Thursday, July 31, 2014

20 Free RC Sproul eBooks

The good folks at Ligonier are offering all 20 of their "Crucial Question" series ebooks for free. Here is the complete list.

For more information, click here.

For more free resources:

A Sermon From Matthew 27:1-10

Here are the sermon and notes from Sunday's message from Matthew 27:1-10 regarding the suicide of Judas.
Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor.
Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; 10 and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.”


January 12, 2014 | Matthew 19:1-9: All the King's Horses: Marriage, Divorce & the Gospel
January 19, 2014 | Matthew 19:10-12 - What's the Point?: Marriage, Singleness, & Living for the Glory of God
January 26, 2014 | Matthew 19:13-30: What Must One Do to be Saved? 
February 2, 2014 | Matthew 20:1-16: Marvel at Grace
February 16, 2014 | Matthew 20:17-28 - The Key to True Greatness
February 23, 2014 | Matthew 20:29-34
March 3, 2014 | Matthew 21:1-11: The Royal Entry
March 9, 2014 | Matthew 21:12-22 
March 23, 2014 | Matthew 21:23-46
March 30, 2014 | Matthew 22:1-14 - What Not to wear or Heeding God's Invitation to Celebrate His Son
April 6, 2014 | Matthew 22:15-22: Life After Death and Taxes
April 13, 2014 | Matthew 22:23-33 - I Don't Want to be a Sad-You-See, or Why the Doctrine of the Resurrection Matters
May 4, 2014 | Matthew 22:34-46
May 11, 2014 | Matthew 23: Religion vs. the Gospel, or Why Don't You Tell Us How You Really Feel Jesus
May 18, 2014 | Matthew 24:1-31 - Is It the End of the World As We Know It?: The End Times, the Present Times, and the Kingship of Jesus
May 25, 2014 | Matthew 24:32-51
June 1, 2014 | Matthew 25
June 8, 2014 | Matthew 26:1-16 - O Worship the King
June 15, 2014 | Matthew 26:17-30: The Lord' Supper
June 22, 2014 | Matthew 26:30-35 - A Pilgrim’s Regress: Why Christians Need Grace Daily 
June 29, 2014 | Matthew 26:36-46 - A Better Adam: How Man's Messiah Suffered Well Through Prayer
July 6, 2014 | Matthew 26:47-75
July 20, 2014 | Matthew 27:1-10

For more:
Matthew 1-18 | The King Has Come: The Gospel According to Matthew Series
How Did Judas Die?: How to Handle the Apparent Contradictions
MacArthur on the Greatest Act of Love
Ain't No Grave . . .
The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus
The Gospel of Matthew Movie
Humpty Dumpty & Grace
I Am Yours, Save Me

All Around the Web - July 31, 2014

The Gospel Coalition - The Biggest Challenges in Youth Ministry

Inerrant Word - Fuller Theological Seminary: The Implications of Abandoning the Doctrine of Inerrancy - Part 1
It is not unusual today to encounter people who claim the Bible has inaccuracies. “Such a view however does not square with the Bible’s claims about itself or the historic view of the Christian church.”[1] It is for this reason that many conservatives today believe “that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact”[2] and have adopted the term” inerrancy” to describe this distinction. For if the Bible[3] is in “usable and reliable form, not dependent on man’s fallible judgment, it must come in an inerrant form. Otherwise it would depend ultimately on the authority of man for its validation and, therefore, could not serve its purpose as a trustworthy disclosure of divine truth.”[4]
            The majority of the mainline denominations during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had moved away from this position because they were suffering from a theological hangover caused by the global influence of enthusiastic German liberal scholarship. Most notably Schleiermacher asserted “that religion is primarily not a matter of doctrine but rather of feeling, intuition and experience.”[5]  In doing so, Schleiermacher made religion a personal and subjective experience and sought to remove the need for a divinely revealed code of faith. “Instead of the belief that ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God’ (Rom 10:17), here was a faith which depended neither on hearing nor Bible…so instead of a straight denial of Scripture truths Schleiermacher simply did away with the need for revealed truths and for an authoritative rule of faith.”[6] By separating objective revelation from how the Christian feels “Schleiermacher seemed to provide a means whereby the essence of Christianity could remain unaffected, no matter how much of the Bible was rejected.”[7]

Thom Rainer - Three Views on How Long a Sermon Should Be
I am reticent to put my numbers in statistical percentages since my social media polls of the past three years are not scientific. Since numbers, however, can provide greater clarity, I list them here with the caveat that the accuracy is definitely not precise.
  1. 41%: Sermons should be shorter, in the 20 to 30 minute range. These respondents see a cultural barrier related to short attention spans. Any sermon over 30 minutes, they say, does not connect with the typical mind of today, especially in Western culture. We, therefore, must keep the message shorter and pack more information into a relatively brief time period.
  2. 37%: Sermons should be longer, in the 35 to 55 minute range. A solid exposition of Scripture, this perspective argues, cannot be done in just a few minutes. The sermon is the central part of the worship service, and the time allocated should be significant. We do a disservice to the Word of God when we move toward shorter sermons.
  3. 9%: There should be no time constraints on the pastor’s sermons. The pastor should have a sermon length that is only subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Anything else lacks sensitivity to God’s work and involvement.

