting is subjective, it has an objective focus. For Christians, the object of our waiting is the return of Christ. The wait is hard because it humbles us and reminds us we are not in control. We wait for the salvation that Jesus will bring when He returns, but we do not determine…

Dr. Jonathan Greer on How Bible Backgrounds Will Strengthen Your Preaching

By Kris Rolls on February 13, 2017

One of my favorite theologians, Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer, once said, "For, when the church responds to the Word of God as it ought, the church demonstrates the love of God and the mind of Christ, in word and in deed."[1] The catch is, that in order to respond to the Word of God "as we ought," we must understand what Scripture says in the first place. Pastors and teachers must regularly wrestle with what…

Waiting with Power

By Brittany Stichter on February 10, 2017

In this week's chapel, Jennifer Greer brought us a message based on Acts 1:1-44. In this passage, the disciples wait between the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Luke reminds his readers that Jesus is Who He says He is, and will accomplish what He says He will.

Based on this truth about Jesus, we can be confident that we will receive the power of the Holy Spirit, because Jesus tells…

Waiting with Commitment

By Brittany Stichter on February 3, 2017

Susan Rieske spoke in this week's chapel service. The message she brought, based on 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, explored waiting with commitment—having a radical commitment to God and His mission. As she reminded us, we can have nothing but still possess everything.

Susan also reminded us that enduring our present sufferings is different from the way distance runners endure: while distance runners often…

The Pastor is Between Two Worlds

By Darrell Yoder on January 25, 2017

Almost 10 years ago, I sat in my office listening to Dr. John Stott share his heart about preaching. I wish he would have been in my office himself so I could ask him questions. Alas, I was listening to a recording of a course he taught many years prior. At the time, I was serving at the Institute of Theological Studies, developing a "legacy" course to make Stott's material available again. It was…

Does Israel's Last Prophet Replace Israel?

By Andrew Kischner on October 31, 2016

Dr. David L. Turner, professor of New Testament here at GRTS, will participate in a panel called "Matthew Within Judaism" at the upcoming meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. He will be in conversation with other scholars who study the relationship between Israel and the Church in the Bible, which informs Jewish-Christian relations today. We asked Dr. Turner about his work in this area and…

A Revelation to the Church

By Stephen Popp on September 12, 2016

The book of Revelation offers a blessing to those who read and obey its message. This blessing appears not once, but twice, in the book. It appears the first time in the opening paragraph, where we read, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near" (Rev. 1:3 ESV). And it appears a second time…

Embracing Thorns: Spiritual Practices for Cultivating Humility (Part 3)

By Sharon Brown on August 1, 2016

Insults. Hardships. Persecutions. Calamities. These are not the sort of things we post about on social media under the hashtag "blessed." But Paul contends that these are the kinds of circumstances that reveal the glory of God.

These types of trials provide the soil in which humility can take root and flourish.

A few years ago, I heard a pastor tell a story about confronting some of his denomination's…

Confessing Thorns: Spiritual Practices for Cultivating Humility (Part 2)

By Sharon Brown on July 28, 2016

Editor's Note: This is part two of a three-part series by Sharon Brown. Click here for part one.

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in…

Stewarding Thorns: Spiritual Practices for Cultivating Humility (Part 1)

By Sharon Brown on July 25, 2016

Twenty-five years ago, during my first semester in seminary, I had a dream that profoundly impacted my life with God. In the dream I was applying for a job at a police station. The officer told me that if I wanted the job, I would have to bench-press 200 pounds. "Two hundred pounds!" I exclaimed. "But I haven't done anything athletic in seven years!" (That was a way of saying I'd never done anything…

Dr. Tim Gombis Contributes to a New Book on the Apostle Paul

By Kris Rolls on June 27, 2016

This March, Dr. Timothy Gombis, associate professor of New Testament here at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, published a chapter in an edited volume along with several notable scholars such as N.T. Wright, Bruce Longenecker and James D. G. Dunn. The new book is titled, "The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life: Ethical and Missional Implications of the New Perspective," edited by Dr. Scot McKnight…

