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October 17, 2016

This sponsored post was provided by Books at a Glance.

Have you ever wanted to read more quality Christian books but couldn’t seem to find the time? Have you ever been frustrated purchasing a book only to discover that it wasn’t as rewarding as you had hoped? Now, thanks to Books At a Glance, you’ll be able to read and learn MORE…in less time because of their in-depth book summaries. Click HERE to see a list of their book summaries.)

Thanks to Tim Challies, this Book Summary is FREE for You!

Rather than take an entire article to tell you the benefits of learning the essence of an entire book in the short amount of time it takes you to read 8 – 10 pages (or listen to our audio summaries), we here at Books At a Glance wanted to give you a book summary for FREE, so that you can experience what our service is like for yourself. And then, once you’ve read this book summary, you’ll see the value in having a fresh and new book summary emailed to you every week!

Here’s Our Summary of Kevin DeYoung’s Book on Homosexuality (Click HERE)

What Does the Bible Teach about Everything?

DeYoung begins exploring the question regarding homosexuality by pointing readers to the big picture of the Bible. It is a story of creation and redemption, one where God sets up a temple among people so that they can commune together with him. It is about a fallen creation which God redeems and consummates. The future of God’s creation cannot be understood as a place without good and evil: God’s intention is for a holy place where suffering and wickedness no longer harm or demote the Creator. It is important to see, then, that homosexuality is not the heart of the Bible. And yet, the issues which are at the heart of the Bible – God, sin, redemption, a glorious new creation, etc. – all touch on homosexuality in profound ways.

***(Click HERE to View the Complete Book Summary for FREE!)***

DeYoung sets out the question which the book endeavors to answer and explain: “Is homosexual activity a sin that must be repented of, forsaken, and forgiven, or, given the right context and commitment, can we consider same-sex sexual intimacy a blessing worth celebrating and solemnizing?” (…Click HERE to Continue Reading this Free Book Summary…)

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We’ve found that our readers absolutely love staying informed on the newest and most relevant books with our book summaries! Whether ministry is your profession or you simply see the value is learning, Books At a Glance will help you learn more…in less time!

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October 10, 2016

This sponsored post was prepared by Jared Wilson on behalf of Midwestern College.


I don’t always arrive for work at Midwestern Seminary before sunrise, but I often do. It was an ordinary late summer morning in Kansas City—the first rays of dawn barely a glint behind the Northland campus woods—when I pulled into the east parking lot. I am used to taking campus security by surprise with my early arrival, but on this morning, the surprise was all my own. As my headlights trailed across the asphalt, they illuminated the legs of a herd of marchers in dark sweats marching toward the Midwestern gazebos. 

For a second I thought we’d been invaded. Flashbacks to an eighties childhood film favorite, Red Dawn, popped into my mind. I quietly exited my car, gathered my bag and coffee, and tried to slink onto the sidewalk when suddenly I heard a loud welcome—about thirty students shouting in unison, “Good morning, Mr. Wilson!” Turns out it was just Midwestern College’s Fusion team working their morning PT regimen, a mix of Crossfit and good ol’ fashioned calisthenics. 

Fusion is a one-of-a-kind college program funded and sponsored by the International Mission Board and designed to train and teach students in missiology, practical discipleship, and international culture. Fusion students are an easy spot on campus during the day, as they’re often wearing Fusion gear and tend to travel in packs. But while I’ve grown accustomed to meeting their out-of-breath ranks in the early morning hours, in that darkness they kind of fly under the radar.

Come to think of it, Midwestern College itself is a bit like that. Until recently, it is has really flown under the radar. It is probably the best Bible college option you’ve never heard of. But that’s really a shame, because, as the Fusion students could tell you, the kind of education and training you receive here is as challenging as it is rewarding. 

And Fusion isn’t the only challenge available. Called not simply to mission but to some level of local church ministry? You may be interested in the Accelerate program, a intensive course of study that rewards serious students with two degrees—B.A. and Master of Divinity—in just 5 years. Or you could always take the more traditional route and pursue one of our traditional bachelor’s or associate’s degrees, including emphases in Biblical Studies, Christian Ministry, Intercultural Studies, Worship, etc.