BreakPoint ColumnMystical Light: C. S. Lewis' Debt to George MacDonald
It all began with a book that nearly went unread. The setting was England, the time, October 1916. Amid the whistle and clatter of steam engines, and the sound of a porter shouting out arrival and departure times, a well-dressed young man, age 16, pored over the books set out on a railway station bookstall. He had done so before, times without number, for he was an avid reader. He prospected for books like a miner in search of buried treasure.

But not just any book. He was looking for titles that held some promise of a great literary experience. He had been reading Edmund Spenser’s epic allegory, “The Faerie Queene,” with rapt attention. Its stories of martial valor and chivalric virtue had stirred something deep within him. He wanted to revisit that world, or something like it, if he could.

And so he had several times taken up and replaced a book that caught his attention. It bore an alluring title, with just enough hint of mystery to catch the eye. But as to its contents—he knew little about them or the book’s author. Several times, he did what many would-be readers have done: He picked the book up, thumbed through it, couldn’t decide whether to buy it, and set it back on the bookstall. Perhaps a dozen times, on as many days, he had done this.

Gallup - Religion Remains a Strong Marker of Political Identity in U.S.
Even as overall party identification trends in the U.S. have shifted over the past six and half years, the relationship between religion and party identification has remained consistent. Very religious Americans are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party and less frequently identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with those who are moderately or nonreligious.

Gallup classifies Americans as "very religious" if they say religion is an important part of their daily lives and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. That group constituted 41% of all U.S. adults in the first half of 2014. "Nonreligious" Americans (30% of Americans in 2014) are those who say religion is not an important part of their daily lives and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining group, 29%, are classified as "moderately religious." These people say religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.

From 2008 to June 2014, nonreligious Americans have been the most Democratic of the three religious groups, with a net Democratic value ranging between +38 and +19 over that period. Those who are moderately religious have also tilted Democratic, with net values ranging from +23 to +1. Those who are very religious are least Democratic, with net values in the negative range, meaning that on average, this group identifies with or leans toward the Republican Party more than the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hump Day Humor: Impressions

HT: Kevin DeYoung

From Lewis's Pen: Love is to be Vulnerable

From The Four Loves
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell .I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness . . . We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as a way in which they should break, so be it.What I know about love and believe about love and giving ones heart began in this.

From Lewis' Pen Series:
From Lewis's Pen: 3 Kinds of People
From Lewis's Pen: Far Too Easily Pleased
From Lewis's Pen: The Morning Star
From Lewis's Pen: Happiness 1
From Lewis's Pen: Happiness 2 
From Lewis' Pen: The First Fact of Christianity
From Lewis' Pen: A Christianity Stripped
From Lewis' Pen: On Karl Barth
From Lewis's Pen: Nonsense Questions are Unanswerable
From Lewis' Pen: Intellectual Slackers
From Lewis' Pen: Worship God as Creator
From Lewis' Pen: Thirsty
From Lewis' Pen: Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Not Idealistic Gas
From Lewis' Pen: But He's Good
From Lewis' Pen: Read Old Books
From Lewis' Pen: When Love Becomes a Demon
From Lewis' Pen: Until You Fully Love God
From Lewis' Pen: As the Ruin Falls
From Lewis' Pen: Screwtape on Marriage
From Lewis' Pen: Lay Down Your Arms
From Lewis' Pen: Aslan is on the Move
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: An Exaggerated Feminine Type
From Lewis' Pen: Theology as a Map
From Lewis' Pen: A Lot of Wrong Ideas
From Lewis' Pen: Children Know Better Than Grownups
From Lewis' Pen: The Historical Jesus
From Lewis' Pen: Aim at Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Satan Speaks

For more:
"CS Lewis: A Life" by Alister McGrath: A Review
"If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis" by Alister McGrath: A Review
"C.S. Lewis In A Time Of War" by Justin Phillips: A Review
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: A Brief Look at Perelandra
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: Doug Wilson Says Yes 
He Was Not a Tamed Arminian
Mere Christianity: An Original Recording
McGrath on the Memory of Lewis
"Letters to Malcom" by CS Lewis: A Review
"Screwtape Letters" by CS Lewis: A Review  
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism
Lewis on Practical Theology
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics 
Theology As a Map: Lewis, Practical Theology, and the Trinity
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 1
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 2
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 3 
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 1
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 2
He is Not a Tame Lion: Aslan, Jesus, and the Limits of Postmodern Inclusivism  
To Be Undragoned: Aslan, Christ, and the Gift of Regeneration 
Lewis on Practical Theology  
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics      
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
"The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism" Full Documentary
"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" 1979 Cartoon
Alister McGrath on CS Lewis
"Narnia's Lost Poet: The Secret Lives and Loves of CS Lewis" Documentary

All Around the Web - July 30, 2014

Reformed Baptist Fellowship - Does God love us just the way we are?

Books At a Glance:

Dr. Ware, you state in the preface that one of your reasons for writing this book is that evangelicals often have a better understanding of Christ’s deity than they do his humanity (13). What evidence do you see for this? And what are the dangers of an impoverished understanding of Christ’s genuine humanity?


