Raised? by Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson

raised-3d

Oftentimes Christians are accused of being too confident in their beliefs, or using “faith” as a way to shut down questions or concerns from those exploring Christianity.

There’s no room for questioning. No room doubt.

Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson get this. They don’t want to scare off doubters or make people shy away from questions. But they do want them to be willing to do something with their doubts—find answers. Enter: Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection.

In its four easy-to-digest chapters, Dodson and Watson offer readers an engaging look at what it means for Jesus to have been raised from the dead and why it matters, beginning by challenging the foundation of modern day skepticism.

Possibility before plausibility

For many who doubt the resurrection of Jesus, the authors argue, the problem begins with their foundation: do we have a category for the supernatural? By and large, we in the West have discounted such things as impossible. So when we hear stories of miraculous events, we automatically assume there has to be a natural explanation for them. The flood account in Genesis, the parting of the Red Sea, the virgin birth… you name it, there’s a naturalistic alternative.

But those who are truly looking for answers need to ask, “Is this position truly open-minded?”

It certainly seems biased and closed off to possibilities we may not have personally experienced. Shouldn’t we at least be open to the possibility of Jesus rising from the dead? In fact, many are willing to believe in the supernatural teachings of Buddha, Vishnu, and Eckhart Tolle, but what about Jesus? If we are to consider fairly the plausibility of the resurrection—whether it happened or not we must begin with its possibility. (19)

This is so important for those investigating the Christian faith to understand—if you’ve already discounted the miraculous, you’re going to be profoundly disappointed with Christianity, because it hinges on a miracle.

 

At the risk of belaboring the point (which itself is the foundation of the first chapter of Raised?, not the entirety of the book), we need to have to get this straight: If Jesus was not raised from the dead, Christians are to be pitied above all others because we’ve put our hope in something untrue (1 Cor. 15:19). And worse, if what we’ve put our hope in is a lie or a delusion, then we’re doing terrible evil to others by encouraging them to believe it, too.

But if we’re right, and the resurrection is true, it changes everything.

What the resurrection really means

The remaining three chapters of the book offer a look into the implications of the resurrection and how we move from doubt to belief:

  • Chapter two is an overview of the big story of the Bible using the “Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation” paradigm (which is essential in a book geared toward non-Christians).
  • Chapter three examines what faith really is.
  • Chapter four looks at what happens when we trust in Jesus.

Each of these chapters is filled with solid, helpful material. Probably my favorite element of the three comes from the third chapter, where the authors press in a bit more on the nature of doubt. Doubt, they argue, isn’t the lack of belief—it’s just the belief in something else:

In his observations of pluralistic societies, Lesslie Newbigin noted that “doubt is not an autonomous activity.” What he means is that doubt is not self-sufficient—it cannot exist on its own. Doubt does not live in a vacuum. It is propped up by faith in something else. To doubt one thing is to have faith in another.… if you put your faith in one company or spouse, you are—at the same time—expressing doubt in other companies or potential spouses. You are doubtful they are the best possible fit, uncertain they are the one for you. Meanwhile, you have faith in the other company or spouse. To put it another way, if you doubt one thing, it’s because you believe in another. (61-62)

Can you tell discussion of doubt made an impression on me? The reason for that is simple: this discussion really is the strongest element of Raised.

There are a lot of excellent books dealing with the evidence side of the argument, but few address the epistemological side of it. How we know something and what we can know to be true is critical for us to deal with when faced with a generation that’s uncertain of what can be known at all. But Raised? offers a thoughtful and welcome apologetic for a newer generation of doubters. If you’re looking for a helpful outreach resource for your church or a book to give to an unbelieving neighbor, you’d do well with this one.


Title: Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection
Authors: Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson
Publisher: Zondervan (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

10 Non-Spiritual But Shameless, Satirical and Memorable T4G Moments

Joey Cochran shares a few memorable moments from T4G:

Today, I sipped on Starbucks Oprah Chai — which is what they are called now, if you didn’t know — while I browsed through other’s Together for the Gospel reflections. Together for the Gospel, widely known as T4G, is a conference held every other year in Louisville Kentucky. I have gone to the last two, and they have been extremely edifying experiences. But edifying, does not mean a little fun was not had. And so without further ado, I give you 10 geeky, young, restless, reformed and stereotypical moments experienced at T4G.

