The worst books I read in 2014

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Yeah, I’m going there.

Usually at the end of the year, us blogger types only talk about the books and articles and moments and cookies we really loved. The ones that really mattered to us (at least for a few minutes).

I’ve got lots of that coming up, have no fear. But what I want to do today is I want to kick off the “best of” season with a bit of a twist, and share a few of the really bad books I read in 2014. Some (most?) were released this year. Some were crazy popular. But none of them were particularly good. Ready? Let’s go!

That time R.C. Sproul wrote a bad children’s book

The King Without a Shadow by R.C. Sproul. Okay, this might be a shocker to some. But if I’ve got my timeline right, this is Sproul’s first children’s book, and it shows. My wife and I read it to our kids and it was

so

very

loooooooong.

It’s so long that Emily lost focus while reading it. I may or may not have feel asleep while reading it, too. We love Sproul’s other children’s books (although none of them are really all that short), yeah, this is one we’re not planning on going back to any time soon.

The one that put a cramp in my soul

Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick. You may have seen my review over at TGC a while back. (And if you haven’t read it, will you please? I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.) That review, incidentally, took ages to write as I had to try really hard to not go all ad hominem on Furtick. Its false premise, defensiveness and hopeless help isn’t worth your time.

The other one that put a cramp in my soul

Killing Lions by John and Sam Eldridge. There’s a review coming. The first line: “I don’t even know where to start with this book.” True story.

The one that didn’t really say anything

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. I know this book is a business classic and all, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I can figure out why. So many pages, so little content. If you want to save yourself some trouble, just read the opening and final pages of each chapter; you’ll get everything you need from those. Then go read something by Patrick Lencioni, because he’s way more fun.

The one that is sincere, but sincerely wrong

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. This is another one I’ve been struggling to review, not because I don’t have a lot to say, but because I want to be as thoughtful as possible in doing so. My central point of contention is that while Vines relies on the standard—and largely disproven—arguments for homosexuality’s compatibility with Christianity, he bases his arguments in experientialism and emotionalism disguised as “fruit.”

Bonus: The one that was too obviously ridiculous to even bother reading

The Zimzum of Love by Rob and Kristen Bell. C’mon, like you didn’t know this book wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time from the title alone. When a supposed Christian ex-pastor starts spouting pagan1 nonsense about increasing the energy flow between you and your spouse, and the displacement of God’s omnipresence (something that, by definition, is not even possible), you know you’re going to crazy town.


Photo credit: cesarastudillo via photopin cc

Links I like

Bob Jones University apologizes for failing sexual abuse victims

“On behalf of Bob Jones University, I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding, and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault,” said president Steve Pettit, addressing students and faculty earlier today. “We did not live up to their expectations. We failed to uphold and honor our own core values. We are deeply saddened to hear that we added to their pain and suffering.”

Look for the full report to be available for download at netgrace.org this morning at 11 am.

Inside Christian publishing

This is a really good interview between Dave Harvey and Justin Taylor.

The Danger of “Prove It!”

JD Payne:

Two phrases are commonplace that hinder the mission. One is often assigned to church members; the other one seems to attach itself to church leaders. In theory, they appear to be different.  In reality, both are the same.

This member says, “We’ve never done it that way before.”

That leader states, “We’ll do it that way if you can prove that it works.”

Both are tragic statements. They reflect a deeper state of unwillingness to move in new directions–sometimes even if the Spirit is leading.

The 10 Commandments of Christmas Eve Church Services

Chris Martin nails it.

The Benefits of Sitting Under Expository Preaching

Eric Davis:

Now and then, it’s good to stop and bask in the kindness of God with respect to what we have been given in the Bible. It is the word of God. God has spoken. God has spoken. And it’s all here in Holy Scripture. Not one word missing. Not one word misspoken. Not one word mistaken. Incredible.… The only thing that makes sense, then, is to preach Scripture in a way that seeks to stay surrendered to the biblical text so that the message is discernibly directed by the authorial intent of the particular passage. That is expository preaching. And because God’s word is so valuable, expository preaching imparts blessing in many ways.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Adam Ford does a nice job with this one.

Will We Have Peace This Christmas?

