Monday, December 26, 2011

Top 10 Reads Published in 2011

Top 10 Reads for 2011
Here is my list of favorite books published in 2011:
1.    The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment, by James M. Hamilton, Jr.,  Crossway Books, hard copy and Kindle edition.
2.    A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New by G.K.Beale, Baker Academic, hard copy.
3.    For Calvinism, by Michael S. Horton. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
4.    Tempted and Tried: The Temptation and Triumph of Christ, by Russell Moore, Crossway, hard copy.
5.    The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight, by Dan Phillips, Kregel Publishing, hard copy and Kindle edition.
6.    Tie:
How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, by Derek W.H. Thomas, Reformation Trust Publishing, hard copy.
and
Red Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace, by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington, Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.
7.    Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence by Stephen Altrogge, hard copy and Kindle Edition.
        8.    Getting Back into the Race, by Joel Beeke, Cruciform Press, Kindle edition.
9.    Get Outta My Face! How to Reach Angry, Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel, by Rick Horne, Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.
10. Finally, tied at 10th place, two books on a similar topic:
a.     The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies, Zondervan, Kindle Edition.
b.    From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology, by John Dyer, Kregel Publications, Kindle Edition.

Honorable mentions:

- Smooth Stones: Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics, by Joe Coffey, Cruciform Press, Kindle Edition.
- Innocent Blood: Challenging the Powers of Death with the Gospel of Life, by John Ensor, Cruciform Press, Kindle Edition.
- Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, The New Creation and the End of Poverty, by Aaron Armstrong, Cruciform Press, Kindle Edition.
- But God: The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel, by Casey Lute, Cruciform Press, Kindle Edition.
The four above "honorable mentions" come from Cruciform Press. Each is well written and concise -- slightly over 100 pages. Cruciform Press makes these books available through subscription at a very low cost.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why Biblical Manhood & Womanhood Matters

Why Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Matters
John Piper and Darrin Patrick discuss their journeys.
Excellent.

Why Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Matters from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Christian Carnival: 'Twas the week before Christmas...

Welcome to the December 21st edition of Christian Carnival II.
This week we have several articles featuring Christmas themes, along with our regular categories: devotional, narrative, and theology.
A big 'thank you!' shout out to this week's participants for all of the excellent submissions. Merry Christmas, everyone!
CHRISTMAS
loswl presents The Birth posted at W2W Soul: Windows to The Woman's Soul, saying, "This birth was no other. It was a birth in which the angels in heaven celebrated. A birth that was foretold from the beginning of time and was announced that a virgin would conceive."

Deb presents  The Christmas Gift Exchange posted at All Things New, saying, "What my first White Elephant gift exchange taught me about the love of Christ."

Joe Plemon presents Celebrate Christmas All Year Long: Give Like God Does posted at Personal Finance By The Book, saying, "Is it possible to celebrate Christmas all year long? Maybe, if we can learn to give like God gives."

NARRATIVE
 Jason presents Franciscan…what?!?! posted at eckSermonator, saying, "My journey... Assemblies of God Pastor -> Non-Denominational Leader -> Franciscan Friar"


DEVOTIONAL

Josh presents Trust The Lord: Bible Verses and Life Application posted at What Christians Want To Know, saying, "Christians know we should trust the Lord but how do we continue to do it when circumstances in our lives seem helpless?"

Shannon Christman (blog editor) on behalf of author Ridge Burns presents Live a Life of Love posted at Ridge's Blog

Charles Chua C K presents 7 Delightful Ways to Transform an Ordinary Day to an Extraordinary Day posted at All About Living with Life.

David R Wells presents Brightened Eyes posted at Revelation 3:10 - Blog: Through Davids Eyes, saying, "When spiritual sight becomes weary, Christians have arrived at a very dangerous place. It is treacherous because Christians will always be looking for that next dose of honey, or that next quick fix, to get them through until the next time their faith weakens."
Christian Amit presents Trust in the Lord with all your hearts - Devotional posted at Bible Study Exposition Online, saying, "What does it mean to trust the Lord with all your hearts? This bible devotional describes bible verses for trusting the Lord with many practical areas of our life such as finances, family, children, work, career, decisions, weaknesses and salvation."

