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January 16, 2015

Here are a few new Kindle deals: Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson ($1.99); Introducing the New Testament by D.A. Carson & Douglas Moo ($1.99); Sense and Nonsense about Heaven and Hell and Sense and Nonsense about Angels and Demons by Kenneth Boa ($0.99 each). You can find a complete list at Kindle Book Deals for Christians.

Change For Struggling Marriages - This is a helpful article written by a couple who were both Christians when they were married, but who had significant relationship struggles in the first few years.

The Boy Who Didn’t Come Back From Heaven - This is big news: One of the bestselling heaven tourism books has been taken out of print because the child now says it was all a bunch of nonsense. Phil Johnson explains in more depth.

What Did You See in Heaven? - Speaking of which, Adam4d pokes some fun at the heaven tourism books.

9 Things You Need to Know About Widows - “Here are nine things you need to know about the ever-increasing member of society, the widow…”

Our Father Is not Like Our father - “We all have the tendency to project a concept of fatherhood upon God instead of to receive the image that he projects.”

A 67th Book? - In 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul alludes to an earlier letter to fellow believers in Corinth. If we found that letter, would it become part of Scripture? Should it?

The existence of hypocrites does not prove the non-existence of true believers. —C.H. Spurgeon


January 15, 2015

LogosI have written about Logos Bible Software a number of times over the years, and would like to return to it today. I do so after making the rather momentous decision to commit to it—to stop collecting printed commentaries and theological works and to focus on collecting these in Logos instead. After years of dabbling in Logos, the new version, version 6, finally convinced me to make the leap, and for the past few months I have done all my sermon preparation using only electronic resources. To this point I have no regrets.

Here are a few ramblings on Logos from my vantage point.

Apples & Oranges

We cannot make too rigid a comparison between a printed library and an electronic library. While a printed book and a Logos book may contain the same words, they are different media and each has strengths and weaknesses. We need to resist making a 1:1 comparison between the two.

The greatest strength of Logos is its wider system. What a Logos book offers that a printed book does not is integration into that system. When you add a new book to your Logos library, you increase the power and usefulness of the entire system, because that book now links to and from every other book. It is less like adding a printed book to a bookcase and more like adding a new Christian with his spiritual gifts to your congregation—it improves and strengthens the entire system.

The most important part of the Logos system is its power to find and relate information across an entire library. With a print library, it may take me hours of searching bookcases, looking for Scripture indexes, and referencing endnotes to find all my library has to tell me about a particular verse or subject. Logos makes it as simple as typing in a keyword or clicking a Scripture verse. Within seconds it will search an entire library, organize the results, and show the best ones; one more click will begin a deeper search. Logos also makes it easy to do word studies and to find basic or advanced information about the original Greek and Hebrew. It allows notes and easily formats footnotes. It is rich in features that display the unique strengths of software.

More Than Books

Over the last few years Logos has begun extending Logos to be more than a research library. Recently, for example, they added Logos Mobile Ed—video-based courses taught by prominent theologians. These courses were created specifically by and for Logos and feature the teacher looking straight into the camera, making them very natural and intimate. The ability to take courses through Logos—to watch the lectures, read the books, and take notes all within the system—adds a lot of value to the software.

Get Trained

While Logos’ most basic functions are easy enough to access and understand, you will probably need help discovering and taking advantage of its advanced capabilities. Logos offers many different forms of training—major conferences often have a Logos-sponsored breakout session, you can take the Logos Mobile Ed course, or watch online video tutorials. From personal experience I can say that you will use Logos better, and alleviate some of your frustrations, if you learn how to use it better.

Casual Users

I often see Logos at major conferences advertising as software that may appeal to the casual Bible reader. I would urge people to be very cautious before making a significant investment. Logos alone will not change your heart or give you a new desire to read and apply God’s Word. It is a useful aid in Bible study, but is very unlikely to be the key that unlocks new spiritual depths. While it is certainly useful for any Christian, the greatest value is for those who have to do the greatest amount of Bible study and who can purchase the greatest number of resources for it. At the very least, give it a good test-drive before making the financial investment.

On Building a Library

Here are several important principles to consider when it comes to building a Logos library.

January 15, 2015

How I Almost Lost the Bible - I enjoyed reading this from Gregory Alan Thornbury: “Had it not been for the first editor of CT, I likely would have gone the way of liberal scholar Bart Ehrman.”