Chris Hefner:

We are not the first generation to experience despair due to war and racial tension. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of America’s premier poets, lived through our nation’s Civil War. Henry’s son, Charley, fought in the Union Army. The war raged for four long years over the issues of slavery, state’s rights, and national unity. In November 1863, Charley was badly wounded in battle. Passionate feelings about the war welled up as Henry nursed his son back to health. On December 25, 1863, Henry expressed his thoughts as he penned the words to the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Complacency, conviction and the Christian response to ISIS in the West

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“I was one of you. I was a typical Canadian. I grew up on the hockey rink and spent my teenage years on stage playing guitar. I had no criminal record. I was a bright student and maintained a strong GPA in university. So how could one of your people end up in my place? And why is it that your own people are the ones turning against you at home? The answer is that we have accepted the true call of the prophets and messengers of God.”

That’s what John Maguire, a 24-year-old convert to Islam from Ottawa, Ontario, told the world in a video that appeared online in recent days, which you can watch below:

I’ve been sitting with this video, the related National Post article, and Maguire’s call to Muslims in the West since I learned of it on Sunday. “You either pack your bags, or prepare your explosive devices. You either purchase your airline ticket, or you sharpen your knife,” Maguire says in the video.

The rhetoric is powerful—and, of course, dangerous. Dangerous because there are, inevitably, people who will heed this call because of the conviction with which it is made. Make no mistake: regardless of how polished this piece of propaganda is, and how Maguire’s message is almost certainly scripted, there is conviction in what he says.

When he tells Muslims in Canada to sharpen their knives, he means it. When he tells us that people will be targeted indiscriminately, he means it.

Conviction is a dangerous thing for Canadians, because we have so few. We are people placated by socialism, with consciences dulled by secularism’s hollow values of personal happiness and the accumulation of wealth. Maguire rebelled against this, seeing these values for what they are: empty and hollow.

The problem is, he replaced them with something overtly evil.

But it’s also dangerous because of the people who will continue to try to dismiss such things as a mental illness on the part of Maguire or other young men like him who’ve converted to Islam and either fled Canada to join ISIS or taken up arms against the nation on native soil, as in the case of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau.

But the problem is not mental illness, unless one is willing to honestly suggest that the thousands of men and women living in the Middle East who have joined ISIS and other terrorist organizations have exactly same identical mental illness. For that many people to manifest precisely the same symptoms in exactly the same fashion stretches credulity. No, it’s not a problem of mental illness. It is, as Albert Mohler pointed out in his analysis of this story, a worldview issue. The common denominator for all is Islam.

Now, don’t read me as saying all Muslims are terrorists or anything like that. I’m not. But what is attractive for many—and especially young people like Maguire—is its conviction:

  • There is a clear right and wrong.
  • There is no moral ambiguity.
  • There is a larger purpose to life.

But what Maguire and many like him have latched onto, whether you believe it to be an accurate reflection of Islamic teaching or not, is a lie. In the same way that many Canadians continue to latch onto their illusion of safety—after all, we’re so nice, and we have delicious maple syrup. Why would anyone want to hurt us?

Mohler turns Maguire’s call for Western Muslims to wake up back on Western Christians, and he is right to do so. We do need to wake up to the realities around us. So what does that look like?

I’d suggest three things:

Embrace our convictions. We believe that God gives us eternal life, not through the uncertain means of trying to merit it through our works and war, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son who came to live on our behalf, and to take God’s wrath upon himself for us. And because of that, we can embrace our great purpose, which the Westminster Catechism states so well, “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Fundamentally, if you do not believe this you are not a Christian, as I’m sure most (if not all) reading this would agree. At least not in any meaningful sense of the word.

Live by our convictions. But practically, too few of us actually live as if this is true. We have embraced what Luther called a theology of glory and abandoned a theology of the cross, spending ourselves on trivial things and seeking to make a name for ourselves, even as we claim to be doing so for the sake of the Lord. We run ourselves ragged and do not enjoy God’s rest. We are not people who are at peace. For this, we need to repent, and to learn to take seriously Christ’s words in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Share our convictions. But we are not called to simply live by these convictions, but also to share them. The gospel message is humanity’s only hope for peace with God, and eternal joy. And all of humanity will stand before Jesus, either to enter into his kingdom or to be sentenced to hell. But we are not called to command people everywhere to submit or perish, using force and fear as our weapon, and rejoicing in the death of the wicked as, it seems, Maguire and ISIS do. Instead we plead with the lost, calling out, “Why will you die?!” We do so as those desperate to see the dying saved and adopted into God’s family.

