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These Precious Days

Tim Challies:

One of the most exasperating parts of life in this world is that I must constantly choose the good things not to do. So much of life is not the choice between good and bad, but between good and good. Even in the joy of doing one good thing, there is the sorrow of not being able to do another good thing. Three days spent in Indiana, is three days spent apart from my wife and my children. It is three days away from the people I love; I will never get those days back. I have been given perhaps 7,000 or 8,000 days with my children before they move out to begin life on their own, and in going away, I permanently traded away three of those precious days.

Literally taking the Bible literally

Lyndon Unger:

When I was in high school, I took a class called “Western Civilization” from a teacher who was a Bahhai. He was one of the smartest folks I had ever met up unto that point and was an aggressive skeptic of Christianity…well, he was more of an enemy of Christianity. The class was called “Western Civilization” but was really an “Intro to ‘why Christianity is for idiots’ class”. That class was brutal hard for me, as my teacher waged an assault against Christianity that had me in a flurry to find answers; answers to questions about everything from creation to eschatology. That class is what got me into serious thinking about the scriptures and looking for answers beyond my youth pastor (who was more youth than pastor).

Hearing and Being God

Lore Ferguson:

Since the beginning of December I have been thinking about what it means to “hear” God’s voice. I cut my faith teeth in Charismatic circles, so hearing from God for ten years was commonplace in my life. I have pages full of things people heard from God about on my behalf and I am in Texas today because of a small feeling I had one June morning on my back stoop. He said, “Move to Texas,” and I said, “Hell, no.” But then I did.

I don’t handle His voice lightly, but I think I have handled the hearing of His voice lightly.

Get Life in Christ in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Life in Christ by Jeremy Walker (paperback) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Intimate Marriage teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • The Christian Lover by Michael Haykin (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

What Sort of Man Is This?

Barnabas Piper:

This question, on the heels of Jesus calming a storm, rings through the gospel of Matthew. It comes from those who know Him, not from a stranger. What sort of man is he? A good one? A powerful one, certainly. A wizard or a prophet? Self-serving or benevolent? Many of us call ourselves disciples of Jesus, but have we ever been stunned enough at Him to rock back on our heels and ask “What sort of man is this?”

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Motivate Your Son to Use Pornography

Rick Thomas:

Porn is first and foremost about the theater of the mind, where the young male can enter into his virtual world and be king for a day—or, in this case, king for a few minutes—as he satiates his mind with the risk-free intrigue of the cyber conquest.

And in most cases, the porn addict’s allurement began in the theater of his mind while he was a child. This is a consistent pattern I’ve seen in counseling.

You’ll see in my five sure-fire ways to motivate your child to use porn how any child can be in porn training without his parents realizing it.

Three reasons to keep reading the Old Testament

holding-bible-lr

The Old Testament causes much consternation among North American evangelicals. Although historically, Christians have embraced the Old Testament as being absolutely essential to the Christian life—I believe the first person to do this was Jesus—somewhere along the way, we got scared of it.

We started reading into the New Testament a kind of sentimental love that isn’t there. We started seeing the actions of God in the Old Testament as harsh and mean. And as our sentimentalism took root, we found ourselves asking, “can’t we just skip this?”

Here are three reasons to keep the Old Testament front and center:

1. To understand God’s actions in the world. To not put too fine a point on it, when you lose the Old Testament, you lose the gospel. Period.

The Old Testament is the historical backdrop for everything we see in the New. The gospel takes place within the framework of the covenants established with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, and fulfills them. If you do not have the Old Testament, you cannot understand why Christ came to die. We lose the foundation for his death and resurrection.

But when you maintain a solid grasp on the Old Testament, you not only keep the gospel’s foundation, you get the fuller picture of God’s actions in the world. The entire Bible tells the story of God’s war against sin—from the first promise of the coming of one who would crush the head of the serpent until the consummation of the new creation, this is what God is doing.

When you lose the Old Testament, you lose the reason for God’s actions in the world. You lose the gospel. So read the Old Testament.

2. To understand the character of God. When we skip the Old Testament, we lose a clear picture of who God is. In his Christianity Today article addressing this very subject, Mark Gignilliat puts it well:

We do no favors for God or ourselves when we lessen his severity, even in our attempts to make him acceptable to non-believers. While many of our worship songs today speak of touching and seeing God, most biblical characters did not line up for such an opportunity. Isaiah knew his life was over after seeing Yahweh. Jacob never walked the same way again. Job asked for a day in court with God and then regretted it.

