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Free Stuff Fridays Updated
April 22, 2016

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Zondervan and features books by Michael Horton. There will be 3 winners this week and each of them will receive the following books:

  • Core Christianity. For many people, words like doctrine and theology cause their eyes to glaze over, or they find them difficult to understand and struggle to see how they are relevant to daily life. But theology is far from boring; it is the study of God and should lead to awe and wonder as we better understand who God is and what he has done for us. In Core Christianity, author, pastor, and theologian Mike Horton tackles the essential and basic beliefs that all Christians share. What is core to the Christian faith? In addition to unpacking these beliefs in a way that is easy to understand, Horton shows why they matter to our lives today.
  • Pilgrim Theology. In this book, Michael Horton guides readers through a preliminary exploration of Christian theology in "a Reformed key." Horton reviews the biblical passages that give rise to a particular doctrine in addition to surveying past and present interpretations. Also included are sidebars showing the key distinctions readers need to grasp on a particular subject, helpful charts and tables illuminating exegetical and historical topics, and questions at the end of each chapter for individual, classroom, and small group reflection.
  • Ordinary. Pastor and author Michael Horton believes that our attempts to measure our spiritual growth by our experiences, constantly seeking after the next big breakthrough, have left many Christians disillusioned and disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with an energetic faith; the danger is that we can burn ourselves out on restless anxieties and unrealistic expectations. What’s needed is not another program or a fresh approach to spiritual growth; it’s a renewed appreciation for the commonplace. Far from a call to low expectations and passivity, Horton invites readers to recover their sense of joy in the ordinary. He provides a guide to a sustainable discipleship that happens over the long haul—not a quick fix that leaves readers empty with unfulfilled promises. Convicting and ultimately empowering, Ordinary is not a call to do less; it’s an invitation to experience the elusive joy of the ordinary Christian life.
  • The Christian Faith. Michael Horton’s highly anticipated The Christian Faith represents his magnum opus and will be viewed as one of—if not the—most important systematic theologies since Louis Berkhof wrote his in 1932. Professor Horton views this volume as "doctrine that can be preached, experienced, and lived, as well as understood, clarified, and articulated." It is written for a growing cast of pilgrims making their way together and will be especially welcomed by professors, pastors, students, and armchair theologians.
  • For Calvinism. Michael Horton invites us to explore the teachings of Calvinism, also commonly known as Reformed theology, by showing us how it is biblical and God-centered, leading us to live our lives for the glory of God. As a companion to Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism, readers will be able to compare contrasting perspectives and form their own opinions on the merits and weaknesses of Calvinism.
  • A Place for Weakness. In A Place for Weakness, Horton exposes the pop culture that sells Jesus like a product for health and happiness and reminds us that our lives often lead us on difficult routes we must follow by faith. This book offers a series of powerful readings that demonstrate how, through every type of earthly difficulty, our Father keeps his promises from Scripture and works all things together for our good.

April 22, 2016

Every parent has the responsibility of eventually having “the talk” with their children. You know the talk I mean—the one that finally tells the children where babies come from. I don’t think there are too many parents who look forward to the conversation or too many that are confident with their handling of it. But somehow we blunder through and both we and our children survive.

I spent much of this week preparing a couple of conference messages about God’s design for human beings and human sexuality. This required diving deep into the differences between a biblical understanding of sexuality and the one espoused by the culture around us—an understanding that requires deconstructing what humans have always believed and creating all kinds of new and alternate categories. (See, for example, The New Birds and Bees.) The more I read about the utter confusion that surrounds the topic today, the more I became convinced of the need to not only see “the talk” as a parental responsibility, but to see it as a parental privilege. “The talk” is not only an opportunity to convey information, but an opportunity to convey wonder.

Just pause for a few moments to think about the human reproductive system, the subject of that infamous talk. Let’s consider just one aspect of it. Have you ever thought about why we use the word “system” to discuss reproduction? When I was writing a book on productivity I had to look up the definition of a system and arrived at this: “A system is a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole.” A system usually looks outwardly simple but is actually very complex; the complexity is hidden because of the smooth functioning of the whole. In that way, human reproduction involves a system—a stunningly simple and complex system. The wonder of it is that an independent and fully-functioning male reproductive system can combine with an independent and fully-functioning female reproductive system to become one much greater system. Not only that, but when combined they can create an entirely new system, an entirely new person. There’s nothing like it! It is mind-boggling and very nearly miraculous. It is wonderful—it evokes awe and wonder.

