Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A 9/11 Call to Prayer

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]World Trade Center, New York City[/caption]

The Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies has produced a video for churches to download starting 9/1/11 for churches to use in their worship services on 9/11/11, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. View the trailer below.

Visit the site on 9/1/11 to download.

Monday, August 22, 2011

No Literal Adam & Eve?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Adam and Eve regret the Fall of Man[/caption]

Dr. Albert Mohler writes on the new wave of disregarding the Biblical creation story of Adam & Eve:
At this point we are looking at a repudiation of the Bible’s account of beginnings. We are not talking about an argument over the interpretation of a few verses or even chapters of the Bible. We are now dealing with the straightforward rejection, not only of the existence of Adam and Eve, but of both Eden and the Fall. Look carefully at Professor Schneider’s words — “there never was any such paradise to be lost.”

Though shocking, this line of argument is not really new. The new development is the fact that growing numbers of Evangelicals are apparently buying the argument.


Ever since the challenge of Darwin and evolutionary theory appeared, some Christians have tried to argue that the opening chapters of the Bible should not be taken “literally.” While no honest reader of the Bible would deny the literary character of Genesis 1-3, the fact remains that significant truth claims are being presented in these chapters. Furthermore, it is clear that the historical character of these chapters is crucial to understanding the Bible’s central message — the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul, for example, clearly understood Adam to be a fully historical human who was also the genetic father of the entire human race. The fall of the human race in Adam sets the stage for the salvation of sinful humanity by Jesus Christ. But now, Professor Schneider is telling us that “in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost.”


The implications for biblical authority are clear, as is the fact that, if these arguments hold sway, we will have to come up with an entirely new understanding of the Gospel meta-narrative and the Bible’s storyline.

The denial of an historical Adam and Eve as the first parents of all humanity and the solitary first human pair severs the link between Adam and Christ which is so crucial to the Gospel.

If we do not know how the story of the Gospel begins, then we do not know what that story means. Make no mistake: A false start to the story produces a false grasp of the Gospel.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What is the Gospel?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="192" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "God Is the Gospel: Meditations ...[/caption]

The other day I posted on 7 phrases the Gospel is not. Today, I would like to focus on what exactly is the Gospel. You've heard the saying, "we must preach the Gospel to ourselves." Perhaps, you've heard about living out the Gospel, sharing the Gospel with others, or living the Gospel-centered life. What does all of that mean and what is the Gospel that we should be preaching, living, and sharing? Merriam-Webster defines Gospel as the following:

1 a often capitalized : the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation b capitalized : one of the first four New Testament books telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christalso : a similar apocryphal book c : an interpretation of the Christian message <the socialgospel>

capitalized : a lection from one of the New Testament Gospels

: the message or teachings of a religious teacher

: something accepted or promoted as infallible truth or as a guiding principle or doctrine <took her words as gospel><spreading the gospel of conservation — R. M. Hodesh>

: gospel music

Literally taken from the Bible, the word translated "Gospel" means "good news." Here's the full Greek definition:


nominative,singular, neuter

  1. a reward for good tidings

  2. good tidings

    1. the glad tidings of the kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of this kingdom. After the death of Christ, the term comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for the men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God

    2. the glad tidings of salvation through Christ

    3. the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ

    4. the gospel

    5. as the messianic rank of Jesus was proved by his words, his deeds, and his death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called the gospel or glad tidings

gospel, gospel of Christ, gospel of God, gospel of the Kingdom, misc

This is the same word that we get our words, evangelist and evangelism, from. The problem I see is that we have distorted the message. The Gospel is a message. We speak of the Gospel so much, but we rarely define what the Gospel is. We attempt to apologize the Scriptures to people, to attempt them to see that the Scriptures are true and calling that, sharing the Gospel.  We attempt to prove the Trinity to people, using egg or water illustrations, and we call that the Gospel.  We declare that Jesus is coming back and we call that the Gospel. We tell them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life and call that the Gospel. However, we've missed the Gospel.

Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom often (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14). He told His disciples to preach the Gospel often. They were to preach it in all the world, making disciples, teaching all that Jesus had commanded, and baptizing (Matt. 28:18-20). What is the Gospel that they preached? One word: Jesus. Jesus is the Gospel. The Gospel is not the Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws, or whatever other "evangelism" method you choose to come up with. Now, the Romans Road, is pure scripture and contains truth about the Gospel, but as I continue to think about this, I think we often start at the wrong place. All people are sinners, yes, but in today's culture, that's a little hard to pull off telling someone. That might be the place that God is putting someone, but overall, it might not be the best place to start with most people.

Let me explain where I think we should start. The apostle Paul said it best:

[2:1] And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
[2] For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
[3] And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,
[4] and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
[5] so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

(1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 ESV)

We don't see Paul arriving in a private jet, limo, or some other fancy means. We don't see him sitting on a stage on a gold throne next to a woman doled out in enough paint to cover a house three times over. He doesn't tout his seminary and doctoral degrees as proof that he knows what he's talking about. What is the message or Gospel that Paul is preaching? It's found in verse 2: Jesus Christ and him crucified. That is the Gospel. That is what we are to preach, both to ourselves and to the world.  Is that too simplistic? Sure sounds like it, but it worked for Paul. It worked for Jesus as well. All through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we find Jesus consistently preaching Himself and the fact that He was going to be crucified and raised to life. It's the very same message. God wants us to know Jesus Christ. He wants us to know him as Yahweh, the name above all names, our Savior and our Lord. That is the Gospel. That is the message we need to preach. John Piper said it best when he called his book, God is the Gospel, because that is the truth. God, Jesus Christ, is the good news to all mankind. Let us stop all this non-Biblical apologetics and give people Jesus instead. Their hearts will be changed to believe the rest once Jesus has changed their hearts to believe in Him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

7 Phrases the Gospel is Not

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Jesus[/caption]

I am constantly hearing people talk about sharing the Gospel or what the Gospel is or isn't. Here's my take on what the Gospel isn't. The Gospel is not:

  1. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

  2. God is not willing that any should perish. (hint: this verse is not describing unbelievers)

  3. You must repent in order to believe.

  4. Believe and be born again.

  5. All sins are atoned for on the cross.

  6. All have been reconciled.

  7. Jesus as Lord is optional in the life of a believer.

These are a few things that I believe the Gospel is not. I have another one in mind that I did not post simply because I'm still exploring it's implications. What do you think? Agree or disagree? Do you have something to add to the list? I hope to have a followup post to explain what I believe the Gospel really is.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

[Book Review] Desiring God by John Piper

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="192" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "When I Don't Desire God: How to...[/caption]

This is an old book, but this is a review of the 25th Anniversary version as provided by Multnomah Books free for review.

Desiring God is John Piper's seminal work on Christian Hedonism. Six years ago, I only had read one book by John Piper and it was rather unwillingly. That book, now one of my favorites, was Let the Nations be Glad. Since then, I have read Future Grace, When I Don't Desire God, and Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. I have come to love Piper's writing. All of these books stem from Desiring God. It is the root of nearly everything that Piper has written since, other than the Bible.

The word hedonism has a bad connotation. Piper has taken the word, added Christian to it, and made it a positive thing. His whole point is centered around glorifying God. God's purpose is to glorify himself through His creation. Even if He did not create us or all that is around us, He would be glorified and enjoy Himself. This is not egotistical, as assumed, but is glorifying. Piper lays out his case in this book. This 25th anniversary edition also features a new preface, and a list of study questions at the end of the book for either personal study or small group study. If you want to get to the root of Piper's thinking and understand Christian Hedonism, this is the book to do it.

If you like this review, rank it at Blogging For Books.

4 Ways for Bloggers to Get Free Books

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Image via CrunchBase"]Image representing LibraryThing as depicted in...[/caption]

I receive any number of free books each month that I request. I have to review them and post my reviews both on this blog and on a site such as I wanted to share these sites with you.

  1. Multnomah has a Blogging for Books program. I've received both Randy Alcorn and John Piper books through this program. You can only request one book at a time, as with most of these programs. They also have a system where you can earn free gift cards and items based on your blogger ratings. Visit Blogging for Books and sign up.