We cannot understand God’s character without reading the Old Testament. He reveals himself in all his perfection there. His holiness is on display—and his love is magnified more deeply because we understand just how great our offenses are. So read the Old Testament.

3. To avoid becoming a heretic. This might seem ironic considering just yesterday I wrote about our need to not cheapen words like this one. But if you skip over the Old Testament consistently, if you create a false dichotomy in the Bible, you’re going to fall into heresy. Here are two common heresies that stem from rejecting the Old Testament:

Marcionism. A heresy that emerged around the year 144, this is a dualistic view that rejects the Old Testament and the God of Israel as being a tyrannical monster where the God of the New is a God of love and peace. This is the god we see in Rob Bell’s Love Wins, Brian McLaren’s New Kind of Christianity, and so many others (whether it’s outright stated or not is another question). But more practically, it’s the god of anyone who says, “I could never believe in a God who…”

Antinomianism. This is the more subtle heresy because it’s harder to spot. In its crassest forms, antinomianism proposes that we don’t need the Old Testament—and more specifically, the Mosaic Law—at all anymore. It has no good purpose or benefit for the Christian. It suggests Jesus obliterated, rather than fulfilled the Law. Yet, this is what Paul warned of in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” And his answer, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:2).

But we still need the Law—not as a means of earning salvation (for it was never that to begin with), but to see the perfection of God, to see the requirements of holiness, to see how far we fall short and our desperate need for rescue.

If we lose the Old Testament, we lose all of this. We lose all hope, all joy, and all purpose in the Christian faith. So, Christian, read the Old Testament.

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A Deeper Look at the Most Popular Worship Song of 2013

Trevin Wax:

The first time I heard Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” on the radio, I knew I was listening to a song that would soon be sung in churches across the United States. The plaintive melody perfectly suits Redman’s paraphrase of Psalm 103, and the chorus was singing in my head the rest of the day.… Since Redman’s song is so popular, I thought it may be helpful to take a deeper look at the main themes of the song, in comparison to the themes of the psalm on which it is based. I enlisted a hymnwriter and student at Belmont University (Bryan Loomis) to analyze the song’s message, and the two of us had a lunch conversation recently about its strengths and weaknesses.

Biff and His Book

Mike Leake:

Sometimes I think about how sweet it would be to have a world almanac that would “predict” the events that were going to take place for the next sixty years. But I’ll tell you what I’d really like. I’d like a lengthy letter from Jesus that outlined all of the significant things that were going to happen in the next 2,000 something years.

You might think I’m getting ready to tell you that we have such a book and it’s called the Bible. Now go read it!

But I’m not because that isn’t true.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crucifying Defensiveness

Jared Wilson:

The biggest problem in my life and ministry is me. And the biggest problem among my many idiosyncratic problems is the impulse toward self-defense and self-justification. The Lord has been working well on me over the last several years in this area, and I do think, by his grace, I have gotten better at suppressing this impulse, denying it, even going into situations I know will include much criticism directed at myself having proactively crucified it for the moment. But my inner defense attorney (a voting partner in the ambulance-chasing firm of Flesh & Associates) is always there, crouching at my door, seeking to rule over everybody by arguing in my quote-unquote “favor.”

What Makes a Good Commentary?

D.A. Carson, in conversation with Matt Smethurst:

Good all-round commentaries help readers think their way through the text—which requires adequate handling of words, sentences, flow of thought, genre, theological presuppositions, knowledge of historical setting, and, ideally, a commentary writer who is humble and of a contrite spirit and who trembles at God’s Word. But most commentaries do not do all these things (and other things—e.g., interaction with some other commentaries) equally well. That is one of the reasons one is usually wise to consult at least two or three commentaries with different emphases.

Where Do I Like To Write?

B.J. Stockman:

Godliness is never an overnight process. Greatness has all the flash, while godliness simmers under the surface. Greatness may make the newspapers of one generation, but godliness has a lasting impact that ripples through many generations. Americans, even Christian ones, crave the great but not the godly.

Links I like

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Why preach through books of the Bible?

