Apr

15

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:01 AM CT

Take God at His Word: Kevin DeYoung on the Character of Scripture

Your Bible is evidence that the Maker of the universe is a God who initiates, who reveals, who talks. There are, after all, only two options when it comes to knowledge of one's Creator: revelation or speculation. Either he speaks, or we guess.

And he has spoken. The Lord of heaven and earth has "forfeited his own personal privacy" to disclose himself to us—to befriend us—through a book. Scripture is like an all-access pass into the revealed mind and will of God.

By virtually any account the Bible is the most influential book of all time. No shortage of ink has been spilled on writings about it. But what does Scripture say about itself? In his new book, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Crossway) [20 quotes], Kevin DeYoung cuts through the fog of contemporary confusion to offer a readable...

 
 
 
 

Apr

08

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:01 AM CT

When the Gospel Transforms Your 9 to 5

Does Monday morning excite you? If so, good for you! But that's not where many of us live.

Our jobs challenge and threaten to consume us. So what does devotion to Jesus Christ look like in competitive—and often cutthroat and insecure—workplace environments? How about in painfully mundane ones?

In their new book, The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Lives (Zondervan) [free study guidewebsite | Twitter], Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger bring their pastoral and workplace experience to bear on a constellation of issues concerning the intersection of faith and work.

I spoke with Gilbert (pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville) and Traeger (entrepreneur in Washington, D.C.) about idolatry and idleness, working for the weekend, how pastors can encourage people in their jobs, and more.

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If this book is "not a theology of work," what are you aiming to accomplish in The Gospel at...

 
 
 
 

Apr

07

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:01 AM CT

20 Quotes from DeYoung's Taking God at His Word

The following 20 quotes caught my attention as I read Kevin DeYoung's tremendous forthcoming book, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Crossway), now available for pre-order. Thanks to Tony Reinke for inspiring the 20 quotes idea.

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"Surely it is significant that this intricate, finely crafted, single-minded love poem—the longest in the Bible—is not about marriage or children or food or drink or mountains or sunsets or rivers or oceans, but about the Bible itself. . . . Psalm 119 is the explosion of praise made possible by an orthodox and evangelical doctrine of Scripture." (10, 14)

"As the people of God, we believe the word of God can be trusted in every way to speak what is true, command what is right, and provide us with what is good." (16)

...

 
 
 
 

Apr

01

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:01 AM CT

How to Prepare Your Teen for College

College can be a significant fork in the road of life. For some, it's where their Christian life commences or catches speed. For others, however, college is where their faith fizzles.

In his new book, Preparing Your Teens for College: Faith, Friends, Finances, and Much More (Tyndale), Alex Chediak aims to help parents equip their teens for the college challenge. Structured around six general categories (character, faith, relationships, finances, academics, the college decision) and 11 specific conversations parents should have with their kids before they arrive at college, Preparing Your Teens for College wisely and practically spotlights the inescapable truth the "thriving at college begins in the home."

I corresponded with Chediak, professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University and author of Thriving at College, about how to address sexual purity with your teen, whether to go to a Christian college, financial barriers, and more.

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You're convinced that "thriving at college begins in...

 
 
 
 

Mar

27

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:01 AM CT

Chuck the Flannelgraph: Jared Wilson on the Gripping Glory of Jesus' Parables

The Good Samaritan. The Prodigal Son. The sower. The talents. The sheep and the goats. Of all the things that come to mind when people think of Jesus, chances are that most would cite a parable.

"Throw away your Flannelgraphs," Jared Wilson tells readers in his new book, The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables (Crossway). "They are flat and soft, and the story of Jesus is neither." Drilling through icy layers of familiarity, Wilson takes us on a fresh journey of discovery among the stories of the Galilean God-man.

"When Jesus teaches a parable, he is not opening up Chicken Soup for the Soul or a fortune cookie but a window into the hidden heavenlies," Wilson explains. "He is revealing a glimpse of eternity crashing into time, a flash photo of his own wisdom brought to bear."

I talked with Wilson, pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Vermont, about whether...