Scott presents Pray with Me posted at Mission Blog.


THEOLOGY
Maryann Spikes presents Goodbye, Hitch posted at Ichthus77.
Chris Price presents American Christianity and Communism during the Second Red Scare posted at American Church History, saying, "Many people joined churches during the early Cold War era. Was this a case of people being more pro-Jesus or pro-America?"
Russ White presents Setting Truth Up for a Fall posted at Thinking in Christ.
zachsewell presents Biblical Time Machine posted at The Bible is Not Boring, saying, "If you could be there for any episode in the Bible, which would you choose?"

 
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of christian carnival ii using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Christmas Gift Exchange

My first Christmas as a Christian in 1996 is memorable for many reasons, not the least of which was being in the fine fellowship of other believers with whom I attended Bible study. One couple hosted an amazing Christmas party in their home, which was fortified with a hearty dinner and yummy treats for more than 60 attendees. About half of those present were believers and the other half were not. All who were invited to the party came prepared to participate in the “White Elephant” gift exchange.
For me, this was actually my very first exposure to the phenomenon of the “White Elephant” gift exchange. Since our spending limit was to be $10., I felt particularly challenged to be able to obtain a meaningful gift that would make an impact on the recipient and one that they would cherish for a long time to come. Of course, I would later learn that this is not actually the intended goal of White Elephant frivolity. Without this knowledge, I spent a couple of days shopping for just the right gift and in the process had found some wonderful Christmas music at the local Christian Bookstore that I started listening to.
I was totally blown away by one particular CD called Emmanuel: A Musical Celebration of the Life of Christ .
Since music appreciation is one of my most treasured hobbies, I felt like I had found a gold mine in this particular recording. After having listened to it five or six times, I decided to go back to the store and buy a second copy for the White Elephant! I was so excited with my selection for this tremendous gift giving opportunity that when I returned home, I spent an hour putting special care into the wrapping, adding a spectacular bow, and even curling the ribbon so that the carefully chosen gift would scream out – “pick me, pick me!”
Much to my surprise, when we began the White Elephant exchange, I learned that anything shaped like a CD is most certainly NOT a highly desirable choice of participants. Okay, okay, I thought. I can live with the idea that a lot of people would look at a CD and be concerned that the music therein may not reflect their particular tastes. Sure, okay, it made sense. But when one gift after another was selected and mine was sloughed to the side, I started to feel sad. Then, someone even chose another package, also shaped just like the one I had brought,  but instead of containing a well-picked recording, instead it ended up being a used copy of Milly Vanilly! Oh my gosh! That tainted the rest of the evening, and from that point forward, my gorgeously wrapped, carefully selected with love, and personally cherished gift was completely ignored by each and everyone present.
Add to this growing sadness my consternation over the whole “stealing” phenomenon that accompanies the traditional White Elephant exchange. This was a perplexing experience to me, a new Christian, to see other believers (with whom I’ve had otherwise kind fellowship), who after seeing their friends open up a very nice gift, were compelled to take it from them in the very next turn! I was quite startled by the whole affair, but felt blessed that I could opt-out of the stealing aspect, since I had the last number. I was relieved that having the last number meant that I could put an end to the whole "stealing" phenomenon for that night. And at least I wouldn’t experience that feeling of loss of having someone steal from me. even after watching everyone reject my gift time after time!
As the gift exchange wound down, I could tell that one of my friends, also a new Christian, was feeling emotions similar to those I was feeling. She had brought a very nice gift – furry slippers – and everyone was fighting over them, wanting to be the one who ended up keeping them. Well, after reaching into the pile to select a random package, she opened it only to find a toilet brush, for cleaning poop! She was visibly grieved. I felt angry as well that someone would be so careless and crass to bring such a vulgar item to gift exchange. I suppose they were trying to be funny. And then I thought about how the item is sort of practical as well, and how I could actually use one for my upstairs bathroom! So I chuckled and went over and sat next to my friend.
Well, the end was near, and the numbers were getting higher and higher, closer and closer to my "number 49" or whatever it was. (if you noticed the difference in the number of people who attended and this number, it is because couples paired up for the gift exchange). I looked at the pile and there was the gift that I brought. When it was my turn to pick, the only gift left was MINE! I couldn’t believe it!
I told everyone, “This is the gift that I brought to give! I already know what it is. And I already have  one of my own! I brought it because I liked it so much that I wanted someone else to have it too. But no one wants it.”
Voices from the room chanted, “Steal! Steal! Steal! You can pick from any of these great presents that are still open for the taking.” At first I refused. I thought, there is no way I am stealing from someone here. Then my friend "B" suggested, “Just take one of those gag gifts from someone who doesn't want it, then the other person will get the gift that you brought!”   
Ah. The light bulb went off. I thought to myself: I know! I need a crappy toilet bowl brush. And my friend who has it now will love this CD! She is a Music Teacher! I know she’ll love it. Yes, a perfect plan. So, I “stole” the toilet brush and she ended up with gift that I brought.  I ended up happy and so did she!
Sometimes when I reflect on this story, I think about how it sort of reminds me of God’s gift to us in Christ. He came to us in an unassuming package, one which we esteemed not at all. He gave His cherished Son for us and we rejected Him. We have envied and stolen from our neighbor to avoid Him. Even worse when we crucified Him, we literally sent the gift back to the giver. Essentially, we said, "No thanks, God, you can have Him back; we got our furry slippers right here, yo. We're good." Then Lord goes further. He says, in effect, here, let me take your filthy rags. You give me your worst, and I will give you my most blessed and cherished gift. By the power regeneration through His Holy Spirit, He reaches down and takes away our junk and sin, then graciously, gently, and lovingly gives us His most beloved possession, His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. If we have received this most precious gift, let us remember that apart from His grace and mercy, we neither deserved nor desired Him. Such is our salvation, pure unmerited mercy and grace from the almighty Himself. Thank you, Jesus!
What a glorious Christmas Gift Exchange we celebrate this Advent in the birth of Christ!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Prince of Peace (by On Pens and Needles)