Of the two opposite heresies, respectively, of denying the full deity of Christ (Arianism in one form or another), and denying the fully humanity of Christ (Apollonarianism in one form or another), the former has been the more persistent issue for faithful Christians to face. Because we have had regularly to support the deity of Christ afresh, I suspect that we have developed something of a collective evangelical mindset that when we think of Jesus, we think “God.” And of course, he was (and is) God! But the humanity of Christ has been minimized in this collective evangelical consciousness, such that we don’t typically appeal much to Christ’s humanity except when absolutely necessary (e.g., he bled and died). There is something about Jesus’ real humanity that just doesn’t seem right. Consider the line in “Away in the Manger,” that “no crying he made.” Really? What is it about a baby crying that would be offensive to our sensibilities when we think of the baby Jesus? And when we think of the miracles of Jesus, for many of us our minds immediately appeal to Christ’s deity as the source of supernatural power he used to accomplish these signs and wonders. But is this the best way to think? Why does Jesus declare in Matt 12:28 that he cast out demons “by the Spirit of God” if he did so out of the power of his own divine nature? More broadly, what is the point of Jesus having the Spirit upon him if he did what he did as God? So, our (correct) commitment to the deity of Christ has simply overshadowed the reality, significance, and breadth of Jesus living his life out of his humanity.

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Male Body Image Issues
1. When it comes to weight concerns, a key difference between young men and young women is that females want to be thinner, while males tend to feel pressure to gain weight. “There are some males who do want to be thinner and are focused on thinness,” says Dr. Alison Field, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, “but many more are focused on wanting bigger or at least more toned and defined muscles. That’s a very different physique.”

2. One common body image problem for men is dissatisfaction with their muscularity (i.e., with having well-developed muscles). Research suggests that exposure to the media ideal of muscularity, and not muscularity per se, elicits body dissatisfaction in men with pre-existing muscularity concerns.

3. According to The Atlantic, even toys contribute to the distorted messages boys receive about the ideal male form. In the last decade or two, action figures have lost a tremendous proportion of fat and added a substantial proportion of muscle. “Only 1 or 2 percent of [males] actually have that body type,” says Dr. Raymond Lemberg, a clinical psychologist and expert on male eating disorders. “We’re presenting men in a way that is unnatural.”

The Blaze - Is the IRS Planning to Crack Down on Pastors and Churches?
The Internal Revenue Service has settled a lawsuit brought by a secular activist group, reportedly agreeing to adopt standards for determining and investigating whether churches and religious organizations have violated restrictions on political activity.

The precise terms of the settlement are still unclear, as is how the IRS will amend its policies to enforce tax law on churches in a way that is palatable to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has long decried “rogue political churches.”

The IRS and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a joint motion for dismissal July 17, though the court has not officially closed the case, according to Christianity Today.

That said, the atheist group has said that an unspecified settlement agreement is underway.

C. Michael Patton - 4 Gospels or 4 Forgeries
My name doesn’t carry much weight. I’m not that big of a deal in popularity or authority. There is no need for a press release when the words “by C. Michael Patton” appear on a post.

Because of my lackluster, I could have tried to manipulate things in order to ensure that you read this post. I could have said John Piper wrote it. After all, I do have control of the admin panel and could create Dr. Piper as an author. He’s so busy, he’d probably never know.

I might do that because my name doesn’t have as much weight as John Piper’s. I might have thrown out a broader net and said this post was by Billy Graham. Or I could have gone for a whole different audience, if I said it was by Pope Benedict XVI. In any case, were I to pull off such deception, my message would (in theory) be held in higher esteem. Now, I am a Christian. While sinning is something I (unfortunately) practice, I don’t think I could ever stoop to such a low place, even if it gave me more credibility (at least initially).

HT: 22 Words

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


It is rare that fatherhood is celebrated in our culture and so when it is we ought to praise it. Here is a Cheerios commercial explaining why fatherhood is awesome.

For more:
"Father Hunger" by Doug Wilson: A Review
Happy Father's Day from Bill Cosby
An Important Read: Sperm Donors Are Fathers Too

"The Cross is the Crux": A Sermon from 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1

In the introduction to their book Seeking the City, authors Dr. Chad Owen Brand and Tom Pratt write the following regarding how everything is a moral issue and how that affects political dialogue:
The American struggle over race became in the last third of the twentieth century a kind of "me-too" political game. It goes like this: If the race question is a moral/political battlefield what about gender discrimination? What about sexual orientation? What about disability? What about the homeless? And what about any number of other apparent injustices done to any other possible constituency?

