Links I like

Red Letter Nonsense

Kevin DeYoung in an excerpt from his upcoming book, Taking God at His Word:

The unity of Scripture also means we should be rid, once and for all, of this “red letter” nonsense, as if the words of Jesus are the really important verses in Scripture and carry more authority and are somehow more directly divine than other verses. An evangelical understanding of inspiration does not allow us to prize instructions in the gospel more than instructions elsewhere in Scripture. If we read about homosexuality from the pen of Paul in Romans, it has no less weight or relevance than if we read it from the lips of Jesus in Matthew. All Scripture is breathed out by God, not just the parts spoken by Jesus.

The road to joy

Jeremy Walker:

Your entry into and experience of joy depends, then, largely on your honesty before God and with yourself and others. That begins with honesty about our misery, our sin, our rebellion, our nature and our weakness. It is only when we face these facts that we will begin to find corresponding peace with and delight in God known in Christ Jesus. As sinners – even as saved sinners – there is nothing to be gained by denying or downgrading the depth of our past and present deeds and needs. Rather, our guilt and weakness is the very backdrop against which the grace of God shines most brightly. The bitterness of our sin and frailty makes the sweetness of divine mercy all the more distinct.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A whole bunch of new deals to start your week:

Also free from Logos this month is Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians.

How Not to Debate a Christian Apologist

Rob Bowman:

In an article on Huffington Post (naturally) entitled How to Debate a Christian Apologist, atheist Victor Stenger explains why non-Christians usually do so badly in debates with Christians and then offers a cheat sheet of brief answers to Christian apologetic arguments. The reason why the Christians do so well, according to Stenger, is that they have had years to polish their arguments in their religion classes and churches. The atheists, apparently, don’t have comparable opportunities. This will come as a surprise to Christian students throughout the Western world who have sat under atheists and other skeptical professors routinely spouting off against Christianity even if it entails ignoring the subject matter of the course.

The False Teachers: Muhammad

Tim Challies continues his new series on a few of the most famous false teachers through history:

Muhammad was born around 570 in Mecca in what is now the nation of Saudi Arabia. This was an area where there were significant populations of both Christians and Jews, so there was access to the Scriptures and the teachings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Muslims claim that Muhammad was a direct descendent of Ishmael, and thus of Abraham, though the only evidence to support this comes through oral tradition. Muhammad’s father died before he was born and his mother sent him as an infant to live in the desert with Bedouins in order to become acquainted with Arab traditions. While in the desert he is said to have encountered two angels who opened his chest and cleansed his heart with snow, symbolic of Islam’s teaching that he was purified and protected from all sin.

Around the Interweb

America Quiet on the Execution of Afghan Christian Said Musa

Said Musa is an Afghani Christian who was arrested on May 31, 2010, for his faith. In the time that he has been imprisoned, he has been beaten, abused, spit upon, sexually assaulted, and mocked; now, he is sentenced to death.

Newspapers in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe have reported the story, but with, the exception of the Wall Street Journal and, of course, NRO, American outlets have not found it worthy of attention. The Journal reports that “Afghan officials have been unapologetic: ‘The sentence for a convert is death and there is no exception,’ said Jamal Khan, chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice. ‘They must be sentenced to death to serve as a lesson for others.’”

The U.S. government — reportedly including Secretary of State Clinton — and other governments have pushed for his release, but to no avail.

But the president has been silent, even as we fight a war that has among its goals the creation of a government that conforms to international human-rights standards.

An American president certainly needs to guard and shepherd his political capital, and should not speak out about every prisoner. But Musa himself has appealed to “President Brother Obama” to rescue him from his current jail. And when an obscure and aberrant Florida pastor, Terry Jones, threatened to burn a Koran, not only President Obama but much of his cabinet, as well as General Petraeus, weighed in on the matter.

If the actions of a Florida pastor who threatened to destroy a book holy to Muslims deserved public and presidential attention, then the actions of the Afghan government, ostensibly a ‘democratic’ ally, to destroy something holy to Christians, a human being made in the image of God, also deserve public and presidential attention.

Read and pray.

Also Worth Reading

Books: Tim Challies new book, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, is going be released from Zondervan in April. Here’s the trailer for the book:

Preorder a copy from Amazon.

Biographies: Speaking of Tim Challies, this week he reviewed a new biography of A.W. Tozer that points out both his strengths and weaknesses.

Theology: Questions of Conviction on Eternal Security

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

20 Things God Does When He Saves You

J.C. Ryle: It Costs Something To Be A Christian

Book Review: iFaith by Daniel Darling

5 Questions (Plus One) with Dan Darling

We Love by Choice, Not by Feeling

Book Review: Which None Can Shut by Reema Goode

What would it be like to live in a nation where it’s a crime to convert to Christianity—and where your family carries out the punishment? And what would it be like to serve there as a Christian missionary? Would there be much fruit? How would you share the gospel—and how would God show up?