Thabiti also provided a great rundown, too.

The 4 Stages of Writing and the 3 Mistakes We Make

Trevin Wax:

I recently came across the HBR Guide to Better Business Writing, a book that has a chapter on the four stages of the writing process. Reflecting on my experience writing blogs and non-fiction books, I recognized these stages even if I’d never consciously labeled them this way.

One of the best books on evangelism I’ve read

Mack Stiles has just released a new book in the 9Marks series, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. Westminster Books is selling it for $9 each or $7 when you buy five or more copies.

Easter Kindle deals

Here are a couple of really good deals on two books on the resurrection of Jesus:

Why Waiting is Worth it

Pat Aldridge:

I’m writing this to help young, future leaders avoid the mistakes I made. When I was in Bible College and pursuing vocational ministry I was under the assumption that as soon as I had a degree, I’d have a job. I was more concerned with a career than knowing my Savior better. Once I had the degree, I started applying for positions.

God decided to make me wait… for 15 years.

Please Don’t Make My Funeral All About Me

Nancy Guthrie:

I just got home from another funeral. Seems we’ve gone to more than our share lately. And once again, as I left the church, I pled with those closest to me, “Please don’t make my funeral all about me.”

We were an hour and fifteen minutes in to today’s funeral before anyone read from the scriptures, and further in until there was a prayer. Resurrection wasn’t mentioned until the benediction. There were too many funny stories to tell about the deceased, too many recollections, too many good things to say about the things he accomplished to speak of what Christ has accomplished on his behalf.

The last days of Jesus: the unchallengeable Authority

lightstock_2406_xsmall_user_3763000

And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:27-33)


The conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders is not unlike many in our day. We see it time and again: Jesus could not have been God; he was merely a “good teacher.” But when challenged, most opponents can do little more than shrug in frustration and say, “I don’t know.”

Jesus would not allow the priests and scribes this luxury.

They had seen the signs He’d performed. They’d heard His powerful teaching. They’d witnessed Him tossing the moneychangers out of the Temple… And they wanted to know: on whose authority was He doing these things? Jesus was not a priest nor a recognized authority on the Scriptures according to their standards. He was the son of a carpenter from an unimportant town in an inconsequential province.

And yet, somehow, He was turning the world upside down.

And so they spoke up. “By what authority do you do these things?” they asked, with that barely concealed frustration you see when someone’s desperately trying to keep their cool. But Jesus knew their hearts better than even they did. He knew they weren’t sincere and so he backed them into a corner. If they answered His question, He’d answer theirs.

“Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” Immediately, they saw the trap they’d walked in to. If they said John’s ministry was from God, Jesus would rebuke them for not believing his words. If they said it was from man, the crowd would lynch them, for they knew he was a prophet.

So they answered, “I don’t know.”

And so their ignorance and lack of sincerity stood revealed for all to see. But Jesus had no time for such things. He would not entertain their ignorance. They could not challenge what they did not know. They could not take away what was not theirs to give. And, they would learn, they could not even take His life unless He first gave it.


Father, we live in a time when so many challenge the authority of Jesus. They question Him, they reinterpret Him, they deny Him… Even in our own lives, we struggle to acknowledge His authority and submit to Him. Help us not to question Him out of ignorance or out of a lack of sincerity. Help us to honour and obey Him in all things, for our good and your glory. Amen.


Photo via Lightstock

Would Paul have used video? Here’s a better question…

medium_8560520304

If Paul were ministering today, would he use video?

This is an important question, and it’s not one that is as clear cut as you might think. Many who have embraced video venue gatherings point to Paul as their example. Because he was all about becoming all things to all people in the hopes of winning some to the gospel, he would surely use any (non-sinful) means at his disposal to extend the reach of the gospel.

That’s generally how I’ve seen the argument go, anyway. (I realize I’m probably oversimplifying a bit.)

The question of whether or not Paul would use video is an important one, but I wonder if it might also be the wrong one.

Would Paul use video to share the gospel? Probably, sure. But, more importantly, what would he use it for?

See, here’s the thing with Paul—he was, by and large, an itinerant minister. With the exception of his time in Ephesus, he never seemed to stay in one place all that long. His ambition was “to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest [he] build on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20). This wasn’t a vanity thing for him—he simply wanted as many people as possible to hear the good news about Jesus.