Midwestern college campus life also provides an ideal environment for residential studies, as the community here is warm, tight-knit, and keenly focused on gospel-centered discipleship. Sharing campus with Midwestern Seminary, one of the fastest growing seminaries in North America with an enrollment that has more than doubled in 4 years, there exists at Midwestern a shared vision between seminary and college to be “for the church.” This means our campus environments and community create not just run-of-the-mill “campus life” but a discipleship culture. Join your classmates at college dean John Mark Yeats’ home for pizza and ask him about his time at Oxford. Get mentored by your professors and other Midwestern staff members in our spiritual formation groups. Hear preaching from Dr. Yeats, Owen Strachan, myself, and others at The Gathering, an intimate college worship service meeting monthly.

If you or a loved one are looking at college options while trying to discern a call to ministry or explore opportunities for education that trains more than simply informs, I’d encourage you to consider joining us at Midwestern College. With an annual tuition rate of just $6,480, it’s also an incredibly affordable option. Most importantly, however, we’re eager to have those serious about following God’s call on their life join our growing ministry movement. 

But if you do come here, please don’t yell at me in the parking lot before I’m fully awake—it freaks me out.

Request information or find out more about Midwestern College at midwesterncollege.com.

October 03, 2016

This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. Alistair Begg. Dr. Begg is senior pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and host of Truth for Life. He is author of Christmas Playlist.


Plan today to reach your neighbors this December. Don’t delay and find that you have missed an opportunity to share why Jesus is at the center of your celebrations.

Christmas is coming. Very soon, they’ll change the music in the mall. All of a sudden, you’ll realize you’re humming along to “Jingle Bells” or “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” It’s a kind of subconscious “get ready” message. 

Many of us resist the idea that the Christmas season begins in October. If you’re feeling irritated at the mention of the very word, I sympathize and I apologize. The music and mistletoe and magi are all very well, in December!

But in a sense, Christmas should start in October—for churches. 

Christmas is the time of greatest cultural connection between Christianity and our culture—and so Christmas is the time of greatest opportunity for our churches to reach out with the gospel so that the glory of Christ might resound louder than the music in the mall. If we’re serious about doing that, we’ll be getting serious about it now.

Here are three tips for making the most of this Christmas for the glory of Christ.


Start your Christmas planning early. Whether you’re planning for a whole church or for your own household, think about what events you will hold.

How can you engage people who might not even come to a carol service? What will you give people who come through your doors to take home with them to read? How will you advertise and invite people to come in the New Year?

One thing we’ve found works well at our church is a concert, with lots of Christmas music, done well, and a nine-minute talk looking at just one aspect of the Christmas story. We invite people to take a Gospel away with them to read. We give them a copy of an evangelistic Christmas book as a present. And we think hard about hosting events in January for visitors to attend that will keep presenting the gospel to them.

That all takes more planning than simply doing whatever it was we did last year, and preaching a decent sermon on Christmas Eve. And it starts in October.


Don’t assume that everybody is really interested in what your church has to say about Christmas. But equally, don’t assume that nobody is remotely interested. Don’t give in to the idea that no one will be changed by what you say, if what you say is the gospel. Aim to simply and positively and faithfully preach Christmas, in conversation and in sermons. You don’t need to find an original angle, and do Christmas from the perspective of the donkey this year. Read the culture—I always try to find out what secular opinion-formers’ views of Christmas are. But then preach the gospel—it’s the gospel that has the power to save people.


Connect with what people around you say about Christmas, rather than confronting it. People often say, “Christmas is for kids”. How do you answer? You can say, “No, actually Christmas is for grown-ups.” Or you can say, “That’s absolutely right. Jesus said that too—except he said that actually, we all need to be like kids.” Or someone says, “Christmas is all about family.” You can say, “Actually, it’s meant to be all about Jesus Christ” or you can say, “Yes. Why do you think we feel that? And do you think any family ever matches up to our ideal for more than the few days of the Christmas holidays?”

Christmas is coming. And our Christmas planning and our Christmas praying need to start now, so that once December comes (and it always comes quicker than you expect), we’re ready—not only with presents and the turkey, but with the gospel. Personally, over the years I have found that having a short book that I can give to a friend or a neighbor and that explains the gospel clearly and winsomely is really helpful—which is what caused me to write Christmas Playlist. It may be a way you can introduce those you see this December to the Lord. Merry (early) Christmas!