  2. Thomas Nelson has a program called Booksneeze. I've been able to read a biographies about Albert Pujols and J. R. R. Tolkien, and recently requested the latest Stephen R. Lawhead (my favorite living author) novel. Sign up at

  3. LibraryThing is a site similar to Goodreads in which you can list the books you own and are currently reading. They have a free and premium version. They also have a group where you can request books that you would like to review in a lottery style. You don't have to review these books, but it is recommended. You don't have to be a blogger, even. You can sign up for and here is the Early Reviewer List.

  4. Finally, we have Goodreads. I don't really use this site as much as I probably should, but they do have a free books group. If you're on Goodreads, you can visit the group here. Sign up for Goodreads. You can use your Facebook/Twitter accounts to sign up.

Enjoy receiving free books.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Selective abortion is here, in America

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="244" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]A 3D ultrasound taken of a fetus at 17 weeks.[/caption]

Think on the moral implications of this story in the New York Times Magazine:
As Jenny lay on the obstetrician’s examination table, she was grateful that the ultrasound tech had turned off the overhead screen. She didn’t want to see the two shadows floating inside her. Since making her decision, she had tried hard not to think about them, though she could often think of little else. She was 45 and pregnant after six years of fertility bills, ovulation injections, donor eggs and disappointment — and yet here she was, 14 weeks into her pregnancy, choosing to extinguish one of two healthy fetuses, almost as if having half an abortion. As the doctor inserted the needle into Jenny’s abdomen, aiming at one of the fetuses, Jenny tried not to flinch, caught between intense relief and intense guilt.

There's more...
Jenny’s decision to reduce twins to a single fetus was never really in doubt. The idea of managing two infants at this point in her life terrified her. She and her husband already had grade-school-age children, and she took pride in being a good mother. She felt that twins would soak up everything she had to give, leaving nothing for her older children. Even the twins would be robbed, because, at best, she could give each one only half of her attention and, she feared, only half of her love. Jenny desperately wanted another child, but not at the risk of becoming a second-rate parent. “This is bad, but it’s not anywhere as bad as neglecting your child or not giving everything you can to the children you have,” she told me, referring to the reduction. She and her husband worked out this moral calculation on their own, and they intend to never tell anyone about it. Jenny is certain that no one, not even her closest friends, would understand, and she doesn’t want to be the object of their curiosity or feel the sting of their judgment.


What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus? After all, the math’s the same either way: one fewer fetus. Perhaps it’s because twin reduction (unlike abortion) involves selecting one fetus over another, when either one is equally wanted. Perhaps it’s our culture’s idealized notion of twins as lifelong soul mates, two halves of one whole. Or perhaps it’s because the desire for more choices conflicts with our discomfort about meddling with ever more aspects of reproduction.

Apparently, the NY Times Magazine is revealing a practice that has been going on for decades. Ironically, most of these doctors are supporters of abortion, but will often refuse to reduce a pregnancy below twins. The moral debate going on here is astounding. Put plain and simple, this is abortion, only by another name. New tests can also know a baby's gender as early as seven weeks, in utero. Gender selection is next, if it's not here already.

Read the whole NY Times Magazine article here: The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shane and Shane - The One You Need (Official Music Video) - Music Videos

Shane and Shane - The One You Need (Official Music Video), Music Videos - SHANE & SHANE - THE ONE YOU NEED (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)

As new parents, there is ONE thing we want our little girls to know. One Man. The only One W

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.1001277&w=425&h=350&fv=]

Dads and Daughters Music Videos

Here's the first one. I took my oldest daughter to see SCC about the time this album came out and to see him perform it on stage while sitting there with my "Cinderella" was a joy. She loved it too and it became her favorite song that night.

Zach Nielson posted this one earlier today and recommended Kleenex. I concur. You'll need to click through as I can't seem to get this video embedded on this site, but it is worth it.

