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Cruciform Press

September 04, 2014

Grace Is FreeAs a cofounder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates on news and tell you about our most recent titles. I want to mention a book that came out earlier this year, Grace Is Free: One Woman’s Journey From Fundamentalism to Failure to Faith by Marci Preheim.

It’s natural to want to emulate those we look up to. This can be done biblically, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” The danger comes when we lose sight of Christ and focus instead on outward actions.

Marci Preheim kept noticing this phenomenon among Christian women. She saw that in many churches, even those that are otherwise biblically faithful, the idea of a godly woman was a list of tasks rather than a heart attitude.

My whole life I’ve watched women fall into the same quagmire of conformity. I’m not talking about biblical conformity to the image of Christ, but conformity to
an unwritten code of some elusive “godly woman” that doesn’t exist. Her dress, behavior, personality, and hobbies are subtly different in each church. But if her behavior becomes a code to live by, then she is a false gospel. This nonexistent woman robs us of intimacy with each other, condemns us as mothers and wives, and holds us in a prison of law that none of us can live up to. She is a form of godliness that denies the power of the true gospel in women’s lives. But she is widely preached as the standard of righteousness, which is why the godly woman must be redefined in our generation.

As the title indicates, this book draws from Preheim’s own story. As a young girl, her idea of a “good Christian” had nothing to do with grace and everything to do with appearances. But as a teen, she lost her desire to be seen as a good girl. She quit trying to keep up the charade and rejected Christianity completely. It wasn’t until her young adult years that she finally embraced the gift of grace.

But though Preheim chronicles much of her own spiritual journey, it’s more than just a memoir. Her experience in women’s ministry, both in the church and a women’s prison, gives her a deep well to draw from. It also helps her show how God’s grace is sufficient for all people from all walks of life.

Preheim then goes back to the basics. In other words, she starts with the gospel definition of a godly woman (a woman saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ), and explores how that affects every area of a woman’s life. The gospel changes how she will handle sin, work, trials, friendship, marriage, and motherhood.

It’s sometimes hard for this type of book not to confuse celebrating grace with celebrating sin. Preheim does a good job emphasizing that though grace alone saves us, it also changes us: “Obedience is not the debate—we all agree that we must obey the Lord. But what exactly should we obey? This has become confusing because people have added their own rules—things God does not require—to the gospel.”

Preheim has a heart for women and a heart for the gospel. She found freedom in Christ, and she wants other women to experience that as well. This isn’t a new message, but a fresh celebration of an old one. 

You can buy Grace Is Free at Amazon or direct from Cruciform Press.

June 16, 2014

Most Encouraging Book on HellHell and humor between the same two book covers. Seriously? As a co-founder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates on news and tell you about our books. Our recent release, The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, by Thor Ramsey, is as unusual and compelling as its title.

In recent years, some very famous books have claimed that the hell described in Scripture doesn’t actually exist. These books have gotten a lot of attention and generated a ton of controversy. Bible-believing Christians understand that we can’t deny this doctrine (it’s taught plainly in Scripture), but we tend to be uneasy about it just the same. As Ramsey says, “In today’s age of peace, love, and misinformation, the subject of hell seems to make church leaders sweat even when they’re not trying to be ironic.”

Ramsey doesn’t think this attitude is wise or ultimately helpful. He even goes so far as to say that he’s learned to delight in the doctrine of eternal punishment. As he shares his delight, you will see how he managed to write a book on hell that actually does turn out to be encouraging.

This might seem shocking to you, but I delight in the doctrine of hell. Let me explain myself before you tell me to go there. I didn’t arrive at this mindset overnight, but now I delight in everything that God has revealed to us about himself. Any glimpse into the workings of the mind of God should delight a Christian.

Ramsey starts with the question, “What do we really lose if hell freezes over?” As he works through this, we see that the answer is…everything. The orthodox doctrine of hell is closely tied to the fear of God, the holiness of God, the gospel of God, and the love of God. Ramsey unpacks each of these four points in separate chapters that make up the heart of the book.

Ramsey is an unusual guy. Besides being a pastor and teacher, he spent 20 years as a Christian stand-up comic, and it shows in this book. Some have wondered whether a book about hell from a comedian could truly work. It does work, though. Ramsey’s sense of humor comes through, and the book is entertaining and even funny in places, but he’s not flippant or disrespectful. Sometimes the humor catches the reader by surprise, but isn’t that the nature of humor?  