What Does Compassion Really Look Like? Part 2: A Compassion Revolution

By Kizombo Kalumbula on June 13, 2016

In my last post I closed with two questions. First, could there be more true compassion going on in Grand Rapids than what meets the eye? Second, could it be that God is beginning to do something new in my city? There seems to be a paradox playing out here. On the one hand, Grand Rapids is ranked 51st out of the 52 largest cities in America where African Americans are doing the best economically, and…

What Does Compassion Really Look Like? (Part 1 of 2)

By Kizombo Kalumbula on June 6, 2016

In January 2015, Forbes Magazine published an article, "The cities where African-Americans are doing the best economically." My city, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ranked 51st out of the 52 largest cities in America—second to last. Then in October, the Huffington Post, published another article ranking Grand Rapids 5th among the top 10 worst cities for Black Americans to live. It's hard to be Black in Grand…

Ten Questions About What Your Church Believes (part 2 of 2)

By Mike Wittmer on May 25, 2016

Here is part two of ten things to look for in your church's confession (click here for part one). If you want an example that illustrates most of what I'm talking about, check out the confession of Cornerstone University or Calvary Church.

6. Does it set appropriate boundaries?

One of the benefits of revising your church confession is that it forces you to discuss how doctrinally inclusive you think…

Ten Questions About What Your Church Believes (Part 1 of 2)

By Mike Wittmer on May 23, 2016

For the past year my students have evaluated their churches' doctrinal statements, and I have learned valuable insights that might help pastors and boards improve their church's confession of faith. Such statements are increasingly important because they provide clarity, or at least guidance, when questions arise in the life of a church. Many times, however, these statements of faith are not treated…

Finding Common Ground: Can complementarians and egalitarians flourish together?

By Darrell Yoder on April 13, 2016

In today's post, I'd like to highlight the Intercultural Lecture Series event that took place last month. Carolyn Custis James spoke on "The Blessed Alliance," which asked the question: How does the Gospel transform relationships between male and female and restore the "Blessed Alliance" that God envisioned for his sons and daughters from the beginning?

If you have wrestled with the role of women…

The Mystery of Knowing God

By Darrell Yoder on April 11, 2016

I find the idea of having a "relationship with God" mysterious and fascinating. The biblical story depicts humanity as created to know and walk with God, and it uses a host of metaphors to describe this relationship. God is our Father, and we are His children. He is our Husband, and we are His bride. He is our Shepherd, and we are His sheep. He is the "Living Water" we thirst for, the "Bread from heaven"…

The Cross: For Us, By Us and In Us

By David Turner on March 27, 2016

In many evangelical churches, Easter is relegated to a single Sunday each year. In more liturgically-minded churches, Eastertide is observed as the eight-Sunday season between Easter and Pentecost, which this year falls from March 27 to May 15. Either way, Christ's death and resurrection is the very heart of our experience of new life in him. We need to reflect on the absolute centrality of the cross…

Listening to the Voice of Creation

By Darrell Yoder on March 9, 2016

On Monday, I wrote about a time when God used music to impact me deeply and draw me closer in my walk with him. Music, coupled with God's Word, can be deeply spiritually formational. Today, I'd like to look at another practice that has been powerful for me personally—listening to the voice of creation as it testifies to its Creator.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work…

When We Have No Words

By Darrell Yoder on March 7, 2016

A few years ago, I was invited to write for the Conversations Journal blog, which seeks to generate conversations that lead to transformation. We were discussing various things that contribute to spiritual formation in Christ. For one of my posts, I explored the role that music can play in our walk with the Lord.