Phil Newton:

I had a conversation with a minister friend who had been involved in discussing what pastors were preaching in their churches. While most seemed to agree that exposition of the biblical text must have priority in the church, few thought it wise to preach consecutively through books of the Bible—particularly with series that extended beyond twelve weeks. I understand the challenge of longer series but also see the value in the long run. The forty-four sermons that I preached through Ephesians in 1990–91, literally transformed my life, theology, and congregation. Eight or ten sermons would not have sufficed to uproot faulty theology and set us on a right course. The fifty-two sermons in Hebrews in 2000–01, sharpened our understanding of the gospel and its application to the whole of life.

What would you say had you been involved in the discussion? Here are a few thoughts that I’ve ruminated on since that conversation.

Pastor, Are You Speaking in Tongues During Your Sermon?

Trevin Wax:

Here’s a question we should ponder: Do we rely on biblical concepts or phrases in ways that fail to make sense to outsiders?

Let’s ask this another way. Would an unbeliever or a believer unfamiliar with the Bible be able to understand the basic message you are communicating in a sermon? If the answer is no, then we might as well be speaking in a foreign language.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put a number of titles in the Preaching the Word commentary series on sale this week for $2.99:

Forgiveness

A great clip from a message by Matt Chandler:

Why I Quit My Sorority Over Racial Discrimination

Elizabeth Munn:

Along with many others I was hopeful that 2013 would bring change. We were especially excited because an outstanding African-American student, already known and loved by many girls in my sorority, was going through our recruitment process. Yet three days into rush I was informed that this woman had been abruptly removed from our list of potential new members during a private meeting between two alumnae advisers and four student leaders. This African-American student had been eliminated despite impassioned pleas from student sorority leaders in this meeting. I spoke personally with three of these four student leaders, and they each tearfully testified that her removal had been driven by racial prejudice.

That awkward moment in kids ministry when…

children-in-a-circle

We all have them—awkward moments in children’s ministry:

  • Maybe it’s when you realize none of the kids have been paying attention to what you’ve been saying for the last ten minutes; or
  • when you realize how awful your rhyming scheme for your points truly is (and not just because you came up with it the night before); or
  • you realize, as you’re teaching, that this is probably the first time any of the kids in the room have ever heard the concept of God’s wrath.

That was my Sunday last weekend. I was teaching a lesson on Zephaniah, an Old Testament book where the wrath of God being poured out plays heavily in its message.

“I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth… I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” the book begins (Zephaniah 1:2-3). And the temperature only turns up from there as oracle after oracle is spoken to the people of Judah, warning them to watch for the day of the Lord, and to repent of their sins.

I’ll admit, teaching this was awkward. Not because I don’t believe it—in fact, I think we’ve failed to adequately do the subject justice, especially in the last 20 or so years—but because it seemed pretty clear that this was one of the first times the kids had heard much of anything about God’s wrath.

Many of the kids knew sin is bad and that it separates us from God… but it was in an abstract way. The way that suggests God doesn’t really have feelings toward sin. And then I had to go and shatter the glass.

Or rather, the Bible did. I was just the one teaching it.

As we talked about this, that God’s wrath would be poured out, and that God was warning his people to give them an opportunity to repent, one of the kids said something very interesting.

“God knew if he did this, he’d be doing something bad, so maybe that’s why he was warning them…”

Out of the mouth of babes, as the saying goes.

What’s fascinating is how quickly we try to start rationalizing, or make excuses, even making up ideas about why God would punish sin and tell people he’s going to to it. No matter how old we are, we naturally squirm at the idea of God’s wrath—mostly because we think of God’s feelings as being the same as our own.1 So when we think of God’s anger, we see it in light of our own, or our parents’. We know that we overreact, or go a bit too far sometimes. We know our anger doesn’t always produce good results, and it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around God being righteously angry.

So I asked this nine-year-old, “But is anything God does bad?”

“No,” he said.

“Why?”

“Because everything God does is good.”

“So… is God being angry and punishing sin a good thing or a bad thing?”

And then he started to get it.

Teaching awkward subjects is just that. Awkward. It’s hard to teach our kids about God’s wrath, about how only people who love and worship Jesus will be in heaven, and an eternity in Hell awaits all who refuse to recognize him for who he is. We want to shave off these hard edges. But if we’re going to be faithful Sunday school teachers, or faithful parents for that matter, we can’t avoid the awkward for our own comfort. Someone stepped out and warned us to flee from the wrath to come. Perhaps our kids need us to do the same.