 

In other words, we speak out of love. Love for God, and love for our neighbors.

And yet if we do not do this—if we prefer our comfortable life, if we think going to church on Sundays and giving to the poor is what God has in mind for us—we’ve missed the point. We must embrace our convictions. We must live by them. And we must share them—because if we don’t, we may be perpetrating a greater evil than any that ISIS can.

Links I like

Confessions Of A Hardcore Homeschooler

Stephen Altrogge:

I used to think homeschooling was the way to do school. You know, the divinely designed method of schooling. And although I wouldn’t quite come out and say it, I kinda looked down on parents who didn’t homeschool. Why? Because I was a self-righteous idiot who drank a lot of his own awesome sauce.

Then I made a few discoveries that changed my mind regarding the issue of schooling.

Who Was St. Nicholas?

Kevin DeYoung:

Why was Nicholas so famous?  Well, it’s impossible to tell fact from fiction, but this is some of the legend of St. Nicholas:

He was reputed to be a wonder-worker who brought children back to life, destroyed pagan temples, saved sailors from death at sea, and as an infant nursed only two days a week and fasted the other five days.

Moving from probable legend to possible history, Nicholas was honored for enduring persecution. It is said that he was imprisoned during the Empire wide persecution under Diocletian and Maximian. Upon his release and return, the people flocked around him “Nicholas! Confessor! Saint Nicholas has come home!”

10 Historical Myths About World Christianity

Brian Stanley:

As followers of Christ and adherents of the Bible, Christians are called to be a people of the truth. Thus, it is crucial that we seek to understand our tradition as accurately as possible. So consider these top ten historical myths about world Christianity.

The high cost of jargon in fundraising

As someone who works in fundraising, this is helpful.

Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos

Yep.

Why the Church Should Overthrow Nostalgia’s Reign

Aaron Earls:

Whatever it is you enjoyed as a child, be it book or board game, television show or toy, someone is looking to tap into those memories and entice you to enjoy it again.

While Revelation records Jesus as saying He makes all things new, Hollywood is saying it makes old things new. In the world of entertainment, nostalgia is king. That’s especially true this time of the year.

Church As the True Local

Jonathan Parnell:

The mission of God is a mission through his people, the church, who communicate his wonders by advancing his gospel. This community of “little Christs” who advance his gospel, as we’ve seen, do so as the on-the-ground expression of Jesus’s supremacy. And the scope of this advance, with all its historical freight, happens in both distance and depth.

 

 

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

And although it’s not an eBook, the ESV Reader’s Bible is a steal at $14.99.

Imagine if this happened while you were waiting for your plane…

This is amazing:

8 Suggestions for Applying the Gospel in Light of Brown, Grant, Gurley, Rice and Others

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Yesterday following the morning service a dear and faithful brother approached me at the door. In his customarily intense way, he looked me in the eyes and thanked me for the sermon. He expressed his appreciation for how the gospel was present throughout the exposition. Then he moved from appreciation to loving critique. Not about the sermon, but about my posts on Ferguson-related themes. He asked if I thought the gospel should run throughout Christian comments and responses to Ferguson.… When I told my wife about the conversation she looked at me with that “I’ve been telling you that” look. So, here goes. An attempt to apply the gospel in actionable ways to these Ferguson—Staten Island—Cleveland—New York kinda times we’re in.

 Love among the Pixels: Fidelity and Romance in the Digital Age

Hannah Anderson:

For all the obvious pitfalls, it seems that love and fidelity in the digital age may have a new snag: backburner relationships. Unfortunately, our friend is not alone. Facebook is increasingly cited in divorce proceedings while texts and e-mails document cyber trails of indiscretion. The reality is so prevalent that there are even apps that allow you to monitor your partner’s online behavior. But for all the obvious pitfalls, it seems that love and fidelity in the digital age may have a new snag: backburner relationships.

How Not to Preach Matthew’s Birth Narratives at Christmas

Eric McKiddie:

It may seem to be impossible to misinterpret the birth narratives in our advent sermons. What could be easier to preach at Christmas than the birth of Jesus? What could be harder to misread than these plain, simple stories of Jesus coming into the world?

But when we turn off our interpretational radar, we are likely to crash and burn.

