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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

I’m convinced that for many Christians, their idea of redemption lines up more with ancient Greek philosophers than with what the Bible says. The ancient Greeks taught that it meant being rescued from the physical and the material, especially from our bodies. But God’s idea is the rescue of the material, not rescue from the material. He’s going to transform this present world into the world to come, so that voices in heaven shout, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev. 11:15). Likewise in the Lord’s Prayer we see that God’s ultimate goal is for earth to become like heaven—“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). His mission is to bring the culture of heaven to earth.

When it comes to this world’s future, God will follow the same pattern he engineered in Noah’s day, when he washed earth’s surface clean of everything perverse and wicked but did not obliterate the planet. God isn’t going to annihilate the world; instead, he’s going to renew, redeem, and resurrect it through Christ.

That’s why Christianity ultimately is not about isolated individuals “going to heaven,” contrary to what many believe. That’s not the Bible’s primary storyline. God is up to some- thing much bigger and much more tangible than that. He uses Christians to bring heaven into this world, transforming this broken world and making things right. God cares about the cre- ated order. Environmentalists make the mistake of turning the environment into a god, while Christians often make the mistake of thinking God doesn’t care about the environment. Both per- spectives miss the mark.

In Jesus, God is at work regaining, restoring, and extend- ing all that Adam ruined and forfeited by his disobedience. Christianity is about Christ making everything sad come untrue, straightening out everything that’s crooked, and correcting every injustice. As the second Adam achieves for us no less than what the first Adam enjoyed, and much more. He came to succeed where the first Adam failed. We won’t simply go back to the perfect garden; we’ll enjoy a whole new incorruptible world.

- Tullian Tchividjian, Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, 131, 132

(HT: Z)

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We are now a month away from the release of my Bible study from Threads called Holy Vocabulary: Rescuing the Language of Faith, though you can pre-order it now so it will be shipped hot off the presses to you. So says the back cover:

“Understanding to the rescue!

Whether we recognize it or not, Christianity has developed its own subculture over time. This subculture has its own music, customs, and buildings, not to mention a vocabulary of holy words we, as members of the subculture, use to talk about Christianity. Saved. Grace. Repent. These words are synonymous with the Christian experience. But do we really know what they mean, or have we used them so much they’ve lost their meaning?”

I’m really excited about the study, so today here are 5 ways you might have use for this study:

1. As a reference tool. Keeping it on your shelf will be give you a quick and easy reference guide to refresh yourself on the meanings of the words you’re going to encounter day in and day out in church.

2. As part of an introduction of new believers into your church. Someone in your church or life begins to walk with Jesus. Holy Vocabulary is a great way to help them immediately begin to learn about the nature of that walk. It’s a resource you can keep a supply of around the church to hand to every person after they’re baptized.

3. As an evangelistic tool. This isn’t a “back-door” Jesus kind of thing; it’s a straight-forward and unapologetic primer of basic Christian beliefs. It reads just like a regular book, so why not hand it to someone who is curious about what Christians believe?

4. To lay a doctrinal basis for your entire church. Why not buy a copy for everyone in your church? Then do a six week series on the basics of Christianity to during the late summer or fall? If you want to do this, the leader kit includes sermon outlines for you to use, then each member can read more about what you introduce in your sermons on Sunday.

5. To kill mosquitoes. If you get it and don’t like it, there’s still hope for you. It’s durable cover will serve as an effective bug-killing device for those fall evenings on the porch.

Holy Vocabulary drops on July 1. Pre-order your copy of the book and the leader material now. Please.

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It’s a Language Jail Break

The classic words of the faith – saved, lost, cross, grace, love, justice – these words have been so infiltrated into the language of the Christian subculture that we often use them as Christians without ever thinking about what they mean. In a way, you could say our language has been imprisoned by the Christian subculture.

I believe we need a language jail break. Here’s how I wrote it in the introduction to my upcoming Bible study release, Holy Vocabulary: Resucing the Language of Faith:

Klingon is an actual language. That’s right—the war-loving, spear-toting villains of Star Trek world have their own official language. And people speak it. In fact, you can even get a college scholarship if you’re familiar with the alien language.1 Similarly, there are people who write letters to one another in Elvish, a language that originated in The Lord of the Rings.