To be sure, especially among Christians, but regularly among the general populace as well, the morality card is played to justify political action. But it is with a whole new meaning. For, in the previous eight years of the twenty-first century, events came to bear that produced a new sense of what was moral and what was not. in fact, it was the complete reversal of what existed at the close of World War II where this discussion began. Nowadays moral is not a term used to evaluate one's sexual proclivities or one's personal trustworthiness to tell the truth. No. Now moral is a litmus test for whether one stands on the correct side of certain political disputes. Morality was not involved in the sexual exploits of the president of the United States in the '90s, in the minds of some, for that was about private behavior, a matter of personal taste but not of morality. Yet according to a very vocal lineup of political pundits and office holders, morality was most certainly involved in such political issues as welfare reform, minimum wage legislation, tax cuts, "for the rich," health-care "reform," environmental damage, Medicare benefits, and Social Security (to name but a few). It would seem that morality is to what it used to be. (22-23)
The authors then turn to racism as an example of this. They write:
The moral distance that has grown between that earlier time and the present is illustrated int eh evolution of the use of terminology associated with the charge of racism. It is now common usage to charge with racism anyone who disagrees with a certain political philosophy. This philosophy is characterized by a conviction that all people of color are the victims of bias and discrimination, whether realized or subconscious, in the mind of the supposed victimizer. thus, not only is racism the province of the KKK and other obviously race-conscious practitioners of discrimination, but anyone who opposes the politics of a person of color is by default a racist. Strangest of all to many who have lived through the entire sequence of events, the very idea that "color-blindness" should inform our relations among the racial groups is no longer a moral way of settling disputes. Rather, it is the every reverse that is now championed. One must discriminate on the basis of race in order to avoid the charge of racism - that is, in certain political situations. In other situations, that may not be the case. But the rules are based on the determinations made by one or more groups that is allowed to cal the shots morally - the prior victims. And, the "victim" list has grown longer and broader decade by decade. Most bewildering of all, these prior victims cannot be charged with racism or sexism or hate crime, etc., even if they make such distinctions, because one must have "power" to be called a racist, and a victim by definition has no power. Dr. King's dram has become a nightmare. (23)
I completely agree with the authors. Most pundits in 2008 surmised that electing the first African-American president would put to bed racism in America, but the opposite has occurred. It seems that both Republican presidential candidates in 2008 (John McCain) and 2012 (Mitt Romney) were hesitant to "take on President Obama" in fears of appearing to be racist. The progressive left has used "the race card" has a means of avoiding criticism of President Obama's policies. Expect the same if America elects former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the first female President. Any criticism of her will be one of sexism. It seems that the only "groups" one can criticize without fear of being a "-ist" are Christians, Southerners, and the elderly.

One final point needs to be made. When morality is used as a weapon against political enemies, then it cannot be properly used as a defense against deviancy (a point the authors will make later). Furthermore, our nation has redefined morality as a public issue - taxation on the rich 1%, etc. - and not a private one. What one does in the privacy of their own homes is not a question of morality or ethics, but of lifestyle. This is all a recipe for disaster especially from a biblical perspective. The problem with sin is not just systemic but also, and I would say primarily, internally.

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1

For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther

All Around the Web - July 29, 2014

Russell MooreN Is for Nazareth
Christians around the world are changing their social media avatars to the arabic letter “n.” In so doing, these Christians are reminding others around them to pray, and to stand in solidarity with believers in Iraq who are being driven from their homes, and from their country, by Islamic militants. The Arabic letter comes from the mark the ISIS militants are placing on the homes of known Christians. “N” is for “Nazarene,” those who follow Jesus of Nazareth. Perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on why Nazareth matters, to all of us. The truth that our Lord is a Nazarene is a sign to us of both the rooted locality and the global solidarity of the church.

Jesus is from somewhere. Yes, the eternal Son of God transcends time and space. He was with the Father and the Spirit in love and glory “before the world was” (Jn. 17:5). But in his Incarnation, Jesus identified with a tribe, with a genealogy, with a hometown.

He “went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23). Some of Jesus’ contemporaries rejected him because of where he was from. Nathaniel infamously asked Philip, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46). His question is entirely sensible. Nazareth was a powerless backwater, not the sort of urban, elite center that we are told drives cultural change. Philip’s response wasn’t an argument about Nazareth; it was simply to say, “Come and see.”

Denny BurkWomen will be saved through childbirth?
The exegetical issues here are too complex to unpack in a single blog post, but I thought I’d share briefly what I understand this text to be saying.

The conflict over the meaning of this verse is reflected in the different English translations. The NASB renders it “women shall be preserved,” while the ESV says that “she shall be saved.” The dispute is over the meaning of the Greek term sozo. The NASB reflects the view that Paul is merely saying that faithful Christian women will be preserved physically when they give birth. But that doesn’t make sense here because we know that not all faithful Christian women live through childbirth. The ESV and NIV are nearer the mark on this one. This particular Greek word always refers to spiritual salvation elsewhere in the Pastoral Epistles, and there’s no reason to think it means anything different in 1 Timothy 2:15. So this term is talking about spiritual salvation.

Thom Rainer - 11 Differences between a College Football Fan and a Church Member
  1. A college football fan loves to win. The typical church member never wins someone to Christ.
  2. A college football fan gets excited if a game goes into overtime. A church member gets mad if the pastor preaches one minute past the allocated time.
  3. A college football fan is loyal to his or her team no matter what. A church member stops attending if things are not going well.
  4. A college football fan is easily recognized by his or her sportswear, bumper stickers, and team flags. Many church members cannot even be recognized as Christians by people with whom they associate.
  5. A college football fan pays huge dollars for tickets, travel, and refreshments for games. A church member may or may not give to his or her church.
  6. A college football fan reads about his or her football team every day. A church member rarely reads the Bible once in the course of a week.
  7. A college football fan attends the game no matter how bad the weather is. A church member stays home if there is a 20 percent chance of rain.
  8. A college football fan invites others to watch the game every week. A church member rarely invites someone to church.
  9. A college football fan is known for his or her passion for the football team. A church member is rarely known for his or her passion for the gospel.
  10. A college football fan will adjust gladly to changes in kickoff time. A church member gets mad if his or her service time is changed by just a few minutes.
  11. A college football fan is loyal even if he or she never gets to meet the coach. A church member gets mad if the pastor does not visit for every possible occasion.

Trevin Wax - 12 Books that Showcase the Grand Narrative of Scripture
In my book for teachers and small group leaders, Gospel-Centered Teaching, I recommend asking a “big story” question during preparation: ”How does this topic or passage fit into the big picture story of the Bible?” It’s a question we always ask as we work on The Gospel Project curriculum.