[Book Review] "Speaking of Jesus: the Art of Not-evangelism" by Carl Medearis

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="107" caption="Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism from"]Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism[/caption]

Carl Medearis doesn't want you to evangelize. In fact, he doesn't even want you to call yourself a Christian. Provocative? Possibly, but in his latest book, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, Medearis is issuing a call to Western American Christians to throw out what we know as evangelism and look to Jesus instead. In his talks, he has asked for people to tell him what the Gospel is, and more often than not, Jesus is left out of the answer. It seems that Christians believe that the Gospel is everything but or that Jesus is implicit. That being said, I think this gem of a book will be largely overlooked by the Christian populace, and if it is picked up, it will be heavily criticized.

Medearis writes with a wit and in a style that makes it hard to put the book down. In this book, he tackles such topics as our view of Jesus, the labels we wear such as Christian, Missionary, and Evangelical, and our attitudes toward others such as homosexuals, liberals, and Muslims. For years, I've pointed out that our attitudes toward Muslims should be better, while having the attitude toward homosexuals and liberals that he points out in the book. Medearis pointed my hypocrisy in that.

Basically, we should be teaching and preaching Jesus as our primary focal point. We tend to speak doctrine to people in evangelism rather than Jesus. I was talking to a Muslim in Mali, West Africa a few years ago and they had asked a Christian evangelizing them about Jesus being the Son of God. The Christian told them they couldn't understand it unless they had the Holy Spirit. Talk about a non-answer! I was sort of floored by the answer the Christian had given, while partly true, but they dodged the question also. I walked the Muslim through John 1 and they understood and were appreciative of someone taking the time to explain it to them in a way nobody ever had. My finding during that trip was that Muslims want to hear about Jesus. He is one of their prophets, after all.

What about homosexuals? Medearis interacts with them all the time in downtown Colorado Springs. They hate Christianity because it's against everything. Granted, there are some related political issues that we should probably oppose, but our attitudes toward the homosexual community are all wrong. We don't interact with them. We simply oppose them. Jesus, on the other hand, they would like. Medearis in no way endorses homosexuality, but he does endorse interacting with homosexuals and speaking of Jesus with them.

In conclusion, this book will change the way you do evangelism. At least it should. Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not converts. Too often, we want to play the numbers game. We talk with someone, sharing whatever evangelism method we've been trained in, get a prayer said, get a card signed, maybe get a baptism, and send them on their way with their new life in Christ.  Medearis has voiced what has been going through my head for several years now. This is an important message to be heard. We have got to throw off Christianity and put on Jesus instead. Whenever someone asks me about religion or speaks of hating religion, I respond that I hate religion as well, often mentioning Christianity in there. Christianity as a religion has a lot of baggage. Jesus doesn't have baggage.  Just to note that this is in no way related to anything the "Red-letter" or "Jesus-only" movement is doing. They will deny a lot of Paul wrote in favor of only what Jesus wrote and said. I do not endorse that approach and I don't believe that Medearis does either. That being said, pick up this book and read it, highlight it, and put into practice the speaking of Jesus.

This book was provided free through Mission Frontiers.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Identity Crisis

For a number of years now, I've had an identity crisis. Before you think I've gone crazy, it's not that kind of identity crisis. It's more of a label identity crisis. Reading Carl Medearis' new book, "Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism
" isn't helping any. Carl voices a lot of the thoughts I've been having for about the past six years or so. So, what is this label identity crisis I'm speaking of? It's terms. The terms we use to describe those of us who follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christian, Christianity, Evangelical, Born Again, Church, and Missionary are a number of these terms that I'm referring to. None of these terms are bad, in and of themselves. However, most of them are loaded.

To be called or call oneself a Christian means very little, if anything these days. We saw this in the last Presidential election in 2008. Seemingly everyone running was an Evangelical Christian in one form or another. You have a Mormon Evangelical Christian (Mitt Romney) on one side and an Universalist Christian from a black power church in Chicago (Barack Obama) on the other side. Both follow quite a few wrong doctrines, yet also claim to believing in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Then we have denominations, where everyone seems to be suspicious of the other denomination. Baptist Christian, Charismatic Christian, Pentacostal Christian, Presbyterian Christian, Lutheran Christian, Charismatic Calvinist Southern Baptist Evangelical Born Again Christian are just a few of the labels that can be thrown around.