More common is the vocabulary shared between people who know a thing or two about cars. Enter into their conversation and you might hear stuff about carburetors and engine blocks. There’s also a culture of couponers, who talk about BOGO discounts and rebates, and inform one another about which store is selling Pampers® wipes at a discounted rate this week.

Stick me in any of these situations and I’d be totally lost, completely uncomfortable, and speechless. But if you consider yourself part of the subculture of Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, auto mechanics, or thrifty shoppers, you might feel right at home.

Subcultures are like that. They have their own language, dress, and customs. If you’re a part of that subculture, you’ve integrated the speech, clothes, and food into your daily life, and now you don’t even give it a second thought. You freely communicate in Klingon with your friends, not worrying too much about the unenlightened individuals who haven’t bothered to pick up their own pronunciation guide.

But if you’re the unenlightened individual observing a subculture from the outside, what you see means relatively little to you. You see groups of people convinced that how they communicate with one another is normal. However you, the outsider, hear nothing but confusing rhetoric. You live in the real world, where people actually speak languages that others can understand.

Subcultures are everywhere. Chances are you belong to at least one, even if you don’t realize it. You might be a member of the technology subculture. Or the home school subculture. Or the SEC football subculture.

Me? I’m a card-carrying member of the Christian subculture. We have our own rock stars, communicators, authors, schools, radio stations, and lines of apparel. We even have our own arguments that mean relatively little to anyone outside the subculture. The Christian subculture is filled with customs, dress, food, and a vocabulary of holy words that, to the common observer, are as unfamiliar as the cliffs of Mordor or the parts under the hood of a car.
A non-Christian walking into the church today might as well be stepping into a comic book convention. They would likely find a group of people so entrenched in their own subculture that they don’t even think about what they’re saying, singing, or preaching. After all, they all understand each other; they’re speaking the same language.

Subcultures do have a positive side—they’re safe. They’re comfortable. They’re easy. They’re part of who you are. Inside the comfort of a subculture, you don’t really have to think a lot about what you’re saying or the meaning behind it. For example, if you’re in the Christian subculture, it’s natural to assume that everyone around you knows what it means to be “saved,” they know how to “repent,” and they know what it means to call God “holy.” So you just rattle on, firmly entrenched in the familiar.

The problem is, not everyone does understand. Within the church, we operate under the assumption that people know what we mean when we talk about “church” things. For 2,000 years, we’ve been using classic words of the faith to describe what Christianity is all about. But in those 2,000 years, there have been countless arguments, discrepancies, and qualifications about these terms. The same terms that “everyone” understands. I can’t help but wonder if we, members of the church, even know what we’re saying anymore.

And that’s the danger of living inside of a subculture—you can get so accustomed to certain aspects of that subculture that they lose their meaning. The Lord’s Supper becomes just a snack between the songs and the sermon, and the Bible becomes the hard surface to put your intra-worship doodle pad on…

———————

Holy Vocabulary releases July 1. You can pre-order your copy of the Bible study here. Go ahead – you know you want to. Or at least I want you to!

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I found this to be a pretty fascinating video.

In some evangelical circles, faith and beer are mutually exclusive concepts. I’m not arguing whether they should or should not be, but this video is really, really interesting. Might pick up the book described here because this seems to be a pretty intriguing story.

What do you think?

(HT: JT)

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Abide by Jared Wilson

If you’re not reading Jared Wilson’s writing, then you should think about doing so. I started reading his blog about a year ago, and was excited to have the chance earlier this year to review his first book, Your Jesus is Too Safe. I have found Jared’s writing to be engaging, thought-provoking, challenging, and yet entertaining at the same time. So I was excited to have the chance to work together with him on this project. It’s a Bible study released by Threads called Abide: Practicing Kingdom Rhythms in a Consumer Culture.

The idea behind the book is that we all have a certain rhythm to our lives. Most of the time, we don’t even think about that rhythm; it just sort of happens to us. And for most of us, the rhythm involves (though we hate to admit it), noise, busyness, pursuit of money, and isolation. These rhythms are indicative of our culture as a whole.

But in this Bible study, Jared looks at the Sermon on the Mount and walks through the rhythms of the kingdom of God described there, and how those rhythms counter the rhythms of culture all around us.