Alistair Begg is pastor of Parkside Church, Cleveland, Ohio, and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life. Alistair has authored several books, including the new title Christmas Playlist: Four Songs that Bring you to the Heart of Christmas, perfect for giving out at your church’s Christmas events, and to non-or-nominal-Christian neighbors this December. 

September 26, 2016

This sponsored post was provided by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


The call to ministry is indeed a subjective thing. We use phrases like “feeling called” and “sensing a call.” Sometimes we may talk about “discerning” a call or “wrestling with” a call. If you are in one of those categories of thinking, how can you get beyond such internal deliberation and get more objective about ministry aspirations? If you’re discerning a call to ministry, the following ten questions may help you re-locate a “gut feeling” to one of mind and heart. 

1. Do you desire the ministry?
This question should go without saying, but many mistake a sense of begrudging ministry for humility. A man being asked about eldership says “I just don’t know if I’m ready” or “I just don’t know if I’m qualified” or “I just don’t know if I should be in that kind of position,” and some read this uncertainty as the kind of meekness that would preclude pastoral arrogance or authoritarianism. Perhaps so. But it may also work against his fitness for ministry in the first place. Some people are suspicious of men who seem especially desirous of ministry. And yet in 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul says that anybody who aspires to pastoral ministry desires something noble. The apostle Peter says that pastors should shepherd eagerly (1 Pet. 5:2). If you find yourself unsure of what you want to do with your life, pastoral ministry may not be for you. Those who are genuinely called usually genuinely desire the ministry.

2. Does your character meet God’s expectations?
It is of course not enough to “feel called.” It is not enough to desire to be in ministry. The biblical qualifications for pastors are clear, and they are set quite high. Review the lists of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-5. Do you fall significantly short of any of these? Would a rigorous examination of your life and true accountability find that your life reflects accurately these standards?

3. Is your household in order?
Embedded in the list of qualifications for ministry is the faithfulness of a man to his wife and children (provided he has them). Some men who feel called are so zealous for professional ministry they have already neglected their home life. Are your wife and children flourishing under your care? Do you lead sacrificially and humbly at home? If not, these circumstances will not improve if you were to add shepherding a flock to your life.

4. Has God gifted you to preach and teach his word?
This can be a tricky qualification to discern, because many men mistake their ability to talk with a gift for preaching and teaching God’s word. The qualification for elders—distinguishing it from the qualifications for deacons—is not primarily for eloquence, however, but for the work of “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) and giving instruction in sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).  The “gift of gab” is not the same thing.

5. Does your church affirm your calling?
Here is another glaring omission in many aspiring ministers’ sense of calling. There really is no such thing as an autonomous feeling for ministry. If you are not currently a part of a Christian community that can affirm your gifts and qualifications, not a member of a church that could effectively “send you out,” you really have no business seeking to shepherd a flock. The question is not so much “Do you feel called?” but “Do your elders think you’re called?” or “Does your pastor encourage your aspiration to ministry?”

6. Do you love the people of God?
Ministry is not about platform-building. It is not about realizing your personal dreams. It is not primarily about “building something.” The Lord in his restoration of the apostle Peter connected love for himself with loving the sheep. “Feed my lambs,” he says to Peter. “Tend my sheep.” If you do not have a genuine love for people, you should take your entrepreneurial aspirations into another vocation.

7. Are you passionate about the gospel and the Great Commission?
This is non-negotiable. You may believe that “Without vision the people will perish,” but the vision in Proverbs 29:18 is not a pastor’s personal vision, but the prophetic vision of the glory of God, which is brought to us through the gospel, which is brought to people through the mission of the Church. If you find the gospel incidental to your calling, you are not called. If you do not see the lost with compassion, as Jesus did, as harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, you are not called.

8. Are you engaged in fruitful ministry?
As in question 5, if you do not presently serve well the church in the capacity available to you, there is no experiential basis on which to expect you will serve the church well when given more responsibility. If you cannot be faithful in little, why should you expect the Lord to give you more?

9. Are you ready to defend the faith?
Perhaps more than ever before in the west, the evangelical pastor must be a man of courage and absolute confidence in the word of God. The temptations of worldliness, idolatry, and cultural hostility toward the things of God will only become worse in the days ahead. If you are not prepared to lead a flock through valleys of wolves, if you feel you may shrink back or be overly timid, ministry probably isn’t for you.