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Reading the Bible Like Jesus

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Reading the Bible is difficult work. Or at least it can be if we intend to do more than simply read it for enjoyment or duty. There are many things we have to overcome in order to read effectively: the flesh, fatigue, distractions, time pressures from various sources, cold hearts, clogged ears and so on. Even when we overcome all these obstacles of the world, the flesh and the devil, we still find our Bible reading needs adjustment in order to read as Jesus read.

6 Ways to Look Godly While Not Growing

Carl Lafterton:

This time last year, I mentioned six ways to look godly while not growing in your faith — and then spent 2013 battling them, falling for them, and finding several other ways, too. So here, for 2014, are six more ways to look great while doing little…

Save 50 percent on WTS Books’ bestsellers of 2013

Westminster Books has put a ton of their bestselling titles of 2013 on sale for 50 percent off. Sale titles include:

This sale ends January 15th.

5 Reasons We Get Angry

Mike Leake:

In Ephesians 4:26 we are told, “in your anger do not sin”. The question is not how we prevent anger; the question is what we do with anger once it crops up. We all get angry—occasionally righteously angry but mostly not.

Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?

Albert Mohler:

At this point, very careful and honest thinking is required of us. At one level, we can join with anyone, regardless of worldview, to save people from a burning house. We would gladly help an atheist save a neighbor from danger, or even beautify the neighborhood. Those actions do not require a shared theological worldview.

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If They Were Killing [Liberals]

Matt Svoboda:

“45 liberals- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death.” Can you imagine the outcry? It would be the only thing passed around on Facebook as every media outlet would be all over it. Of course you haven’t heard this story because it didn’t happen… to liberals. It did happen to Christians. In late October one of the worst massacres of Christians in a long time happened in Syria. 45 Christians- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death. We don’t need to ask the question why are Muslim extremists killing Christians. We know that answer. We need to ask the question, why isn’t it being reported?

Am I Faking It or Trying?

Barnabas Piper:

Faking and trying often look quite similar. Both require going through the motions of something we either don’t know how to do, or have no intention of doing, well. When I’ve gotten dragged into soccer games on various youth group or missions trips I look like I’m playing because I’m running around and kicking the ball when I have to, but I’m faking it because I really don’t like soccer. When I’m stuck in a meeting I don’t want to be in I look like I’m making the effort and engaging because I’m writing stuff down (usually emails or iMessages) and occasionally nodding at a point someone makes, but I’m pretending.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Christian Focus has a number of titles by John Owen on sale by $3.99:

Dads, Write in Your Bible

Jonathan Parnell:

It’s no secret that the word of God and prayer are a personal means of grace that spill over for the good of those around us. And how much more for a patriarch? We read the Bible not just for ourselves, but for our families, for our friends, for our community. We know that God doesn’t transform his people into dead-ends, but into rivers of living water, and therefore, deciding on a route and digging in on that resolve has more in view than our own souls. And this year, as you settle your plans, here’s another aspect to consider. Dads, write in your Bible.

5 ways you can bomb a sermon

Adam Ramsey:

Preaching is a high calling and hard work. I started preaching weekly to a group of high-school students when I was just 20 years old. Like me, a huge percentage of preachers learn the ropes and discover their voice while teaching young people in some form of student ministry. And unless you’re some sort of prodigy (you’re probably not), the brutal truth is you will likely look back on your first couple hundred sermons as something comparable to the earnest delusion of most American Idol auditions.

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The Soil of the Prosperity Gospel

Jonathan Baer:

It is a tempting and intoxicating brew, appealing to basic human inclinations and culturally conditioned desires, offering a quick high but a nasty hangover. And it’s extremely lucrative for its purveyors, since one of the principal ways to demonstrate faith is to sow financial seeds, which is to say, give gifts to prosperity preachers or purchase their products. The resulting fleets of luxury automobiles, massive homes, and Italian suits might strike critics as garish, but prosperity preachers retort with a smile that their lives and bank accounts merely verify the truth of their messages.

How did we get to a place where such a clearly debased form of Christianity holds sway with so many people?

Restoration as a gospel priority

Ray Ortlund:

“Aim for restoration” was highly relevant to this community in Corinth. They were broken at multiple levels. They were making progress, but there was much good still to accomplish. So, “aim for restoration” was ideal as an all-encompassing intention.  For any gospel-defined church, then or now, restoration is an obvious priority.

But is it obvious? Or, is it obvious to us today?