He was all about fulfilling the great commission.

But he would frequently communicate with other churches. Some, like the churches in Galatia, Ephesus and Thessalonica, were ones he played an integral role in starting. Others, like the church in Colossae and (likely) Rome, were established by others. But regardless of his connection, Paul wrote to teach, correct, encourage, and strengthen them in the gospel.

But he also wasn’t their pastor. Even in the churches he had helped start, he had commanded that elders be established to equip “the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). These elders were the ones charged with “keeping watch over [their] souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17). These were the ones who would regularly proclaim God’s Word and teach the believers.

So what was Paul? Paul was not serving as the primary teaching pastor of any of these churches. He didn’t need to. These churches had faithful men like Titus, Timothy, and so many others. In his letters, he might be better viewed as the guest preacher.

And when you look at Paul’s letters more closely, there’s another interesting thing: this expectation that those letters will be shared with other churches. In Colossians 4:16, for example, he explicitly told them, “when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.” Similarly in 1 Thessalonians 5:27, he made them swear they would “have this letter read to all the brothers.”

So even letters meant for specific churches weren’t meant for them exclusively.

So that takes us back to the real question:

If Paul had access to the technology in his time, what would he have used video for?

Here’s my hunch, with all the necessary caveats in place: I suspect Paul’s use of video might look similar to an event like Secret Church.

If you don’t know the concept, Secret Church is an intensive six-plus hour Bible study modelled after the meetings of the underground church in countries where religious freedom is either extremely restricted or entirely nonexistent. The idea is to “take what we’ve learned and pass it along to others … to use what we’ve learned during this gathering to make disciples of Christ—both locally and globally.”

They host a live event and simulcast it to host churches and homes around the world. This isn’t making TV screens serve as pastors, or extending the brand of a single man. The goal is to teach, correct, encourage, and strengthen believers in the gospel, while also encouraging the spread of the gospel.

I might be crazy, but that certainly sounds an awful like Paul’s model, doesn’t it?


photo credit: ACOUSTIC DIMENSIONS via photopin cc

Links I like

It’s Back — The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” and the State of Modern Scholarship

Albert Mohler:

The so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” is back in the news and back in public conversation. The story first broke in a flurry of sensationalism back in September of 2012 when Smithsonian magazine declared that a papyrus fragment had been found which would “send jolts through the world of biblical scholarship.” Well, it didn’t jolt much of anything.

If you did what Disney characters do, they’ve be creepy

HT: Barnabas

New Kindle deals!

There are some pretty great new Kindle deals on right now, including one of my favorite books on evangelism by Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, for 99¢. Also on sale:

An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture by Andrew Davis—99¢

Atheism Remix by Al Mohler—$1.99 (seriously, just get this!)

Preaching the Cross by the Together for the Gospel speakers—$3.99

Truth Endures by John MacArthur—$3.99

And finally, Francis Chan’s books are on sale:

5 Common Small Group Myths

Steven Lee:

What you believe about your small group will dictate how you approach potential problems when they arise. If you buy a house knowing it will be a fixer-upper, then you approach that faux wood paneling in the family room as an opportunity to upgrade and improve. Whereas if you buy your dream house and find out the basement floods, you’re pretty disappointed and discouraged.

In the same way, people are often disappointed in their small group because they come to it with the wrong expectations. Here are five common myths about small groups, and the corresponding truth that corrects our wrong thinking.

A Generation of Ham’s

Mike Leake:

I am convinced that we are a generation of Ham’s and not Shem and Japheth. We glory in exposing sin and shame instead of covering it. Certainly we should “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” I think we’ve got that part down for the most part. What we lack, however, is a love which covers sin instead of exposing it.

The God of Joyful Tears and Sorrow

Trevin Wax:

The delivery room is a place of great pain, but also joy as a woman awaits the arrival of new life from her womb. The graveside harbors a family’s great grief, but also, an insuppressible hope and joy as we feel the birth pangs of a world that is passing away and look forward to the world that is to come, a world in which a little girl whose first sight was the eyes of Jesus will receive her little body back and bow before her Maker, a world in which God Himself will wipe away our tears, a new world born out of the pain and suffering of the old.