10. Are you willing to surrender?
Will you go anywhere? Will you serve anyone? If you feel called, do you feel called to go wherever God would send you? If your sense of calling has strings attached or is so tied to a specific vision that you would turn up your nose at something seen as “lesser” or beneath your gifts, you probably aren’t called to ministry. Pastoral ministry is no place for narcissists or personal kingdom builders.

Answering these questions provide a good start for discerning your sense of calling to ministry. You may also want to take some next steps in training and affirmation, including mentoring and discipling from seasoned pastors at your church or in your community. Bible college or seminary education can equip you further and help ready you to embrace your calling. 

Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri offers numerous programs, including our flagship degree program for ministry training – the Master of Divinity – that help fulfill our vision to exist For The Church. Our shared goal with you is to see the local church strengthened and supplied with faithful gospel ministers. And if you apply to Midwestern Seminary or College by December 31, you’ll receive a free copy of President Jason K. Allen’s book Discerning Your Call to Ministry, which further elaborates on these 10 key questions.

Apply Now

September 19, 2016

This sponsored post was provided by Chris Castaldo and Gregg Allison, authors of the new book The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics after 500 years. As it happens, I reviewed it on September 13.

The Reformation is not finished.

The Unfinished ReformationFundamental differences of doctrine continue to separate Catholics and Protestants. These include views on Scripture and Tradition, justification, the nature and role of the church/Church, the sacraments, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Mary and the saints, merits, indulgences, and purgatory. If theological truth is of any importance, we must take these doctrinal differences seriously. Moreover, there is the ongoing problem of multitudes of Catholics who don’t appear to have the foggiest idea of what Scripture means by the word “gospel.” In the words of Catholic scholar Peter Kreeft:

There are still many who do not know the data, the gospel. Most of my Catholic students at Boston College have never heard it. They do not even know how to get to heaven. When I ask them what they would say to God if they died tonight and God asked them why he should take them into heaven, nine out of ten do not even mention Jesus Christ. Most of them say they have been good or kind or sincere or did their best. So I seriously doubt God will undo the Reformation until he sees to it that Luther’s reminder of Paul’s gospel has been heard throughout the church.1

In view of the obscurity surrounding the gospel in the Catholic tradition, it is of great importance for evangelicals to elucidate the message of salvation. We realize, of course, that Catholics come in all shapes and sizes. Some are the traditional pre-Vatican II variety. Others are more nominal, claiming to be Catholic as a function of their cultural/ethnic background. And there are some who may be described as charismatic or progressive, identifying as Catholic while holding ideas that are in fact closer to the values of Protestantism. It is our relationship to this last group that we would like to consider.

A Historical Precedent

When people living in Catholic nations during the sixteenth century (e.g., Italy, France, Spain) supported the Reformation, they often faced a life-and-death choice. Depending upon their response to Catholic authorities during the Inquisition (a Catholic Church tribunal aimed at combating Protestantism), they may have been tortured, executed, or forced to flee into exile.2 “Nicodemism” was applied to yet another option, the decision to keep one’s Reformation convictions contained quietly and safely in the privacy of one’s own heart without public expression.

John Calvin is commonly recognized as the one who popularized the term, using “Nicodemism” to describe external conformity on the part of reformed-minded Christians living in Catholic territories. Faced with the threat of oppression at the hands of Catholic authorities, such individuals chose silence over persecution. The covert nature of this approach is responsible for its clever name, as one historian explains: “The name is suggested by the biblical character of Nicodemus, who came to visit Jesus by night, under the cover of darkness, thus suggesting a piety of simulation based on the fear of persecution.”3

According to most Protestant Reformers, Nicodemism was an unacceptable option. It was regarded as infidelity to Christ and a compromise of one’s integrity. For example, Peter Martyr Vermigli explained to his congregation in Lucca, Italy, the reason why he fled north of the Alps instead of becoming a Nicodemite: “[You] are hardly unaware of the tortures which tormented my conscience because of the way of life which I was following. I had to live with countless superstitions every day [such as pilgrimages and the veneration of relics, that is, the remains of a saint]; not only did I have to perform [these] superstitious rites, but also I had to demand harshly that others do many things which were contrary to what I was thinking and teaching.”4

Serving Quasi-Catholics

How can Nicodemism possibly have relevance today when religious inquisitions are a thing of the past? The “new Nicodemism” is found among Catholics who study the Bible for themselves and whose beliefs are in fact more Protestant than Catholic. Even though such people read Scripture apart from the Magisterium (the official teaching office of the Catholic Church), no longer believe in such doctrines as purgatory, and are increasingly bothered by the Catholic emphasis on Mary, they nevertheless remain in the Catholic fold. 