With the reality of hell still actively under attack, this accessible, winsome book on a difficult subject is truly needed. If you’re halfway familiar with the debate about hell, you’ll know whose ideas Ramsey is dismantling. Ramsey, however, does not focus on the teachers, but on the doctrine. As he says, “The person is not the point. The bad theology is.”

So while this book does correct recent false teaching, it does more than shore up a besieged doctrine. It logically and theologically integrates an orthodox view of hell into the gospel, thus reminding the reader to delight in the beauty and cohesiveness of the whole of God’s Word. With endorsements from author Eric Metaxas, actor Stephen Baldwin, and Drew Dyck of Leadership Journal, I doubt you have read anything quite like it. You will come away from this book with a better understanding of a doctrine that many reject, while growing in appreciation for God’s love and holiness. Along the way, you will probably even chuckle, and more than once. Now that’s no small trick.

You can buy The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever at Amazon (Kindle; Softcover) or direct from Cruciform Press (all formats).

January 15, 2014

Torn to HealAs a cofounder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates, including thoughts on our recent releases. I try to mention titles shortly after they appear, so this one is a bit tardy. It’s a good book, though, and one I didn’t want to let pass by.

In Torn to Heal: God’s Good Purpose in Suffering, Mike Leake offers a “bare bones theology of suffering.” He does this by reflecting on the idea that “God uses the tearing of suffering to provide healing—a healing that goes far beyond the wound that is claiming our immediate attention.”

He begins with examples from the lives of Abraham, Hosea, Gideon, Joseph, and Job. He shows that God fulfills his promises, but does so in ways that seem (to us, anyway) counterintuitive. Then, in the heart of the book, he shows two ways Christians can get things seriously wrong: dualism and stoicism.

Both ways of thinking are faulty, both are partly correct, and both come in semi-Christian versions that run rampant in the church and do great harm. The dualistic Christian acknowledges that evil is something to strive against, but neglects the truth that God is sovereign over all things, even our suffering. The stoic Christian, on the other hand, may understand that God is sovereign, but will take a “grin and bear it” attitude toward suffering, without recognizing that God has a purpose for every trial.

After explaining the dangers of “deadly dualism” and “shallow stoicism,” Leake then offers the gospel view of suffering:

So the gospel agrees with the stoic in that God is sovereign and that we ought to humble ourselves under his mighty hand. And it agrees with the dualist in that there is real evil which God is in the business of eradicating. Yet at the end of the day the gospel proclaims (over against the dualist) an absolutely sovereign God and (over against the stoic) a God who incarnates himself and weeps for man’s suffering.

By uncovering the errors of dualism and stoicism, and then showing us the correct view of suffering, Leake equips us to spot faulty thinking in ourselves and others. And because he lays out everything so simply, we can remember and apply these truths long after we’ve finished the book.

December 05, 2013

Does God Listen to RapAs a cofounder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates on news and tell you about our most recent titles. Our November release, Does God Listen to Rap? Christians and the World’s Most Controversial Music, seems to have come at a good time. As many of you know, a panel at a conference of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches was recently asked to share their thoughts on Christian rap. They were highly disapproving, igniting an Internet firestorm of sorts.

What’s interesting is that Curtis Allen wrote this book in part to respond to a similar frenzy. A rapper before he became a Christian, Curt continued to use his gifts for the church after his conversion. As Reformed rap started to gain a foothold several years ago, some well-known preachers began to endorse it. In the Foreword, Owen Strachan even recounts a public rap battle between Curt and him that didn’t end too well for Owen. But after becoming the first rapper to perform during a worship service at John Piper’s church, Bethlehem Baptist, Curt found himself in the position of defending Christian rap, and he wasn’t sure if his superficial reasons were biblical enough.

A lot has been written about rap in the last several days, much of it quite good. But if you like this music—or are interested in the much larger question of Christian involvement in cultural expression and the arts—there are still many good reasons to check out the book. Here are just a few unexpected questions that this book addresses:

  • How did the CIA and Martin Luther King’s assassination contribute to the formation of Hip Hop culture?
  • Why do many blacks believe that entertainment has done more for race relations than the church?
  • What is the surprising evidence for the claim that Augustine of Hippo basically rapped some of his most popular messages?
  • Is Lecrae’s current musical direction valid?
  • What are the three biblically sanctioned ways that rap contributes to the mission of the church?