A gospel-centered teacher wants to help people learn to read the Bible for themselves, to understand the flow of the narrative, how the different genres fit into that narrative, and how to apply the truths of the Bible with wisdom.

One of the best ways to get a feel for the Bible’s narrative is to read through the Bible chronologically. Another way is to read at least one or two Bible overview books a year.

Here are twelve books I recommend. Each provides an overview of the Bible, moving from easier to more difficult.

CNN - World's coolest bookstores
Someday there may be a generation of kids who think bookstores are fictional creations found only in novels that come in the mail.

Understandable, since many of the world's most beautiful independent bookstores have closed in recent years.

Not all of them are facing unhappy endings, however.

The brick-and-mortar survivors -- and brave newcomers -- have adapted to the Age of Amazon in their own ways, from opening 24 hours to undergoing spectacular design renovations or stocking books that aren't sold by the online giant.

Old or new, all with fascinating stories, the bookstores below serve as historic sites, sanctuaries, salons of culture and must-visit entries in any travel itinerary.

The LeBron James Redemption

Monday, July 28, 2014

Free eBook: "Replant" by Mark Devine and Darrin Patrick

One of the books I have been wanting to for sometime is Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again by Mark Devine and Darrin Patrick. Today, the good folks at David C. Cook are making the ebook available for free. Here is the description:
Today’s spiritual landscape is littered with churches on their last legs, forcing us to reconsider how we keep the Body of Christ alive and strong. The solution, according to visionary pastors Darrin Patrick and Mark DeVine, is to infuse new blood into the body and by seeking God’s presence and guidance. Avoiding cookie-cutter steps or how-to formulas, Replant describes the story of a church resurrection, a story that offers a multitude of divinely inspired, and practical possibilities for church planters. The result is a harvest of inspiring ideas on how to inspire new church growth. Discover a new openness to churches merging with other congregations, changing leadership, and harvesting fresh spiritual fruit—inviting us all to re-think how churches not only survive, but thrive.

You can download the Kindle version here.

For more free resources:

Free eBook: "Sinner's Creed" by Scott Stapp

Through August 2, the good folks at Tyndale are offering Creed front man, Scott Stapp's book Sinner's Creed as a digital download for free. Here is the book's description:
Sinner’s Creed is the uncensored memoir of Scott Stapp, Grammy Award–winning leader of the multiplatinum rock band CREED. During CREED’s decade of dominance and in the years following the band’s breakup, Scott struggled with drugs and alcohol, which led not only to a divorce, but also to a much-publicized suicide attempt in 2006. Now clean, sober, and in the midst of a highly successful solo career, Scott has finally come full circle—a turnaround he credits to his renewed faith in God.

In Sinner's Creed, Scott shares his story for the first time—from his fundamentalist upbringing, the rise and fall of CREED, and his ongoing battle with addiction, the rediscovery of his faith, and the launch of his solo career. The result is a gripping memoir that is proof positive that God is always present in our lives, despite the colossal mess we sometimes make of them.
In 2012, I read and reviewed this book (I couldn't put it down!). You can read that review here.

You can download the book onto your Kindle here.

For more free resources:

"The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review

About Nixon, this must be said: While his judgment on people was not infallible, when ti came to talent he wanted the best. And he was not put off if the best had not wanted him. Once elected, he would bring a Kennedy Democrat, Pat Moynihan, into the White House to head the domestic policy sop, Henry Kissinger of Harvard, Rockefeller's man for years, to head the NSC, and John Connally, LBJ's protege and the governor who delivered Texas for Humphrey in 1968, as Secretary of the Treasury. The selection of these men testifies to the truth that Nixon was no ideologue, no true believer. He had instincts one could call conservative, but reflexive reactions that were liberal. He wanted to leave his mark and become a man of history, and believed that, given the chance,  he could make his mark in foreign policy. He once told me about picking a national security adviser, "I don't want someone I have to teach. I want someone who can teach me." (115-116)

One thing I have learned in my own personal study of history is that one's legacy might be defined by a certain moment or decision, but that alone does not define the man. Take the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer for example. Though he is best known for an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler's life that eventually led to his own execution, this is not who Bonhoeffer was. Bonhoeffer was largely a pacifist who wanted to see a healthy church thrive and cheap grace abolished.

Or take former President Richard Nixon. Though most known for how he left office, it would be careless to allow his resignation, and the scandal that led up to it, to define who he was as a man. Flawed, yes. But he was more than Watergate.

In his book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority Pat Buchanan chronicles from a first-person perspective how the man best known for Watergate resurrected his political career when it seemed impossible. Those who know Presidential history will be be aware that former vice-President Richard M. Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy in one of the closest Presidential elections in American history in 1960. After losing to Kennedy, Nixon ran for governor of California undoubtedly to sure up his resume for another run in 1964. Surprisingly, though, he lost the race and sealed his own political career when he famously announced to the media that he was leaving politics.

Yet somehow, a few years later, Nixon managed to win his parties nomination and become the 37th President of the United States. How did he do that? It is undoubtedly one of the greatest political comebacks in American history. In this book, Buchanan, a former Presidential candidate himself, tells the fascinating story.

