Thanks for all the kind feedback on yesterday’s launch of Seasons of Sorrow. As you read it, please consider leaving a review at Amazon.
Westminster Books has deals on some new and noteworthy books.
(Yesterday on the blog: A New Song: In the Valley (Bless the Lord))
“Who are the most influential people in the lives of teenagers? Most of the potential answers to that question probably haven’t changed much across centuries and cultures: parents, siblings, wider family, friends and educators. But now, in the 21st century, we have to add to that list YouTubers and social media content creators.”
You’ve probably heard of the missions strategy of seeking out a “person of peace.” This article explains why this isn’t necessary.
This is important: “In the immediate aftermath of her death, it is inevitable and right that we celebrate her life. A degree of hagiographic overstatement is to be expected as we pay our respects. However, as gospel ministers, we need to be careful that, at this very moment at which the Christian faith and its fruits are in the public eye, we do not inadvertently create the impression that the Christian faith is a works religion, with eternal life secured by a good life of sacrificial service.”
Clint Humfrey: “If you’re a pastor, have you thought of having a retreat day with your elders? Likely it’s because you see the need to develop camaraderie, common vision, and to simply take a step back from the ministry of the church and evaluate together. For all of these reasons, a retreat can be a good idea. Here are six suggestions for putting on an elders retreat.”
“If a man kills another man, and neither of them put their trust in Jesus, how is it just that they both end up in Hell? It makes sense that the murderer is punished. The victim, however, was unjustly killed. Why should he be punished, as well?” This article answers well.
This is quite an interesting take on some possible meanings for the “vanity” of Ecclesiastes.
A new worldview based around a very particular conception of social justice is quickly gaining traction. Traditional understandings of sex and gender are being overthrown. New words and new ideas have suddenly sprung into our common parlance.
The lowest laborer who has grace and fears God, is a nobler being in the eyes of his Creator than the King, ruler, or statesman, whose first aim it is to please the people. —J.C. Ryle
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By Tim Challies — 1 year ago
There is perhaps no book of the Bible that offers as many interpretive challenges as the book of Revelation. I sometimes debate whether the book is actually perfectly clear while we are pathetically thick or whether the book is extremely difficult to understand because God intended it to be. Either way, though the intent and general message of Revelation is clear enough, the details present a challenge worthy of the most eminent theologian.
Speaking of which, Thomas Schreiner has recently taken on that challenge in three forms: a general-level commentary in the ESV Expository Commentary series; a major academic commentary in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series (which is still forthcoming); and The Joy of Hearing, a short book on the theology of Revelation. The latter work represents the debut volume in a new series titled New Testament Theology, co-edited by Schreiner and Brian Rosner. Each volume will examine the big ideas one of the books of the New Testament and do so in a readable and relatively concise format. (The second volume, The Mission of the Triune God: A Theology of Acts, will release in January.)
The Joy of Hearing, then, offers a theology of Revelation, which means it approaches the book thematically rather than chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. Schreiner begins by telling why it is so important that contemporary Christians read the book of Revelation carefully and know it well. And, of course, this means he needs to address what the book is and is not. “The book of Revelation is not a prophecy chart about the future but a call to be a disciple of Jesus. John tells us to be faithful and fruitful, and we should not give in to despair, for in the end, all will be well.”
My contention is that we desperately need the message of Revelation for today’s world. There is a great conflict between good and evil in our world, and the Christian faith is under attack, as it was in the first century. John reminds us in this book that God rules, even in an evil day; that God has not forsaken his people; and that goodness will finally triumph and prevail. In the midst of evil, in a world in which the Christian faith is under attack, we need hope and assurance that evil will not have the last word, and Revelation teaches us that a new world is coming, that a new creation is coming, and that all will be well. God is just and holy and righteous, and those who turn against God and his Christ will suffer judgment. At the same time, we see in the book that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the center of history, or the fulcrum of history. Evil has been defeated because of what Christ has accomplished. The triumph over wickedness was realized not by an act of judgment but through the suffering of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, through the Lamb who was slain. What do believers do as they live in Babylon, as they live in a world in which the governments of the world are like ravenous beasts tearing apart the church? John tells us that we are to stay close to Christ, that we must not compromise with evil, that we must endure to the end, and that we must look to the final reward.
Schreiner then advances to a brief examination of the book’s setting, date, and genre, suggesting that the best evidence is that it was written during the reign of Domitian, which would date it somewhere between AD 81-96.—a time when the churches in Asia Minor were experiencing state-sanctioned persecution. Yet he insists that “no interpretation should be accepted that demands a particular date—an important hermeneutical conclusion that we can draw from the imprecision of the historical situation.” As for the genre, while Revelation is clearly apocalyptic, Schreiner also emphasizes that it was a personal letter. “The epistolary genre in the book reminds us that we should not indulge in what I call ‘newspaper eschatology’ in reading the book. The book was written to readers who occupied a particular social location, and presumably they understood, at least mainly, what was written to them. The hermeneutical significance of this fact is massively important, for it eliminates the popular conception that modern readers interpret Revelation better than the original readers.”