The book also goes into depth on several subjects that all those recent blog posts simply couldn’t:

  • The pagan origins of the first Israelite worship song and of music itself.
  • God’s establishment of multiculturalism at the Tower of Babel in order to produce a fuller and more varied expression of worship.
  • The biblical requirement of cultural accommodation for the sake of the gospel.
  • The far-reaching implications of God’s refusal to specify anything about the sound or style of worship music.

Because rap is a relatively new art form, it’s hard for many to separate it from the culture of violence and crime from which it arose. Curt readily acknowledges the sinful roots of hip-hop. But in the heart of the book he looks at the formation of culture and how it fits into God’s redemptive plan. It makes for an interesting read and helps you think through how we can be in the world but not of the world, especially when it comes to creative endeavors like music and art.

A lot of people have already formed an opinion on rap music, but too often those opinions—pro or con—have more to do with personal preference than any biblical principle. Even though Curt was definitely “pro rap” when he started the book, he sincerely wanted a real answer to the question, one that went deeper than “rap is okay because I like rap.” The result is a thoughtful examination of the creative process and how believers can use their gifts to bring glory to God.

The book is available at Amazon and at Cruciform Press (where you can get any of three ebook formats for as little as $3.99). Today through Saturday, however, the Kindle version is just $1.99.

September 20, 2013

Broken VowsAs a co-founder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates on news, and tell you about our most recent titles. Our featured title for September is Broken Vows: Divorce and the Goodness of God by John Greco.

Broken Vows is a very personal book that opens with a bit of the author’s story. Greco was getting ready to start a new job as an associate pastor when he learned his wife had committed adultery and was not interested in saving the marriage. Shortly after his wife left, the job offer was rescinded. Nearly every worldly thing he based his identity on was lost, and he had to rebuild his life and look to Christ.

This book may speak primarily to those who have experienced divorce, but it is also a good resource for pastors and other Christians who want to think biblically about divorce so they can counsel others who have been impacted by it. Greco states that his reason for writing the book was “to stand alongside people who know the sting of divorce and other heartbreak, and at the same time, to inform those who’ve never known the pain personally.” But this book is more than just a divorce book, it’s a book about suffering, grief, forgiveness, and remaining hopeful in the wake of lost dreams. Everyone can in some way relate to those things, so everyone can in some way be encouraged by it.

At one time or another every one of us—whether we’ve walked through the pain of divorce or not—has wanted life to be “fixed” in some way. It’s what Jesus prayed next that is difficult: “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). This is what it sounds like when a hope is yielded to God—when the greatest desire of a heart is to know God above everything else.

When this is the order of our priorities, we are freed from bondage to our circumstances. Like Jesus, like Stephen, and like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we can respond to an uncertain future with unwavering resolve—regardless of our current struggles or what the future may hold. And we can be content without denying the reality that things aren’t where we might like them to be. We can say with the Psalmist: “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Throughout the book, Greco continually emphasizes the hope of the gospel, not as a means to get through the bad times, but as the only hope any of us have. Greco’s perspective is that of the spouse who was left, but he also points to the necessity of the gospel for the spouse who may bear the bulk of the blame for the end of the marriage. The abandoned spouse may fall into the trap of bitterness and self-righteousness. The other spouse may be under enormous guilt. But both sides, he says, need Christ.

Everyone knows someone who has been affected by divorce. Every church at some point has to deal with this issue. It’s sad that we need a book like this, but I’m grateful that Greco has provided the church with a resource to help us think biblically about such an important topic.

You can find Broken Vows at Amazon or direct from Cruciform Press.

May 29, 2013

Christ in the ChaosAs a co-founder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates on news and tell you about our most recent titles. We recently released Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood, by Kimm Crandall.

If you ask what makes a woman a good mother, you will get a lot of different answers. From how you feed or diaper your children or how they are schooled, everybody seems to have an opinion. All of these things are important, of course, but the deluge of information and opinions is overwhelming. When women feel they can’t live up to these standards, they often feel guilty and hopeless.