Get 1-2 Peter in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get 1-2 Peter by R.C. Sproul (ePub) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Hell teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • Creation and Re-Creation, the 2013 Fall Conference at Reformation Bible College (audio and video download)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to yesterday’s giant list, here are a few other ones to consider:

How to read the Bible in 2014

Justin Taylor:

The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.… Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.

But the point is not merely to read the whole thing to say you’ve done it or to check it off a list. The Bible itself never commands that we read the Bible through in a year. What is commends is knowing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and meditating or storing or ruminating upon God’s self-disclosure to us in written form (Deut. 6:732:46;Ps. 119:1115239399143:5).

Links I like

Rural vs Urban Ministry

Really great conversation between Jared Wilson and Stephen Um:

We Need Another First Impression of Christmas

Barnabas Piper:

We only get one first impression at anything. There is no going back to re-live or re-experience them. They fade over time and all of the experiences between the first one and the present form an entirely new impression. We lose that sense of wonder, fear, amazement, or intrigue. Instead you become comfortable, at ease, or maybe apathetic or annoyed.

Except when we get to experience something through the eyes of someone else.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to yesterday’s list, here are a few new ones:

Along with those, Westminster Books has a number of “real” (ie. print) books on sale:

…along with TONS of titles on sale in their bargain/clearance section. Go check them out.

How Not To Repent

David Murray:

I suppose we all still hoped that despite appearances, there had been true repentance, that Haggard really had owned his sin, taken responsibility, accepted the blame, and sincerely confessed his guilt.

But a recent blog post raises a huge question mark against that hope. In Suicide, Evangelicals, and Sorrow, Haggard used the recent suicide of another megachurch pastor’s son, Isaac Hunter, to continue his attempts at resurrecting his name, reputation, and ministry. His post really is an almost perfect example of how not to repent.

So why highlight it? First, because it will help us to spot these characteristics when dealing with others who have fallen into public sin and scandal. Sadly, there are predictable patterns to these things that we’d do well to acquaint ourselves with so that we are not duped.  And second, because we can use it as a personal heart-check to examine how we respond to our own sin.

What the Bible Actually Says About “Calling”

Ron Marrs:

Whatever the use, it is clear that there is little consensus on what “calling” actually is. It seems to me that its use has devolved into one of those “Christianese” words that people use and trust that everyone understands.  What makes things even more interesting is that the word is often used in our culture, even by unbelievers, to describe what a person feels like they were put on this earth to do.  There is no “caller” even though they feel “called.”

 

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Nothing That Is Possible Can Save Us

Tullian Tchividjian, quoting David Zahl:

Auden’s meaning becomes clearer when we consider problems of a less everyday nature. The kind that keep us up at night. I was speaking with a friend recently who had just separated from his wife. He told me, “I’ve done everything I can think of. Even couples’ counseling hasn’t helped. She just doesn’t want me. It’s going to take a miracle to save our marriage.” He had pursued all the right options, and nothing had worked. The problem was simply beyond him. So it is with us. Our condition is not fixable. That is, we can empirically say that the solution to human nature has not been found in the realm of “what’s possible.” Instead, we need a miracle to save us – from ourselves, from our sin, and ultimately, from death.

No More Gender: A Look into Sweden’s Social Experiment

Trevin Wax:

If Sweden is our future, then we are in trouble. The idea of humanity as completely neutral in terms of gender is foreign to a Scriptural understanding of who we are. Human beings bear God’s image, and God made us male and female. He didn’t make us merely human. He made us gendered beings.

What’s at stake in this discussion? Human flourishing. We don’t flourish when we suppress or ignore gender distinctives. Such an existence creates a flatter, duller society. Instead, we flourish when we embrace our maleness or femaleness as God’s gift to us – intended for our joy and His glory. The differences between men and women aren’t obstacles to overcome; they’re glorious and beautiful.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new deals from Crossway:

Also on sale:

Moral Mayhem Multiplied—Now, It’s Polygamy’s Turn

Albert Mohler:

As most Americans were thinking thoughts of Christmas cheer, a federal judge in Utah dropped a bomb on the institution of marriage, striking down the most crucial sections of the Utah statute outlawing polygamy. Last Friday, Judge Clark Waddoups of the United States District Court in Utah ruled that Utah’s anti-polygamy law is unconstitutional, violating the free exercise clause of the First Amendment as well as the guarantee of due process.