I believe that music—especially worship music based on Scripture—can be one of the most…

What Does it Take to Make a Great Sermon?: GRTS to Host Midwest ETS Meeting

By Kris Rolls on March 2, 2016

It should go without saying on this blog—but I will say it anyway: The Bible is essential for the life, health, and sustenance of the Church; it is the very Word of God to his people. Studying the Bible and communicating it effectively, though, requires loving, careful and hard work. Christians should love words—both written and spoken—simply because we are keepers, doers, and lovers of the Word. The…

Study is Worship... and Discipleship

By Kris Rolls on January 25, 2016

As a student, there is nothing like the kind of excitement that comes at the beginning of a new semester. A fresh start. A clean slate. An idealistic hope for copious amounts of productivity, new ideas and growth in every facet of life—intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. Graduate education has a way of forcing you into postures of meekness, humility, charity and curiosity. These virtues, I…

Making Sense of God's Call Pt.1: Charismas

By Royce Evans on January 21, 2016

Recently, GRTS adopted the phrase "Following God's Call" in our recruiting emphasis and missional statements. I must admit that when I first saw this phrase in seminary materials and heard it in conversations with my colleagues, I thought it doesn't get much simpler than that. In retrospect, however, the simplicity of that statement belies what is often a much more critical and complex question, not…

The Gospel vs. Resolution

By Kris Rolls on December 30, 2015

New Years is an interesting holiday that is loaded with all sorts of meaning. Around this time a few years ago I listened to a sermon from popular Christian philosopher James K. A. Smith. He titled his sermon, "Giving Up on Resolution." I remember it well because it was such a stark critique of what I thought to be "harmless" New Year's resolutions. Why wouldn't I want to lose weight? Get a gym membership?…

The First-Year Seminary Student

By Jo Anna Kelly on December 28, 2015

You'll know us when you see us. We're pretty easy to spot. We're usually the ones walking around with a look of bewilderment on our faces, reeling from the impact of the day's most recent class discussion. Teetering on the edge between enthusiasm ("education is a gift!") and panic ("I'm in over my head"), we are actively addressing topics that force us to answer the question, "What do I believe?" We…

The Gift of God for the People of God

By Kris Rolls on December 25, 2015

During Advent, Christians around the world gather together and exchange gifts. We do this because the act of gift-giving reflects and rehearses the Ultimate Gift of God becoming man in the birth of Jesus. The exchanging of gifts help us to unite as the people of God and reflect upon the hope that is in Immanuel—Christ with us.

This season, I've had the privilege of working my way through John Barclay's…

We interrupt your warm, comfy, cozy Advent season with a message from the Apocalypse...

By David Turner on December 23, 2015

We often hear the Christmas story told from the Gospels.

From Luke 1-2, we learn about John the Baptist's parents Zacharias and Elizabeth, the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary, the coming of the shepherds, and the words of Simeon and Anna about the baby Jesus. From Matthew 1-2, we've come to know about Joseph's care for Mary and Jesus, the visit of the magi, the holy family's flight to Egypt,…

Connecting Old Testament Exegesis to Preaching (Book Review)

By Kris Rolls on December 2, 2015

When was the last time you heard (or preached) a sermon series based on Deuteronomy or 1 Chronicles or Hosea? Or any other difficult book from the Old Testament? My answer is "never." The New Testament is generally more accessible for modern audiences. It seems more straightforward about what to believe and how to live. By contrast, the Old Testament can be a strange, foreign and unfamiliar place.…

Why Do We Struggle With New Creation, and What Do We Do Now? (Part 2)

By Martin Spence on November 6, 2015

New creation is a strange concept for many Bible-believing Christians, in part because of historical twists and turns that have encouraged non-biblical ways of thinking. In my last post, I described two reasons why this has happened—biblical interpretation and pastoral care for those who suffer—and I gave some practical suggestions on how to move forward.