October 25, 2012

ContentContend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude really cuts to the chase in his epistle, and for good reason: the church in his day was embattled by false believers and false teachers who had crept in unnoticed, perverting the grace of God into sensuality and denying the Lord (Jude 4). That’s a pretty serious charge, but also a very familiar one. 

Pastors, authors, bloggers, you name it—there are so many who seem to start well, but somewhere along the line swerve from the truth and take a great number of people with them. Just as in Jude’s day, the 21st century church is under attack from within. And just like Jude’s audience, Christians today are called to contend; to counter false beliefs and teaching with all our might, upholding the message entrusted to us without compromise. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. How do we determine what to contend for, whom to contend against and, at the most basic level, figure out what contending really even means?

That’s where Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World comes in. Written by Aaron Armstrong, the most recent book from Cruciform Press (of which I am a co-founder) looks at what it means to fulfill Jude’s command in a day when the next generation—put off by the squishiness of the seeker churches and the cold rigidity of fundamentalism—finds it easier to ask, “Can’t we all just get along?”

While some authors approach contending with a bit more of a militaristic feel, Contend takes a different approach, focusing on Jude’s plea to show mercy. In fact, Aaron argues that this is fundamental to understanding the call to contend: “Contending must be understood and exercised as an act of mercy toward those who doubt and those who have been deceived, regardless of whether they claim faith in Christ.”

While the early reviews are only just starting to appear, the endorsements for this book from (among others) Owen Strachan, Dr. Peter Jones, and David Murray are very encouraging. David writes:

Contend is a fine combination of concise biblical exposition, down-to-earth examples, contemporary illustrations, and challenging practical application… It’s not only an ideal book for discipling a new believer, but also for shaking the more mature out of dangerous complacency and passivity.

Contend is available now from Cruciform Press (starting for as low as $3.99) and is bound to be a benefit to the believer seeking to defend the faith in a Christ-exalting manner. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Aaron’s first book, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty, which is temporarily on sale for the Kindle for $0.99.

October 02, 2012

Last week, as this site ticked by its tenth anniversary, I reflected a little bit on unintended consequences. This has been a theme in my thinking lately: the unexpected providence of a sovereign God. Today I was looking through my little book Sexual Detox and at the end found a short essay I wrote with Kevin Meath; I wrote it but then completely forgot about it. There we explained another unintended consequence—how a series of blog posts somehow turned into a new publishing company. Here is what we wrote:

This is the book that helped launched an unusual little publishing company. In fact, the story of this book and the story of the formation of Cruciform Press are almost inseparable. Here, in brief, is how it happened.

In August of 2009, Tim Challies began a dialogue with Kevin Meath about book editing. Before long the conversation between the two freelancers began to range into the intersection of publishing and digital technology. Soon the idea of a business was beginning to form.

In recent years the music industry had been changed—rapidly, radically, and forever—as technology redefined how people obtain and enjoy music. Something similar had begun to happen in print publishing, although a little more slowly, with technology altering how and when we read, as well as our expectations about reading. So the two men decided that, if they were to start a business, it would have to be built around the answer to a single question:

What would a book publishing company targeted to gospel-centered Christians look like if it began from the realities of 21st century technology?

The idea was intriguing, but both men were too busy with other projects to pursue it further.

In November, Tim composed a series of blog posts he called “Sexual Detox.” The result of numerous long conversations with young men, this series was used by God to help many young men identify and deal with the sexual toxins in their lives due to pornography. Tim subsequently compiled the series into an ebook. He made it freely available through his blog, from where it was downloaded tens of thousands of times.

Responding to repeated requests to make the book available in a printed format, Tim turned to Kevin for help. This reignited their conversation about a company, and they soon realized they may have already begun working together on that company’s first book. But the more seriously they talked about starting a business, the clearer it became that they would need some help. In March 2010, they turned to a mutual friend, Bob Bevington, a veteran of many business startups and a Christian author in his own right. Bob loved the idea, and a few weeks later the three began the real work of establishing Cruciform Press.

Sexual Detox is our first book. Targeted squarely at men—and not just young men, but men of all ages—and dealing with an issue of extraordinary scope, it is our hope that this book will help many more men understand God’s call on their lives to flee youthful lusts and to pursue purity. We hope and trust also that by the grace of God we will be able to continue publishing books that are short, clear, creative, and biblical, books that draw your heart to the unending glories of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which has rich application to every area of life.