Or another way to look at is this: Abide is a book about spiritual disciplines like prayer, reading the Bible, and fasting.

I’ve read alot of books about spiritual discipline, and though most of the authors didn’t intend for this to be my reaction, I’ve consistently come away from them thinking, “Boy, I’m just not trying hard enough to pray. I need to try harder.” And that’s what sets Abide apart from the rest.

In discussing these disciplines, Jared adeptly brings a gospel-centered approach to all of them so that we start participating in these rhythms not from a sense of guilt or failure, but out of the confidence we have in what Jesus has done on our behalf. The result is a description of the disciplines that does indeed feel much more like a rhythm of life rather than just a list of stuff you’re supposed to do.

I particularly enjoyed Jared’s chapter about “Feeling Scripture.” In it, he talks through how that idea is subtley different than just having a Bible reading plan, and even provides some very practical and helpful steps on how to appropriately read the Bible as a rhythm. My favorite of these involves looking for where Jesus is in every passage of the Bible. (His interpretation of David and Goliath in this chapter has forever changed the way I will read and teach the most famous of Old Testament stories, incidentally.)

As with all Threads studies, you can purchase a member book or a leader kit or both. The leader kit comes with a member book inside it, but also has a discussion guide, videos, and e-mailable audio devotions from Jared to help your small group be connected with the material throughout the week. The videos contained on Abide are particularly good, combining engaging teaching from Jared with some stellar graphical representations of his major points. They’re great discussion starters and good to be shown in a number of different venues (what do the spiritual disciplines have to do with a sailboat? Gotta watch the videos to find out).

I highly recommend this study for you as an individual or if you’ll be leading a small group any time soon. You can order Abide for yourself by clicking here.

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Pretty darn big. Tim Chester states:

In my forthcoming book, Captured By a Better Vision: Living Pom-Free, I describe the spread of pomography as an epidemic. Here are some stats that back up this claim …

* Every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing pomography and $3,075.64 is being spent on pomography

* The pomography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink

* There are 4.2 million pomographic websites, which is 12% of all the websites on the internet

* Every day there are 68 million (25% of the total) search engine requests for pomographic terms

* 42.7% of internet users view pom

* The average age of first exposure to pomography is 11 years old and 80% of 15-17 year olds have had multiple hard-cor e exposure

* The 35-49 age group is the largest consumer of internet pomography

* 47% of Christians say that pomography is a major problem in the home

* 17% of women struggle with pomography addiction and 70% of women keep their cyber activities secret

* The USA produces 89% of all pomographic web pages (Germany are the next biggest producer, producing 4% of all pomographic web pages)

(HT: Z)

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Scandalous

I just finished reading Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus by D.A. Carson. I enjoyed it immensely, especially during this period of Lent. This relatively short book has five chapters, each one eyeing the scandal of the last days of Jesus through a particular passage of Scripture:

  1. The Ironies of the Cross: Matthew 27:27-51a
  2. The Center of the Whole Bible: Romans 3:21-26
  3. The Strange Triumph of a Slaughtered Lamb: Revelation 12
  4. A Miracle Full of Surprises: John 11:1-53
  5. Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus: John 20:24-31

My favorite section by far was about the ironies of the cross. Carson’s expertise in New Testament history and theology comes out clearly here, as I’ve never considered the ironic nature of this account. For exmaple, he presents the soldiers mockery of Jesus as ironic because of their attempt to be ironic. In their efforts, they hang a sign over the cross which, from our vantage point, actually presents the truth of His identity. Or when Jesus is told that it’s ironic that He claimed to save others and yet can’t save Himself. The true irony is that only by not saving Himself is He able to save others. This section in particular gave a new depth to all of those statements during the crucifixion that we have come to know and yet not really thought fully about.

In addition to this section, Carson has a very provacative explanation in chapter 3 about the book of Revelation. He, in a very understandable and succinct way, explains his interpretation of many of the symbols we find there. And in reading it, I enjoyed it alot more than most other stuff I’ve read that attempted to do the same thing. I highly recommend it to you as we are in the season set aside specifically to remember the death of Jesus.

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Holy Vocabulary

I’ve just finished a Bible study that will be published in July through Threads. It’s called Holy Vocabulary: Rescuing the Language of Faith. You can see the basic art for the cover below, which I think is really cool:

Neat, huh? Here’s what the study is about.