Cathy Congers over at the blog On Pens and Needles  has written a wonderful blog on the subject of heavenly peace - because she needed to hear it and -- I most certainly did too.

She describes two kinds of stress that she came across in a recent Time Magazine article:
1) Challenge stress, which occurs when you feel like you can cope with a situation and despite its high demands, you have the resources to handle it. This is what we might call good stress.

2) Threat stress, which occurs when you feel unable to handle a situation and may even move into a fear or panic response, i.e. bad stress.

“If we can’t make the distinction between a room full of wild tigers and a conference room full of mere people,” says Time’s Alice Park, "mortal terror can consume us... If worrying gets going too long, it actually overrides the ability to problem-solve, which is what the stress response was intended for."

Wow! Can I relate to that, or what? She is describing my own recent experience to the tee.
And she offers several carefully selected scripture references from both the Old and New Testaments. This one in particular struck me this morning:
Psalm 139:23 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

And she ends the post with the prayer from Numbers 6:24-26:
The Lord bless you And keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you
and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.


Thank you Mrs. Congers! I needed this today.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Calvinism Today: A SWOT Analysis

Andy Naselli takes a look at Horton's latest release, For Calvinism. In his recent post (Warning to Calvinists), Naselli highlights the last chapter, entitled “Calvinism Today: A SWOT Analysis”. Interesting stuff; he writes:
"We know from daily experience that our greatest strengths can also become our greatest weaknesses.
  1. Persistence can become stubbornness;
  2. sympathy can devolve into sentimentality; and
  3. genuine concern for others sometimes turns into an obsequious craving for approval.
  4. Remarkable gifts of leadership and creativity can be used for good or ill, depending on the motivation and the goals.
  5. The same is true of movements, since they are largely the collective activity of people like us.
It has become popular for businesses and organizations to conduct a periodical “SWOT” analysis, exploring
  1. Strengths,
  2. Weaknesses,
  3. Opportunities, and
  4. Threats.
Since acrostics appeal to “TULIP”-loving Calvinists, this kind of analysis may be a useful in-house evaluation, although I do not presume to speak for anyone other than myself. (p. 170, formatting added)