September 28, 2012

Modesty is a legitimate virtue whether you are a Christian or not, but for modesty to be distinctly Christian, it must be rooted in the gospel of grace. Whenever I was asked about this topic and whenever I read about it, I found plenty of law but very little gospel. R.W. Glenn found the same thing, so we set out to write a short book that would grow out from the gospel and that would address both men and women and that would look beyond modest dress to modest behavior. That book is titled Modest. Here, from the book’s opening chapter, is how we explained what we wanted to accomplish and what we wanted to guard against:

When it comes to modesty we define the term too narrowly (our first mistake) and then surround ourselves with rules like “only this low,” “at least this long,” “never in this combination,” and “never so tight that _______ shows.” In fairly short order, the gospel is replaced with regulations. Indeed, in this particular area, the regulations become our gospel—a gospel of bondage rather than freedom.

The truth we are missing in all this mess is that the gospel of grace informs and gives shape to what it means to be modest.

Modesty without the gospel is prudishness. Modesty divorced from the gospel becomes the supposed benchmark of Christian maturity—perhaps especially for women—and a perch of self-righteous superiority from which to look down on others who “just don’t get it.” You may find yourself exclaiming disbelief about someone else’s wardrobe: “Can’t she see what she is (not) wearing?”

Modesty, apart from the gospel, becomes a self-made religion that can give some appearance of being the genuine article but that is in the end of no value (none!) in our battle with the sinful and inordinate desires of our hearts. If we reduce modesty to certain rules of dress, we are completely separating the concept of modesty from the person and work of Jesus Christ. As a result, we may have the appearance of godliness, but not a whole lot more.

July 10, 2012

Who Am IYou don’t have to be a philosopher to find yourself occasionally asking the kinds of existentialist questions that can make your head spin — Who am I? Why am I here? What’s the purpose of my existence? You pretty much just need to be human. As Christians, the Bible gives us a leg up on the process of figuring out who we are, but even then it’s not like you can simply flip to the Table of Contents and get a comprehensive answer.

That’s where Jerry Bridges’ new book comes in. After several decades of a teaching and writing ministry that has transformed countless lives around the world, his most recent book distills to fewer than 100 pages the essential teachings of the Bible on the question: Who am I? In a masterfully concise endorsement (fitting for a concise book), J.I. Packer writes: “Jerry Bridges’ gift for simple but deep spiritual communication is fully displayed in this warm-hearted, Biblical spelling out of the Christian’s true identity in Christ.”

Sometimes you can tell just from the chapter titles that a book is going to be helpful. This is one of those books.

  1. I Am a Creature
  2. I Am in Christ
  3. I Am Justified
  4. I Am an Adopted Son of God
  5. I Am a New Creation
  6. I Am a Saint
  7. I Am a Servant of Jesus Christ
  8. I Am Not Yet Perfect

Depending on the teaching you receive and the books you read, these are things Christians can take years or even decades to grasp clearly, and I’m sure many never completely get it at all. But really “getting” who you are in Christ—how your identity as a child of God is integrated with the gospel of grace—has a way of transforming your walk with the Lord and equipping you for added fruitfulness and effectiveness. Jerry Bridges has done a great service to the Church by making these essential truths so clear and accessible. So it’s no surprise that the youth group at Covenant Life Church (pastored by Joshua Harris) is studying the book, or that The Gospel Coalition wants to distribute 3000 copies to Christian leaders overseas as part of their newly unveiled program of Theological Famine Relief.

In fact, I encourage you to see what TGC is doing now under the leadership of Bill Walsh with this Theological Famine Relief effort. You can pick from a wealth of great resources (Piper, Dever, Carson, Bridges, Tchividjian, and more) and contribute any amount toward their delivery to targeted Christian leaders in needy nations. It’s a fantastic idea and a great example of taking the crowd-funding idea popularized by Kickstarter and adapting it in service of the gospel.

And if you’d like, you can find out more about Jerry Bridges’ new book Who Am I? (from Cruciform Press, the publishing company I co-founded) at Amazon or the Cruciform site , where you can pick up the ebook for as little as $3.99.