 

The last days of Jesus: the purifying Lord

lightstock_2406_xsmall_user_3763000

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city. (Mark 11:12-19)


Jesus’ days leading up to the crucifixion were pregnant with meaning. Consider the cursing of the fig tree. Most of us have read this and been confused—why did Jesus react so strongly to the fruitless fig tree? Did He wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Was he suffering from low blood sugar? But Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree is only understood when read in light of what happens next in Mark’s gospel—His cleansing of the Temple.

What Jesus did figuratively with the fig tree, He did literally to the Temple. This was meant to be a place where the fruit of true worship could be seen. It was to be a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7) to draw people from all the nations to see the glory and goodness of the Lord. Instead, it had been perverted into a house of commerce, one where man’s greed could be seen but God’s glory was hidden.

When Jesus came to the Temple this day, it was not as a pilgrim preparing for the Passover—it was as the sovereign King, passing judgment on the fruitless Temple and its works. Fruitless religious behaviour would end. Like the fig tree, it would wither and die (Mark 11:20). The tables were overturned. The moneychangers were run out. The religious leaders were condemned.

The Lord’s house and the Lord’s people would be purified. But rather than be purified themselves—rather than submitting to their king—the religious leaders determined to destroy the Purifier.


Father, the warning in the fig tree is clear: the outward appearance of spiritual health isn’t enough—we are to be people who bear fruit at all times. Cleanse our hearts, purify us, rid us of our sinful thoughts and motives, Lord. Allow us to show your glory to the world and bring honour to the name of Jesus. Amen.


Photo via Lightstock

My top 5 highlights from #T4G

t4g-optimized

Last week, I travelled down to Louisville, Kentucky, for Together for the Gospel 2014, three days of heavy duty teaching, singing, and visiting with friends from around the continent who you only see at events such as these.

This was my second time at T4G, and it was a very different experience for me this time around.

I didn’t live-blog (sorry folks who were looking forward to it!). I didn’t take copious notes. I even missed a few sessions due to some other commitments (I’m catching up on those now!).

But, y’know something? It was probably the best conference experience I’ve ever had. Here are my top five moments:

1. People who are more than profile pics! These conferences are always a double-edged sword for introverts like me. I have to work really, really hard to be social as it’s tempting to curl up in a corner with a book and hide. But over the three days I was in Louisville, I got to see many older friends (Alex Leung, Chris Poblete, Pat Aldridge, Dave Jenkins, Derek Rishmawy, Dan Darling, Matt Capps, and Jonathan Howe among them) while meeting several folks for the first time who I’ve really enjoyed interacting with via Twitter like Matt Sims and (all-too-briefly) Mike Leake.

2. DeYoung brought it. Of the messages I was present for, Kevin DeYoung’s may well have been the standout moment of the entire conference. He offered a powerful exposition of Jesus’ view of the Bible—a defence of inerrancy that wasn’t intended to encourage mental assent, but delighted and devoted confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.

A few standout quotes:

  • “Is your chastened epistemology a sign of humility or that you’re hard of hearing?”
  • “If quoting Deuteronomy to the devil was enough for Jesus, it should be enough for us.”
  • “When we become proud of our doubts, we are guilty of the sin of unbelief.”

John MacArthur, a man not known for positive hyperbole, had this to say: “Not only is this one of the finest talks you’ve heard, it’s one of the finest you will ever hear.” Listen at T4G.org.

3. Listening to 7000+ (mostly) men sing. Loudly. Once again, Bob Kauflin led us all in singing praise to the Lord, and once again, it was the one of the best and most genuine times of singing I’ve been a part of. There was nothing showy, no lasers or smoke machines, just Kauflin and a piano. The attendees sang—and more importantly, they sang like they meant it.

(Worship leaders, there might be a lesson here…)

4. The gospel by Numbers. In what I’d definitely call as the close-second to DeYoung’s inerrancy message, Ligon Duncan showed us the gospel in a passage you wouldn’t have expected: Numbers 5:1-4. These verses, the defilement laws, “show that those who are unclean make everything they touch unclean,” but they also have a massive gap: there’s no way to be made clean in them. In the gap, they serve an essential purpose: to point us to the One who makes all things clean!

“Jesus is the One who makes all things unclean clean… All this he does so you can say when sharing the gospel, there’s nothing he cannot touch, nothing he cannot make clean…. so that we might become the righteousness of God.”

Isn’t that the kind of Jesus we want to tell people about?