In this post, I want to offer two more reasons…

Why Do We Struggle With New Creation, and What Do We Do Now? (Part 1)

By Martin Spence on November 2, 2015

In my presentation at the Thy Kingdom Come Talking Points conference, I tried to show how the church has veered away from the idea of new creation throughout history. Some of these turns were made not as the result of an explicit discussion of the end times, but rather as the consequence of some other debate or pastoral concern. Each turn has created an accretion of ideas that make new creation a strange…

Miss Talking Points? Get the recordings here

By Darrell Yoder on October 26, 2015

On Oct. 7, pastors and ministry leaders gathered at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary for the Fall 2015 Talking Points conference. The theme of the conference was "Thy Kingdom Come: An Exploration of New Creation Theology." A huge thanks to all who attended and helped make it an amazing day. If you missed it, you can download the recordings here.

Our next Talking Points will be a series in the spring…

Moo, Plantinga, Wittmer and more at Talking Points Conference

By Darrell Yoder on October 5, 2015

On Wednesday, we will hold our next Talking Points Conference on the topic "Thy Kingdom Come," a conversation about New Creation Theology. We pray for God's Kingdom to come "on earth" in the Lord's Prayer, and the New Testament refers often to "new creation" as central to the Gospel and the mission of Christ in the world. What "kingdom" and "new creation" are we talking about, and what difference does…

I Will Mow the Lawn!

By Julián Guzmán on October 1, 2015

I was raised in the Dominican Republic and learned as a child that I would spend eternity flying around praising God forever. The idea wasn't very attractive (although better than spending eternity in flames), and biblical concepts like "new creation" and "new heaven and new earth" became abstract and scary. I found it difficult to reconcile the "heaven forever" and the "new earth" ideas. As a good…

Yo Cortaré el Pasto!

By Julián Guzmán on September 30, 2015

Yo nací y crecí en la Republica Dominicana y aprendí desde niño que pasaría la eternidad volando como los ángeles, adorando y cantando a Dios para siempre. La idea no me parecía muy atractiva (aunque es mejor que pasarme la eternidad en llamas), y los conceptos bíblicos como "nueva creación" y "cielo nuevo y tierra nueva" eran muy abstractos e intimidantes a la vez. Se me hacía muy difícil reconciliar…

Gospel Centered Scholarship: Talking Points Plenary Speaker, Dr. Douglas Moo

By Kris Rolls on September 23, 2015

Dr. Douglas Moo is an influential writer, authoring several books, commentaries and academic journal articles spanning multiple genres of New Testament literature. His primary areas of research include Pauline theology, creation theology, Galatians, Romans and Hebrews.

Dr. Moo has been a significant resource for me as I've studied the New Testament. He is thoughtful, charitable and typically brings…

Speaker Highlight: Dr. Cornelius Plantinga

By Darrell Yoder on September 14, 2015

We have a fantastic line up of speakers for Talking Points on Oct. 7. Each speaker will explore the topic of new creation theology from a different angle: biblically, theologically, historically and homiletically. To help with this last angle—the task of preaching new creation theology—we have invited Dr. Cornelius (Neal) Plantinga to give a new creation sermon during the conference.

Dr. Plantinga…

Jesus and Avocados

By Steven Lister on September 9, 2015

Most of my adult life, I've struggled with a tension. See, I love reading God's Word. I love going to worship services. But I also love naps. And football. And avocados. Is that okay? Is it okay that out of 52 Sundays of the year I take one of them to go on vacation with my family?

There have been times when I felt it wasn't. Growing up, my church never taught much about creation other than "denying…

Thy Kingdom Come

By Darrell Yoder on August 26, 2015

Last week, my family joined ten others on a three-day camping trip to Silver Lake State Park on the west coast of Michigan's lower peninsula. It was our last hurrah before school starts, and we loved every minute of it. If you do the math, we had 22 adults and 31 children—53 people relaxing on the beach, swimming, laughing, riding bikes, telling stories and cooking incredible food over an open fire…

What to Expect...

By Darrell Yoder on August 3, 2015

I'm excited to participate in this new Talking Points blog! I will be engaged in this conversation primarily as a practitioner, a pastor who spends a lot of time thinking about and engaged in the practical issues we face in the Church. My role at GRTS though—working with and mentoring future pastors; planning and coordinating our Talking Points conferences—offers me a unique glimpse at what the seminary…