The chapter divides into two sections:
(1) Strengths and Weaknesses
  1. Intellectual Boldness/Cold Intellectualism
  2. Love for Truth/Factionalism
  3. Respect for Tradition/Traditionalism
(2) Opportunities and Threats
  1. Revived Interest in the Doctrines of Grace/Replacing the Church with a Movement
  2. A New Interest in Sound Doctrine/A New Fundamentalism
The section “Love for Truth/Factionalism” is especially insightful. Here are some highlights:
It is possible to be selfish and human-centered even in the way we defend what we believe to be a God-centered interpretation of Scripture. We do not cherish propositions and principles, but we place our trust in Christ and embrace each other in that love that he has won for us.
I have to check my motives. Why am I so eager to convince this brother of a Reformed position?"


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Home Burdens & Our Great Burden-Bearer

From Octavius Winslow in his book The Ministry of Home (London: 1847), pages 351–352:
"Every home is an embryo kingdom, an epitomized world, of which the parent constitutes the sovereign. There are laws to be obeyed, rules to be observed, subjects to be governed, cares to be sustained, demands to be met, and “who is sufficient for all this?” is often your anxious inquiry. Who can tell what crushing burdens, what bitter sorrows, what corroding cares, what pressing demands, may exist within a single family circle, deeply veiled from every eye but God’s? . . . Your children are an anxiety. Your domestic duties a trial. Your necessities are pressing. Your whole position one of embarrassment and depression financially.
 
What shall you do? Do even as the Lord who loves you enjoins — “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you.” Your Heavenly Father knows all your home-trials, for He has sent them! Jesus, though he had no home on earth, yet sympathized with the home-cares and sorrows of others, and is not a stranger, nor indifferent to yours. Bring all to Him, tell Him all, confide to Him all, trust Him in all. You have no family trial too great, and no domestic need too little, and no home-sorrow too delicate, to take to Christ. Obey the precept, “Cast your burden upon the Lord;” and He will make good the promise, ”and He shall sustain you.” O costly and blessed home-burden that brings Jesus beneath our roof! . .
Jesus is the great Burden-Bearer of His people. No other arm, and no other heart, in heaven or upon earth, were strong enough, or loving enough, to bear these burdens but His! He who bore the weight of our sin and curse and shame in His obedience and death — bore it along all the avenues of His weary pilgrimage, from Bethlehem to Calvary — is He who now stretches forth His Divine arm, and makes bare a Brother’s heart to take your burden of care and of grief, dear saint of God, upon Himself."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dr. Horton on Our Thanksgiving Parade

Dr. Michael Horton's piece over at The White Horse Inn today is absolutely amazing! I would love to quote the entire thing here, but it is a fairly long article (worth every word!). I've copied two quick excerpts below from a couple of exceptionally strong, Biblical, and encouraging points. Read the entire article here>>> Enjoy!

Excerpt:
"the psalmist is pointing to Christ, the one who is not only a guilt offering, but actually renders at last the thank-offering: the covenantal faithfulness that humanity in Adam has failed to yield. ...
.... The old covenant sacrifices did not absolve transgressors of guilt once and for all, so their negative function (forgiveness) was temporary, and furthermore, such sacrifices could not offer to God the positive obedience (justification) that God required of his covenant partner.
In Christ, however, both types of sacrifices converge: not only is he the only qualified substitute for the guilt of sinners; he is the only one capable of rendering the life of thankful obedience in which God truly delights."

In his conclusion he writes:
"We need not wallow in our unworthiness, but join the thanksgiving parade that is already in progress, until one day we join our voices with the rest of redeemed creation. The vision of the heavenly kingdom in Revelation is a restored liturgy, with every part of creation performing its ordained role. It is a universal city without man-made walls or a man-made temple, for the Lord surrounds it in safety and the Lamb is its temple. At last, the symphony resounds throughout the empire: “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!…Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord” (Ps 148:3, 12-13).  "