Why Christians Don’t Seek to Avenge Insults against God - “We forget how entirely unexpected and shocking the humility and servanthood of Jesus is—how foreign it is to human expectations of God, and in this case, to Muslim expectations.”

How the Universe Made the Stuff That Made Us - I read an article like this one and think, Isn’t it just far simpler and more obvious that God made it all? How could the universe make itself? See Romans 1:18ff.

Lecrae, John Piper, & John Ensor - Here’s an interesting conversation with Lecrae, John Piper, and John Ensor on the story behind Good, Bad, Ugly, the remorse of abortion, and the healing of the gospel of Christ.

Cripping Up - Very interesting: “Eddie Redmayne, who won a Golden Globe for playing Stephen Hawking, is the latest in a long line of non-disabled actors to portray disabled characters.”

9 Things You Should Know about Boko Haram - “While the world’s attention has been focused on terrorist attacks by radical Islamist groups in Europe, Iraq, and Syria, another series of attacks in Africa has largely gone unnoticed. Here are nine things you should know about Boko Haram…”

The Christian’s life should put his minister’s sermon in print. —William Gurnall


January 14, 2015

On February 6, 2006, Stephen Harper stood before the Governor General of Canada and recited the oath of office: “I, Stephen Harper, do solemnly and sincerely promise and swear that I will truly and faithfully, and to the best of my skill and knowledge, execute the powers and trust reposed in me as Prime Minister, so help me God.”

In the very moment when he recited that oath, he received a new identity: Prime Minister of Canada. That identity includes what the oath calls powers and trust: he received authority to represent Canada, power to make decisions, and responsibility to lead the nation in ways that are best for all Canadians. As a citizen of Canada, I want my Prime Minister to know who he has become, to know what he is responsible for, to know what authority is his. I want him to take on the full identity of Prime Minister and to behave accordingly; if he will not take on that identity, he cannot do his job effectively.

I have never met the Prime Minister and have never been able to ask him, but it is my guess that taking on that new identity is difficult. Though he became Prime Minister in the moment he recited the oath, it must have taken him some time to begin confidently behaving like a Prime Minister. There must have been a period of adjustment where he reconciled himself to all of these new realities—his new abilities, his new title, and his new leadership responsibilities. It must have been strange at first to hear people call him “Mr. Prime Minister,” and to always look to him for direction.

As a Christian, you, too, have received a new identity. Just like Stephen Harper was immediately given a new identity when he recited his oath of office, you were given a new identity in the very moment when you put your faith in Christ Jesus and were justified by him. And just like the Prime Minister, it takes time and knowledge for you to grow into that new identity. All through the Christian life, you will be growing and straining to understand it in better and deeper ways, and to live as if it is true.

More than anything else, your new identity hinges on this one simple truth: You are in Christ. You are united to Christ, and identified with him. Many Christians through the years have said that of all the blessings you receive as a Christian, none is greater than this. Why? Because it is only through your union with Christ that you gain all the benefits of Christ. His life is your life, his death is your death, his righteousness is your righteousness, and all because you are united to him.

You are in Christ, and all that is his, is yours. This is your deepest identity.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

January 14, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad by Robert Spencer ($1.99); Pearls of Great Price by Joni Eareckson Tada ($1.99). Here is the complete list of current Kindle deals.

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward - This article (language warning) describes just some of the difficulties of dealing with serious mental illness. It is sad, but also very revealing.

Books on Sale - Westminster Books has some new, noteworthy, and slightly off-the-beaten-path titles on sale this week.

Lonely Jack Nicholson - This article deals with adult topics, but also real-world topics. Jack Nicholson, who was a notorious womanizer, reaches his senior years and finds himself all alone. It’s like something out of Ecclesiastes.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals - I like Mark Altrogge’s big hairy audacious goal for the year ahead.

Love the Church More than its Health - This one goes out to the people who love doctrine.

Human Trafficking at Your Finger Tips - Jefferson Bethke talks about the connection between porn and human trafficking.

How Far Will We Go to Learn Ongota? - J.D. Payne lays down a challenge.