How Nixon managed to win the Presidency when it seemed impossible is actually straightforward. After years in Congress, eight years in the White House, and then through a series of very public defeats, Nixon, personally obsessed with policy and politics, became a political genius. One example of this is seen after the 1966 midterm elections that benefited the Republicans immensely. Buchanan suggests that Nixon deserves most of the credit for the Republican gains. Shortly thereafter, the major news magazines highlighted the leading Republican Presidential contenders. The names included George Romney (father of the most recent GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney), Ronald Reagan, and Nelson Rockerfeller. Nixon was barely mentioned in the article.

And that is exactly the way Nixon wanted it.

Romney was the frontrunner going into the primaries and between 1966 and 1968, Nixon stayed out of the public's eye hoping that Romney would be pummeled by the media. Strangely enough, the man who hated the media for ruining his career (and they would do the same following Watergate), relied on the media to revive it.

The full story is chronicled here and it is a fascinating one. Anyone who enjoys politics, history, and Presidential history will want to read Buchanan's work. It is difficult to find a book on Nixon that is not solely about Watergate. I am grateful that Buchanan reminds us that, though flawed, the former President had a great political mind that performed one of the greatest comebacks in history.

The book ends with the election of President Nixon to his first term. In the epilogue, Buchanan highlights some of the great successes of Nixon's first term. If Nixon had left office after four years, he would be remembered as one of the great presidents of the 20th century. But then Watergate happen and Buchanan suggests that story will be chronicled in a future volume.

This book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of this review at no cost.

For more biographies on the Presidents
President Barack Obama - "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza 
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard: A Review
President Dwight D. Eisenhower - "Ike: An American Hero" by Michael Korda: A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review

American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience
Dwight Eisenhower: An American Experience
Richard Nixon: American Experience
Jimmy Carter: An American Experience
Ronald Reagan: An American Experience
HW Bush: An American Experience  
Clinton: An American Experience

All Around the Web - July 28, 2014

National Review Online‘Stamp Them Out’: On Josh Barro and the New Sexual Moralism
Last night, New York Times reporter Josh Barro tweeted out a disturbing message: “Anti-LGBT attitudes are terrible for people in all sorts of communities. They linger and oppress, and we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.”

This is rather shocking. Barro is no angry blogger writing manifestos in his basement. He is a respected reporter from a prestigious newspaper that prides itself on equanimity in the face of heated debate. Yet he seems, by any reasonable measure, to be fomenting a campaign to rout out all dissenters from the sexual revolution. Erick Erickson wrote a brief response to Barro’s tweet, to which Barro replied that he thinks that “we should make anti-LGBT views shameful like segregation. Not saying we should off people.”

Okay. But “stamp out,” intensified by the qualifier “ruthlessly,” means something quite a bit stronger than inviting your interlocutor to tea and crumpets to discuss differences.

Barro’s sexual fundamentalism wants any dissent marginalized and he’s not reluctant to admit that. This attitude, which is emblematic of the increasing intolerance in many sectors of culture towards those with traditional beliefs about sexuality, penalizes citizens for their beliefs. What we see playing out, once more, is that for liberalism to take root, it must take root by authoritarian impulse where the lies of the sexual revolution, to be cemented, must be enforced through acts of social and legal coercion.

John StonestreetYeah, We Messed Up, Too
While the legal battle is by no means over, I think it’s not wise to talk about “preserving traditional marriage” as we often do. Because there’s hardly anything left to preserve or defend. Our culture gave up any coherent understanding of marriage years ago—which is why, instead of defending marriage, we need to rebuild it from the ground up.

Long before same-sex “marriage,” our culture abandoned the understanding of marriage as the God-ordained institution whose purpose is producing the next generation. In its place was substituted a certificate awarded for extra strong feelings of attraction.

Under this new definition, why shouldn’t you have the right to marry someone of the same sex? What now makes or breaks a marriage—gay or straight—is the intensity of attraction. Marriage has, in many ways, become a government registry of sexual friendships.

Now this might seem like a recent definition foisted on society by the LGBT movement, but the seeds of traditional marriage’s demise in the popular imagination were sown before homosexual rights ever entered the picture. And in at least one case, they were sown by a conservative hero.

The Gospel Coalition - The FAQs: Persecution of Christians in Iraq
What is happening in Iraq?

Last Friday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum: convert to Islam, leave the area, or die.

ISIS had seized a large section of the country’s northern region in June, including the city of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Since the takeover, the militant group has been putting pressure on Christians and other religious minorities in the areas.

Most of the remaining Christians departed the city last week. According to CNN, a total of 52 Christian families left the city early Saturday morning, with an armed group prohibiting some of them from taking anything but the clothes on their backs.  But a few Christians were reported to have converted to Islam in order to save their families’ lives and their property.

All 30 churches and monasteries in the city are under ISIS control. AINA News reports that crosses have been removed from all of them, some have been burned, destroyed, and looted, while many other are been used as ISIS centers.

“ISIS seems intent on wiping out all traces of minority groups from areas it now controls in Iraq,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “No matter how hard its leaders and fighters try to justify these heinous acts as religious devotion, they amount to nothing less than a reign of terror.”

Along with the widespread religious persecution, ISIS is also embarking on a campaign that violates the human rights of Muslim women in the area. The UN reports ISIS has ordered all girls and women between the ages of 11 and 46 in and around the city to undergo female genital mutilationFemale genital mutilation—the partial or total removal of external female genitalia—is used as a means of suppressing a woman's sexual desire.