With all this groundwork in place, Schreiner begins the study proper and, through seven chapters, picks up on the major themes of the book:
The deafness of those living on earth
The saints hear and heed
The declaration that God rules on his throne
The good news of the Lion and the Lamb
The testimony of the Holy Spirit
The promise of blessing and the New Creation
Reigning with Christ for one thousand years
Many will want to read this book to know where the author lands on the question of the millennium (and, therefore, which of the three major positions he advocates—postmillennialism, premillennialism, and amillennialism). He treads carefully and writes charitably without advocating one position far ahead of the others. That said, he is clearly most sympathetic toward historic premillennialism and amillennialism while fairly easily setting aside both postmillennialism and dispensationalism.
As he concludes his study, Schreiner says “In a world full of evil, selfishness, materialism, and sexual exploitation, John proclaims a message of hope, although it is an apocalyptic message that is hidden from the world. Thus believers must attune their ears to hear a transcendent message, to hear the words of the Son of Man and the Holy Spirit.” This wonderful little book, which is equally appropriate for pastors, academics, and general readers, will help accomplish just that—it will better equip us all to hear, understand, and apply that transcendent, hope-filled, life-giving, soul-sustaining message.
The Joy of Hearing is available at Amazon or Westminster Books (where it’s currently 50% off).
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By Tim Challies — 10 months ago
The Challies family is not what it used to be. It is not what it used to be because we have experienced some profound changes over the past few years. Most of these changes have been normal and good—children going to college, children getting engaged, children moving out—, while one has been unexpected and grievous—a child going to heaven. Between them, these changes have left life and family very different than it was before.
I don’t know what aging parents tend to think of when they ponder the halcyon days of yore. I don’t know what period of life they remember, what memories come to their minds, as they consider “the good old days.” Do they remember the times when their children were tiny? Do they remember the times when their children had children of their own? What memory brings them the greatest joy, the sweetest delight? Whatever it is, I am certain it must be a memory in which the entire family is intact, all gathered and present together.
My family has by no means finished making memories. I have every confidence that we will continue to make good memories well into the future. I have every confidence I will soon have many new memories to recount and enjoy. Yet I also know the only memories of the whole family are ones set in the past, ones from before November 2020.
I often find my mind drifting back to grab hold of some of these memories, and have found a number of candidates for the best of them all. I love some we made during family vacations, when we explored other provinces and traveled through foreign countries—walking the red-sand beaches of Prince Edward Island, ascending the towering mountains of British Columbia, navigating the cobbled streets of Edinburgh. I love some we made during holidays, when we sat around the Christmas tree and watched the kids laugh and squeal with excitement. I love some we made on quiet winter evenings, gathered around the fire to read wonderful books—The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Anne of Green Gables, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, Little House on the Prairie.
But there is one I love more than any other. It’s one I navigate almost like a 3-D rendering, zooming closer and farther, approaching from this angle and that, watching every movement and listening to every word. We are seated around the table, each of us in our usual place. Aileen is beside me and the three kids across from me—Michaela to the left, Abby in the middle, Nick to the right. We have just finished dinner and the table is cluttered with plates, glasses, and cutlery. I have cleared a space where I have opened our big leather-bound ESV Study Bible. And together we are doing the simplest and normalest of things—we are reading and praying.
Many of my best memories are of events that happened one time or perhaps a few times. But my favorite of all is an event that happened day after day and year after year. A skilled artist can take a thousand photographs and collate them to make a single image, and in much that way, I see a single memory that is probably a collage of a thousand. I have no sweeter memory than the family gathered before the Lord, the family gathered to hear from him and speak to him together. I have no sweeter memory than of our family devotions.
In my memory I read a few verses of one of those narrative passages of the Bible that were our focus over the years and that we came back to again and again. Then I pause to ask a couple of questions and offer some brief commentary that helps apply what we’ve heard. I ask the kids how I can pray for them, and then pray briefly but sincerely. And then we are done—done for another day, done for another iteration.
I think this must be my favorite memory because it represents our most established family tradition and most repeated family ritual. We committed to it when the children were young and stuck with it all the way through raising them. We continue to emphasize it to this day. It’s a symbol of our shared commitment to the Lord, of what we count as the highest priority.
But I think it’s also my favorite because I am certain the Lord used our family devotions as one of the means through which he drew our children to himself. I can think of no single evening that was particularly significant in this regard or one that stands far above the others. The significance was in the repetition, in the commitment, in the way it demonstrated that the deepest way we could be bound together was not through a common surname or through common DNA, but through a common Savior.