Now think about the prevailing understanding in society that these two systems came about through evolution, through the fortuitous combination of time and chance. No, really. People deny the design and insist on chance. Think about the corollary that because they came to be without the involvement of a designer, there is no particular meaning or significance to them. Certainly there is no moral responsibility attached to them—they can be used however we see fit. In fact, we can’t even insist that what looks so obvious actually is obvious. We can’t even insist that the difference between the sexes has meaning. Think of the hopelessness and meaninglessness, and contrast that with the sheer wonder of admitting what God has done and marveling at it.

Many years ago, Elisabeth Elliot wrote these words:

Throughout the millennia of human history, up until the past two decades or so, people took for granted that the differences between men and women were so obvious as to need no comment. They accepted the way things were. But our easy assumptions have been assailed and confused, we have lost our bearings in a fog of rhetoric about something called equality, so that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to belabor to educated people what was once perfectly obvious to the simplest peasant.

Though she was not writing about twenty-first century sexual confusion, she may as well have been. What was once so simple has become so difficult. What was once so obvious has become so complicated. What was once a source of wonder has become a source of confusion and uncertainty. And in the face of this confusion and uncertainty, we have the joy of celebrating God’s good and wonderful design. We can celebrate what God has done, what God has made.

“The talk” is a time to help your children marvel at God’s good design and to see the evidence of his handiwork behind it. Your task is not just to convey the necessary facts, but to convey the appropriate wonder. Your task is to say, “Look what God has done! Look what God has made!”

April 22, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include The Purpose of Man by A.W. Tozer ($2.99); True For You But Not For Me by Paul Copan ($1.99); and Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by J.D. Greear ($0.99).

VT @ WTS

Westminster Books launched a sale yesterday that has Visual Theology marked down to just $10.

$5 Fridays

This week’s $5 Friday from Ligonier is a good one. “If you spend at least $20 on this week’s discounted resources, you will receive a $10 gift certificate for a future purchase in our store. Spend $50 or more and we will instead provide you with a $25 gift certificate.”

Reviewing a Classic

I love this review of a classic Christian work. If you haven’t read this one, you really should.

Why N.D. Wilson Writes Scary Stories for Children

“The goal isn’t to steer kids into stories of darkness because those are the stories that grip readers. The goal is to put the darkness in its place.”

Gladys Aylward – Touching with God’s Love

I’m really enjoying these mini-biographies Vance Christie has been writing. 

T4G Talks

Most of the Together for the Gospel talks are now available to watch.

How the Hillsong Cool Factor Changed Worship

This is quite an interesting article about Hillsong and how the cool factor changed worship for good and for ill.

Evangelicals and Toxic Masculinity

This is a good word. “Before confessional Christians can speak prophetically to toxic masculinity out there, we must first be honest about it in here.”

This Day in 1864. 152 years ago today, American coinage first displays the motto “In God We Trust.” *

Ultra High Definition (4K) View of Planet Earth

Beautiful.

Ministering to the Sick

Paul shared some helpful bullet points on ministering to the sick, and especially to those who are in the hospital.

Finn

If the message you preach isn’t good news for every person from every tribe, tongue, & nation, then it isn’t the real gospel. —Nathan Finn

5 Ways to Use Visual Theology
April 21, 2016

Several years ago our church experienced an unexpected surge of growth. The majority of those who arrived in that surge were young adults who loved the Lord but had not received consistent teaching on how to live as Christians. As one of their pastors, I longed to see them grow in their knowledge of God so they could, in turn, live for his glory. I did not know it at the time, but it was here that Visual Theology was born.

Want a free infographic? You can download The Fruit of the Spirit right now.
Bought the book? Submit your receipt and get two bonus graphics.

Visual Theology is a book that offers systematic teaching on how to live the Christian life. There are many excellent resources that are meant for new believers or for believers eager to spur on their growth in knowledge and holiness. The majority of the resources are essentially short systematic theologies and, while systematic theology is good and crucial, I wanted to focus instead on systematic Christian living.

Over the course of a series of Sunday afternoons and evenings, I opened up classes to teach about the Christian life. We began with foundational matters such as the centrality of the gospel and understanding our new identity in Jesus Christ. From there we progressed to learning the importance of growing in our knowledge of both the doctrine of the Bible and the drama of what God means to accomplish in his world. We looked at how God calls us to put sin to death and how to come alive to righteousness. And then we looked at specific parts of life—vocation, relationships, marriage, sexuality, stewardship—and saw how in all of these ways we can live for the glory of Christ.