Love says: I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying. —Matt Chandler


January 13, 2015

The Bible is a long and at-times complicated book centered upon a short and simple truth: Jesus Christ died to save sinners. The Bible tells the great narrative that is unfolding in this world: the story of God creating, man falling, Christ redeeming, and the end coming to all sin and evil. The Bible serves as our guide to this story and to the characters who play roles in it. It does this through 66 books that span genres, cultures, authors, and centuries. It is a remarkable work that could only have come from the mind of God.

The Bible is a sure and steady guide to life and doctrine, but to be that sure and steady guide it must be properly understood and interpreted. Proper understanding and interpretation is dependent on one indispensable rule: Before you ask, “What does it mean to us now?”, ask “What did it mean to them then?” In other words, before you attempt to apply the Bible to your life and circumstances, anchor it in the lives and circumstances of its original recipients. Application must be related to meaning.

Sadly, Christian books and preaching are absolutely littered with teaching that has almost no resemblance to the Bible passages it is drawn from. Recently I reviewed a book that perfectly illustrates how we tend to move too quickly from the text to personal application without asking that all-important question. The author was writing about the importance of setting goals, and as he did this he quoted Habakkuk 2:2 where God tells the prophet, “Write the vision and make it plain.” And here is the author’s application: “Your goals must be in writing. … There is spiritual power in writing down your goals.”

I agree with the author that goals are useful and that writing down goals make them more powerful in the sense that you are now more likely to remember them, return to them, and take action on them. But to insist that there is spiritual power in writing them down, and to draw this from Habakkuk 2:2, well, that is a different matter.

When we read Habakkuk 2:2 and look for application, the first question we need to ask is “What did it mean to them then?” In other words, what did these words mean to the original recipients? The answer is quite plain: God had given his people a prophetic message and did not intend to fulfill it immediately; Habakkuk was to write it down so it could be recorded for posterity. That way God’s people could cling to that promise and, at a future date, rejoice that God had fulfilled it.

And now, on that basis, we can ask this: What does it mean to us now? How can we draw personal application that is related to the original meaning and application?

One application might be to rejoice that God reveals himself to us and that he always fulfills his words. After all, he told his people to write down these words because it was absolutely fixed that he would, in due time, do what he had said. He is the promise-making and promise-keeping God. Another application might be to look for promises God has made to us and to see where and how he has fulfilled them. Where do we owe God thanks and praise for keeping his promises? Where do we need to patiently and prayerfully wait for him to keep his promises? These applications flow right out of the “them then”—out of the way the original recipients would have understood the text.

We cannot fairly say that this text teaches that there is particular power in writing down our goals; in fact, we cannot say that there is anything in this passage about setting or keeping goals. Neither does Habakkuk mean to say anything about the power of writing. We cannot make those applications if we adhere to that one indispensable rule. If it did not mean it for them then, it does not mean it for us now.

As Christians, Christians who long to know and obey the Bible, we only really know God’s Word when we know it accurately. So before you make application, always ask the simple question: What did it mean for them then?

For more on this subject you can read the article 1 Triangle, 3 Corners, 4 T’s.

Image credit: Shutterstock

January 13, 2015

Here are some new Kindle deals: Willing to Believe by R.C. Sproul ($1.99); Think Christianly by Jonathan Morrow ($1.99); Biblical Words and their Meaning by Moises Silva ($1.99); An Introduction to Biblical Ethics by David Jones ($0.99); Holy Ground by Chris Costaldo ($1.99). Today only Amazon has a huge list of discounted books for students. And I’ve got the list of Kindle Book Deals for Christians all updated.

Fisherman That Don’t Fish - It’s a helpful illustration.

Religious Liberty vs. Erotic Liberty - Al Mohler comments on a very troubling piece of news.

Home for the Holidays - TGC: “In the aftermath of the holidays, we offer this two-part article as a window into how to respond to family strife in a godly manner. The author, Dan Doriani, is also working on a book on the topic.”

A Review of ‘Patterns of Evidence: Exodus’ - Joe Carter reviews a new documentary. “Despite being made for a niche audience, Patterns is one of the most well-crafted documentaries released in years.”

Practical Atheism - Here is R.C. Sproul on practical atheism.

Making Fun of Gamers - I consider this an important message on video gaming: “30 year old gaming is the way the world tells its stories.”

A materialistic world will not be won to Christ by a materialistic church. —David Platt