5. The freedom to rest. Wednesday night I was completely bagged. I had a lot to do that day and was pretty wiped by the time 7:30 rolled around. So, rather than walking over to the Yum Center and catching Matt Chandler’s message, I did something new for me: I went to my room, wrote for a bit and relaxed for a couple of hours. Feeling the freedom to actually go and rest is new for me, and it’s something I’m really grateful for.

So those are probably my favorite moments of T4G 2014. Now, to get back to the normal routine and figure out where to put this big stack of books that came home with me!

Were you at T4G or did you listen online? What was a highlight moment for you?

Links I like

Faux Self-Empowerment For The Self-Centered

Joseph Sunde:

This is not your Grandmother’s Alcoholics Anonymous, wherein human depravity is pressed to come clean, and in its frailty, humility, and desperation, submits itself to a higher power and reaches beyond its earthbound limits. This is not about “love” as selfless, unconditional devotion to the other, tied to transcendent commitments and cultivated through relationships not of its own design. This is not, as the One True Guru might say, the last shall be first.

Keep It To Yourself

Adam Ford unpacks what it really means when someone asks you to keep your faith to yourself.

The Great 1980s Dungeons & Dragons Panic

In an era of potent concern over internet pornography, cyber-bullying, and drugs, it is hard to imagine a game being controversial. But 30 years ago Dungeons & Dragons was the subject of a full-on moral panic, writes Peter Ray Allison.

At the beginning of 1982′s ET, a group of teenage boys are indulging in a roleplay game, featuring dice and spells, and sounding a lot like Dungeons & Dragons. They indulge in banter as they wait for a pizza delivery to arrive.

This innocuous depiction was a far cry from the less-neutral coverage that was to come.

Predestination: Don’t Say a Word About It Until…

Daniel Hyde:

…you need to know and be prepared to communicate several things before talking about predestination. Imagine that this doctrine is as a beautiful painting. But before you can even begin to apply the paint, you need to have a canvas. Predestination is the paint. We don’t begin with the paint. We begin with a canvas to which the paint is applied

Bread of Heaven

This is nicely done:

HT: Steven Kryger

Do You Have A Complaint Against Someone?

Mark Altrogge:

“If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other…” Do you have a complaint against someone? Against your spouse or a friend? Against your pastor or ministry team leader? Could God have any complaints against you? If anyone has a right to complain about being sinned against, it is God. If he kept a record of our sins against him, he could produce an encyclopedia. Yet he was willing to forgive our mountain of sins against him. Jesus was willing to personally pay our debt so God could forgive us. Why? Because God is compassionate toward us even when we sin.

The last days of Jesus: the triumphant King

lightstock_2406_xsmall_user_3763000

 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:12-19)


There is profound irony in Jesus’ triumphal entry.

In a scene straight out of Zechariah’s prophecy, the people’s King had come, righteous and bringing salvation with Him, to the rejoicing of the people (Zechariah 9:9). They waved palm branches while crying out, “Hosanna”—“Oh save!”

Of course, the people spoke better than they realized.

During the reigns of David and Solomon, Israel was the most powerful nation in the region. Now, they were a marginalized people, weak and powerless under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. Over the years, there had been many self-proclaimed saviours who’d attempted to liberate the nation from Roman rule by force. They’d garnered a following, but all wound up dead.

But Jesus was different. He came performing signs and wonders—even raising the dead to life! He preached with authority, not like the other religious leaders (Matthew 7:28-29). He proclaimed peace with God and the forgiveness of sins, welcoming the marginalized and the outcast into His company. This could only be the Messiah, the promised Son of David who would bring glory back to Israel.

The people were right, and yet so, so wrong. Jesus was their Messiah, this was true. He was their King. But they couldn’t see past their immediate circumstances. They expected a warrior who would bring their oppressors to their knees. Instead, they found a Messiah who was humble in spirit and a servant of all.

This is the great irony of the triumphal entry: the problem was not Jesus. It was their expectations. Their “Jesus” was too small, but they couldn’t see it. Jesus had a greater enemy in His sights than Caesar and his empire. He was coming not to liberate His people from a man-made empire, but from their—and our—captivity to a greater power: sin. All of human history was building to this moment, the moment when Jesus would drink from the cup of God’s wrath (Matthew 26:39) and rescue His people from bondage to sin and death.