When all of this was complete I realized I had the beginnings of what might be a helpful book. I teamed up with Josh Byers to experiment in making this an illustrated book that would combine words with infographics. And just like that we had Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God. The book released on April 19. I’m grateful to everyone who purchased a copy and hope those who haven’t yet will at least consider it!

Visual Theology

5 Ways to Put Visual Theology To Work

I’d like to suggest a few ways you may want to consider using this book:

  1. Read and observe it. The most obvious way to use the book is to simply read it while also looking at the graphics. We intended to create graphics that would complement the words, adding visual learning to the standard textual learning.
  2. Read it with your family. We deliberately prepared the book to appeal to a wide range of people. And, indeed, much of the teaching that led to the book was done in front of a full congregation of children and adults. We believe Visual Theology will serve as an ideal book for parents to read with their family, especially with older children. It might also make a good homeschool resource.
  3. Read it with your group. Already I know of peer groups that are reading the book together. It could also be a candidate for men’s or women’s meetings. I believe it will be especially attractive to those who have little natural interest in reading (you know who you are…).
  4. Give it as a graduation gift. The book was prepared with a visual generation in mind. Where young people may be convinced that theology and Christian living are a bit drab, we hope this book will have immediate visual appeal that will motivate them to dive deeper.
  5. Use it as a teaching aid. The book provides a systematic method to teach how to live the Christian life. You can borrow the format and (coming soon!) download and use the graphics to help you as you teach others how to live in this world for God’s glory.

This Visual Theology book is just the beginning. We have a whole collection of additional graphics and resources at www.visualtheology.church with many more graphics (and books?) to come. We are also working on a study guide to accompany this volume.

Want a free infographic? You can download The Fruit of the Spirit right now.
Bought the book? Submit your receipt and get two bonus graphics.

Visual Theology is available wherever good books are sold, including:

Visual Theology

Visual Theology

April 21, 2016


Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman will soon be on the American $20 bill, so perhaps you should read this quick refresher from Christianity Today. (And, of course, there is Joe Carter’s 9 Things You Should Know about her.)

10 Reasons Pastors Must Be Prayer Warriors

Pastors, please make prayer a crucial part of your ministry. Congregations, please free your pastor from other responsibilities so he can dedicate time to prayer.

Book Tribalism

I think you’ll appreciate the challenge Jim Elliff brings in this little parable.

Drinking Deeply of the Tenderness of Christ

This video is a powerful testimony to the faithfulness of God.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Conscience

“Your conscience can function like a moral version of your nervous system. The guilt that your conscience makes you feel when you sin should lead you to turn from your sin to Jesus. That sense of guilt is for your good. And it is some­thing that God—not your mother or father or anyone else—gave you.” (Excerpted from the new book Conscience)

Should You Use Illustrations from Movies?

Here’s one for preachers to consider.

This Day in 1897. 119 years ago today, A.W. Tozer was born. Tozer was an influential pastor in the Christian & Missionary Alliance and author of The Pursuit of God. *

Timeshares and Manipulation

Ed Welch: “They promise what I want, which is a reasonable vacation, in a nice place, where we can take our daughters and their families. Sometimes I merely want that. At those times I am in my right mind. Other times I really need it, well I almost need it. At those times I go into a hypnotic trance, induced by the voice of one who tells me everything I want to hear.”

Something Rotten in the Local Church

Lore Ferguson says, “As humans we can be tempted to respond in a few different ways to conflict within the local church. Philippians 4:1-9 has a clear pathway for how Christians walk through conflict.”

Piper

This is a very serious act of treason: when you love other things more than you love God. —John Piper

Evolution and the Time Problem
April 20, 2016

I love to read and ponder the biblical account of creation. So much makes sense and so much comes into focus only as we understand God as the creator of all that is. As I read the creation account I find myself coming to a series of conclusions about the relationship of man and the world he inhabits: God created the world; God created man; God created the world for man and man for the world. God created the world to be seen and overseen by man. He created time and space so he could insert man into time and space. He created all things so man could exercise dominion over it all and, in that way, reflect glory to the Creator. Creation makes no sense, it is incomplete, without man, without the jewel of creation.

I recently came across an extended quote from Denis Alexander’s book Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? In this excerpt he helps readers understand the incredible amount of time encompassed by an evolutionary framework. But the deeper he goes into his argument, the farther he seems to go from the centrality of man in God’s plan for creation. Here is what he says:

One useful way to envisage history as viewed through the lens of evolution is to imagine the whole 4.6 billion year history of the earth as being crammed into a single day.