In one sense, the decision was almost inevitable, given the trajectory of both the culture and the federal courts. On the other hand, the sheer shock of the decision serves as an alarm: marriage is being utterly redefined before our eyes, and in the span of a single generation.

Who determines meaning?

Denny Burk:

How can you tell the difference between a good interpretation of a text and a bad interpretation? This is the fundamental question that every reader has to answer in trying to understand the message of scripture.

The traditional approach has been to recognize the author as the ground and the guide of textual meaning. If you want to know the meaning of the text, then you must discern the author’s intent in writing that text.

The “New Criticism” of the early twentieth century dethroned authorial intent and argued instead that meaning is a property of the text quite apart from the author. Texts have “semantic autonomy” as it were, and it is a fallacy to think that we can read the minds of authors.

From about the 1960′s until now, reader-focused methodologies have come to the fore. On this understanding, meaning cannot be identified with authorial intent or with a property that inheres in the text. Such approaches define meaning as the reader’s response to the text.

Which of these approaches is correct? Is meaning defined by the author, the text, or the reader? Recently as I was reading through 1 Timothy, I came across a text that seems to have a bearing on this question. In 1 Timothy 1:8, Paul writes, “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” Some observations…

Links I like

What Do Protestants Protest?

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Sadly in our day, not much of anything. Luther, of course, began the Reformation by posting his 95 theses. His chief concern was the sale of indulgences. Underscoring that concern were two principle concerns—the singular authority of the Bible, and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Luther, along with the other magisterial Reformers, argued that the Bible is our alone ultimate authority in binding our conscience with respect to our faith and practice. It denied that the church provided either a compelling interpretation of the Bible, or a second source of infallible information.

The Power of the Word

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bPXGupb0d8

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Be sure to check out this weekend’s list as many are ending today!

Too Big Not To Fail

Jared Wilson:

Like the Babelists, we build our towers, not knowing the great dangerous irony — that the stronger we get, the more vulnerable we become. The fall is prefaced by pride. The split second before the great collapse is the proudest we’ve ever been.

The lesson appears plain: if you really want to fall, get big.

The danger of a how-to

Timothy Raymond:

Somewhere along the way, evangelicals embraced a different definition of what makes a Christian. While we once defined a Christian as someone who confesses the gospel and gives reasonable evidence thereunto, we slowly, imperceptibly but eventually, concluded that a Christian is someone who strives to follow Christian ethics. The entire ‘Christian’ core shifted from those who embrace the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints to those who live a certain lifestyle. And given this redefinition, I was being too hard on the Roman Catholics. “If my good Catholic neighbour attends church every week, reads his Bible, sings the same doxology we sing, opposes abortion, and supports traditional marriage, does it really matter if he thinks Jesus’ body is literally present during the Lord’s Supper?” I suspect the vast majority of our church members would answer in the negative.

What should I review?

I just got back from a trip to Colorado Springs (day job related). After a fantastic welcome by my kids that included Hudson nearly walking outside barefoot shouting “Car-car!” and Abigail attaching herself to me like a spider monkey, I found a wonderful present waiting for me from my friends at Crossway:

presents-from-crossway

Image via Pressgram

If you’re struggling to see all the titles, here’s the complete list:

I’m very excited to dig into these over the next few weeks, and perhaps even sharing a few thoughts.

Now, here’s where I need your help: If were going to review one, which should it be?

Choosing a New Preaching Bible

large_3935059442

Almost ten years ago, I purchased my first ESV Bible. It was one of the snazzy Thinline editions, with a black spine and brown front face. I read from that Bible on a daily basis, taught through Mark’s gospel with it in our home group, took it on vacations and preached my first sermon with it.

After four years, my Bible had started to look pretty beat up, the way God intended—lots of underlining, crinkled pages and what may or may not have been some minor water damage. It was well read and well loved, to be sure (even if some pages were hard to make out because of all the underlining).

Then, a few years, ago, I realized that my preaching Bible had disappeared. Somewhere between church, work and home I managed to lose it… which means that it’ll turn up as soon as I buy a new one. It’s funny, though, I didn’t expect that I’d miss that Bible, the way that I do. Not in a creepy, idolatrous way, mind you—there are just a lot of fond memories associated with it.

Anyway, after several days of hunting through the house, I’ve finally given up and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to purchase a new preaching Bible. I looked at a number of different editions before settling on the ESV Value Thinline Bible… mostly because it was cheap.