And so those same people who cried, “Hosanna!” on Sunday would be calling out for Jesus’ blood on Friday—so He could defeat their greatest foe.


Father, we are grateful you don’t exist to meet our expectations, and that your plans are so much better than what we can imagine. Thank you that Jesus didn’t come to defeat a mere human leader, but our greatest enemy. Turn our hearts away from ideas about you that are too small. Prepare our hearts to celebrate your victory this week, Lord. Amen.


Photo via Lightstock

Links I like (weekend edition)

If We Live in the Future, Why Do We Dress Like the Past?

S.D. Kelly:

Now that we are in the throes of the digital age, it is safe to say that (at least for now) this is what the future looks like. Doctors conduct arthroscopic surgery using tiny cameras, scientists grow human ears on the backs of mice, a googolplex of angels dance on the head of a pin. Yet somehow, when it comes to the way we actually look in the year 2014, the digital age recedes and it’s as though everyone under the age of 35 just walked off the set of a Coen Brothers movie. Go to any urban center from Portland to Brooklyn and, if you squint past the tattoos and iPhones, you could be looking at America circa 1930.

I Want My Kids Brainwashed

Eowyn Stoddard:

Through a superficial glance at history it becomes painfully clear that Reason alone cannot lead people to be good. Why? Because our ability to reason is radically flawed and limited in scope. Here in Germany we have the Holocaust as a glaring example. But it happens everywhere. Look at “wonderful” ideas such as the Crusades in Europe, the enslavement of Africans in America, the Cultural Revolution in China, the Rwandan genocide, or the recently uncovered North Korean atrocities. In the face of such a vast moral abyss, the doctrine of total depravity, though at first glance seemingly depressing, actually comforts me. It explains the human propensity toward evil. Human beings are not good at the core. If they were, how could we end up such a mess? Most people certainly aren’t as bad as they could be, but the fall affected our beings in their totality. Every aspect of who we are as humans is broken: our bodies, our emotions, our sexuality, and our thinking.

Shelve Your Shock

Barnabas Piper:

Shock feels like judgment even if it’s not intended to. It seems to express a lack of empathy; the listener simply can’t understand me otherwise he wouldn’t respond like I said I had a third arm under my shirt.

In church circles this is especially true. Many church people grew up sheltered from real ugliness. For many, the moralistic and legalistic upbringing made many sins seems both distant and unthinkable (not all bad). They are out of touch with the difficulties so many people face. Many Christians have the prevailing attitude toward a lengthy list of sins of “I could never do that.” Well, that attitude splatters all over someone who shares their story of sin, mistakes, pain, crime, sex, substance abuse, divorce, infidelity, or whatever. The Christian’s subtle surprise or overt shock speaks volumes of judgment.

Kindle deals for Christian readers (recap)

 What Does It Mean to Know Nothing except Christ and Him Crucified?

R.C. Sproul:

One of the most important subdivisions of theology is Christology, which is the study of the person and work of Christ. Within that field of study, when we want to get at the aspect that is most crucial, the aspect that we may call the “crux” of the matter of Jesus’ person and work, we go immediately to the cross. The wordscrucial and crux both have their root in the Latin word for “cross,” crux, and they have come into the English language with their current meanings because the concept of the cross is at the very center and core of biblical Christianity. In a very real sense, the cross crystallizes the essence of the ministry of Jesus.

The Quickest Way To Become a Better Teacher

David Murray:

Slow down.

That’s right, the quickest way to become a better teacher is to slow down.

How so?

2 kids’ albums that are actually really good!

keyboard

As y’all know, my wife and I are the parents of three little kids—Abigail (7), Hannah (4), and Hudson (2). Our house is always hopping with this crew, especially when there’s music on (or in their heads). I took the girls to The Muppets Most Wanted recently, and while we were in the car, Hannah and Abigail immediately started singing a heartfelt rendition of every girl’s current favorite song, “Let it Go.”

Just imagine that for a minute.

Alright, back to the task at hand. Because these kids really enjoy music, I get to expose them to a lot of different material. The challenge has been finding good kids’ albums! Many, as you can imagine, are vile, poorly produced, dreck. Some are okay. Few are exceptional.

But the exceptional few are ones I’d like to talk about a bit today. Here’s a look at two kids’ albums that are actually really good!