If we had a bird’s-eye view of the whole day, what would we see the Creator do, starting our 24-hour clock at zero and imagining that midnight is the present moment in time? Simple forms of life would already be appearing by 2.40 a.m. with single-celled organisms (prokaryotes) flourishing by around 5.20 a.m. The great oceans of the world start to change colour as cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) spread cross the planet. At the same time the genetic code becomes established that will dominate the generation of biological diversity for the remainder of the day.

After this early-morning start, there would then be quite a long wait until single-celled organisms containing nuclei (eukaryotes) become visible around lunchtime. A further seven hours pass before multicellular organisms (living things with more than one cell) start appearing in the sea by 8.15 p.m. About half an hour later the planet changes colour as cyanobacteria and green algae invade the land.

From then on the biological pace picks up and there is a busy evening of observation ahead. The Cambrian explosion starts at 9.10 p.m. and in an amazing three minutes an immense diversity of phyla appear, each with a distinctive body plan, with many of the anatomical features introduced continuing in many of the phyla right up to midnight. Twenty minutes later plants start appearing on land for the first time, followed very soon afterwards by the earliest land animals. At 9.58 p.m. this is followed by the mass extinctions of the Devonian period.

At 10.11 p.m. reptiles start roaming the land, followed half an hour later by the mass extinctions that mark the end of the Palaeozoic period.

By 10.50 p.m. the earliest mammals and dinosaurs are appearing, but five minutes later there is further mass extinction at the start of the Jurassic period.

By 11.15 p.m. archaeopteryx are flapping around and within minutes the sky begins to fill with birds. Another mass extinction occurs at 11.39 p.m. in which the dinosaurs are wiped out.

Just two minutes before midnight hominids start to appear, and a mere three seconds before midnight anatomically modern humans make their entry onto the scene, the whole of recorded human history until now being compressed into less than one-fifth of the second before midnight, the mere blink of a human eyelid.

This is a helpful illustration for the time and scope of evolution. Alexander wishes to draw our attention to the marvel of the universe and the incredible span of time it encompasses when viewed through an evolutionary framework—even an evolutionary framework that admits the presence and power of God. The illustration is helpful and necessary because just as we have difficulty understanding the vastness of billions of dollars we have trouble understanding the vastness of billions of years. The numbers are so big that they beg explanation.

Yet what stands out to me in this illustration is what I consider a serious incompatibility between the biblical account of creation and the evolutionary account (or, for that, any account that demands an ancient universe). What I cannot reconcile with my understanding of the biblical account of creation is that man appears only at the very, very end of it all. In this twenty-four hour day, Adam or an Adam-like figure appears just one-fifth of one second before the stroke of midnight. The day has very nearly elapsed and then, at that final moment, man appears. This split second encompasses all of human history from its earliest beginnings to the lives of Moses and Jesus and you and me. This means that the majority of history is man-less; almost every bit of the world’s history is devoid of humanity. In this understanding of our origins, the history of the universe is not the history of mankind. It is the history of nothing and no one with man’s fleeting role encompassing a fraction of a moment.

Yet the biblical account seems to move crisply and purposefully to the creation of man. There is no indication in the text that the world was ever in a billion-year process of preparation, that for age after age it awaited man’s appearance. Genesis appears to move quickly and deliberately from God’s first words to the creation of man to the assigning of stewardship over all that had been created. The biblical writers seem to want us to understand that the world was created for man and that it had no purpose apart from man. A builder makes a home so a family can move into it; God makes a world so humanity have dominion over it.

If we admit and endorse an ancient universe, we see a vastly purposeless universe that for the great majority of time had no human beings to bring purpose and order to it. We see that humanity’s role in the universe is late and incidental rather than timely and purposeful. We see God’s creation existing for a million ages without the purpose and presence afforded by the one being created in God’s image. And, for me, that is one powerful argument for a universe that is only as old as humanity.

April 20, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include Same-Sex Attraction by Ed Shaw ($2.99); The Measure of a Man by Gene Getz ($1.99); Jesus Behaving Badly by Mark Strauss ($2.99); The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton ($2.99). Crossway will send you the ebook of James Hamilton’s What Is Biblical Theology? if you fill out a short survey.

This week’s deals from Westminster Books are all books authored by women, headlined by Jen Wilkin’s new book None Like Him. Also, check out Seeing Christ in All of Scripture, a new book from the Westminster faculty that’s available for purchase or free download.