I think all of us are a part of different kinds of subcultures, whether we recognize it or not. It might be the subculture of Star Trek, of coupon moms, of cancer patients, or of video gamers. In each subculture, there is a certain dialect that you start to incorporate into your regular vocabulary. Here’s the danger of the subculture, though – we can become so familiar with these terms that we can use them without even thinking about what they mean.

That’s what happened in the Christian subculture. In the church, we’ve got our own language that we speak, but if someone from the outside suddenly jumped into the subculture, chances are they would be very confused. What does “saved” mean? Are people really “lost”? And what does it mean that Jesus is “begotten”?

Even if we’re in the subculture and using these words, we are often doing so without really thinking about what they mean. This study is an effort to recover the meaning of these important biblical words. It’s an attempt to rescue the language of faith from the Christian subculture. So in the study, you’ll find 7 sections of 5 over-churched words. For example, you have in the “God” section words like “holy” and “glory.” In the section about humanity, you have words like “lost” and “sin.” In the section about the Holy Spirit, you have “filled” and “gifts.”

If you’re planning on doing a late summer Bible study or are already thinking about the fall, I’d love for you to consider this one as a way of either laying the groundwork for Christian doctrine, or as a refresher course and a reminder of what it means to believe. Stay tuned for more information…

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I’ll admit – I was a little intimidated when I picked up a copy of Trevin Wax’s book, Holy Subversion. Not because Trevin is intimidating, but because of the high quality  of his blog. Whenever you get something posted on Kingdom People, it’s probably not going to be a video of a cat playing the piano. It’s going to be content-driven – a reflection on a Puritan prayer or a rehashing of an 800 year old book. Something weighty.

What I found in Holy Subversion had the quality of Trevin’s blog, in that there were no wasted words. Everything in there was meaningful and intentional; logical, well thought-out, and well put together. But I also found it to be really, really readable. I appreciate that alot.

Here’s the basic idea: The early Christian statement, “Jesus is Lord,” was more than just a summation of their faith. It was a statement to their culture. In a day when the popular saying was “Caesar is Lord,” these Christians had an allegiance to Jesus that subverted the systems of their time.

Trevin likens that to the situation today, where our allegiance to Jesus once again requires us to subvert the systems of the world. He’s organized his ideas into chapters that deal with a specific area of life in which Christians are to live subversively. But whereas it was primarily the political system that those first Christians had to fight against, the systems of today are in many ways much more subtle and therefore more difficult not only to identify but to fight against.

The systems of today include things like leisure, entertainment, and money. And this is another strong part of Trevin’s book. I don’t know how many times I think about living subversively in the area of entertainment. Sure, there are the obvious things like not watching pornographic movies, but as Trevin points out, the culture tells us that we need to be entertained all the time. To live subversively, then, is to realize the proper place of entertainment in the life of the Christian and to seek to make it so in our own experience.

But Trevin doesn’t just leave these things in the realm of the theoretical; he includes action steps with each and every system in order to begin to live subversively. In this, the book becomes very pastoral. And while I might not fully agree with all his points of action (and that may be because I’m just a worse person than he is), it forces me as the reader into the arena of the practical.

The other thing I most appreciated about the book is the way Trevin chose to actually engage the historical nature of Scripture. That is to say, he helps us get into the mindset of the early church, understanding the nature of the systems of the time. It does a great deal to further our knowledge of context, though that wasn’t even his main point in writing (so far as I can tell).

It’s a book you should check out. You’ll be challenged. Alot. And if you don’t take my word for it, he’s got a stinking endorsement from JI Packer.

Click here if you want to order your own copy of Holy Subersion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals.

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the_tough_sayings_of_jesus_2_cover-smallMy second Bible study from Threads, The Tough Sayings of Jesus II, has been out for about a year and a half. And we recently have gone back and reworked with the leader materials to produce a collegiate focused leader guide for the material.

If you’re leading a Bible study for college students this fall, consider picking up this study that deals with four difficult-to-swallow teachings from Jesus.

You can click here and download the college edition of the leader guide for FREE.

And you can click here to purchase the member book and the leader kit, which includes audio, video, and other leader helps.

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