Unfortunately, pastors often substitute secondary applications for the primary interpretation in their Christmas sermons. We sideline the main purpose for these stories – to teach about Jesus – and focus on the incidental actions of the characters instead.

How does that happen? Let’s look at Matthew’s birth narratives and see.

How to make a hit Christmas song

It hurts (but it’s also true):

HT: Mike

Sermon prep, itinerant ministry and time management

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On Sunday, I preached two sermons in a small Baptist church in Orillia, Ontario. In all honesty, they were probably B- (or worst case, C+) sermons: faithful, reasonably coherent, but not brilliant. The evening message especially so. There were some places where the message in the evening service could definitely have benefitted from some additional clarity and precision. (I was preaching from Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, and I don’t think enough of my thought process made it into my message as would have been beneficial.)

Because of my various responsibilities—full time employment, family, writing and so on—even with good time management, I often am working up to what’s closer to the last minute than I’m comfortable doing. To some degree, this is my own fault. But it’s also one of the difficulties of itinerant ministry. Sermon prep has to fit around the rest of life, in a different way than I suspect it would even for the bi-vocational pastor (bi-vocational friends, feel free to correct me on this point). This doesn’t mean cutting corners, but it does mean the 25-40 hours of prep some folks put in isn’t an option.

At best, it’s more like 15. And when I have two messages to prepare, that same amount of time has to be used for both.

Which is a bit nutty, I know. Not impossible, but definitely challenging.

This is not me griping, and I hope it doesn’t sound that way. I am very thankful for the ministry opportunities available to me, and for the patience of congregations like this one who seem to enjoy having me there (I’m back there this weekend, which will be my third in a row and sixth time overall). But one of the things I’m increasingly finding myself challenged by is how to manage my time more effectively,1 especially with school coming up. What I know this means for me is there are going to have to be more opportunities I say no to, and probably even more of my current responsibilities I’m going to have to reevaluate.

But am I alone in feeling crunched like this?

Bivocational preachers, how do you manage your time? Fellow itinerant preachers, how do you navigate these time management issues?


Photo credit: the tartanpodcast via photopin cc

Links I like

We Don’t Need a Mrs. Jesus

Maureen Farrell Garcia:

This reoccurring divine family motif of a less-than-God Jesus and a more-than-human Mary can frustrate Christians who know that it’s false. Still, when these kinds of theories come up—often around Christmas and Easter—they get people who don’t normally engage in conversations about Jesus talking about him, what the Scriptures say, and what history reveals. In the wake of sensationalized books, Christians have an opportunity to take advantage of the interest in Jesus.

There is no language instinct

This is a very interesting article.

How Should We Respond To Internet Trolls?

Good thoughts in this interview with Barnabas Piper.

Should We Take up an Offering during the Worship Service?

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

I have these suspicions in part because of how I hear some churches explain their reasoning for removing the giving of tithes and offerings from their liturgy. We’re told they don’t want the unbelievers in the meeting to feel uncomfortable or pressured, and they don’t want them believing we care too much about money. But, they reason, the necessary chore of meeting the financial needs of the church can be met by a collection box near the narthex, or even direct deposit from members’ checking accounts.

I honestly have no strong quarrel with differing views of how tithes and offerings are collected. Nor am I particularly concerned with the practical side, wanting to make sure the church has the money it needs. Instead, I fear what we lose when we remove this aspect of worship from our liturgies.

The Quickest Way to Get Home

Lore Ferguson:

The past five months, since the signing of the lease, I have been begging God for a reason to leave. The list is long and the opportunities many, but the longer the list grew, the more my love for here grew. I told a friend yesterday that I thought it was sweet of God to give me that love as a going-away present. “You’re terrible at putting things where they belong,” she said while laughing at me. What if that love is God’s call to stay?

Your goodness is no increase to God’s wealth

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If it were possible to make men clearly understand that justification is not in the least degree by their own works, how easy would it be to comfort them! but herein lies the greatest of all difficulties. Man cannot be taught that his goodness is no increase to God’s wealth, and his sin no diminution of divine riches; he will for ever be imagining that some little presents must be offered, and that mercy never can be the gratuitous bounty of Heaven. Even the miserable creature who has learned his own bankruptcy and beggary, while assured that he cannot bring anything, yet trembles to come naked and as he is. He knows he cannot do anything, but he can scarcely credit the promise which seems too good to be true—“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.”