I threw off the label of Evangelical some years ago, simply because I didn't see it being of any use to anyone. It's about as redundant as being called a born again Christian. Of course I'm born again. Do I need that attached to Christian? Evangelical is the same thing. This is why I propose, as Carl does in his book, to throw away the term Christian. Christian in the scriptures was used as a derogatory term to describe those proclaiming Jesus. It, in some way, should be something used to describe someone who is proclaiming Jesus, not a social class.

Part of my other identity crisis has to be with denominationalism. I grew up mostly in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Notable preachers from the PCA include D. James Kennedy, Ligon Duncan, Tim Keller, R. C. Sproul, and Tullian Tchividjian. I migrated to the Christian & Missionary Alliance for a few years while in college, landed in an independent Baptist church, and am now a member of a Southern Baptist church. Denominational identity crisis? Perhaps. I've been both sprinkled as a baby and dunked as an adult with regards to baptism. I grew up believing in cessationism (gifts like prophecy, tongues, and healing have stopped). I no longer believe that, but still fall on the reformed doctrine side of things.

So, where does that leave me in trying to label me. Nothing but a Jesus follower. I wish that we throw out denominations and get back to who Jesus is and what He said. Impossible perhaps in the Western Christian church. What about evangelism? I pose the following question: Are we supposed to evangelize? Stirring question, to be sure, but think about it for a second. Did Jesus tell us to evangelize? To evangelize supposedly means to spread the good news. But what is the good news? How do we do that? Four Spiritual Laws, Evangelism Explosion, F. A. I. T. H.? We have a wrong idea of what the good news is. We think it's salvation from sins or hell and eternal life with God. That's partly right. The crux of the good news is Jesus Christ Himself and we have missed that. We continue to miss that. We have debates over Armenianism vs. Calvinism, pre/a/post-millenialism, pre/mid/post-rapture, the existence of hell, homosexuality, women ordination, and so on. In the meantime, Jesus is rarely mentioned. What He said and did gets left out. Jesus gets none of the glory. If we exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, why is it that we rarely mention Him?

So, if we are not to evangelize, what are we supposed to do as followers of Jesus? What was Jesus' final command to His disciples? It's found in Matthew 28:19. Make disciples. It doesn't say to make converts to Christianity. No, we are to make disciples of all people groups, teaching them all that Christ taught and commanded. Amazing, right? How do we do that? By Christ's authority (vs. 18). What do we talk about? Jesus. That's it. That's the Gospel. Jesus. We teach about Jesus and He does the rest. He saves, justifies, and sanctifies. We cannot change anyone's hearts. No matter how hard we try. We act like Christ is not on the throne. We have to come up with all sorts of way to explain doctrine. An egg for the trinity. A chasm for the gulf between us and God. The chasm illustration may not be too bad, but the egg is a bad analogy all the way around.

Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 2 in his method. He went preaching nothing but Christ and Him crucified. That is making disciples. Too often we attempt to persuade people to Christianity through doctrine instead of proclaiming Christ, and we get frustrated that they won't see. Could the two disciples see Christ on the road to Emmaus until Christ himself opened their eyes? They were walking and talking with Him and didn't see Him, as He was teaching them about Himself. In the end, we are to teach about Jesus. Call ourselves followers of Jesus. Get rid of the labels and follow Jesus.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Free Audiobook of the Month – “Hannah Coulter”

Hannah is offering "Hannah Coulter" by Wendell Berry as this month's free audiobook download. They have the following quote from Randy Alcorn:
Randy Alcorn, best-selling author, friend of christianaudio and founder of Eternal Perspectives Ministries, said this after listening to Hannah Coulter; “The writing is stunningly good without the author seeming to try too hard. It’s just captivating. I have often replayed segments not because I forgot them but because I wanted to enjoy them again. I dread finishing Hannah Coulter because I’ll feel like a good friend has died. I want to forget it quickly so I can listen to it all again, but unfortunately it’s unforgettable.”

And from the description:
In the latest installment in Wendell Berry's long story about the citizens of Port William, Kentucky, readers learn of the Coulters' children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors "live right on."

"Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war while the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, now has time to tell of the years since the war.

Download Now