Why is this so? There are all sorts of reasons, but it commonly comes down to one’s commitment to his ethnic or cultural background, a Catholic family member, or relationship to a local parish. Whatever the reason, we have the privilege of serving such friends with the gospel. How?  We share the good news—what the Reformers expressed in the phrase solo Christo—that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Learn more about The Unfinished Reformation here.

Gregg Allison (PhD) is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where he teaches systematic theology.  Previously he served on Cru staff at the University of Notre Dame and overseas in Italy and the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. He is a pastor of Sojourn Community Church, and is the theological strategist for Sojourn Network, a church planting network of about thirty churches. He is the author of Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine and several other titles.

Chris Castaldo (PhD) was raised on Long Island, New York, as a Roman Catholic and worked full-time in the Catholic Church for several years. After eight years as pastor of outreach and church planting at College Church (Wheaton, Ill.), followed by three years as Director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal at Wheaton College, Chris currently serves as Lead Pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville, IL.  He is the author of Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic and Talking with Catholics about the Gospel: A Guide for Evangelicals. Chris blogs at www.chriscastaldo.com.

1. Peter Kreeft, “Ecumenical Jihad,” in Reclaiming The Great Tradition, ed. James S. Cutsinger (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1997), 27.
2. Roland Bainton, Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg, 1971), 167.
3.  Timothy George, “Nicodemism,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, ed. Hans Hillerbrand, 4 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 3:144. His biblical reference is John 3:2.
4.  Joseph C. McLelland, “Valdés and Vermigli: Spirituality and the Degrees of Reform,” in Peter Martyr Vermigli and the European Reformations: Semper Reformanda, ed. Frank A. James, III (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 238–250 (248).


September 12, 2016

This sponsored post was prepared by Jon Nielson, author of Faith That Lasts.


That generation we call the “millennials” – individuals born between 1980 and 2000 – has been the subject of millions of words written in the recent years…particularly words written by Christians. How do we reach this generation? What are they looking for in churches? Why do so many of them, even those raised in Christian homes, seem disillusioned and frustrated with the local church? My newest book with CLC Publications, Faith That Lasts, speaks on this matter, pulling from the perspective of students who have maintained their faith. Let me throw a few of my recent observations about ministry to millennials into the mix:

  1. They really do care about content more than style.
    My peers, and the college students and young adults I pastor and lead, are much less concerned with the musical style, fashion sense, and perceived “coolness” of any particular local church than they are with the content of the preaching and the seriousness and warmth of the worship and community. Thom Rainer, for example, makes a more narrow, yet similar, point about millennials and their preferences regarding church music styles in this little article: http://thomrainer.com/2014/04/worship-style-attracts-millennials/.  Content, now more than ever for Christian young adults, really does trump style.
  2. They are activists – in good ways and potentially dangerous ways.
    Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in California, calls this characteristic of the millennial generation the “Bono Factor.”  In other words, it’s the simple fact that they are always asking, of any given church, ministry, or individual Christian: “What are you doing to help somebody else?”  It’s this trait that can be dangerous; many well-intentioned young people have fled orthodox and theologically faithful churches that they perceive as stale and inward-focused to join churches that focus less on biblical teaching, but much more on serving the community.
  3. They have a “fake” detector that works within seconds.
    There’s a word that our students use seemingly constantly: “authenticity.”  If I’ve learned one thing in a few years of ministry to college students and young adults, it’s that they actually have a lot of grace and patience toward their spiritual leaders.  But, the minute they sniff out a lack of authenticity…you’re toast.  Any sense that you are posturing to gain approval from them, trying to be something you’re not, or putting forward a message about Jesus that you are not living out yourself, and the “fake” label is placed (and not easily erased).  The best way you can minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to millennials is to passionately love Jesus and seek him yourself.
  4. They can evade generalizations…just like any other generational grouping!
    We do face a danger, of course, when we attempt to group all individuals in a certain generation together using sweeping generalizations.  That danger is that we miss, first, the diversity of every generation; people are vastly different, and each person is unique. The bigger danger of generational generalizations, though, is not only missing the diversity of people, but missing the unchanging and consistent nature of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ – from generation to generation.  We can change our methods; we must always trust the power of the gospel.