This is reality for “Reema Goode” and her family. They serve in a closed country in the Middle East, working to see their Muslim friends and neighbors come to know Jesus Christ. And in Which None Can Shut, Goode shares how God is opening doors in the Muslim world and giving her and her family incredible opportunities to be a strong witness for Christ.

Which None Can Shut is not a “how-to” book for evangelizing Muslims, although there are certainly some principles that can be gleaned from the pages. For example, because of the cultural importance of hospitality, Goode and her husband have been able to have several conversations about the gospel with their neighbors as they’ve been in each other’s homes and built friendships.

Rather than serving as a “how-to” book, it serves more as an encouragement that ministry in these nations is bearing real fruit and offers fuel for increased prayer for missionaries to Muslims. Goode’s stories of how God is at work are incredible to read. She shares how she was ambushed at a friend’s home & threatened—but the words God gave her to speak to her attacker, Hamdan, left him reeling and possibly a secret believer in Christ (pp. 24-37). She tells how she was able to have a rather Elijah-esque showdown between herself and the local religious leaders when Dini and Hilma (her friend Mozi’s twin sisters) were afflicted by  a jinn that only left them when she prayed in Jesus’ name (chapter 6). She tells stories of visions, dreams and powerful works of the Holy Spirit in the lives of men and women in the town they live in. It’s truly incredible to read.

Perhaps one of the most interesting stories she shares is how a Muslim evangelistic event turned into a powerful opportunity for Reema to share the gospel to a room of more than 40 women (chapter 4). The speaker, a woman named Fatima, railed against Christianity for nearly two hours, with only two non-Muslims in the room—Reema and another Christian missionary, Diane. At the end of her argument, purple-faced, Fatima shook her finger in Reema’s face and said:

“It is obvious that you Christians are not the people of God because you’re all so different. We Muslims all dress the same and pray the same. We’re unified. You’re inconsistent! For one thing, some of you drink and some of you don’t drink. What does the Bible actually say about alcohol?” (p. 68)

This provided Reema with the perfect opening to clear up some misconceptions about what a Christian actually is. She explained the truth of the Bible—that it’s one book with a single message: the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ. She shared how the Bible explains clearly that Jesus is, in fact, God. And as she spoke, hands shot up in the air and a forty minute question-and-answer session began, lasting well past the dinner announcement.

This story and all the stories that Goode shares in Which None Can Shut are a reminder that the world is hungry for the Word of God—that the gospel is powerful, that it transforms and Christ alone has the power to save. It’s also more than a little convicting as we’ve had a couple of instances where Muslim members of our community have invited us over to their homes out of the blue (one was a man I talked to for literally five minutes at the walk-in clinic one day while waiting to see the doctor). Were we shutting down something that God wanted to do out of the assumption that it wasn’t a serious offer? Were they only being polite? There’s a lot to think about here.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to have read Which None Can Shut. I’d encourage any who desire to see men and women come to know Christ—especially those from Muslim backgrounds—to read it for themselves and allow Goode’s stories to bolster their prayers.


Title: Which None Can Shut: Remarkable True Stories of Gods Miraculous Work in the Muslim World
Author: Reema Goode
Publisher: Tyndale (2010)

Book Review: Seeds of Turmoil by Bryant Wright

Title: Seeds of Turmoil: The Biblical Roots of the Inevitable Crisis in the Middle East
Author: Bryant Wright
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

It’s rare that a day goes by when there isn’t a new story in the media about the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. Despite attempts to forge a lasting peace, there is none to be found. Temporary cease-fires give way to full-scale conflict. Suicide bombers wreak havoc throughout the region. Iran’s president has stated his desire to wipe Israel off the map. It seems like no matter what action is taken, no matter who is involved in peace talks, it just keeps going.

Buy why? Why is there such turmoil in this region—and why is Israel at the center of it?

The root of the problem, says author Bryant Wright in Seeds of Turmoil, lies in the sinful actions of one man: Abraham.

In part one of Seeds of Turmoil (which is the bulk of the text), Wright walks readers through the biblical account of the birth of Abraham’s children, Isaac and Ishmael, and of the rivalry between his grandchildren, Jacob and Esau, explaining how the prophecies made about each are still coming to bear in our present age.

These chapters read very much like sermon or lecture transcripts. There is a great deal of repetition that in a series of messages would feel quite natural (reminding & reinforcing what was learned the week prior); however, in print form it falls a bit flat as a reader moves from one chapter to the next in relatively quick succession.