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fasting changed to feast


"Then joined the voice of first and least    
A hymn of thanks to raise,
Our day of fasting changed to feast    
And prayer gave way to praise
So once in every year we throng    
Upon a day apart,
To praise the Lord with feast and song    
In thankfulness of heart.”
-excerpt from “The First Thanksgiving,” by Arthur Guiterman  (Mr. Guiterman was most known for writing poetry that appeared in periodicals, such as, Life, the Saturday Evening Post, Harper's, and the New York Times). 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Real World Titus 2 Legacy

"How mistaken the Communists were when they allowed the older women to continue worshipping together! It was they who were considered no threat to the new order, but it was they whose prayers and faithfulness over all those barren years held the church together and raised up a generation of men and young people to serve the Lord. Yes, the church we attended was crowded with these older women at the very front, for they had been the stalwart defenders and maintainers of Christ’s Gospel, but behind them and alongside them and in the balcony and outside the windows were the fruit of their faithfulness, men, women, young people, and children. We must never underestimate the place and power of our godly women. To them go the laurels in the Church in Ukraine."
Quoted from Prayers of the Bible by Susan Hunt, page 24. She was quoting  Pastor Glen Knecht who had written  about his experence attending church in Ukraine after the fall of communism

Prayers of the Bible - new from Susan Hunt @ Monergism

Another great addition for my wish list! New from Monergism.com

Prayers of the Bible: Equipping Women to Call on God in Truth
by Susan Hunt

Prayer is our direct means of communication with God. Yet many people are unsure how to pray. Is there a specific way to do it? Any examples we can study? Just where do you go to learn about prayer? Go to the Bible; specifically, to the prayers in the Bible. Susan Hunt guides women to explore prayers from the Bible, highlighting the overarching story of redemption that shapes these biblical prayers and equips us to know God's nearness and call on Him in truth. She passionately believes that only a true woman can do this-so she lays out foundational, biblical principles of true womanhood, showing that true women are redeemed women. Prayers of the Bible is an excellent study for women's Bible study groups. Each prayer passage comes with an outline, questions to focus your thoughts, a prayer story, practical suggestions for prayer, and suggestions for personal reflection.Sample Chapters - PDF

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cruciform Press: Getting Back Into the Race

Cruciform Press is an awesome resource that I found through Challies.com.

They provide helpful, inspiring, biblical, and gospel-focused books conveniently and affordably. Every book I've received has been short, clear, well-written, well-edited, and accessible.

If you subscribe to the service, you receive a new book on the first day of each month from a trusted source that only gives you "the good stuff". All of the books are available in print, in a variety of ebook formats, and sometimes as audiobooks. The print or ebook subcription can save a bundle of time and money. This month's ebook is Getting Back Into the Race by Joel R. Beeke. Here is an excerpt from the Introduction (pgs. 9-10):


Every Christian faces numerous discouragements in striving to follow Christ. Our knees go weak and our hands hang down when we face personal failure, when others let us down, or when providence denies our desires.

Disappointment can lead to discouragement, and discouragement may end in doubt, fear, and even despair. We feel weak and tired, emotionally and spiritually, and we are tempted to throw in the towel. Why should we persist in confessing a faith that is despised and hated in the world?

It all seems pointless and hopeless. We say with Asaph, “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain” (Psalm 73:13).

But we must press on, firm in the confidence that we run alongside other believers, that we run a well-trodden course, and that we run with God’s inexhaustible assistance and support. J. C. Ryle (1816–1900) said, “We have a race to run,” and went on to explain that every true Christian must endure great opposition:

Without there will be fightings, within there will be fears; there will be snares to be avoided, and temptations to be resisted; there will be your own treacherous hearts, often cold and dead and dry and dull; there will be friends who will give you unscriptural advice, and relations who will even war against your soul; in short, there will be stumbling-blocks on every side, there will be occasion for all your diligence and watchfulness and godly jealousy and prayer, you will soon find that to be a real Christian is no light matter.