And God, by his grace, called each of our kids to himself. He opened their eyes to see him, he opened their minds to know him, he opened their hearts to love him. He may not have done this precisely through family devotions, but I’m certain he didn’t do it apart from it, either. And in that way, this memory points forward—forward to the day when we will be reunited and whole, forward to the day when we will begin to make new memories, forward to the day when we will once again gather to worship the God who saved us, the God who made us not only part of our family, but part of his.
By Tim Challies — 1 year ago
Today’s post is written by Bill Mounce and is sponsored by Zondervan. Bill is the author of Why I Trust the Bible and Basics of Biblical Greek.
The Bible makes some astonishing claims about itself. The apostle Paul tells his friend Timothy that every word of the Bible comes from the mouth of God (2 Tim 3:16). The Bible says God personally wrote the Ten Commandments with His own finger (Exod 31:18; Deut 9:10). Almost five hundred times, the prophets preface their prophecies with the claim “says the Lord.” Jesus says, “I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken” (John 12:49). Under normal circumstances, if someone says they speak for God, I doubt many of us would pay attention. But this is exactly what the Bible says about itself. Do you believe it?
We can no longer assume that people trust their Bible and believe what it says about itself. Western culture has shifted away from its Judeo-Christian heritage, and the popular media has launched such an attack on the believability of Scripture that many churchgoers have serious questions about the Bible. Questions like:
Did Jesus actually live?
Did the biblical writers get it right, or did they slant, massage, or even create the Bible we have today?
The Gospels were written long after Jesus lived; how can you trust them?
How can you believe a Bible that’s full of internal contradictions with itself and external contradictions with science and history?
Why should we believe the right books are in the Bible? Many books were left out, like the Gospel of Thomas.
Why trust the Bible when there are so many contradictory translations?
Wherever I travel in the world, whether I am speaking at conferences or universities or churches, there is one burning question. Can I trust the Bible? Why should I trust the Bible? Gone are the days of the veneer of a Christian culture where trust was assumed. Gone are the days when the Bible was given the benefit of the doubt. We live in a culture that aggressively attacks the Bible and those who were raised to trust it. University freshman are being challenged in every class. Parents often do not know what to do or how to help.
Some people feel it’s wrong to ask these fundamental questions; but if you never seriously ask them, you’ll never be convinced that the Bible is true and trustworthy. So I invite you to ask the hard questions, read the controversies and solutions, and decide for yourself whether you trust your Bible. Does it contain the very words of God?
I wrote the book, Why I Trust the Bible because people need to know the challenges of the day and the solutions to the questions raised. As is true of all systems of belief that deal with the ultimate questions of reality—Christianity, Islam, Materialism, Atheism—we all must have faith. I can’t prove the Bible is trustworthy, but I don’t have to put my brain on the shelf in order to believe in its trustworthiness. There are good answers to the hard questions being asked today, and none of the questions need to drive anyone to despair.
After forty-nine years of consistent and serious study of the New Testament, I am more convinced than ever that the Bible contains the very words of God and is wholly trustworthy.
This post is adapted from the Preface of Bill Mounce’s book Why I Trust the Bible. Order the book or find out more info.
Bill Mounce (PhD, Aberdeen University) lives as a writer in Washougal, Washington. He is the President of BiblicalTraining.org, a non-profit organization offering world-class educational resources for discipleship in the local church. See www.BillMounce.com for more information. Formerly he was a preaching pastor, and prior to that a professor of New Testament and director of the Greek Program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of the bestselling Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek, and many other resources. He was the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version translation of the Bible and is serving on the NIV translation committee.
What people are saying about Why I Trust the Bible:
“Bill Mounce has produced a remarkably clear, comprehensive, and level-headed resource that carefully and graciously explains each type of objection that has been lodged against the Bible, and then answers each objection with convincing facts and arguments. I expect that all who read it will gain deeper confidence in the trustworthiness of the Bible.”—WAYNE GRUDEM, Phoenix Seminary
“Ordinary believers wonder whether the Bible is really true, whether we can truly trust the Scriptures. Why I Trust the Bible represents a learned and accessible response to such questions. Many, I believe, will be assured in their faith by reading this important book.”—THOMAS R. SCHREINER, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“We live in a time when truth is subject to a person’s preferences and what is called ‘truth’ is really just formulated montage of misinformation. We need accessible and accurate information for people from all walks of life. In Why I Trust the Bible, Bill Mounce invites Christ-followers and doubters to consider the reasonable and sound answers he provides to today’s tough questions.—ERIC MASON, Epiphany Fellowship
“This excellent volume is a treasure trove of explanations of difficult texts and answers to skeptics’ questions about the Bible. With each chapter, I found my confidence in the integrity of the biblical text reaffirmed and strengthened. Bill Mounce is uniquely qualified to respond to the many arguments against the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible, and I highly commend this book to anyone who is struggling to believe that Scripture is genuinely God-breathed.”—SAM STORMS, Bridgeway Church
Go here to order Why I Trust the Bible or find out more info.