1. Coal Train Railroad, self-titled. I was pointed toward these folks by one of my followers on Twitter and I’m so glad they did. Coal Train Railroad is a jazz group for kids from Nashville, and their stuff is exceptional, both what’s been released on their self-titled debut and the follow-up, Coal Train Railroad Swings!

Our kids really like to bop to these albums, and Hudson typically asks for “Train!” when we get in the car, so there’s that.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | iTunes

2. The Verve Pipe, Are We There Yet? Honestly, I never thought I’d put “The Verve Pipe” and “great” in the same sentence, but there you go. These guys had a couple of big songs in the mid-late 90s but they fell off my radar a long time ago. Then I learned they had made a couple of albums for kids, the latest being Are We There Yet? This album has a lot of fun songs, including one called “When Grandma Says No,” which describes the all-too-true reality of Grandma’s no’s true meaning: maybe.

And all the parents said, “amen.”

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | iTunes

So those are a couple of really good kids’ albums we’ve picked up recently. If you’re a parent, definitely check them out, and if you have recommendations, share them in the comments!

Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung

deyoung-taking-God-at-his-word

The Bible is the most important—and most controversial—books ever written. Its message of world destroyed by human sinfulness and redeemed only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is an affront to our modern sensibilities.

So it’s no wonder this book is constantly under attack, is it? For centuries, skeptics of all stripes have done their level best to debunk the Bible’s reliability. And Christian scholars in kind have written many wonderful treatises expressing why the Bible can be trusted.

The problem is, most of those treatises aren’t written to the people who need them: average people coming to church on Sunday morning. For the average Christian, there aren’t a lot of good, engaging books on the reliability of Scripture. So, Kevin DeYoung decided to write one.

His latest, Taking God At His Word, offers readers an easily digestible look at what the Scriptures say about themselves and why we, as Christians, can and should trust them—and more than that, why we should love the Bible.

Why do we need to love the Bible?

Taking God At His Word begins with its conclusion: God’s people are not to simply assent to God’s Word, they are to love it. Our approach to the Bible is not to be one of dreary subservience, but of delighted submission, something illustrated in Psalm 119′s exuberant language. And this is DeYoung’s entire purpose in writing the book.

I want all that is in Psalm 119 to be an expression of all that is in our heads and in our hearts.… I want to convince you (and make sure I’m convinced myself) that the Bible makes no mistakes, can be understood, cannot be overturned, and is the most important word in your life, the most relevant thing you can read each day. Only when we are convinced of all this can we give a full-throated “Yes! Yes! Yes!” every time we read the Bible’s longest chapter. (16)

Note how careful DeYoung is to ground this delight: we’re not to come to the Bible with a subjective emotionalism; our feelings don’t guide how we are to view the Bible. Instead, because the Bible is true, clear, essential and authoritative we can feel an immense amount of joy and gladness!

But that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? After all, many of us don’t live there, or if we do, it’s not all the time. But getting there is possible—not easy, but possible. It means we have to understand what the Bible says about itself.

What does the Bible say about itself?

DeYoung’s knack for taking complex ideas and making them accessible is on full display as he unpacks what the Bible says about itself. In doing so, he outlines four essential truths about Scripture:

  1. God’s Word is enough. The Bible is sufficient for all our needs and to grow us into maturity as believers.
  2. God’s Word is clear. The Bible’s message can be accurately (if not completely) understood by ordinary people using ordinary means.
  3. God’s Word is final. The Bible is our ultimate authority over all matters, and we are to sit under its rule.
  4. God’s Word is necessary. We need the Bible in order to know God and to know the way of salvation.

Entire books can easily be written on each of these four subjects (and have), but DeYoung gives readers just enough to be grounded and certain in how the Scriptures speak to each of these truths. Of them all, the one we see near constant attack on is the Bible’s authority—and often this challenge is made by undermining its clarity.

Take homosexuality and same-sex marriage as an example. A number of well meaning professing believers want to believe homosexual practice is not in conflict with the Christian faith, and that this is not an issue clearly spoken of in Scripture. A few of the common arguments:

  • Maybe Paul wasn’t referring to monogamous homosexual relationships in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6; maybe he was only speaking of nonconsensual acts.
  • Jesus didn’t really speak on the issue, so how can we know what Jesus would say?
  • Perhaps there is a trajectory that is set in motion through the gospel that would mean that even though Paul said it wasn’t acceptable, it is now.