Yea, when he cannot deny the evidence of his own eyes, because the kind word stares him in the face, he will turn away from its glories under the sad supposition that they are intended for all men save himself. The air, the stream, the fruit, the joys and luxuries of life, he takes freely, nor ever asks whether these were not intended for a special people; but at the upper springs he stands fearing to dip his pitcher, lest the flowing flood should refuse to enter it because the vessel was too earthy to be fit to contain such pure and precious water: conscious that in Christ is all his help, it yet appears too great a presumption even to touch the hem of the Saviour’s garment. Nor is it easy to persuade the mourning penitent that sin is no barrier to grace, but that “where sin aboundeth, grace did much more abound;” and only the spirit of God can make the man who knows himself as nothing at all, receive Jesus as his all in all. When the Lord has set his heart on a man, it is not a great difficulty that will move him from his purpose of salvation, and therefore “he devises means that His banished be not expelled from him.”

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior

Best gift ever

donation-kids

On Wednesday, I dropped off Abigail at the house after her check up with the optometrist (kid still has 20/20 vision!), and mentioned to Emily that the fundraiser had just gone live. She hadn’t had a chance to see the video I’d made (with the help of my talented colleague, Aveleen) and asked to watch it.

The kids, naturally, wanted in on this, too (mostly because they’ll take advantage of any opportunity to watch a video).

After they finished watching, Abigail ran upstairs suddenly. I assumed she had gone to play or use the bathroom; instead,  she came back beaming, and held out her hand to me.

Inside was $2.27.

“What’s this for, honey?” I asked.

“To help you with school.”

Hudson immediately shouted, “I’ll get money too,” as he and Hannah ran upstairs. They returned with an additional 35¢, and big, bright smiles.

I just about lost it (in a good way). It wasn’t because of the money—it was the spirit behind it. They just wanted to do this, and it was so cool to see them act upon their desire to be generous.

Best gift ever.

November’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

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Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in November:

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Write More Better: a new eBook on writing well (November 2014)
  3. Seven books Christian women should read (November 2014)
  4. Five books to read near Christmas
  5. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  6. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011/rewritten in September 2014)
  7. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  8. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  9. 7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher (January 2014)
  10. My five favorite podcasts (November 2014)

And just for fun, here’s a look at the next ten:

  1. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  2. Choosing a New Preaching Bible (November 2011)
  3. Black Friday + Cyber Monday deals for the Christian guy and gal (November 2014)
  4. A look at Logos 6 (October 2014)
  5. 160 of the most terrifying words I’ve ever read (May 2014)
  6. My blogging toolkit (November 2014)
  7. Why I Believe Amillennialism by Matthew Svoboda (July 2010)
  8. Why don’t they report it? (November 2014)
  9. 5 books on a subject you’re probably scared to look at (April 2013)
  10. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

First up, some deals for the Kindle:

Next, today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

  • The Parables of Jesus teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • Captivated by Thabiti Anyabwile (paperback)

And, until December 6th, you can purchase the following books for only $8 each:

  • The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul
  • The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul
  • The Priest with Dirty Clothes by R.C. Sproul
  • The Prince’s Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul
  • Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt

We have all of these children’s titles in our family library and they’re excellent.

Finally, Logos’ Christmas sale is in full swing: be sure to check it out!

How to shut down healthy debate

What Does It Mean to Let the Peace of Christ Rule Our Hearts?

Mike Leake offers some good points here.

Reflections on Christian publishing

Dane Ortlund:

Christian publishing, to be healthy, requires two things: healthy publishers and healthy authors. What is a healthy publisher? A publisher who functions essentially not out of desire to get rich or make a name for himself, but out of love. Truly Christian publishing is an act of love: serving others with what they need most, as Christ has served us with what we need most. What is a healthy author? An author who functions essentially not out of a desire to get rich or make a name for himself, but out of love. Truly Christian writing is an act of love: serving others with what they need most, as Christ has served us with what we need most. When an author driven by love partners with a publisher driven by love, that project will have the kiss of God upon it. Christian publishing is an act of love.

HT: Tim

Support the Battle and Avalos families

Yesterday, Tripp Battle, Joy Battle and Amber Avalos were murdered, leaving their children orphaned. A GoFundMe page has been set up for their remaining family. Please give to support them in their time of need.