In the final chapters of Faith That Lasts, I spend some time thinking through how we as the church can thoughtfully, winsomely, and faithfully minister the gospel to the millennial generation.  My prayer is that this would be one more helpful step as we participate in the great gospel work to which we have been called, for the glory of our Lord and Savior.

September 06, 2016

This sponsored post was prepared by Wayne Grudem on behalf of Zondervan Academic Online Courses. Dr. Grudem’s mini-course, Introduction to the Bible: The Doctrine of Scripture, is available free for readers of Tim Challies’ blog this week only.

What is the Word of God?

GrudemThe Word of God actually refers to several different things in the Bible.

Sometimes the phrase “the Word of God” refers to the person of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We find out later in the chapter that John is referring to Jesus Christ as the Word of God. There’s also a portion of Revelation 19 that refers to Jesus as the Word of God.

You may have found that when you talk about the Word of God as the Bible, people object: Wait a minute—we don’t want to spend as much time talking about the Bible as the Word of God. We’d rather talk about Jesus as the Word of God.

A couple things can be said in answer to that.

  1. First, we don’t know about Jesus except by reading what’s in the Bible. It’s true that there’s some evidence for Jesus historically outside the Bible, but not a lot—just for his existence, and not for many of the specifics of his teaching, his life, his death and resurrection. These are things we can know only from the Bible.
  2. Second, when the Bible talks about the Word of God it is almost always referring to other forms of the Word of God—particularly written forms.

So, although we recognize that in some cases the Word of God refers to Jesus, in many other cases, it refers to speech by God in different forms.

Let’s take a look at some of these forms.

1. God’s decrees

There’s the form of what we could call God’s decrees. That is, the words of God that cause something to happen.

We see this in the first chapter of the Bible. In Genesis 1:3, God says, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Or “Let the earth bring forth living creatures,” and there are living creatures.

God’s words have power. In fact, Psalm 33:6 summarizes this: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”

So God’s words have so much power that through them he creates the world—the entire universe.

Let that sink in. It’s so different from our experience: our words may have impact on people, but there’s never been someone who has the ability to say, “Let there be a rabbit,” and there’s a rabbit. Our words just don’t work that way. Our words don’t have that kind of power.

Even more, in some places the Bible talks about God’s word sustaining the universe and carrying it along. Hebrews 1:3, in talking about Jesus, says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

The Greek text here has the connotation of “carrying along.” This is what Jesus’ Word is doing with the entire universe—carrying it along. We don’t see or hear or perceive Jesus’ powerful word carrying along the universe, sustaining it, or keeping it in existence. But Hebrews 1:3 tells us that this is exactly what is happening. The Word of God is so powerful that it carries along and sustains the entire universe.

2. God’s words of personal address

There’s another form of the Word of God: the times when God speaks directly to people. We could call this God’s Word of personal address. It’s seen in the early chapters of Genesis when God spoke to Adam and Eve and walked with them in the Garden. It’s seen again in Exodus 20 when God speaks from Mount Sinai, and his voice thunders forth.

You can imagine how the people must have trembled and felt awe and reverence as God spoke to them with his own voice.

3. God’s speech through human lips

Then there’s another form God’s words take. This is the form of God speaking through human beings—through their lips, through their voice. This is what happens when God raises up prophets in the Old Testament. The prophets say, “Thus says the Lord…” and proceed to give God’s speech. 

4. God’s words in written form

Finally, we see God’s Words in written form in the Bible. We see throughout Scripture that God tells Moses to write his words down. He says the same thing to Joshua, Isaiah, and others.

Isaiah 30:8 says, “Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come, it may be an everlasting witness.” This is a great advantage for the people of God, because God’s words could be preserved in written form forever.

