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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

April 19, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include Designed for Joy edited by Jonathan Parnell & Owen Strachan ($2.99); Passport Through Darkness by Kimberley Smith (free); Ready for Reformation? by Tom Nettles ($2.99); The Measure of Success by Carolyn McCulley ($2.99); Beat God To the Punch by Eric Mason ($0.99); What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James White ($2.99).

Darryl Dash has posted the first review of Visual Theology (the book) which releases today! I’ll have more to say about the book in my next post.

Living an Others-Oriented Life

Here’s Mark Dever on living a life oriented away from self and toward others. (It’s an excerpt from his new book Discipling.)

Aurora Borealis from Space in Ultra-High Definition

Wow. Here’s the Aurora Borealis shown from Space in ultra-high definition.

Preaching and Preachers

If you are into podcasts, you may want to add Jason Allen’s new podcast Preaching and Preachers to your list.

Ten Principles for Personal Productivity

John Piper shares some helpful tips. “Give 10% of your focus in life to avoiding obstacles to productivity and 90% of your focus to fastening on to great goals and pursuing them with all your might.”

Why a Short White Man Isn’t a Tall Asian Woman

It shouldn’t be difficult to explain why a short white man isn’t a tall asian woman. But today’s students just can’t tell you.

5 Reasons Why We Need to Rest

I find that I need to remind myself of truths like this each and every week. Rest is just so easy to neglect!

Toronto Workshop on Biblical Exposition

If you’re in or near Toronto and if you teach or preach God’s Word, be sure to check out these workshops. 

This Day in 1529. 487 years ago today, German Lutheran Reformers were first called “Protestants” at the Diet of Speyer in Germany. *

The Local Church Isn’t Going Anywhere

No, the local church isn’t going anywhere no matter way the doomsdayers and naysayers tell us.

Real-Time Titanic

Here’s an interesting animation that shows the sinking of the Titanic in real-time.

McGowan

People may not agree with our theology but they shouldn’t be able to argue with our lives. —John McGowan

Spiritual Drafting
April 18, 2016

I’m no fan of most forms of racing. Cars, horses, drones, people—none of them do much for me. I find bicycle racing especially drab, except for those Olympic sprint events that suddenly grab my attention every four years. I do not know a whole lot about racing (which may well be why I don’t enjoy racing), but I do know enough to understand what they call drafting. Drafting is when a rider tucks himself immediately behind another racer, often settling just inches off his rear tire. When he does this, the lead rider has to muscle through the air resistance while the follower can enjoy the little vacuum that forms behind. The first rider has to work just a little bit harder which allows the second to conserve energy for that final push. In other words, the second rider benefits from the strength and diligence of the first.

Drafting is a great strategy for racing. Drafting is a lousy strategy for Christian living. Yet I fear that many Christians allow themselves to fall into a form of spiritual drafting. Let me explain—and let’s not push the analogy too hard since eventually, like any example, metaphor, or parable, it will eventually fall apart!

A number of times I have spoken to a woman and heard her admit that she essentially drafts behind her husband. She takes comfort in her husband’s spiritual strength and discipline but neglects her own. She goes to church when he is around but is quick to bail when he is not. She allows him to carry the load when it comes to teaching and training the children, when it comes to reading and praying with them. She doesn’t only allow him to take the lead (as, indeed, he should) but uses his leadership as a quiet excuse to not put in much effort of her own. She finds that the family is in good shape spiritually but admits that this is far more because she rides in his draft than that she is full-out pursuing the Lord. If he stopped putting in the effort, she would have little strength of her own.

Just as many times I have spoken to a man who confesses, perhaps a bit more sheepishly, that he drafts behind his wife. She is the one who has the living, vital relationship with the Lord and he coasts behind it. She is the one who guards her time to ensure she has a time of personal devotion each day. He allows her to be the one who suggests that they read the Bible and pray together. He expects that she will be the one to call the children for Bible and prayer. The family is doing well enough spiritually, but he can’t deny that it owes more to her effort than to his. He is drafting, taking advantage of her spiritual strength so he can put in little effort of his own.