Notice the common traits: each argument attempts to obscure the clarity of Scripture, either by questioning the author’s clear intent or arguing from silence. And as soon as we lose the clarity of Scripture, we lose its authority. It’s the old serpent’s trick once again: “Did God really say…?”

God’s word is final. God’s word is understandable. God’s word is necessary. God’s word is enough. In every age, Christians will do battle wherever these attributes of Scripture are threatened and assaulted. But more importantly, on every day we will have to fight the fight of faith to really believe everything we know the Bible says about itself and, even more challenging, to live accordingly. (93)

Can we take God at His Word?

Getting to the place of delight DeYoung advocates for is hard, but it’s necessary. We will continually be challenged from without and within on whether or not this book we claim is the Word of God is what it says it is. But we have good reason for confidence—not from external evidence (although we do), but from the Bible itself. Taking God At His Word does a wonderful job of reminding readers that this book is what it says it is: the knowable, necessary, authoritative and sufficient Word of God—the only place where we may learn of the One who has come to rescue us from our sin, and of the hope He offers for tomorrow.

Friends, if this is really true, how can you not delight in it?

Taking God At His Word is one of the few books I want to hand out to everyone I know. It really is that helpful. Its punchy and powerful message is exactly what so many new and mature believers need, and I trust it will be a great benefit to all who read it.


Title: Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Publisher: Crossway (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books

Links I like

The Joy of Getting Unstuck

Brandon Smith:

Earlier this year, I ran headfirst into a wall. With all of the busyness of life, I nearly locked myself in a closet and tried to disappear. I felt overwhelmed and driven into the ground. I was an old pickup truck with a busted engine and four flat tires. I was stuck.

Truthfully, I had taken my eyes off of God and put them on myself.

The Uselessness of the Twitter Battles

Trevin Wax:

Twitter is a place for conversation, but once we go into battle mode, I think the legitimate conversation is already over. Twitter battles are like putting on a spectacle for the perverse pleasure (or dismay) of the Twitter audience. Has anyone watching one of these debacles ever said, “You know what? You convinced me! I’m wrong and you’re right.” No one. Ever.

I’ve declined to engage in most Twitter debates, but after jumping into the ring a time or two, I’ve decided not to do so anymore. I love conversing on Twitter, but once I see the conversation devolving into the battle, from this point on, I’m going to step out. Here’s why.

David Platt on Heaven is For Real

HT: Jeff Medders

The Church Needs Philosophers and Philosophers Need the Church

Paul Gould:

The church needs philosophers. But we Christian philosophers need the church too. We need to be reminded daily that the Western canon of intellectual history is not our “real food.” To paraphrase Jesus, “Man does not live on Descartes and Kant alone, but on the word of God.” We need to be reminded of the Great Commission. Remind us that Jesus, and not a solution to the problem of universals, is the world’s greatest need.

In Which Calvin Defends Lip-Gloss

Derek Rishmawy:

A number of these young women have grown up in difficult and abusive homes. Some don’t have mothers. Others had never had a stitch of makeup on in their lives and wouldn’t know where to start. And so, my wife, expert that she is, taught them how to wash their faces, massaged them, and then helped them understand how to use makeup in a way that amplifies and accentuates their natural features–eyes, cheeks, lashes, and lips–instead of drowning them out in a wash of paint.

I see this as a service and not simply a misguided encouragement to vanity, and to make my case, I’d like to call to the stand a witness: Genevan Reformer John Calvin’s theology of the body.

New Easter devotional: The Last Days of Jesus

495-14004-Easter-Devotional-Main-Web-Banner-640px

The events of Easter are among the most important in the Christian faith—the death and resurrection of Jesus, which brought about the end of our separation from God and gave those who believe the promise of new life!

To help Christians prepare to celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death, I’ve written a new devotional in partnership with Compassion Canada,1 The last days of Jesus: eight readings through the death and resurrection of Jesus.


Download the devotional


There are a couple of ways you can read these devotionals:

  1. Download the PDF and read at home (print it out or view it on your eReader).
  2. Visit here or at compassion.ca from April 13–April 20, 2014, to read the latest entry.

I pray these devotional readings will be a blessing to all who read them as you prepare your hearts to celebrate the good news of Easter. Enjoy!