Monthly Archives: February 2007

Paul Negrut Accused of Plagiarism

Sad news coming from Romania.

Paul Negrut, president of the Baptist Union in Romania, as well as the president of Emanuel University of Oradea (my alma mater) is being accused of plagiarism. I know Bro. Paul. He was my professor for several courses during my five years at Emanuel. He is the pastor who married me and Corina in 2002.

The course in question is Christian Ethics. I took this class in 2004 and found it to be one of the most exciting classes during my time in Romania. Bro. Paul is being accused of plagiarism, because the printed course for his Christian Ethics class has his name on the front, though several chapters are translated word-for-word from an English book called Moral Choices by Scott Rae, apparently without footnotes or a bibliography.

Let me clarify a few things from my own experience at Emanuel. Bro. Paul did not teach the printed course as his own. It was clear in my studying the written course that it had been translated from English. I didn’t think anything about it, because Bro. Paul never claimed the course as his own. Those chapters from Moral Choices were translated in order that the Romanians would be able to have the material in their own language. I am not 100% sure, but I seem to recall Bro. Paul giving Scott Rae credit for some of the material, at least verbally. The name and the book ring a bell.

It’s true that the printed course did …

Posted in Christianity | 18 Comments

Book Review: Empowered Church Leadership

If you’re looking for a book to give you the latest tips on how to grow a church, improve your leadership strategies or increase your church’s budget, don’t get this one. Brian Dodd’s Empowered Church Leadership: Ministry in the Spirit According to Paul (IVP, 2003) boldly takes on the current strategies of the church-world and argues forcefully for a return to the biblical model of church leadership.

Pastors need to read this book. Dodd challenges our common presuppositions by comparing our Western notions of “success” to the ministry of the apostles. Dodd walks us through Paul’s letters, encouraging us to pick up our crosses, to pay the price of following Christ, and surrender to the Holy Spirit’s power and not rely on our own inventions. A book steeped in Scripture, Empowered Church Leadership points us back to God as our source of power, not the clever marketing gimmicks of leadership gurus who have dressed up their worldly principles in Christian garb.

One word of caution, however. In his challenge for us to imitate Paul’s ministry, Dodd emphasizes reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance, sometimes to the exclusion of Scripture. One cannot accuse Dodd for downplaying Scripture – this book is filled with Scriptural references. But when Dodd is writing of authority and apostolic leadership, he writes very little about the importance of the Word, a weakness that could be detrimental to churches without a solid biblical foundation.

Empowered Church Leadership has a message that we in the West need to hear. Dodd encourages us to …

Posted in Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Why Did Jesus Come?

The Apostle John, in his Gospel and in his letters, gives ten reasons why Jesus came to earth.

Jesus came…
1. To reveal the Father (John 1:18)
2. To save the world (John 3:16-17)
3. To do God’s will (John 6:38)
4. To turn everything upside down (for judgment) (John 9:39)
5. To give abundant life (John 10:10)
6. To be lifted up on the cross (John 12:27)
7. To shine light in darkness (John 12:46)
8. To bear witness to the truth as the king of the world (John 18:37)
9. To put away sin (1 John 3:5)
10. To destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)

Posted in Jesus, Theology | Leave a comment

Seeking Out the Lost

“For the Son of Man came to seek
and to save the lost.”

- Jesus, to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:10)

Jesus often shattered the societal norms of His day. While His fellow Jews were taking alternate routes to avoid going through Samaria, Jesus cut straight through the middle of the hostile territory. While the average person would steer clear of a contagious leper, Jesus reached out His hand and became probably the first person in years to touch the dying man. He made a tax collector His disciple, involved women in helping fund His ministry, and healed the servant of a Roman soldier. He featured a hated Samaritan as the hero of one of His stories. He condemned the rich and powerful and lifted up the poor and oppressed.

Jesus intentionally made headway into virtually every segment of society written off by the religious and political leaders of His day. And when the Pharisees criticized His scandalous fellowship with the corrupt tax collector Zacchaeus, He answered curtly: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus had come to seek those left behind by everyone else. He came to save those deemed not worth the effort. He loved those whom no one else would love. He came to die for a world that didn’t see the need for His salvation. The Good Shepherd went looking for His sheep, not because He needed the sheep, but because the sheep would die without Him.