Facts and Trends - Lost Spurgeon Sermons to be Published
Nineteenth century legendary London pastor Charles Spurgeon was a publishing and preaching juggernaut.

He preached to more than 10 million people, baptized more than 14,000 converts, and sold more than 50 million copies of his sermons. Spurgeon’s fans nicknamed him “the Prince of Preachers” and flocked to hear him.

All told, more than 3,500 Spurgeon sermons were eventually published, but none date from his early ministry, said Spurgeon scholar Christian George.

That will change next year.

The Disney Blog - Marvel Sets Movie Schedule Through 2019
Below is the full slate of Marvel releases scheduled through 2019:

Aug 1: Guardians of the Galaxy

May 1: The Avengers: Age of Ultron
July 17: Ant-Man

May 6: Captain America 3
July 8: Doctor Strange (unannounced)

May 5: Untitled
July 27: Untitled
Nov. 3: Untitled

July 6: Untitled
Nov. 2: Untitled

May 3: Untitled

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"The Mystery of the Trinity": Lectures by RC Sproul

Ligonier Ministeries has gracefully offered Dr. RC Sproul's teaching series on the Trinity for free online. You can watch all of them below:


The Biblical Witness

Early Controversies

Fifth-Century Heresies

Contradiction vs. Mystery

One in Essence, Three in Person

All Around the Web - July 26, 2014

Kevin DeYoung - What a Difference Six Years Can Make
1. How can it be mindless bigotry to hold to the same position that our President affirmed until a little over two years ago? Almost every single vote cast for President in 2008 went for a candidate who believed in marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Nearly 70 million Americans voted for Barack Obama and millions more celebrated his victory as a proud moment in our nation’s history. Even if scores of these voters wished for Obama to support gay marriage, the fact is that he did not. And a majority of the country still voted for him, finding nothing so despicable about his defense of traditional marriage that disqualified him from public office, let alone that rendered him unfit for public life. If opposition to gay marriage is the sine qua non of unenlightened, intolerant, extremist thinking, then our President was a cretan up until 2012.

2. How can it be discrimination to do what our Vice-President affirmed we should be able to do two elections ago? Again, let’s allow that people can change. Joe Biden now supports gay marriage, when he explicitly did not in 2008. But what about the commitment to let people of faith practice their faith? Religious leaders like Rick Warren of Saddleback and Michael Lindsey of Gordon College are simply asking that faith-based institutions not be punished by the federal government for trying to hire people who affirm and live out their religious principles. Has so much changed in two years or six years that this is now too much to ask?

Eric MetaxasGood News about Millennials
Well, as a happily married, tail-end member of the Baby Boomer generation, let me humbly point out that we older folks aren’t quite ready to head out to kingdom pasture—but we’re more than willing to share the yoke with anyone—including our brothers and sisters in the Millennial generation, who are bursting old stereotypes.

As the Barna Group says, “American millennial Christians are more likely to share their faith than any other age group.” Wow!

In the CT cover story by Kate Shellnutt, we find some of the great kingdom work being done by Millennials. There’s Dale Partridge, 29, an Oregon entrepreneur who starts companies that raise money for causes as varied as autism research, orphan care, and clean water. “Like our God,” Partridge says, “entrepreneurs are great creators.”

We’ve already told you about Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim and now an evangelist. This 31-year-old speaks with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and is author of the book, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.” Then there’s the redoubtable Lila Rose, all of 25, who has a wonderful habit of exposing the lies of the abortion industry; there’s acclaimed photographer Esther Havens, who’s 30; Crystal Paine, who’s 32, known as “the super-frugal mom”; there’s choreographer Preston Miller, who’s 26; and Texas megachurch pastor Chris Galanos, who’s 33.

Radical - Jon Akin Interviews David Platt

Pastors Today - Protecting Children at Church: 6 Suggestions
  1. Every worker from nursery through high school ministry has to undergo a background check before serving. This is the least any church should do. Just having to take a background check will discourage many child predators from viewing your church as an easy target. This practice will protect children and also can provide a legal safeguard in lieu of a lawsuit should your church be the location for abuse. [Editor's note: LifeWay offers a special discounted service to churches needing background checks.]
  2. Develop a check in and check out policy in your children/youth areas. At the least you should not allow elementary age children to leave their classroom/ministry area without a parent or guardian. Also, in our nursery rooms, we have cameras as one way to attempt to remain above reproach (I realize this may not be feasible for every church, but we also require each nursery room to have 2 adult leaders as a manner of accountability).
  3. Be above reproach in all your leadership choices, especially regarding off campus trips and relationships with children/students. While this appears to be a no brainer, student leaders/pastors should not be alone with students. We pay for adults to go on camp trips particularly for this reason. More adults create more accountability. Again, these adults should be vetted.
  4. Create a security protocol for those you may be aware of who have been documented as child molesters/predators. If we are aware of a convicted sex offender in our church, we set up a meeting between them and one of our pastors. (Now, let me offer that I think the best place for anyone recovering from sin is the church. I don’t believe we should keep any sinner out of church unless of course they are undergoing church discipline for rebellious sin.) In that meeting, we inform the individual of our church policies designed to protect children. We ask them to sign a covenant promising to remain only in main areas within the church (such as never going into the nursery or children’s areas). Should they disregard this expectation we ask them to leave the church. Believe it or not, we’ve done this a number of times with individuals who abide by this covenant for a short period of time only to break it. At least one time, the response to breaking the covenant was nonchalant and rebellious (a clue that their motivation was not growth as a church member, but likely more nefarious). We asked them not to return to our campus based on the breaking of the covenant they agreed to.
  5. Develop a security team. We are a large church (4,000 members) so this may be less necessary in a smaller setting, but a good idea nonetheless. Our security team monitors situations and individuals that could potentially cause problems (using cameras—again a benefit of our size—and walking the grounds). They also act as security in the event of a disruptive parishioner attempting to corner our pastor (which has actually happened publicly on more than one occasion). Our security team is also trained in the event of a medical emergency and has responded recently to falls, heart attack scares, and seizures of attenders in our congregation. By the way, our security team includes off duty police officers and state patrolmen. They assisted us greatly in designing and implementing our policies (protection of children, security, and medical).
  6. Lastly, build a buffer window of time into your volunteer protocols. For example, someone must be a member of your church 3 months before being allowed to serve in the nursery. As an associate pastor, I realize the difficulty of filling every volunteer role (especially the ones that require significant commitment). But I’ve also witnessed new individuals to our church try to jump right into a volunteer role. I’ve become skeptical of those who want to jump into a ministry right after attending our church. (Let me be clear, not all of these super-quick volunteers have nefarious motivations. I’m not making that case). However, time for you to observe and get to know them as well as time for them to get to know your church and its structures, ministries and programs will benefit everyone. Someone with great motivations for serving will patiently wait through your buffer timeframe. Someone who wants to control how things are run or someone with more evil motivations will just leave and find an easier target.

