Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More on Vernon Grounds

Please take the time to read this brief sketch of a man who loved Jesus and who Jesus loved:

O the power of one life transformed by the love of God.

My favorite quotation from the lips of Vernon Grounds:

“Unless we graduate men and women of prayer, Christ-like character, and devotional depth we will, from God’s perspective, be a Kingdom failure regardless of our enlarged endowment, increased enrollment, and academic structure. . . . Social concern, personal evangelism, and global outreach are the three legs of our academic stool.  Remove any one and our program will become an unstable wobble.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Denver Seminary President Mark Young on the Passing of Vernon Grounds

The day that we all knew was coming, but wanted to keep pushing further and further into the future, has finally arrived.  Dr. Vernon C. Grounds peacefully slipped into the presence of the Lord this morning, Sunday, September 12, 2010.  He was 96 years old.
As I’ve called several folks today with the news, just about everyone wanted to pause and relate a “Vernon story.”   His influence for the sake of the gospel spans generations and continents.  The demands on a person of his stature in the broader evangelical community can often distance a leader from others.  Dr. Grounds never let that happen.  He finished his life just as he had lived it these many, many years—gracious, interested, thankful and compassionate. 
Just before moving to Wichita this past summer, Dr. Grounds replied to my question about how I could pray for him with these words, “Just pray that the Lord would open a new door of service for us in Wichita.”  Ninety-six years old, with over seventy years in ministry, and he was still seeking a new door of service.  As my wife and I sat with him just three weeks ago in his apartment in Wichita, he pushed back the fog of sleep for just a few short moments and prayed a “Vernon prayer” for Priscilla and me and the ministry of Denver Seminary.  I’ll treasure those words for the rest of my life.
As plans for a memorial service are completed, we will communicate them through our website –
We know that many of you would like to express your love to Mrs. Grounds, to daughter Barbara and son-in-law Bob Owens, and granddaughter Emily and her husband Mike Gagnebin.  If you would like to share your tributes and memories, please post a comment through the seminary website at
We ask you to join us in prayer for the Grounds family.  Our desire is to serve them well and to honor our dear friend, teacher, counselor and mentor.  Pray for us in that as well.
With a heavy heart,

Mark Young

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Beatitudes (the blessed ones), NOT "Be-attitudes"

The grammar of the beatitudes seems to be as such: Blessed is X because (Greek word: hoti) of this present (first/last beatitude) or future (the middle beatitudes) reality. Now with the grammar as such, it seems the blessedness is based not on the state mentioned first (X) but because (hoti) of the reality mentioned second. So as I read this, I am wondering if the initial qualities (poor in spirit/poor, hungering for righteousness/hungry, etc.) are less character qualities, but rather more like human conditions. Thus, no matter how miserable your human condition is, the kingdom of God and all it's present and future blessings are available to you (hence, you are blessed). As such, I am not to become poorer (financially) or more poor in spirit (more spiritually bankrupt) to be even more blessed, but rather I can find blessing even in those ugly situations. Similarly, people who are really really hungering for justice in the world are not necessarily more blessed than those in better circumstances. Rather, the blessing is in the satisfaction coming at the end to time (eshcaton).

Basically, I am having a tough time preaching that each Beatitude is something we are supposed to pursue to be more holy/blessed. Rather, they are norms of the type of people in the Kingdom, but not necessarily goals to pursue.  Otherwise, I should challenge my congregants to intentionally pursue persecution and becoming poor-er in the spirit. Or worse yet, some preaching might tell poor, marginalized people that they will lose out on blessing if they pursue just wages and economic improvement. In the end, Jesus is still authenticating His upside-down kingdom and showing that the lowly will be exalted. But it's not a character/virtue list; instead, it's a list of conditions that characterize the type of people who will respond to the King and His kingdom and receive its corresponding blessings.

It should be noted that this is not the majority view throughout church history. Recently, however, Donald Hagner in his Word Commentary on Matthew and Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy both take this approach. Both recognize that some of the beatitudes relate to Christian virtues (e.g. meekness, peace-making), but the relationship to Christian virtues in the beatitudes is secondary to the primary message of Jesus' upside-down kingdom.