It isn’t just husbands and wives. Teenaged children can coast along behind their parents instead of learning to pursue God on their own and determining they will personally develop spiritual strength and discipline. Church members can nestle in behind the few who are especially godly and neglect their personal spiritual walk. Sometimes the vast majority of the work of prayer, evangelism, or service is done by just a few members, often an indication that many are gladly coasting along, enjoying the greater efforts of the few. It’s all drafting.

Drafting is a concern because it is an indication of complacency. We all benefit from observing other Christians and seeing how they live the Christian life. This is God’s grace to us, giving us men and women who are worthy of imitation, putting people in our lives who are stronger than we are spiritually. But having such strong believers in our lives is meant to drive us to imitate them, not to simply take advantage of their efforts. Their example is meant to spur us on to greater earnestness in our spiritual lives, greater discipline in our pursuit of holiness.

The antidote to drafting is zeal, that quality we bring to so many of life’s pursuits but are prone to neglect when it comes to our faith. This is a good time to pull in that common biblical metaphor of the race. The Bible tells us that the Christian life is a race—not a race against one another but against the old man as we overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is a race that demands everything we have. It requires every effort. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1) We are to lay aside everything that hinders us, everything that slows us, including complacency. This race requires zeal deliberately directed to the highest pursuit.

We may think some people are naturally zealous or supernaturally gifted with spiritual fervor. Perhaps so. But my observation is that zealous Christians are those who are most committed to the awesomely ordinary means of grace—Word, prayer, worship, sacrament. This deep commitment to ordinary means is the fuel to their fire. This is a tremendous relief but also a significant challenge because it assures us that zeal is available to all Christians. Zeal is not bestowed only on the few and the gifted but is available to all who will follow the Spirit’s conviction. If you can honestly admit that you are drafting, putting in little effort of your own because of the greater effort of the one you follow, today is the day to confess that sin of complacency before God, to ask him to grant you godly fervor, and to pursue the means he offers to ignite such zeal.

Image credit: Shutterstock

April 18, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include a selection for pastors from Crossway: Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp ($3.99); The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson ($3.99); Expositional Preaching by David Helm ($3.99); The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine ($3.99); and Preaching for God’s Glory by Alistair Begg ($2.99).

Covenant College Women’s Tennis

I admire this resolve. “On Sunday, Kyle Taylor released a statement as director of athletics for Covenant College about the upcoming championship match. The match was scheduled for the Covenant women’s tennis team, a group that deserves a great deal of respect for a remarkable season, standing 15-5 overall and 11-1 within their conference. The problem arose, however, when the team was slotted to compete for the championship on April 17th, a Sunday, against Methodist.”

The Tragic History of RC Cola

Why is RC Cola a has-been instead of a major player in the soda wars? This article explains. It also tells why RC missed its big chance.

Outsourcing Memory and Wired for Distraction

Make sure you don’t just skim this one: “Over the last few years I have had a minor, but growing, niggle about my ability to remember and make connections with clarity and sharpness. Was it simply growing older, or the impact of several general anaesthetics in a short space of time, or was it something else?”

Was C.S. Lewis an Evolutionist?

“Was C.S. Lewis an evolutionist? I’ve heard this charge laid against him more than once, sometimes by admirers but more often by those who would prefer us to be reading and quoting someone else. The best way to answer this question is to look not just at one-off comments, but at Lewis’s intellectual trajectory as a whole.”

Farm to Fable

The long and short of this longform article is that many or most restaurants lie when they tell you that they use local ingredients.

This Day in 1587. 429 years ago today, John Foxe, known for his Book of Martyrs, died at 71. *

Does Satan have Access to our Minds?

Allan Murray: “This is a very important question for the christian. To answer it we have to go back to the basics of human existence in the fallen state.”

Be Quick to Read and Slow to Comment

Nathan has a challenge for those of us who comment online. “When a Christian comments without reading an article, it suggests they don’t value their brother or sister in Christ. To comment before reading an article is to elevate your words above those of the author. And to make it more dishonoring, it is often done on a platform they built—it’s their blog or Facebook page after all.”

Powlison

Christ-less, grace-less attempts at change conclude either with the praise of your own glory or with your shame. —David Powlison