Even still, I can understand why Wright felt the need to cover the same ground in multiple chapters—it’s important to stress that the conflict that exists today is, in a very real sense, a conflict between two “brothers.”

Had Sarah, in an act of unbelief, not told Abraham to sleep with Hagar (which he did without complaint), Ishmael would never have been born and God would never have said of him that he would be “a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen” (Gen. 16:12)—a prophecy ultimately fulfilled in the modern Arab nations of the Middle East. Similarly, had Jacob not stolen the blessing of Esau, there would not be the strife that exists between Israel and Edom (modern-day Jordan).

These chapters also do a solid job of stressing the seriousness of sin. Abraham committed (consensual) adultery. Jacob committed identity theft. And the consequences are felt to this very day. [Read more…]

Book Review: The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile

Title: The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence
Author: Thabiti Anyabwile
Publisher: Moody Publishers

It’s easy to feel ill-equipped or uncertain when it comes to evangelism at the best of times. I’d imagine that for many of us sharing our faith comes about as naturally as speaking in public. Its hard work at the best of times, especially when there’s no natural segue or a cameo appearance by Jesus Himself.

But when it comes to a Muslim neighbor, coworker, classmate or friend—how do we do share the gospel with them?

“It’s a fine question, but it has a fatal flaw. It assumes that somehow Muslims require a different gospel or a different technique, that Muslims are somehow impervious to the gospel in a way that other sinners are not,” writes Thabiti Anyabwile in the opening pages of The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence

Striking Differences

The book is broken into two parts. The first is primarily theological, addressing topics of God, man, Jesus, repentance and faith and highlighting the similarities and differences between the Muslim and Christian understandings of these teachings. This was particularly fascinating to read because it truly shows how fundamentally different the two belief systems are.

Three quick examples:

While Muslims and Christians largely agree on the basic attributes of God (holiness, justice, etc.), the Trinity is a stumbling block in part because it’s so essential to the Christian view of salvation from sin and judgment.

The view of sin is strikingly different. While Christians believe that all humanity is enslaved to sin because of Adam’s fall (Genesis 3, cf. Romans 6:6, 15-20; 7:25), Muslims deny original sin.

“Adam is not said to have sinned against God, but to have made an ethical mistake,” Anyabwile writes (p. 44). “Most define sin as simply disobeying Allah’s will. This disobedience comes from man’s weakness and ignorance, but not from a corruption of his nature.” Further, he explains that in Muslim theology, the object of sin is man—that when we sin, we do evil to ourselves, rather than offend a holy, perfect God.

As in all things, the greatest stumbling block is Jesus Himself. Given His claims about Himself, “[t]o accept Jesus as ‘a good moral teacher’ or as a prophet as Muslims do, only to then reject His prophecy and teaching is not an honest position to take” (p. 64). The truth that Christ is both fully man and fully God is an unavoidable reality and something with which we all—whatever our background—must contend. “Who is Jesus” is the most important we will ever answer, and we must do so.

These chapters are to be considered carefully. For the Christian reader, there is much encouragement and even some correction here. It’s easy to take for granted the truths of Christianity and forget how truly distinct our beliefs are. Looking at them side-by-side with an opposing view gave me the opportunity to see them again with fresh eyes and just marvel at how audacious the claims of the Bible truly are. How ridiculous they would be if they were not true, and how wondrous they are because they are. [Read more…]

Book Review: Once An Arafat Man by Tass Saada

Title: Once an Arafat Man
Authors: Tass Saada with Dean Merrill
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers

Tass Saada was born in Gaza City in 1951. He was born in a tent. His family one of the many groups of refugees moved out of Palestine.

Moving from Palestine to Saudi Arabia and eventually to Jordan, Saada grew to be a young man characterized by rage. He found a channel for it: He joined the PLO and was trained as a sniper.

He became a murderer. And he trained others—including children—to be the same.

Eventually, Saada left the PLO and came to America. He married, had a family, a successful career… but his life was a wreck. He was a terrible husband, a worse father. While he didn’t actively practice the Muslim faith of his youth, he still identified with it.

Then, his friend Charlie told him about Jesus, and his life was changed forever.

Grace Abounding

Saada’s story as told in Once an Arafat Man, is powerful. He’s very transparent about his past, how he relished in the death and destruction he caused, his selfish motives for marrying his wife, Karen, and his unfaithfulness to her… Saada makes it very plain that he was a very bad man. He’s not a man deserving of God’s grace, and he knows it. That, in large part, is what makes his story so powerful. God had no need to save Saada, yet He did. The same is true for you, if you’re a Christian, and me.

A Dangerous Decision

Converting from Islam to Christianity is a dangerous thing, far more dangerous than I think most of us would realize. To do so brings dishonor to the family, a crime punishable by death. [Read more…]