Mental Floss - The 5 Weirdest Traffic Laws On, and Off, the Books
1. In Little Rock, Arkansas, “No person shall sound the horn on a vehicle at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9 p.m.”

2. Decades ago, it was illegal for a woman to drive up Main Street in Waynesboro, Virginia, without her husband walking in front of the car waving a red flag.

3. It’s illegal to spill “any salt, rock salt, common salt, or salt brine” on the street in Hermosa Beach, California, pepper and paprika are acceptable.

4. In Missouri, it's illegal to drive with an uncaged bear in your car.

5. In San Francisco, commercial car wash owners are restricted from drying off vehicles with used underwear.

27 unbelievable local traditions:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why Politicians Should Stick With Politics: Pelosi on Moses and "Baby Jesus"

Add this to the ever increasing evidence that what's wrong with America is ignorance especially when it comes to Scripture, the gospel, Christianity, and theology. The former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current Minority Leader of the House, Nancey Pelosi (D-CA) said the following recently in defense of comprehensive immigration reform:
"You could even speak about, if it’s your tradition, Moses,” she said. “What would we do if Moses had not been accepted by the pharaoh's family? We wouldn’t have the Ten Commandments for starters.”(HT: Breitbart)
Dear Representative Pelosi, Moses was given the Ten Commandments in the wilderness during the Exodus, not while in Egypt.

The context of Pelosi's comments would assume that Moses received the Ten Commandments after fleeing Israel for reasons including, but not limited to, violence, sex slavery, and the pursuit of greater economic opportunity. That's nonsense.

Just days before this, the former Speaker said the following:

So "baby Jesus" was a refugee.


For more:
Why Pundits Should Stick to Punditry: Does Satan Exist?
Why Pundits Should Stick to Punditry: O'Reilly Yet Again
Why Punidts Should Stick to Punditry: Universalism, Inclusivism, and Freud's Wish Fulfillment
Why Pundits Should Stick to Punditry: Chris Matthews & Jesus Meek and Mild
Thus Says the Speaker of the House: Every Person Has Dignity and Worth
We Are Sparta: Pelosi Skews Catholic Teaching On Abortion

This isn't Christianity

Below is an interview between Brian McLaren and Frank Schaeffer (the son of the late Francis Schaeffer). In the end, they deny virtually every major historic, orthodox doctrine of the faith.

I concur with Phil Johnson:

For more:
Farewell Old Friend: Saying Goodbye to the Emergent Church
Thesis | Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology: From Cultural Accomodation to the Kindgom of God - Full Series
I Don't Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
I Don't Think This is What Good Friday Means
I Don't Think This is What the Empty Tomb Means
I Don't Think This is What Easter Means
You Call This Bold?
McLaren on Hell and Universalism . . . Again
Hades, Hell, and McLaren's Eisegesis
The Clarity of Ambiguity: The Erosion of the Perspicuity of Scripture in the Emergent Church - the Complete Series
Where to Begin?: 10 Emergent Must Reads 
"A New Kind of Christianity" - A 11 part review and critique of McLaren's book
Revelation and the Ambiguity of Justification: McLaren Adds to the Confusion
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution?: A Review of the Evidence
Hamilton: McLaren and Whole Foods Stores
SBTS and McLaren: A Response to SBTS Panel Discussion
The Evolving God: McKnight's Critique of McLaren
The Future of the Emergent Church: McLaren Weighs In
Repost | Occupy Wal-Mart?: So This is What the Kingdom of Heaven Looks Like
Repost | Pinata Theology: Ignore the Issue and Swing at the Distraction - What Piper Has Taught Us About the Church
Emergent Panentheism: The Direction Towards Process Theology Continues
Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
God's Many Names?: Emergent Pluralism in the Extreme
Theology Thursday | Don't Be Fooled: The Conversation Is Not Open To Everyone