 
 
 
 

Mar

25

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:01 AM CT

How to Preach Books of the Bible You Don't Like

How do you preach a passage you don't particularly like? Many pastors, of course, would just find a different one. But for those committed to expository preaching, sometimes the text staring you in the face isn't one you would've picked.

"If I don't like a passage it's usually because I either don't understand it or don't see how I'm going to preach it," Mike McKinley explains in a new roundtable video with Bryan Chapell and J. D. Greear. Yet time and again, the pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in northern Virginia observes, "I've learned God is pleased to use things that don't impress me."

"If I understand what the Lord is saying but just don't like it, I have to learn to love it," says Chapell, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and former president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. "I've got to try to figure out the reason God put...

 
 
 
 

Mar

18

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:05 AM CT

Deep Before Wide: A Vision for Returning Discipleship to the Church

"I don't know any pastor who has been more personally fruitful in discipleship ministry than Randy Pope," Tim Keller observes. "Nor do I know of any church leader who has had a more sustained, lifelong commitment to making the ministry of discipleship a pervasive force throughout his whole church."

Pope sat down with Mark Mellinger to discuss his vision for and experience with church-anchored discipleship over the past 25 years. "Discipleship is laboring in the lives of a few to give away your life and the gospel," explains the founding pastor of Atlanta's Perimeter Church and author of Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church (Zondervan, 2013) [written interview | TGC13 workshop]. "If you want to see lives change, you've got to do it life-on-life." 

How does this vision get worked out practically? "We start small and invest deeply in the lives of a few," Pope says. "It's important to go deep before...

 
 
 
 

Mar

18

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:01 AM CT

How to Stay Christian in Seminary

"When I first contemplated seminary back in college, I felt like the kids in Jerry Seinfeld's bit when they learn of Halloween. I didn't have a category for something so spectacular. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to live in a theological Disneyland?"

When I wrote those words in my final semester of seminary, I was weary, and the Disney delusion had long since vanished. Seminary, I had learned, is a rigorous and perilous place.

In their excellent new book, How to Stay Christian in Seminary (Crossway) [review], David Mathis and Jonathan Parnell impart wisdom from Scripture and experience to help prospective and current students survive—even thrive—during the seminary years. Despite its challenges, Mathis and Parnell are glad they went to seminary. I am too. The experience was invaluable. I just wish this little book had been available when I started.

I spoke with these two staff members at Desiring God about the...

 
 
 
 

Mar

13

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:05 AM CT

'Non-Shepherding' Pastors: Option or Oxymoron?

Are "non-shepherding" pastors ever legitimate? You know, ministers who, due to other commitments (such as preaching) abstain from counseling and visitation and other life-on-life ministry during the week. Apart from perhaps a brief window on Sundays, they're essentially inaccessible.

"It's never okay to have a non-shepherding pastor," J. D. Greear insists, since you "can't separate those roles [shepherd and pastor] God has joined together." Nevertheless, the pastor of North Carolina's 4,000-plus-member The Summit Church admits, this principle will look different according to context.

"These duties are wed in Scripture," notes Bryan Chapell, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and former president of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. He points to Paul's instructive words: "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well" (1 Thess. 2:8). Like Greear, though, Chapell admits there will be different "gifts" and "degrees of...

 
 
 
 

Mar

13

2014

Matt Smethurst|12:01 AM CT

I Reject Christianity Because _______________

Don't impose your exclusive views on me.

How can you believe in a God who'd allow so much senseless evil and suffering?

On what basis do you believe Jesus rose from the dead—besides blind faith, of course?

No religion has the whole truth—including yours.

Whether couched as questions or assertions, we've all encountered objections like these. Perhaps you've even voiced a few yourself. For some, of course, they're smokescreens. For many others, though, they sincerely express confusion, frustration, uncertainty, and unbelief. As Christians we seek to prompt unbelievers to "doubt their doubts," as Tim Keller puts it, but we must do so with patient love (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Our friends—and their objections—deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.

In the spirit of those old "Choose Your Own Adventure" stories, James Anderson utilizes a creative approach in his new book, What's Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life's Big Questions (Crossway). In it he leads...