We see time and again that they can’t remember accurately—even the next day—everything God speaks from Mount Sanai or what God says through Moses or the prophets.

But once God’s words are written down, there is opportunity for repeated inspection, for copying, for access by many people who can read it and study it for themselves. There is clearly a great benefit to having God’s Word in written form.

We should hear all of Scripture as God’s Word. When we read Scripture, we should think of it as coming to us with the same force and power with which we might hear it as if God had been speaking to us at the foot of Mount Sanai, when his words thundered from the heavens.

Ask yourself: would you pay more attention if that were the case? If God spoke to you with a voice from heaven, or through a living prophet, like Moses, Elijah, or Isaiah?

The truth is that Scripture contains the words of God—just as powerful as the audible words God spoke. They have the power to change our minds and hearts, to penetrate deep inside our very being. They are unlike any other human words.


I have worked with Zondervan Academic to create a mini-course titled Introduction to the Bible: The Doctrine of Scripture. It includes video lectures and reading materials from the larger Systematic Theology online course. 

The best part is that you can get this course available for free—this week only.

Here is what you will learn in just the first two hours:

  • The different forms of the word of God
  • How we know the right books are in the Bible
  • How we know the Bible isn’t missing anything
  • How the Old and New Testaments were formed

The online course is free through the end of this week, so I encourage you to sign up now.


August 29, 2016

“In hindsight, the signs were everywhere that Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was going to be an epic disappointment.”

So wrote Rolling Stone when reporting on its readers’ poll of the twenty most disappointing movie sequels. The Phantom Menace came in top of the list.

So with epic disappointment a possibility even for the likes of George Lucas, why would anyone ever do a sequel? Of course the answer is often: money. Simply cashing in on the success of the original. 

 Order The Vine Project direct from Matthias Media in print or as an ebook. BONUS: Until September 30, Challies.com readers can use the coupon code ‘TVPCC’ in the Matthias Media shopping cart to receive a 15% discount off the price of this book.

In 2009, Tony Payne, Colin Marshall and Matthias Media had their own Star Wars moment. It was called The Trellis and the Vine, and for this little DownUnder publishing house it was what we’d call a ‘blockbuster’. It sold more copies than we ever dreamed. It also received a host of positive reviews from the likes of Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan and many others. 

Now we can’t honestly say a sequel never crossed our minds (“The Trellis Strikes Back”?). The lure of another sales boost was certainly there. 

But we had said what we wanted to say, and people seemed to be taking the ideas on board with a hearty ‘amen’. Job done.

Or so we thought. 

In the seven years since The Trellis and the Vine was published, a key issue has cropped up again and again. It goes something like this:

Look, I’ve read your book, and it expresses what I have always thought about Christian ministry. But as I kept reading, I had this sinking feeling that what actually happens in our church is still a long way from the kind of disciple-making ministry vision you outline and that I believe in. So my question is this: What can we do about it? How can we shape the whole culture of our church around disciple-making?

So in fact job not done. Ministry leaders wanted more help in making the principles of The Trellis and the Vine a living reality in a context where the culture of their ministry had drifted some way from the disciple-making goal.

That’s why we produced the sequel we didn’t expect to produce: The Vine Project.

The Vine ProjectThe Vine Project is a new resource that guides your ministry leadership team through a five-phase process for growth and change. Under God, this process will:

  • clarify and sharpen your convictions (Phase 1)
  • reform your own personal life to express these convictions (Phase 2)
  • honestly evaluate every aspect of your current church (or ministry) culture (Phase 3)
  • devise some key plans for change and put them into effect (Phase 4)
  • keep the momentum going and overcome obstacles (Phase 5).

So, having had our Star Wars moment, is this sequel our Phantom Menace? Not according to the recent 9Marks review

Sequels that don’t disappoint are few and far between, which makes The Vine Project something of a rarity… I hope that The Vine Project is read widely by churches, planters, pastors, and ministry leaders alike.

Like the 9Marks reviewer, we hope many will use The Vine Project to help shape their ministry culture around disciple-making, and we’re praying this sequel does even more good for the Kingdom of God than the original. 

Order The Vine Project direct from Matthias Media in print or as an ebook. BONUS: Until September 30, Challies.com readers can use the coupon code ‘TVPCC’ in the Matthias Media shopping cart to receive a 15% discount.