And then, I found it. The Bible I thought was gone forever came back, and I resumed using it as my preaching and reading Bible, and my Value Thinline collected dust (until I finally gave it to a small church as part of a collection of Bibles to use in outreach).

But now, after nearly 10 years, this Bible’s days are coming to an end. The text itself is out of date (I think it’s still the 2001 edition, rather than the most recent). The cover and pages are in pretty rough shape, worse than it was when I first wrote this post. It’s well-worn, and hopefully I’m the better for it.

So what did I wind up choosing?

This time, I splurged. Although, there’s a bit of a story behind this.

I actually now have two preaching Bibles, both of which are quite lovely, because I have two primary translations I’ll use, depending on the wishes of the church I’m visiting.

Translation choices

When it comes to translation, nine times out of ten, I’ll stick with the ESV, in part because I’m very familiar with it. But I’ve also grown quite fond of the HCSB, a translation that’s fairly popular among Southern Baptists (and is growing in popularity beyond their ranks). I really enjoy using it in my personal reading, and the translation team did a really great job of bridging the gap between the ESV and similar translations and the NIV.

Edition choices

Which brings us back to the editions I’m using:

While neither sit perfectly flat (and really, that’s not the end of the world as far as I’m concerned), one of the things I love about both of these is the cover. The feel of calfskin leather is amazing! That might be a silly thing to enjoy, but there you go. Those tactile elements really do change how we feel about our books and Bibles, regardless of whether we’re aware of it or not.

From a text size perspective, both are plenty easy to read, which is super-helpful. The new ESV is a single-column edition as well, so that changes the feel a little bit. It’s a little more like reading a standard book. It doesn’t change the way you understand or read from the Bible, but it is a little change that requires getting used to if you’re used to a two-column one.

Will I stick with these forever? While I can’t say they’ll be my “forever” Bibles (since one never knows what will happen in the next five to ten years), these are definitely the ones I’m enjoying right now.

Your turn, preachers: What are you using in the pulpit? What do you like about your preaching Bible and what kind would you recommend to another preacher?


Updated December 2014

Photo credit: __o__ via photopin cc

Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament?

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Throughout the gospels, Jesus told both disciples and opponents that the Scriptures bore witness about Him. For example, in John 5:39, Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” In Luke 18:31-34, He told the twelve as they were on their way to Jerusalem, “Everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” And after His resurrection, He rebuked the two travellers on the road to Emmaus, saying:

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

So Jesus was pretty clear: the Scriptures—specifically the Old Testament—are all about Him. So how do we find Jesus in the Old Testament? Here are six broad categories that help us to see Jesus in all of Scripture:

1. Christophanies. These are the appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament before His incarnation. In these Jesus frequently appears as “The Angel of the Lord” (which is different than “AN angel of the Lord”). Passages to study include: Judges 2:1-5, Joshua 5:13-15, and Isaiah 6:1-13.

2. Types. Old Testament representative figures and institutions that foreshadowed Jesus. These include the tabernacle, the sacrificial system (now you’ve got a reason to go read Leviticus!), the prophets, priests and kings (esp. David & Solomon). Key prophetic ministries to study are Elijah and Elisha.

3. Analogous service. These are people who do things that ultimately Jesus does perfectly and completely. TIm Keller & Sinclair Ferguson do a brilliant job explaining these here.

4. Events that prophesy the coming of Jesus.This would include the Exodus—particularly the Passover—where the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. The entire book of Exodus gives us a glimpse of what Christ came to do. As the people crossed the Red Sea, they were crossing from death to life. Death awaiting them at the hands of Pharaoh’s army to life in the land God had promised. In Christ, we cross from death in our sins to eternal life with Him.

5. Titles that refer to Jesus. These are titles for God in the Old Testament that refer to Jesus. Redeemer, Savior, Lord of Glory, Husband/Bridegroom, Light, Rock, Shepherd and Son of Man are among those titles.

6. Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Different from category 4 which are events that point to Him, these are prophecies about Jesus directly. These include Isaiah 7:14-15, and 52:13-53:12,  Psalm 110, and Deut. 18:14-22, among others.

I hope having a sense of these broad categories will help you to see Jesus as you read the Old Testament.


Edited October 2014 with a new introduction. For more on this subject, you can also check out this video which handles the subject well (despite the status of its preacher).