But the Lord does not call us to go where he has not gone before. We are called to endure what Christ endured before us, to follow the course he has already taken. Hebrews 12:1–2 says,

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth
so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race
that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author
and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set
before him endured the cross, despising the shame,
and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

There’s the key: “looking unto Jesus.” The more we fix our eyes on the glory of the one who died and rose and now sits at God’s right hand, the more we will press on to meet him. John Bunyan (1628–1688), himself no stranger to hardship, said, “When men do come to see the things of another world, what a God, what a Christ, what a heaven, and what an eternal glory there is to be enjoyed; also, when they see that it is possible for them to have a share in it, I tell you it will make them run through thick and thin to enjoy it.”

This month's ebook, Getting Back Into the Race by Joel R. Beeke, is available for a one-time price of $5.99 or by subscription at $3.99. Subscriptions are either pre-paid or pay as you go on a monthly basis.
Even if you don't subscribe, Don't Miss Out on getting the November offer!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

C.S. Lewis on Pride

"As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hermeneutical Hall Passes

Would the apostles pass one of our modern hermeneutical classes?
Matt Smethurst of the TGC, quoting Greg Beale, thinks we may demand too much from the original historical context in our understanding of the relationship between the allusions and quotes in both the Old and New Testaments.
His test case is Matthew 2:17-18, which is a quote from Jeremiah 31:15:

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more."

Read the TGC blog here >>>

Download Dr. Beale's excellent original article in Themelios here>>>

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Free Audio: Luther, In His Own Words

Reformation Day is just around the corner!
It was October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. Outraged by the church's practice of selling indulgences as a means of forgiveness, Luther wrote the theses in protest. He argued that forgiveness was a gift of God freely given, and the church was wrong to profit from such sales.

Word of Luther's challenge to the church quickly spread through Europe and his Ninety-Five Theses are considered to be the genesis of the Protestant Reformation, a movement that forever changed the church. October 31 is observed by many as Reformation Day, in recognition of Luther's work.

In honor of Martin Luther, christianaudio.com is pleased to offer Martin Luther: In His Own Words as a FREE audiobook download through October 31. This title is a compilation of many of Luther's most important writings, including the Ninety-Five Theses and six other works. In addition, there are other resources on sale for our enjoyment! Hope it is a blessing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

C.S. Lewis & the Four Loves Concert




If you happen to be anywhere near Newark, DE, this weekend, come on by to hear a wonderful evening of vocal music as we explore through music C.S. Lewis’s book ‘The Four Loves’. Each of the pieces chosen will highlight an aspect of C.S. Lewis’s thinking as it relates to love. The audience will be engaged with the program through spoken word and world-class singing. You don’t want to miss this!

This concert of art song, musical theatre and sacred music will take place on Sunday, October 9 at 6pm.

Can there be meaning without God?


Dr. William Lane Craig discusses the difference between objective meaning and subjective meaning, answering the question: "Can there be meaning without God?"

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Redux: The Gospel of Steve Jobs

I'm reposting a link that I referred to in my January blog post, A World Without Jobs?

The original article by Andy Crouch is about former Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, and his ability to articulate a "perfectly secular form of hope" Christianity Today ran the article again today and retitled it The Gospel of Steve Jobs.

I do pray that he found the only truth that can satisfy, after all the years of technology's empty promises. Perhaps, like the laborer who was hired at the 11th hour in the parables or the thief on the cross, Jobs met Jesus Christ in the last hours of his time with us here on earth.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review: The World-Tilting Gospel

Update: Just for today, October 4th, Amazon.com is offering the book for Free on Kindle!

The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight by Dan Phillips 
5/5

Introduction

Dan Phillips has written a witty, highly-readable and well-researched presentation of the Good News that turned the early church upside down and that is still guaranteed to upend today's world just the same.  Recommended for all readers - from those who are new to Christianity through veteran faith warriors who want to bolster their faith and be encouraged. 

About the book
Like primordial glue, the content of this book pulls together four essential Biblical truths that together answer life's most important questions: who we are, what God has done for us, how we may come to Him, and how we then live. This book is like a satisfying meal that sticks to your ribs and sends soul-lifting, truth-telling endorphins to your cranium. Totalling just over 300 pages in all, its weighty material is easily consumed in a few sittings by the average reader. 