Reviews for Visual Theology are beginning to come in. Here’s one from David Steele.

Why We Need Anonymous, Plodding Church Planters

This is so good and so important. “Unfortunately, for us to plant the kinds of churches we need to plant the men who feel called to planting must change their expectations and their definition of ‘success.’ We cannot bear another generation of church planters who want to be the next big thing. Men hungry for acclaim will do nothing to make a dent in the number of people in our culture who do not know Jesus.” (Jared Wilson’s article Listen to the Little Guy Too is complementary.)

When Her House Was Scheduled for Demolition

I love to hear of the lives and faith of Christian brothers and sisters from far across the world.

Making Manuscripts

This video from Getty Museum shows what went into making a medieval mansucript. It is incredibly labor intensive!

Reformed Theology is Indigenous to African American Christianity

“No matter how you define it, the core tenets of Reformed theology are woven into the fabric of African American Christianity. The sovereignty of God over all of life, his special prerogative in issues of salvation, and the authority of the Bible are endemic to the black church tradition.”

Isolation from the Church Is Dangerous

I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen the pattern: First people isolate themselves from the church, then they begin to distance themselves from Christ.

This Day in 1718. 298 years ago today, David Brainerd, missionary to New England’s Native Americans, was born in Connecticut. *

Theological Primer: The Holy Spirit

Kevin DeYoung put together a 1,000-word primer on the Holy Spirit.

Secret Shame Of The Middle Class

Rod Dreher on the way we spend our money: “I think this must be an extraordinary thing, in terms of history: people who spend recklessly to give themselves the lives they think they deserve. If you think about it, though, our culture, which valorizes Authenticity, encourages this.”

A Response to Swaim’s “Stott Bowdlerized”

Since I linked to the original article it’s only fair that I link to the response from Eerdmans.

DeYoung

Make no mistake: to be at peace with your sin is to be at war with God. —Kevin DeYoung

Coming Soon: Visual Theology the Book
April 19, 2016

Today is the day! Today is the official launch day for my new book Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God. This book is the result of a collaboration between me, a writer, and Josh Byers, a graphic designer. We worked together to create a book that brings together two great media—words and infographics. Combining the power of each of them, we created a book that both describes and illustrates the truth about God and man.

Our purpose in creating Visual Theology is to provide a guide to the joy and privilege of Christian living, a systematic look at living in this world for the glory of God. We teach that living for God’s glory is a matter of Growing Close to Christ, Understanding the Work of Christ, Becoming Like Christ, and Living for Christ—the four major sections that comprise the book.

Order

Sections

As you progress through these four sections you will learn the centrality of the gospel in all of life, you will come to understand both the doctrine and the drama of the Bible, you will see the importance of putting sin to death and coming alive to righteousness, and you will come to see how the Christian faith transforms vocation, relationships, and stewardship. All the while you will see these truths illustrated through beautiful visuals.

Visual Theology is a work meant to celebrate and combine two complementary media—words and pictures. It is meant to combine them in a way that teaches and disciples Christians to better know, love, and serve the Lord. It is a book to read on your own, a book to enjoy with your family, a book to read with people you are discipling. It is a book to read, to observe, and to enjoy.

Order It

Visual Theology is available at all major book distributors, including:

Visual Theology

Wayne Grudem kindly penned a foreword to the book, and here is what he says about it:

Visual Theology is a delightful read. It combines wise knowledge of sound theology with a readable, inviting style and frequent perceptive insights into practical Christian living. Tim Challies and Josh Byers repeatedly tie their discussion to relevant Scripture passages and then provide a healthy and balanced application to the Christian life.

Another strength of this book is that it takes sin seriously, an emphasis that is sadly lacking in some evangelical writing and preaching today. This book describes practical steps for progressively overcoming sinful habits and patterns in the daily lives of Christians, something that is essential if we are going to grow in Christian maturity.

I often draw diagrams in the classroom because I find that students can more quickly grasp and retain theological concepts when they can see them in a single visual image. But this book has expanded that process far beyond anything I have ever done. The visually inviting infographics in this book are very helpful in synthesizing theological concepts and showing their application to practical Christian living.

I am happy to commend this book, and I expect that it will invite many readers on a pathway toward regular Christian growth and increasing likeness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

—Wayne Grudem, author of Systematic Theology and research
professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary

Visual Theology
Visual Theology

Order