We would be doomed to eternal separation from God …

Posted in Devotional Thoughts, Jesus | Leave a comment

I Confess That I Have Sinned

A prayer of repentance

Posted in Prayers | Leave a comment

Piper on Fasting

“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison, but apple pie.”
 - John Piper

See more Quotes of the Week

Posted in Quotes of the Week | Leave a comment

In the Blogosphere…

1. TIME Magazine devotes its cover story to the rise of crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. 

2. Scot McKnight begins a series of reflections for Lent. The first is On the Way to the Cross.

3. Mark Dever writes of Christian optimism, particulary the Christian hope of resurrection.

4. Justin Taylor interviews John Ensor, an important person in the pregnancy support movement.

5. Ben Witherington writes about a Q&A session with Rob Bell. I write about Witherington’s review here.

6. Al Mohler and Susan Jacoby participate in an online debate, Has Organized Religion Done More Harm than Good?

7. Timmy Brister reviews the speakers at Union University’s Baptist Identity conference. As one who couldn’t be there, I’m thankful for Timmy’s excellent blogging.

Posted in In the Blogosphere | Leave a comment

Book Review: Night

If you come across someone who wonders whether or not human beings are totally depraved, hand them a copy of this book. Night is a short book describing Wiesel’s year in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

The book begins with Wiesel’s family living peacefully in Transylvania during the later years of World War II. Trouble seems distant though rumors abound. The Jewish community in Sighet continues to live and love just as before. Wiesel tells about a devout Jewish man who had witnessed the horrors of a concentration camp and escaped. Upon arrival in the village, he began to warn everyone of the impending danger. But the villagers scoffed at his warnings. They did not believe that humans were capable of such evil. Even after the Jews were moved to the ghetto, Wiesel describes his family as still hoping and trusting that nothing worse would take place.

Then, the concentration camp. Wiesel describes in horrific detail the “chimney,” – the place where Jews (even babies) were thrown alive into a blazing fire. Wiesel rebels against God. He refuses to fast on Jewish holy days. He questions the existence of God. The human evil of Auschwitz is too overwhelming to comprehend. Wiesel claims that human words cannot express the suffering he experienced.

Throughout the narrative, Wiesel expresses shock and dismay at the evil of his persecutors. But intermingled into his account is his surprise at his own depravity manifested in his basest instincts. His recollections are littered with regret, with anger, and remorse.

Wiesel’s account forces the reader wrestle with questions about human depravity, God’s sovereignty, the …

Posted in Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Our Lenten Fast This Year

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time that Christians historically have used to prepare for the upcoming Easter celebrations. For me and Corina, this is our third year of commemorating the Lenten season by adopting a Lenten “fast.”

I know that Lent is not kept by most evangelicals, and that’s okay. There’s no Scripture passage forbidding it or advocating it, so whether one decides to prepare for Easter in this manner is left to one’s conscience. Still, while fasting during Lent may not mandated by Scripture, the discipline of fasting is. Jesus’ instructions on fasting presuppose and reinforce the discipline. (After all, He says, “When you fast,” not if.) It’s true that, as with any spiritual discipline, there can be a tendency towards excess and legalism. But as I look at American evangelicalism today, I hardly think that we are suffering from too much fasting.

This season serves as a time of reflection upon the sufferings of Christ. It is a season of repentance, a time of dying to self that anticipates new life on the other side, just like the last days of winter anticipate the arrival of Spring.

The Lenten fast we have put together in previous years (and which we will seek to keep this year too) is symbolic in nature. During this season, we refrain from drinking anything other than water. Everytime we forego a soft drink or glass of juice and settle for a glass of water, we remember that Jesus is the One who provides us with living …

Posted in Christianity | 3 Comments

Is Rob Bell Going Soft on Homosexuality?

Ben Witherington, author and New Testament scholar, writes about his recent visit to a Question & Answer session with Rob Bell. Despite his affinity for Rob, Witherington critiques Bell’s answer to the question of homosexuality as “evasive… disturbing… and unbiblical.” In fact, it was Rob’s reluctance to make any pronouncement on this issue that seems to have disturbed Witherington the most.

What are we seeing here? Just a few years ago, I remember Rob addressing the issue of homosexuality in a sermon and being very clear about the need for deliverance from homosexuality as a sin. Has Rob turned a corner in his theology? It sounds like he is following Brian McLaren, who has famously refused to give a clear answer to this question.

Wayne Grudem writes about a “slippery slope” towards liberalism, and he takes a lot of flack for employing that over-used metaphor. Usually, he is speaking of denominations that begin to play loose with their doctrine of Scripture, accept the ordination of women as pastors, and then eventually meander down a path that ends with a full embrace of homosexuality and homosexual unions.

Grudem’s study of denominational trajectories seems to be taking place in a few short years within the life of this young, talented preacher from Michigan. A few years ago, Rob began speaking of the Bible as a “human book,” and shied away from clearly defining his views on the trustworthiness and inspiration of all Scripture being divine. Then, he led his church to …

Posted in Emerging Church | 31 Comments