I Can’t Breathe. But I Must Write.

David Murray:

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared about writing a blog post. Last week I allowed my fear to silence me about Ferguson. But here I am, sleepless at 3.30am, deeply troubled about Eric Garner’s homicide and irresistibly burdened to write.

I start with hardly any idea about what to write, but I do know why I ‘m writing. I want to stand with my African American brothers and sisters. More than that, “I’m all in” with them.

And that’s why I’m scared. Because I know that for many people, that automatically puts me “outside.” It puts me on the other side. It makes me suspect. It makes me soft. It makes me left-wing. It makes me anti-police. It makes me pro-thug.

And I could defend myself as Paul did when he said, “I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews, concerning the law, a Pharisee.” Similarly I could say, “I am a conservative of the conservatives, concerning the law, a Fox-Newser.”

But this is not about me. Me must be sacrificed at times. And this is such a time.

The first glimpse of the promise—and the hope of promises still to be fulfilled

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So where the promise begin? Where do we see the first glimpse into God’s plan for restoration?

The very moment sin entered the world.

When God created the world, He called it “very good”—it was a world without sin, without suffering or sorrow. Everyone and everything lived in perfect harmony. But, the crafty serpent—the one John identifies as Satan himself in Revelation 12:9—came and tempted the first woman with a promise:

To be like God.

He questioned God’s command, placing doubt into the mid of Eve—and Adam who was right there with her.

So the two ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and “their eyes were opened.” And when God saw what they had done, and confronted them, God cursed them all. He curses the woman to pain in childbirth and enmity between her and her husband. He curses the man to fruitless toil, instead of fruitful labor.

But notice, even as He curses the serpent, God makes a promise:

The LORD God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)

And here we have it: the first glimpse into the promise.

One day the offspring of the woman would come. He would be injured—his heel would be bruised by the serpent—but he would crush the serpent.

That’s the promise: this mess that was made would be undone by the death of the serpent—and his death would come at the hands of this Promised One.

And the good news is this hazy first glimpse into the promise is just the beginning. Over time, the Lord would make the identity of the Offspring clear… beginning with a promise to a pagan man, Abram (later Abraham), from whom He promised to make a great nation, and to whose offspring he would give the land of Abram’s sojourning (Genesis 12:1-7; 13:15; 17:18).

And as we continue to read through the Old Testament, the promise becomes more and more clear. The promise was repeated to Isaac, and then again to Isaac’s son Jacob, and then once again to Jacob’s son Judah. And from Judah’s family, we meet another man, a man named Boaz, who would redeem a Moabite woman named Ruth and her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi. And Boaz and Ruth would have a son, named Obed, who would have a son named Jesse… and he would have a son named David.

And to David, God made another promise, saying He would “will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. …the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16).

David, the man after God’s own heart, God’s “prince over [his] people Israel,” was a man. He would die, and his son would take the throne after him. He would build a house for the Lord, and his kingdom would be established forever. But this promise, though it referred to Solomon in part, wasn’t about Solomon. Instead, it was Someone who would come after. And as Israel abandoned the Lord, God continually prevented their outright destruction for the sake of his eternal covenant with David. And as he would send prophet after prophet, he continued to speak this promise:

The offspring of David, the “stump” and “branch” of Jesse, would come. And we would know Him because of a sign: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

And of this child, it was said that, “the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousnes from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

So who is this one whom God promised to send?

One upon whose shoulders the government would stand. One whose government and increase would never end. Whose throne and kingdom would be established forever.

God Himself.

And in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the child who would be born of a virgin, God did come. And his government has been established. There will be no end of His rule. He will reign with justice and righteousness forevermore.

This is the good news we celebrate at Christmas, the greatest Christmas gift of all: the coming of the Lord.

God fulfilled His promise. And if God fulfilled this one—one that literally changed the entire world—will He not do the same with those yet to be fulfilled?

For the Christian, Christmas isn’t just about celebrating the birth of Jesus, nor is it only celebrating the fulfillment of a promise made long ago. It’s a reminder that God will fulfill every promise He has made to His people—that the good work He has begun in us will be brought to completion, that He will indeed make all things new, and that all who believe will stand before Him forever, without fear of judgment.