Who are we?
Following John Calvin's formula from The Institutes, Phillips begins with self-image and sets forth several examples of how holding wrong answers about who we are causes great damage in our lives. Through the examples of three specific faulty views, he show us how we need a whole-Bible view of ourselves, and not just a slice of scripture that supports our pre-conceived notions. He has creatively devised three characters that are representative of our typical false positions about man (which invariably lead to false views of God).

What has God done for us?
Phillips deftly deals with God’s overarching plan of salvation in section two by beginning with a glimpse of the holy, covenantal God who has planned our ultimate “Rescue Operation”.  He then unfolds that great plan by showing how God’s rescue mission is executed by sending Jesus Christ, who conquers our enemy for us.  

How do we get in?
In Section three, Dan covers what he terms the “Two Towering Truths” of how God deals with our record of sin and our sinful nature. When we are saved God deals with our “record” through the atonement, which can only take place by God's power of regeneration -- a complete reorientation of our nature and will.  

How do we get going?
In part four, Phillips tackles some difficult areas of application and practical theology. I thoroughly enjoyed this section of the book, especially the sections where he deals with understanding what the scripture means by “the flesh”; how the Christian’s biggest problem isnt’ external; and the critical role of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification.

In addition, he deals with some typical gospel errors, such as: misunderstandings of grace and obedience. He illustrates three faulty views of sanctification that are prevalent today by creating corresponding caricatures: the gutless gracers (who basically see Jesus as Lord as optional), crisis upgraders (who come up with quick fixes that don’t exist), and muzzy mystics (who limply let go and Christ do the living).

This is probably a good time to mention the only thing that I would consider a possible negative about the book. While I am in agreement with the author's content and assessment of the prevalent faulty views, I am concerned that other readers who may have been persuaded by his work may instead be put off by these negative labels. "Gutless Gracers", "Crisis Upgraders", and "Muzzy Mystics" are colorful descriptions that could do as much to alienate the reader as they do to help portray particular views of sanctification.  What is perhaps worse from my perspective is when Phillips actually ascribes names to the faulty views in part one of the book: Bud Goodheart, Lodo Legup, and Misty Call. Personally, I don't mind the use of this device. I'm just concerned that non-Calvinists might see the labels and names as too divisive. (Back to the rest of the review).
Chapter 14, "Culmination" is not just a conclusion, a summary, or an effort to avoiding ending the book on an unfortunate chapter number "13". His culiminating section outlines nine ramifications of the world-tilting Gospel:
  • God over everything,
  • Sin is a universal massive factor,
  • The world does not define its own significance,
  • Meaning and fulfillment cannot be found within the world,
  • What we see is not how God wanted it to be,
  • We are being restored to our intended being through Christ,
  • Jesus is the most important person in all history,
  • We have been given everything we need for godly living in Christ through the cross, and
  • God's provision for us in Christ allows us to live to His glory.
A lot of readers will want to jump right to the fourth part, which contains the application or "so what" portion of Phillips book. Unfortunately, many too many of us, myself included, see the doctrines of grace laid out in parts one through three as dessert or the icing on the cake, when in reality these doctrines are our sustenance. They are the engine the makes practical theology possible. Without the doctrines of grace (who we are, what God has done for us, and His plan for rescuing us), practical theology is impossible. And I am extremely grateful for Phillips' contribution in all four parts.
The World-Tilting Gospel is in my top three most worthwhile reads this year! Buy it. Read it. Share it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why the Church Needs Bioethics (I won!)

Each Wednesday the Koinonia Blog ( hosted by Zondervan Academic and Friends) offers a free resource giveaway to readers and commenters. I've actually won a few of these already, so I highly recommend participating if you like this sort of thing. This week, they were featuring an amazing resource that I am elated to have won. It's called Why the Church Needs Bioethics, and the contributors include leading Bible and theology scholars, such as D. A. Carson and Kevin Vanhoozer; leaders in the areas of preaching, ethics, and other experts in the fields of biblical-theological studies, ministry, communication, business, law, healthcare, and bioethics.

Here is an introduction to the book by John Kilner  (PhD, Harvard), the Franklin Forman Chair of Ethics, Professor of Bioethics and Contemporary Culture, and Director of Bioethics Programs at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.