Photo credit: ChaoticMind75 via photopin cc

Links I like

Our Moral Compass Is Turned Toward Self-Righteousness

Trevin Wax:

Say “self-righteous” and people are likely to think of super-spiritual religious person who looks down on everyone else for their failure to attain the same standard of holiness. There’s the persnickety church lady, or the condescending attitude of a conservative elitist, or the aggressive Facebook commenter who specializes in snide remarks.

But what if we’re so used to seeing self-righteousness on the right that we’re blinded to the self-righteousness of the left?

And what if we are so good at smelling self-righteousness in others that we miss the stench coming from ourselves?

Eric Garner and the Call for Justice

Listen to this special edition of Questions and Ethics with Russell Moore or read the transcript.

An Easy, Low-key, Non-threatening Way To Share The Gospel That Anyone Can Do

Mark Altrogge:

I’m not an evangelist.

I’m not bold. I regularly pray for boldness, but I usually chicken out when I have an opportunity to say something. I especially don’t like “cold call” evangelism – going up to strangers and trying to engage them to share the gospel with them.  What’s a chicken-hearted weakling like me to do?

I was recently stirred when a brother shared at fellowship group how he got saved. He said that when he was in college a friend of his met with him weekly over coffee and they read through one of the Gospels together.  They met week after week, reading at a leisurely pace, stopping to discuss any questions my friend had. It was low-key, no pressure, and my friend believed in Jesus along the way.

The divorce surge is over, the myth lives on

Claire Cain Miller:

It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. It has not been for some time. Even though social scientists have tried to debunk those myths, somehow the conventional wisdom has held.

Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.

The Underbelly of Revival

D.A. Carson:

In at least some cases, it may be that the growth in numbers of serious Christians brings with it a corresponding growth in the number of moral failures, without the proportion of failures being any higher. We do well not to talk ourselves into an assumption that revival must have an ugly underbelly that would not exist if the revival were not there.

When You Are in Between Jobs

Luke Murry:

“Job transition.” “In between jobs.” “Unemployed.” Whatever you want to call it, these seasons are almost always characterized by doubt about yourself and anxiety about the future. My trial of unemployment was no different. Ten months before I finished grad school, I received a job offer from my dream employer in Washington, D.C. I was elated—I had been praying for this job for six years, doing all I could to present myself as the best possible candidate. And finally, there it was. A job offer that I could hold in my hands. I felt set for decades to come.… But I never imagined what would happen next (as I narrate below). Although the following season was a trying time, looking back I am grateful for it. It taught me a number of lessons. Here are 10.

Where I’m going to school—and how you can help!

A few months ago I shared that I was thinking about going back to school. This wasn’t an easy thing to talk about—or even to think about and pray through! You know how people like to say, “If God’s in it, you’ll feel peace about the decision”?

Yeah, no. I’m pretty sure I’ve never experienced that. Ever.

But, I felt convicted that I needed to start going down this road. Honestly, there are way too many guys out there who are naturally pretty sharp and intuitive, but only rely on that, and wind up train wrecks as a result. And I’m not interested in being one of those.

Fast forward a few weeks to October and my last update(s) on this journey. By mid-October, I had completed the application process with a reputable seminary (this is important), and had been accepted as a student. And at the end of January, I will begin working on my Masters of Arts in Theological Studies at Covenant Theological Seminary.

To answer a couple of important questions:

  • Am I moving to Missouri? Nope. I’ll be learning via distance education.
  • Am I becoming a full-time student again? Nope; I’ll be continuing on with my current employer and working on my education on the side. It’ll take me a couple of extra years, but it’ll be worth it.

So, the journey is about to begin, and I’ve got a favor to ask:

Will you help me with paying for my tuition?

My family’s conviction is to avoid accumulating debt in going to school. The last time I was in school (a three-year diploma in graphic design), I paid for entirely with student loans. This time around, I can’t do that. For me, and for my wife, it would be wrong for us to do so.1 So, I need to raise about $28,000 to cover my tuition and incidentals.

And I would love it if you could help by giving five dollars to my campaign at YouCaring.com.

Five dollars might seem like a drop in the bucket. And maybe it is. I mean, it’s a comic book or a latté. But it’s often the seemingly little things make a huge difference. And if enough people gave this, my goal would be met in no time.

Would you partner with me and my family on this journey and give five dollars to help me pay for school?